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By Beth Erickson, Wedding Planner Magazine Editor, La Crosse, Wis. Photos © Damien Hamilton Photography

Internationally recognized event designer Sasha Souza, MBC™, of Sasha Souza Events in Napa, Calif., has released her second book, Signature Sasha: Weddings and Celebrations to Inspire. Featuring images from many of Souza’s events, the book offers inspiration, advice, color palettes, ideas, and more for laypersons and event industry professionals. Souza’s first book, Signature Sasha: Magnificent Weddings by Design, was the Gold Award winner for the Independent Publisher Book Award. Wedding Planner Magazine recently caught up with Souza for some insight and inspiration:

WPM: What is the best lesson you’ve learned in your 20 years in business?

Souza: The best lesson I’ve learned is to trust my worth but not be egotistical about pricing. It’s important to be properly compensated for services. I have no issue discussing pricing with a potential client and adjusting it based on needs. If I were to say, “I don’t take every client—we’re not the right fit,” that’s an ego statement. I think I can work with anybody, it’s just a matter of whether they can afford the services I’m offering.

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WPM: How long have you been a Master Bridal Consultant™ and how has that helped you in your business?

Souza: I’ve been a Master Bridal Consultant™ for nearly 10 years. I started with the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) as a novice in 1997. The ABC has helped me in many ways—first is with peer relationships. Second, it is how I was introduced to Yoshi Kohara, president of Asian markets. That relationship has brought me many opportunities to work in Japan. Third, it’s brought validity to my dedication to staying educated in my career—it shows that I care about being connected.

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WPM: What is the most important step in the creative process for designing weddings?

Souza: The most important step is learning to listen to your clients’ words. Sometimes, they may not be able to tell you exactly what they want, so you have to decipher generic terms like “romantic elegance” and figure out what that means to them.

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WPM: How and why should one create an inspiration board for clients?

Souza: I use inspiration boards to give couples an overall direction. It doesn’t necessarily include exact replicas of bouquets, gowns, or place settings, and most of my inspiration boards don’t have many wedding-related photos. Our boards feature colors, textures, lighting and flower styles that give the client an early visual into what we see for their wedding design.

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WPM: From where do you get inspiration?

Souza: My best inspiration comes from my clients— they often have ideas about what they want or glimmers of an idea. Those little nuggets carry me on a journey in how to implement them as a functional and exciting guest experience.

WPM: Describe your most memorable recent wedding, design-wise.

Souza: It would have to be Ev and Rob’s wedding, which was a labor of love—the theme was Rena-Hemian, a mix of renaissance and bohemian with a hint of steam punk. The bride did the sketch art on her paper products including the hand lettering of her invitation. The art was amazing and included dragons, Pegasus, and rabbits with trumpets and banners. They were utterly stunning, and we even had the wedding rings delivered by a trained falcon during the ceremony. It was themed but not kitchy.

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WPM: You offer floral service with your planning/design business. What has this meant for your business?

Souza: In 1999, I paired with our floral designer to offer her services exclusively to our clients. In this way, I had more control over the look of the events, and I was actually doing a service to the other florists, because I wasn’t taking brides to multiple providers and then using my planner power to convince them to go the way I wanted. I wasn’t wasting anybody’s time. It made me more efficient and able to purchase and build props that are exclusively our own.

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WPM: What is the best advice you have for novices?

Souza: My advice for novices is to learn everything you can from everybody you can. Don’t try to be anybody but you. Find what distinguishes you from the pack, and play up those strengths. Do the best possible job and create the best possible experiences for your clients and their guests—they’re paying you for that. The rest will follow. No matter what happens, stay humble and always be nice.

WPM: What is the best advice you have for seasoned professionals?

Souza: It’s exactly the same as for novices. Also, don’t get caught up in the never-ending industry gossip. Don’t judge new people or people who started their businesses after they planned their own wedding—chances are that’s how you got into business, too…Don’t ever think you know it all, learn everything you can for as long as you can, and then educate the next generation of event planners.

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Where to find Signature Sasha

Signature Sasha: Weddings and Celebrations to Inspire is available at www.amazon.com and major and independent booksellers. For autographed copies and international sales, visit www.mkt.com/signaturesasha.

Win an autographed copy!

One lucky Wedding Planner Magazine reader will receive a free, autographed copy of Signature Sasha: Weddings and Celebrations to Inspire. To qualify, email your name and complete mailing address to editor@weddingplannermag.com by midnight CST on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Be sure to put “Win a Copy” in the subject line.