Business Beginnings: I started wedding planning 20 years ago when a friend of mine showed me an Entreprenuer magazine that listed wedding and event planning in the top 10 new ventures of that year. I jumped in that moment and have never looked back.
On Business Changes: Our forte has evolved to “couture wedding and event coordination.” We have simplified our service to a unique combination of consultation and coordination. We do not offer packages but, rather, a custom proposal based on the scope of the event.
Evaluating Success: What comes to mind, first, is my personal and professional reputation. Filling my calendar with weddings and events (usually 25-30 a year) that are referrals from past clients and/or top vendors in my area and having a staff that I love working with and am honored to have worked with for so many years [are measures too].
One Business Mistake: Overstepping my authority—adding place setting to the count (as guests arrived that had an escort envelope but not a card inside) that added more than $5,000 to the cost of the reception. The client threatened to sue and probably would have if the venue had not dropped the additional charges. We now try our best to always get approval first, especially if it adds to the bottom line.
On Becoming a Master: I knew from the day I joined the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), I wanted as much education as possible. Maybe no one cares about all those initials behind my name, but I do. I knew if I were going to be in charge of one of the most important and expensive days of someone’s life, and if I was going to have the confidence to charge accordingly, I needed to know I knew what I was doing! It took me eight years to achieve master. I was also working on my CSEP, which is why it took me a bit longer.
On the ABC: I joined because the only other planner in my area was a member, and an article on becoming an event planner listed them as a source. I continue to be [a member] for many reasons, one of which is loyalty to this organization that has supported me for many years. (On a personal note—my family endured a tragedy three years ago, and ABC planners from all over provided a meal to my family once a week for 16 weeks. That’s loyalty!)
Mentors: Dorothy Penner, Teddy Lenderman, and Frank Andonoplas—these three people took me under their wings 20 years ago. They always encouraged, always answered questions, lent an ear, and always set the perfect example of what it means to be a professional [holding] to a higher standard and one that I wanted to follow. A highlight of my career was being awarded the Dorothy Penner Heart Award in 2006.
Inspiration: Inspiration comes mostly from my clients, what they read, what they envision, what they pin. My brides are so savvy, they continue to inspire me. I also find great inspiration in my interns, watching them in awe of their first lovely wedding. Makes me remember the excitement and joy of what I do.
Marketing Strategy: This year was our 20th anniversary, and we launched a new brand, logo, website, etc. I have set a goal to market Elegant Events on a very personal level, so many face-to-face meetings, personal invitations into my home, etc. This next year, I hope to work more on my blog too.
On Staying Fresh: My staff and I try to do one to two retreats a year, and if possible, we try to get to the beach. I also love to have vendors in my home at least once a year and, of course, [attend] a conference or two.
Ideal Client: Usually a woman in her late twenties, college-degreed, very busy, and with a budget of 65-75K (a good budget for the Midwest). Often, it is a Jewish wedding with many components to the celebration. [The couple wants] to have their ceremony and reception in the best full-service hotel in the city and use the best vendors, and I then have the privilege to be the conductor for the symphony [we have] put together.
Free Time: I travel any chance I get with my favorite place to visit Paris. Spending time with my daughter and two pupsters, attending a good movie on occasion, and hosting cocktail parties [are also important].
Words of Wisdom: Be sure to charge what you’re worth, and even more important is to make sure you are worth what you charge!
On Giving Back: [I give back by] attending as many industry meetings as possible and speaking on occasion. I love to promote “coop-petition” between planners. I am on the board for a local organization called Bark Out Against Battery that raises awareness of the link between animal cruelty and domestic abuse. I also am active on a local and national level for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
Little Known Fact: I was raised on a farm in Kentucky just up the road from George Clooney. WPM