After working for more than 10 years in the wedding space in Southern California, Rebecca Stafford saw an opportunity in San Juan Capistrano to provide a space for brides-to-be to prepare for their upcoming nuptials.
The number of wedding locations nearby and the lack of similar rooms at such spots, she says, was the inspiration for Stafford to dive into owning a business for the first time, as she also hosts tea parties, wine tastings and other small events.
She acquired the space downtown in March 2022 and poured herself into getting it ready to open at the end of summer.
Just a few months later, Stafford’s Floraison Bridal Loft and Petite Venue had earned enough goodwill among readers of The Capistrano Dispatchto receive the Golden Horseshoe for Best New Business in town.
She landed on floraison, a French word that translates to “flowering,” as her business’ namesake because of its significance of marking the start of hopefully decades of happiness for couples.
“What I liked about that is weddings are always the beginning of a new chapter, a new part of a couple’s life,” says Stafford. “To me, it’s like blooming. It’s the beginning.”
Stafford has also worked as the wedding coordinator at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, contributing to her knowledge of what women need as their wedding approaches.
She defined bridal lofts as a place for brides to have their bridesmaids, hair and makeup team all in one space and where women can be pampered and feel relaxed.
“It’s almost like a little sanctuary for the bride, right before she walks down the aisle,” Stafford says.
Beforehand, she has an initial phone call to determine everything her clients might need, with add-on options such as food or massages.
She added that she tries to make the experience “seamless” for brides.
From the day-to-day operations perspective, Stafford spends a few hours working in the suite with availability for anyone who might walk in, especially if people are scouting out a wedding venue nearby.
She enjoys being able to show firsthand what women can experience if they rent out the loft.
“Most of the time, people are just blown away, because it’s so open,” Stafford says. “The lighting is great.”
Aspects such as the lighting in the space were by design, as she was intentional in creating a comfortable and feminine environment. Some pieces came from her home, and Stafford featured the city of San Juan Capistrano by placing wallpaper in the makeup area with swallows on it.
She adds that there needed to be a balance between having a “perfect backdrop” and a functional space.
Another element related to the business that she has tried to improve upon is getting the Floraison name out to people.
“I think that was probably the most challenging (thing), is just making sure people know I’m here, I’m available, and I’m just centrally located to them,” she says. “And I don’t even really see that as a challenge.”
Regardless, Stafford loves every part of being involved in the wedding process and the happiness that comes with it, in addition to the focus on femininity, hair and makeup, and beauty.
The fact that every bride is unique is also fun, according to Stafford.
“No two weddings are the same, so it never gets dull,” she says. “The couples are different, their dynamic is different, their wedding is different. It’s just really fun to see and experience that and be a part of that.”
Despite the efforts that were required to prepare the loft to open, the past year has been “very positive” for her. Stafford also describes the year as simultaneously uplifting and scary.
She says that people have given her great feedback, and she enjoys seeing people’s faces light up when they walk inside.
“All the feedback I’ve received, it’s just reassured me that I’m in the right businesses, that I’m doing the right thing in supporting the wedding business industry,” says Stafford.
In the weeks and months following the holiday season, during which many people become engaged, the loft has received more calls. Word of mouth has also started to spread, according to Stafford.
She’ll be preparing for weddings, bridal showers, day-after-wedding brunches and rehearsal dinners into the spring, she says, in addition to her other duties at the Mission Basilica.
Wedding season is starting to pick up, but Stafford says the city’s numerous venues can surely handle everything.
“I’m just here to help support that,” she says.
Stafford describes her emotions upon hearing Floraison was nominated for Best New Business as amazing and heartwarming, and that she was glad to be recognized.
She mentions that she feels fortunate to be a part of such a unique community, equating San Juan Capistrano to “Carmel of the South.”
“We have these really unique businesses, and I’d like to (definitely be) supportive of the community and local vendors,” says Stafford. “I really try to incorporate them. It’s just been such an honor to, in such a short time, be voted among the best new businesses.”