It was the summer after I graduated from high school. Two of my friends announced they were getting married - they had just graduated from college, and they were excited to plan a little wedding. They had $1,000 in their budget. When they approached me and asked if I would make their special day come to life, I was so excited! I had always loved hosting parties, being creative, and doing flowers. This was an amazing opportunity!
It was a hot summer day in LA. Taylor (my wife, who at the time was my girlfriend) came to help me bring the wedding to life. We used a tetherball pole to suspend bistro lights and create a “tent” of lights. We covered old youth group couches with white sheets from Ross to have soft seating for guests. Daisies and Baby’s breath were arranged in jam jars and placed around. Guests brought dessert potluck items. A friend took pictures, a friend played music. It was a reception full of warmth, personality, joy, and love.
At that wedding, two of the guests asked me to plan their weddings. I said yes.
By word of mouth, my freshman year of college, I ended up planning 14 weddings. No joke.
It was just a side-job so I could support myself through school. I had no idea it would become my career one day. I am so thankful that I said yes to the opportunity when it came up. We all start somewhere, and reflecting on how far I’ve come is pretty amazing. From a $1,000 wedding to a $1,000,000 wedding, it has been quite the adventure!
This spring, I’ve had so much time to reflect on where I’ve been, where we are now, and where we are going. While I’m missing being “in the field,” producing beautiful events and traveling around the world to partner with some amazing companies, I’m thankful for the time I’ve had at home. And thankful for the time I’ve had to really invest on the “back-end” of my business.
I’ve had a “never-ending” To-do list for years. I’ve always wanted to re-do my accounting system, work with an HR professional to “tighten” up my employee practices, and re-visit the systems I have in place in my business. As entrepreneurs, we often don’t have the luxury of taking time away from the craziness of life to really invest administrative time into our companies. During wedding season, our main focus is bringing amazing events to life, supporting our clients who are getting married in the coming months, and bringing on new clients as they inquire. And even during the off season, we are often focused on marketing strategies, corporate projects, networking, and preparing for the year.
With COVID-19 shutting down life as we know it, it has definitely been really challenging. There have been some really hard days. But, there have also been some really good, productive days. I am confident that when I look back on this time, I will see how me, my family, my team, and my business came out stronger.
Here are some of the things that I’ve been focusing on. If you are a fellow event professional reading this, some of these may apply to you, and some may not, but I hope you can find some inspiration on things you may want to work on!
Every event professional has lost clients and income during this crazy time. It’s ok to grieve those losses. I had some wedding designs in particular (and three international trips planned) that I was especially proud of and excited about. Those are all delayed at this time, and even when they happen in the future, they may look differently. Rather than be stuck in the loss, invest this time to build your future. Make it better. Make it what you want it to be. Make your dreams a reality. We have the gift of time right now...make it count.
It was Mother’s Day. I was 14-years-old, and I wanted to do something special for my mom. The nearest store was down the hill - exactly 1 mile away. I had some extra cash from babysitting, mowing lawns, and tutoring, and I wanted to do something extra special for my mom.
I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, so I walked down the hill to the nearest store. I picked out the perfect gift - a small basket of arranged flowers. It was $25. I walked it all the way home, covering it under my sweatshirt, and hid it in my room so I could surprise my mom the next morning. It was on the table when she woke up, and of course, she loved it.
Now, this story actually begins on Monday. You see, the flowers in this store-bought arrangement started to wilt. So, I started pulling out the dead pieces. And then, I had an idea...as much as I was proud of that little arrangement I bought my mom, I did think it would look so much better if it wasn’t so tight. So, I went in our garden and cut some rosemary, small branches, and pink roses. I completely rearranged all of the flowers in the basket, adding fresh cuts from our garden, and made it much more whimsical. I loved it. And even more importantly, my mom came inside and exclaimed, “This is so much prettier than it was before! Wow!”
I’ll never forget that sense of pride and accomplishment. Friends, I had no idea this was the start of a career. But, I’m so glad that I grew up with supportive parents. I’m especially thankful for my mom, who loved (and still loves) my floral design work. I’m thankful that I decided to just CREATE an arrangement in my own way that Mother’s Day Week. It sparked a deep joy in me, and here I am, years later, still finding that joy in creating beauty with nature.
Happy Mother’s Day, to all the moms, grandmas, and strong female leaders out there!
