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MASTER WEDDING PLANNER:
MARY JO GALLEGOS, MWP™, An Affaire of the Heart, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

FAMILY: I am divorced after 46 years of marriage. This is a blessing, as I am in a wonderful place in my life. Both of my children have successful marriages, and I have three terrific grandchildren—ages 12, 14, and 15!
STARTING THE BUSINESS: I created An Affaire of the Heart in 2000 after beginning my career with David’s Bridal—opening five of their first stores in southern California. I gained an extensive education, from working with construction and setting up the POS system to working closely with home office in all aspects, like recruiting, hiring, and training staff and managing the retail store after grand openings. I liked the idea of owning and operating my own business and began studying with the Association of Bridal  Consultants (ABC) and completing their courses so I would have the  foundation needed.
BUSINESS CHANGES: The millennial couple doesn’t recognize the importance of hiring a professional. They are concerned with only the cost, which is why we now offer a condensed planning option that is cost-effective. We cut our services and planning hours and cover only the essentials to make the day a success. We continue to offer full-service and month-of planning as well.

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EVALUATING SUCCESS: Receiving positive feedback, training my assistants to take on the responsibility of set up and directing the flow of the event,  working with and being referred by other wedding professionals, and making a profit are success points. The best success is when parents of one of our couples calls 12 years later to plan their 55th wedding anniversary and say they never forgot you, because their daughter’s or son’s wedding was such a success.
ONE BUSINESS MISTAKE: Not listening to my gut. Sometimes, we need to listen to our inner self.
ON BECOMING A MASTER: It took me 10 years to reach Master. I went through all the designations working toward the goal of Master. Setting goals helped me structure each day. I needed the challenge, as I was now running my business from home and was no longer in a fast-paced retail environment.
MENTORS: Joining the ABC exposed me to professional planners in southern California. The networking groups host stellar meetings at beautiful venues. I have had the opportunity to meet and make lasting relationships with many successful people in the industry. These people became my go-to people that answered many of my questions and helped lead the way to my successes.

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INDUSTRY INFLUENCERS: The Internet is a challenge for small business owners. So much of the information that reaches potential clients is farfetched and unreal. So it is a joy to meet couples in person to show them our value and help them decide how much assistance they will need in planning their wedding. We keep our planning options fresh and cost-effective, reviewing them semi-annually and making changes that fit the needs of potential clients.
INSPIRATION: I’m inspired by current fashion, home décor, food, and many of my couples who have great ideas to personalize their weddings.
MARKETING STRATEGY: We created a website with a fresh look. We participate in two bridal showcases at beautiful hotels that refer our company. Our professional relationships and client referrals also provide much of our business. We continue to attend ABC Networking meetings to meet new  businesses and continue to nurture relationships.
STAYING FRESH: I schedule time off throughout the year, marking my calendar for vacations with family and friends and to enjoy holidays.

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IDEAL CLIENT: Our ideal client is the couple, and their parents, that value our expertise and hire us to guide them through the planning process—choosing professionals that we refer, conferring before they make final decisions, putting their trust in our abilities to make their event a success, realizing we do have their best interest at heart and that there is no “perfect” wedding day!
FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK: The Wedding Vendor Handbook by Barbara Wallace, CSEP. This book was an inspiration to me when it was first published in 2005. It is such a great text for a new wedding planner and professional.
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Flash Dance”—never give up your dream.
FREE TIME: Read, create fun and delicious luncheons and dinners for friends, tend my small garden, keep up with friendships, and travel with my special friend.
WORDS OF WISDOM: Create a business built on trust and integrity. Be real, be yourself. Know that we are in an industry much smaller than we realize. Always display the person you want to personify.
ON GIVING BACK: I have been teaching Wedding Planning and Coordination at the University of California—Riverside for five years, taught ABC Educational courses, served on the ABC Master Panel, wrote and taught a  class for wedding professionals at the Doubletree by Hilton Claremont, and formed the ABC IE Networking Group, along with Barb Rozema, in 2002. I am also on the committee that hosts an Annual Christmas Tea for senior ladies as well as monthly ladies luncheons. WPM

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ABC MEMBER SINCE: 2000 REVENUE: 28% full-service coordination, 28% day-of coordination, 39% ceremony and rehearsal coordination, 5% invitations EMPLOYEES: 4 CONTACT: 951-922-0710, www.anaffaireoftheheart.com, jmjgallegos@msn.com SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram