With more than 20 years of industry experience, event designer Ned Kelly has seen trends shift from ballrooms to burlap to everything in between. Despite the ever-changing bridal landscape, when Kelly meets with couples at his Piermont shop Ned Kelly & Company, trends aren’t the first thing on his mind. “We’re creating bespoke experiences made for the bride and groom,” says Kelly who prefers really getting to know the couple to looking at their favorite photos from someone else’s wedding. We sat down with the man himself to find out how he approaches design, his most memorable design, and what advice he’d share with newly engaged couples.
How did you get into event design?
My background is in theater, then moving into the restaurant world with my brother [Chef Peter Kelly]. I spent so many years doing flowers and it was just a natural thing. Someone said, ‘Who’s doing the flowers? I want them to do our wedding.’
What makes Ned Kelly & Company different from other florists?
Well, we’re a very client-driven design company that listens to what the bride wants. I don’t like to even look at pictures of other people’s weddings when we meet. The first thing we want to do is get to know who we’re working with. What’s their vision? What we’re trying to do is build their wedding, not show them this is what we did for this person or that person. I don’t care what might be on trend. I want to look at the space where the bride is being married and say how do we make this hers? How do we make this special? How do we make a space say it’s a celebration?
On a tight budget, what’s one way to make a big impact?
Good design. A good designer can work with any budget. But the tighter the budget, the more you have to let the designer work. You’re buying creativity not buckets for flowers and yards of cloth.
Can you recall a memorable design?
Turning the bridal suite into a floral fantasy for a bride who didn’t know it was going to happen. She thought she was getting married just to get it done before they went to Capri [for their destination wedding]. But, the groom felt it had to be special, so he called me and said, ‘I want to do this very special wedding for the two of us.’ She never met me. I’d always wondered if she really liked it, and, a year later, she called me and said, ‘you don’t know me, but you did my wedding. It was so beautiful. Could you do it again?’
What advice would you give to a newly engaged couple?
Get a notebook and write down every idea. Don’t judge them. This is a time to let your head spin and try on every ‘outfit.’ Picture yourself in a tent in your aunt’s backyard, at a hotel, going to a destination with only half the guest list. Try on everything because you’ve never done this before. Each different scenario that you explore might seed one idea so that, by the time you’ve walked through all the different scenarios, you’ll know [what you do and don’t] want. And think of your guests. It is your wedding day, but it’s also the day that you’ve asked everyone to come and be with you. You’re going to find your wedding will be more enjoyable if you make a few compromises here and there.
Last question: What do you love about your job?
We create something new every time.