Trying to Plan a 2021 Wedding or Event on Lockdown? Here are some tips for booking vendors remotely…
If you are a couple who got engaged and is looking to plan your wedding in 2021 (or even at the end of of 2020), it can feel daunting to start planning your wedding in the current climate. It can be hard to focus on the joy of your wedding day ahead when things are hard now. But, I’ve found that when things are hard, it’s so good for me to focus on joyful times ahead. Just think…after all this social distancing, your family and friends are going to be SO EXCITED to GATHER TOGETHER and eat, drink, dance, and celebrate the night away.
If you are currently socially distanced at home and working on planning your wedding, here are some tips on how you can book vendors:
1) If you have decided which geographic area you want to get married in, start by looking at planners in that area! A wedding planner is crucial right now (and I’m not just saying that because I am one…). Good wedding planners know how to find good vendors, guide you through the decision-making process, and most importantly (especially in this current climate), how to navigate unexpected situations with peace, joy, and flexibility. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your planner, so be sure and set-up a FaceTime or Zoom meeting with them (or a good phone call) so you can get a feel for their personality. If you feel like it’s a good fit, sign on with them to start the process.
2) The hardest thing to book without seeing in person is typically the venue. Here are some helpful hints:
Of course, if you aren’t comfortable moving forward without seeing a venue in person, wait. You don’t want to sign any contracts you aren’t comfortable with.
3) As you’re considering various vendors, there are several you can book without meeting in person. With all of these people, setting up a phone or video consultation can be really helpful. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time with these people on your big day, so take the time to make sure your personalities check out and that your questions are answered. Without meeting in person, you can book your:
4) As you’re working with your planner, you can also start booking:
In conclusion, don’t feel like you need to put your wedding planning action items on hold. If you and your fiancé are stuck at home, this is actually a perfect time to brainstorm, plan, and get excited for your big day! Remember…Coronavirus can’t cancel love. So friends, plan away!
If you are faced with the need to postpone your wedding, you need to communicate with your guests to ensure people can adjust their travel plans, hotel reservations, and such. If your wedding invitations have already gone out and you have already collected RSVPs, the first thing you need to do is communicate quickly with your guests that the date has been postponed. While informal, a heartfelt email can quickly get that information out so your guests can adjust their plans quickly. If someone isn’t tech-savvy, a phone call is also a good idea.
In addition to informal communication, a postponement card is also a great idea.
Here is my advice regarding any guest communication regarding a postponement:
Minted has some great options for postponement cards
If you want some free options that you can personalize, our friends at Wedding Chicks have some great options!
Here is my favorite.
This one is cute too.
Just remember: Communication Is Key. Your guests have invested their own funds into travel, taking vacation time, reserving time in their busy schedules, etc. - so you want to be respectful and communicate the updates quickly and efficiently so they can change their plans as needed.
To all of the couples who are getting married later this year:
You probably have your venue, your vendor team, and most of the bigger details lined up for your big day. (If you don’t, that’s ok! I’ll be sharing tips on booking vendors remotely in the coming weeks).
I know it can feel funny to be thinking about brighter times (especially about your wedding) when life is uncertain right now. I’ve found that focusing on positive things in the future is a great way to redirect my energy during this time.
As you are socially distancing and on quarantine, if you have extra free time, here are 5 things you can consider working on for your big day!
1) Invitation Design and Day-of Paper Details - Work with your graphic artist and your planner to finalize concepts for your wedding invitation and day-of paper details. Don’t have a graphic artist? Do some online research and see if any styles, artists, or things stand out to you. Personalize a draft and save your work! It may be a little premature to order invitations right now, but having a design ready-to-go is a fun way to look forward. If you save your favorite design, it will be super easy to order them as you get closer to the big day.
2) Music - Talk about your favorite songs (any special music you like? Specific preferences for music before the ceremony? Cocktail hour? Dinner? Dancing?). Do you have a first dance? Father daughter dance? Mother son dance? What about the song you’re coming down the aisle to? Often, Bands or DJ’s will give you a list you can fill out with your preferences. Doesn’t hurt to get this stuff taken care of while you have extra time at home. Bonus Points: Practice your first dance in your living room!
3) Ceremony - Have you decided what order you want everyone to stand in your ceremony? What the officiate will say? Have you written your vows? So many couples complain to me that they didn’t have enough time to really focus on their ceremony. Well, for so many of us, we’ve been given the gift of time! Use this time together to create something meaningful for your wedding ceremony.
4) Signature Cocktails - have you chosen your signature cocktails? If not, get some supplies and try creating some cocktails at home! Vote and decide which ones are your favorite, and then pass along your notes to your caterer or bar tender to incorporate into your bar menu.
5) Timeline Details - Work with your planner to fill in all the details on your timeline. Review the timing of the day, and include notes like:
Focusing on these details with your significant other can help you focus on brighter times ahead. None of these items require signed contracts or cash payments, and they can be applicable even if you do need to postpone your event.
