We had the lovely pleasure of having Emily Murray, co-owner of Something Borrowed Event Decor, as a collaborator in our Wedding Professionals Q&A Series! Learn more about Emily and her husband Derek's (who is the other half of SB!) journey into this industry and her answers to questions we receive all of the time from brides:
How did you become a creator and what led you into the wedding industry?
In a way, I feel like there’s always been an invisible string between my heart and the wedding industry. Growing up in my family flower shop, I was always eavesdropping on consults my grandmother would have with her couples and tagging along on deliveries to catch a glimpse of the dress and the decor. I also saw the enormous time commitment that came with owning your own business, especially one centered around weekends, so I was weary to even consider starting my own business or following in their footsteps. I started working in corporate event planning after college, which wasn’t nearly as creative or fulfilling as I imagined it would be. Even after planning my own wedding (and loving every minute of it), I found myself still enamored with the entire industry, but didn’t know where to start.
In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, I started making home decor pieces on the side as a creative outlet and immediately felt like I found a piece of myself again. It wasn’t until a couple people I knew from high school asked if I could make some items for their weddings that I knew this could be something greater. At the same time, I lost my corporate job and it was sink or swim. I made the leap to launch my wedding signage rental business and the rest is history. Almost 3 years later, we specialize in large signage installations with a full service, custom approach. It’s how my husband and I support our family of four full time and it’s changed my life forever.
When a couple inquires, should they have an idea of what, or how many pieces they would like in terms of signage?
Most of our couples come to us 12-15+ months out with having a general sense of what they might need, such as “a welcome sign, seating chart, and table numbers”, but not really an idea of how those pieces may look or what other smaller details they could need down the line. Which makes total sense - they are often in the early stages of wedding planning where all the details aren’t quite flushed out yet. For example, it’s hard to know if you’ll need a signature drink sign if you haven’t met with your caterer to finalize the menu.
During our consultation process, we ask our clients to complete a questionnaire about their overall wedding plans and style preferences, along with a very detailed wish list for them to check off what products interest them. While they might have initially only had a welcome sign in mind for their ceremony, the list can help them consider other items like directional signage to help guests navigate a tricky venue layout to reserved seat markers for their closest family members. While they might not have given any thoughts to these needs before, I find the wish list helps them to start these conversations and get a better idea of what they need. We can always add on to the order as plans progress, and more times than not, we are adding onto the order until about 2-3 months out when we begin designing all of the details of what they’ve ordered. It’s at this point that we finalize all the details based on the decisions they’ve made between when they first booked with us.
When it comes to the design, would you prefer a couple to have an inspo photo to replicate, or would you prefer to have the creativity freedom?
Design freedom, all the way! It’s important to me that our pieces reflect more than just their wedding aesthetic, I want it to capture them as a whole and leave their guests feeling like their wedding was “ so them”. I don’t want it to look like the last wedding they went to or like the details were pieced together from different pins on Pinterest. If a couple does have an inspo photo to replicate, I’d prefer it to be from my own portfolio so we can easily speak to the specifics of that style piece and use it as a direct talking point. All of my proposals are custom designed for each couple and include a few design concepts of their main statement piece (this is almost always the seating chart) along with a general pricing breakdown of everything else from their wish list. From there, they can create a package that reflects their needs, while also having a reference back to other items that they might need later on. We can always adjust layouts, colors, and wording, but the other details will all flow off of that main design they selected.
Are there certain materials that are best to use in terms of quality?
We’re careful when designing outdoor pieces that we’re using materials that can withstand the potential elements. For that reason, all of our structures are fully constructed out of either wood or solid acrylic rather than foam board. Foam board can work fine indoors, depending on the project at hand, but would be a very bad idea for an outdoor wedding in Newport. Even with acrylic, I know from my experience that acrylic can stand straight at 1/4in thick…up until about 4ft tall. After that it’s going to lean and could snap from the wind with the right amount of force. At that point, of course it doesn't look the way you wanted it too, but it’s also a safety issue for guests and your venue.
Do you bring a kit on-site to fix any mishaps, such as high winds knocking over signage (hello, New England!), or securing structures together to hold into place?
Not only a kit, but we usually have already scoped out the nearest hardware store for emergencies. In New England, you literally cannot count on the weather forecast to tell you what tomorrow could look like, especially with a majority of our weddings on the water in Newport. While we do our best to prepare with as much equipment as possible, you never know what can happen. For example, to combat potential winds, we use a range of different weighted black sandbags and metal stakes to discreetly secure installations. We’ve needed to run out and buy tie downs in a pinch, repaint scuffed corners from tight load ins, and endless other things that you can’t always plan for.
Is there a certain process when transporting items in terms of wrapping, securing, etc.?
Absolutely, honestly it takes more time than we expect to load up for a delivery every time we do it. My husband loads in all the items in order of what we’ll be setting up (essential if we’re doing more than one wedding that day) and wraps them individually, along with moving blankets in between layers to keep everything secure. We use tie downs to secure structures within the cargo area so they cannot move and wear gloves throughout the installation process. We also bring everything we need to touch up, from cleaning supplies and microfiber clothes to extra paint of every color we used on their items to touch up on site. Our checklist is the last thing we go through before we hit the road to make sure we have everything we need to execute and plan for possible surprises.
Are clients able to keep signs after their event?
The majority of our pieces are rentals, but we do allow clients to keep items that cannot be rented again. These are usually things like their signature drink sign (especially if it includes a nod to their pets!) or other small details that they can display in their home or keep as a memento. All larger pieces are collected back the next day and we often go to work right away with filling holes, sanding and repainting for the next weekend. Many of our couples are not local to New England so they don’t have the space to transport or store items before or after the wedding, so the rental structure of our business allows them to have those details they dream of without worrying about what to do with it next.
What items do you see most couples including in their custom packages?
The most popular lineup for our couples are a welcome sign, seating chart or escort display, bar menu/signature drink sign, custom cocktail napkins, table numbers, card box, dinner menus, place cards and then usually anywhere from 3-5 table top signs for cards and gifts, guestbook, the memorial table or other detail that may require some additional instruction or explanation to guests. Our goal is that all of those details are cohesive without being “matchy” and that they compliment the space they’re in.