LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF...

At 22 years old and two months away from graduating with a degree in Art with a focus on Graphic Design, I found myself longing for more than a life behind a computer creating brochures that people would toss away after glossing over for a moment or two. While my fellow classmates dreamed of designing for local hospitals, Southern grocery store chains and small town magazines, I couldn’t help but daydream of other things. My mind went to my true loves in life…food, fashion, gatherings with family and friends, and in general just visual details. I thought, I’m not sure what my dream job would be, but wouldn’t it be amazing it it included all those elements?

I thought back to a recent revelation I had, that my Mother would later reference as the moment “she knew I was going to flourish as I transitioned into the real world”. I had signed up for a course in college called, “Theater Production”. It was known as an easy way to obtain a quick credit, as it connected only with the University’s Spring Theater Production. You met with the Director who had each student sign up for a task. Prop Design, Costuming, Ticket Sales, Poster Design, and “House Manager”. I jumped on board to be the House Manager, whose duties are to control the environment and experience of the “front of the house”. From doing a theater walk-through to ensure that the space is ready for the audience, to coordinating the box office volunteers, to ordering the programs, to briefing the ushers on how to greet latecomers, to opening the doors right before intermission and adjusting the lighting, I did it all. It was such a production, full of moving parts, important team members, excitement and anticipation. I fell in love with the orchestration of it all. My Mom was randomly in town one evening and came to see the show - I guess she saw the connection and interest I had in this ever-changing scenery, and how I thrived being a small part of creating a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for the crowd.

Now I had a new love - the love of orchestrating an event…and I had my old loves…food, fashion, gatherings, and all the visual details I am drawn to…what if I could combine ALL of those? Wedding Planning quickly popped into my head, and that was it…I was determined... I am going to have a Wedding Planning business. This was in 2004, and Weddings were quite different than they currently are, so I pulled out the Yellow Pages {remember those, yeah you probably actually don’t!}. I looked up Wedding Planners, and there were only three in my hometown. Perfect! “There is a need, I’ll start my own business in my hometown when I move back this Spring- done!”. I quickly told my parents my new idea. Then after a few conversations with them and others, I realized…”I literally know nothing about weddings, other than I love them and have attended a few”.

Lucky for me, I knew a seasoned Wedding Coordinator, who was top notch and had been in the industry for forty years. I began interning, shadowing and watching her every move on Wedding Days. She was such a professional, and I desperately wanted to have her skills. Through working Wedding Days, I began to learn the etiquette side of Weddings. I was longing for more knowledge though, so I started to search for more ways to gain it. When I looked online - all I saw was cheesey programs that promised you certification. I didn’t care about being certified, I wanted to be knowledgeable, experienced and an expert. I searched for a modern day book, and then quickly realized there were literally almost no books out. I remember being so happy when I found ONE book on Amazon {this is when Amazon only used sold books!} that met my needs…

I ordered it and it became my Wedding Planning Bible. While working full time as a Graphic Designer, and every day longing more for my career, I would work in the afternoons on Weddings I was helping with, or brainstorm ideas of how to grow my business. I would make, perfect and edit timelines and pull out my book for reference. I started booking a few small, modest Weddings on my own, and would be over-the-moon on each wedding weekend. I loved how each event was different and there were always new challenges and obstacles to overcome, yet the basics of the day were traditions dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. I loved the moment the Groom could see his beautiful Bride walking down the aisle, I loved watching the Father of the Bride dance with his daughter, holding her tight and fighting back the tears. I loved the moment the Bride saw her reception for the first time and squealed with delights at how beautiful everything turned out.  

I kept working my 8-5 office job, and pretty much internally hating every moment of it. I was bored, and I longed for more. I love working, but I did not love the lifestyle or subject of my work. I would sometimes go to the mall during my lunch break to walk around Williams Sonoma and daydream about quitting my job that very day and start working there. I would think, “At least I would have more human interaction, I could move around, I could create beautiful window displays and cook up some delicious food during the cooking classes for customers.”  I was desperate for more - but it wasn’t the right timing. I needed more experience, more connections--and starting your own business is always a big transition with finances.

I kept working that 8-5 job for over three years, and working any and every Wedding I could on the side -  until the day we moved to NYC. I remember the feeling of walking out of that office and crying happy tears. I knew in my gut that would be the last time I would have a job that made me feel the way that one did.

We lived in NYC for a short period of time for my husband to get his Masters. I wanted to truly soak up all that NYC had to offer me - I took classes at Parsons, I worked at Fashion Week, I decided to randomly intern at the age of 28 for a top Fashion Designer {because, why not?!}, I worked at a high-end bridal boutique, and I did some freelance graphic design and Wedding Coordination. I completely submerged myself into the creative and bridal industry. I was introduced to others who had a common thirst for knowledge, for being a joyful worker and for creative collaborations. I began to realize the importance of creating your tribe of fellow creatives who were on the same journey.

Those three components were key once we moved back to South Carolina and it was finally time to take my business full time! Starting a business is truly like having a baby. It takes all your time, focus, finances and energy. There is a lot of hustle, a lot of long nights, a lot of obsessing over every detail. I did a lot of things right, and I did a lot of things wrong. Some things I did wrong? Booked clients who I knew were not a good fit, let clients ask me to do work that I was not contracted or compensated for, and generally completely overworked myself.

Some things I did right? I marketed pretty much every skill I had to create one income {Planning, Invitations, Etsy Shop}, went above and beyond for my clients, networked with as many people as I could, served my clients well, and created Wedding Day experiences I was truly proud of.

With twelve years of experience on the table now, I get countless emails from women who remind me of myself. At that dead-end job, desperately wanting more. With that creative eye, desiring to create beauty and looking for a way to make it profitable. Or a new mother who wants her job to work around her family and not her family around her job. The emails are usually asking, “Can I take you to coffee to pick your brain?’ “Can I come shadow you at the studio?”  “Do you need an Intern?” As a small business owner, and new Momma myself, my schedule is beyond tight. And really the idea of throwing someone into the mix for a day, or sharing a cup of coffee and a few tips of the trade aren’t going to change their paths. I didn't want to reply with one more e-mail saying, “I am so sorry, but I can’t help you.” I have a deep desire to engage women with the tools, tips and knowledge to start their own Wedding Planning Business. I knew that I had to create something that would serve as a blueprint to budding Wedding Planners.

Engage is a five part module that will set you on your way with resources, diagrams, and confidence to begin booking your first wedding, give you tips of the trade and edit your clientele. It’s created to equally serve a newbie or someone who has been in the industry for several years.

The role as a Wedding Planner comes with wearing many, many hats. Organizer, Designer, Finance Overseer, Mediator, and Leader. Wearing these hats all at once, takes some guidance, some much needed expertise and a lot of practice. 

My hope for you, is that you realize that now is the time to invest in yourself and your business - - in other words, it's time to Engage!