Hang in there, friends, and don’t forget that LOVE ISN’T CANCELLED.
While we are all social distancing due to Coronavirus, several couples are working hard to postpone and re-envision events that were scheduled in the spring. Me and my team have successfully worked with several clients to reschedule and replan several events that were planned for April and May. It has been an adventure, but as I look back on the past few weeks, I am heartened by the amazing people who work in the events industry and the hard work we’ve all done to make these celebrations continue.
I would like to share some of my advice for replanning or rescheduling an event. Keep in mind, couples need to reschedule events for all sorts of reasons - not only a global pandemic. Sometimes, couples need to postpone or replan due to economic reasons, natural disasters, an illness or family death, or other life situations that are outside of our control.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when postponing a wedding or event:
With the Coronavirus global pandemic, I’ve witnessed wedding planners, venues, hotels, hair and makeup artists, videographers, caterers, bands, DJs, photographers, rental companies, lighting companies, transportation companies, and more work with couples to find amazing solutions and keep events moving forward. I’ve seen vendors pull-off some pretty amazing things to make things work for couples!
If you approach your rescheduling process with grace, openness, authenticity, and asking questions (rather than making demands), I’ve found that it will go much more smoothly.
I have had so many couples reach out to me (both my own clients and people through social media) reach out with questions about postponing events and whether or not they should plan on moving forward with their wedding day, given the current situation with COVID-19 and everyone on quarantine.
Friends, the first thing I want to say: Love is not Cancelled. Regardless of when you get married, what government restrictions are in place, or what is happening in the world…nothing can cancel your love. Your love story is happening. One day, you will tell your grandchildren about how your love survived the global pandemic of 2020.
The second thing I want to say (before going delving in to planning tips): each situation will be unique. Each geographic location, each couple, each guest list - all of your weddings are different. This post is meant to be a general guideline (and my own personal thoughts) regarding postponements later this year - but you will need to work with your own team of vendors, your own families, and with your significant other to decide what is best for you and your wedding day.
Finally, before giving tips, I want to acknowledge that this post is being written from my perspective in April 2020. So, keep in mind - as the Coronavirus situation evolves, the right thing to do may evolve as well.
So, with those three things being said, let’s get started…
If you are getting married in May 2020:
Odds are, you’ve already been talking with your planner and vendor team about backup plans. Each situation will be unique. Me and my team chose to move our May events to later this year.
If you are getting married in June 2020:
If you haven’t already, I recommend setting up a call with your planner to talk about backup plans. If you don’t have a planner, call your venue (or your vendor who is helping you most in the process) to ask about their policies. While we don’t know what everything will be like in June, seeing as it’s just two months away, I recommend having a strong backup plan in place. This way, as the situation evolves, you won’t need to feel panicked if restrictions on gatherings continue.
If you are getting married in July - December 2020:
All of us are hoping and praying that this situation is resolved (or less intense) as the year progresses. As a planner, I’ve been encouraging my couples getting married later this year to:
My main advice: don’t make a decision now because you are afraid. Take the time to see how the situation evolves, to pragmatically discuss your Plan B, and to embrace the fact that while none of us are in control, we can control our own actions and our own love stories.
All of the weddings after restrictions are lifted are going to be so EPIC. Everyone is going to be so excited to GATHER and CELEBRATE. I can’t wait to be a part of them!
Event Planner and Wedding Industry Professional Tips: Serving your Clients throughout the Discomfort of Uncertainty
I’ll never forget where I was on March 15, 2020. I don’t think anyone in the events industry will forget it. It was Sunday, and Taylor and I were sitting on the couch. The kids had just gone to bed. We had all been watching the rapidly evolving Coronavirus news over the past few weeks, and I was scrolling through Apple News to get any latest updates. And there - in the headlines - I saw it. That cold, prickly feeling went down my spine. The CDC was recommending that no events over 50 people take place for the next 8 weeks. With that one announcement, our whole year changed.
For those of you who know me, you know that me and my team have navigated several different crises. From replanning a wedding in 72 hours due to the Thomas Fire to navigating venue closures with the Montecito mudslide, me and my team are no strangers to thinking “on the fly” and implementing new plans QUICKLY when we need to.
I immediately jumped on my laptop and emailed all of my clients, saying that I wanted to set-up a phone call with them on Monday. I encouraged them and told them: “I’m On Your Team.” I told the truth: the situation is changing, and I want to get on the phone with you to talk about our next steps.
Monday was hard. I talked with each of my clients who had events in the next 8 weeks. There were tears, people who felt hopeless, and lots of questions: what are we going to do? Do we cancel? How do we know if there will be any more dates open? How far out do we postpone? Should we just elope? The conversations weren’t easy, but I met each one with grace and was ready to listen.
After listening, we worked with each couple to come up with the best solution for them (over the weeks that followed). Some were rescheduled to future dates, some re-planned their wedding to be more intimate or more of a party. It was a lot of hard work. But it was good work. And I’m proud of it.
And here’s the thing: We are still in the middle of this global pandemic. The situation will evolve and change and isn’t in my control. I can’t control what is going on in the outside world, but I can control how I respond.
Friends, there are four things I want you to take away from this story:
Hearing that my source of income was being literally wiped out for the next 8 weeks (and potentially longer) was scary. None of us plan for global pandemics in our businesses. Sure, we plan for a client or two cancelling here and there, we plan for an unexpected shift in plans every once-in-awhile, but 8 weeks worth of work? Never in a million years. Until March 15, 2020. It’s ok to feel all the emotions when things are uncertain.
Instead of being paralyzed by that fear of the unknown (what is going to happen to me? My family? My clients? My events? My business?), we need to continue to move forward. We need to take action. When things are uncertain or not going to plan, it’s important for us to lead the communication with our clients. If possible, be the first to reach out and address the situation. When we are leading the conversation, we have the opportunity to do so with bravery, grace, and to develop a solution alongside the people we serve.
We don’t need to have an answer right away. It’s ok to say that you need to think or consider some options, and give your client an actionable date you will get back to them.
When things are tough, we need to SERVE. Serving doesn’t mean letting go of personal or professional boundaries. It doesn’t mean ignoring your contracts and pricing structures. It doesn’t mean letting go of your personal brand and the quality of your work. To me, serving means to work alongside my clients to hear what they need to say and work with them to develop the best possible solution in a pragmatic, professional, peaceful way. It means giving open, honest, authentic advice and walking them through what options they have. It means being prepared. It means being honest when you don’t have a solution right away. Essentially, to me, it means being on the SAME TEAM.
My friends, we are all navigating this global crisis together. We are not in control of what will happen. It’s ok to feel all the emotions as they come up.
When we are faced with fear, we can take action and lead the conversation.
We can lean in to the discomfort of the unknown
We can work together and be on the same team.
My dear friends James and Jess host incredible education opportunities for event photographers. Our relationship goes way back - Jess (before she met James) actually was the photographer for Taylor and my wedding! I had the honor of being James and Jess’ wedding planner, and throughout our years in the industry we have stayed close friends. It’s always so fun to collaborate with fellow artists and to celebrate our successes together.
The James and Jess Retreat was in February 2020 at the beautiful Hidden Oaks Ranch. This new venue on the Santa Barbara scene is so fun - the house has amazing accommodation options! It’s perfect for a wedding celebration or for your wedding party accommodations (rehearsal dinner, welcome drinks, etc.).
At the James and Jess retreat, I had the honor of speaking to the photographer attendees. The main focus of my session was to talk about being AUTHENTIC in what we do in our business. It was so fun to share my heart with so many passionate individuals - they had such amazing questions about collaborating with wedding planners, publication strategies, and business strategy. It was such a rewarding time - and I learned so much as well.
After I spoke, me and my team curated a styled shoot for the attendees to shoot. I created a woodland-inspired whimsical chuppah, table, and lounge (Thank you Tent Merchant for the rentals!). For the ceremony, we lined over 100 candles under the oak trees, surrounding a chuppah covered in greenery and white/green blooms. It was so beautiful, especially when the sunlight was streaming through the branches…pure magic!
We set a table with wood chairs, charcoal gray velvet linens, modern white china, and textured blooms and candles. The lounge area was a beautiful French-inspired collection from The Tent Merchant, which we surrounded with candles and flowers. Once the models were added into the space, it was all so beautiful! I love creating styled shoots in an educational setting - it’s so fun to be creative and have fun (without the intense pressure of a wedding day timeline, guest arrival, vendor management, etc.). I hope you enjoy some of the images from James and Jess from this memorable experience!
The Team that made it all happen...
Florals and Design: Tyler Speier Events
Floral Design Assistant: L + C Event Decor
Photographers: James and Jess
Videographer: B Studios
Venue: Hidden Oaks Ranch
Rentals: The Tent Merchant
Calligrapher: Jessica Yee Calligraphy
Linens: La Tavola Linen
Bridal Fashion: Lili Bridal
Hair and Makeup: Janice Ramos
Models: Casi McCarthy and Jimmy McCarthy