Last year I had the absolute privilege to work with Sarah Strausser, Owner and Lead Planner + Designer at Embark Event Design, on a beautiful Santa Barbara wedding. Sarah’s organization, vision, and passion for her work truly sets her apart in the industry! She took a few moments to chat with me about her work, explain the difference between a wedding designer and a wedding planner, and give some great advice for brides who are currently in the thick of wedding planning!

wedding designer preparing a table setting
Photo courtesy of Embark Event Design, taken by Asia Croson Photography

Tell me a bit about why you love being a wedding designer.

I love hearing my couple’s love stories, and seeing what makes them naturally light up. This creates the perfect foundation to craft a distinctive and unique wedding weekend that is totally reflective of them as a couple, with sweet nods to their love story along the way! 

What is the difference between a wedding planner and a wedding designer?

Wedding planning involves logistics, rental orders, timelines, and diagrams. Wedding design takes it another level to create a sensory experience that guests will never forget. The wedding design is what makes the wedding custom, and what helps distinguish the couple’s priorities. Wedding design packages are typically full service and include all of the planning as well. 

tablescape styled by wedding designer

How far in advance should a couple try to book a wedding designer?

I love to book my couples as soon as I can after they get engaged. The more time I have to get to know the couple, the smoother the process is – and the better the chances are that they will receive their design board and LOVE it! 

How do you get to know your clients?

I love to spend time with them on the phone and in person. Most of my clients live out of town (they are having a destination style wedding here on the Central Coast), and I love when they come for the weekend and we explore with fun tastings, details meetings, design meetings, and some wine tasting along the way! 

Santa Barbara wedding reception styled by wedding designer

How do you help your clients when it comes to vendors? (ie recommendations, contracts, communication etc)

I love to listen to a couple’s priorities and dreams for their wedding day, and then send them a few vendors who I know will provide excellent service and quality. Each vendor I recommend is based on merit alone and has proven to be over-the-top talented and joyful to be around. 

How do you keep all of the details straight?!

Checklists, checklists, checklists!! You should see my packing lists even for personal trips – they are itemized and broken down by category – yikes! 

Tell me more about the timeline you create. What does it encompass and who has access to it?

I create a full-service wedding weekend timeline for each couple. The timeline is carefully updated with details as we work our way through the planning process and distrusted to each vendor on the team 30 days before the wedding. This serves as the all in one timeline, set up a document, and itemized list for the weekend, and acts to keep the bride focused on what matters – her! 

Santa Barbara wedding reception styled by wedding designer

Give me a rundown of a wedding weekend and what your role as the wedding designer is in it.

We are typically the first to arrive and the last to leave! We direct vendors, help with set up, and ensure each detail is in place before lining everyone up and quite literally getting them down the aisle. Throughout the night we ensure the timing is on point, and conquer any hiccups for our brides. We love seeing the look on their face as they run off into the night after the final songs, and we love that they don’t have to stay for clean up! 

What is your favorite part of the wedding design process

I love selecting a floral designer and rental items – these will bring your design story and color palette to life! 

What is your favorite part of the wedding day itself?

I LOVE father/daughter dances. There is just something so sweet about seeing my brides dance with their dads, and the sweet look each dad has in his eye as he twirls her around! 

Wedding designer working on a tablescape for clients
Photos courtesy of Embark Event Design, taken by Asia Croson Photography

What is your number 1 tip to couples who have just gotten engaged?

Book your main vendors now! If you are overwhelmed (this is normal), start by booking your wedding designer or planner. This will set you for success with professional help from day one. 

Thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to chat with me! If you are in need of, or interested in learning more about working with Sarah and Embark Event Design, you can find their website here, and also locate her on Instagram here!

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