When I look back on my college experience, it was a time of big dreams and great hope and promise. Junior and Senior year you felt a certain amount of pressure to make “the” job choice of what inspired you for your career post-graduation. There were and are countless resources at colleges and in communities to provide career counseling and opportunities to open doors to your desired field with alumni contacts and more.
As society has evolved, so has the need to choose a single career with which one sticks all their lives. As we grow as humans in our pursuits, development, personality, spirituality and more, often that vision shifts and evolves with our growth. So what’s a student to do with all these choices bearing down hard on them? Simple: choose something that inspires you right now and explore it. Give yourself permission to know that you may have several careers in your lifetime and that’s ok- in fact, it’s more than ok because it shows that you are open to different opportunities and following inspiration as life unfolds for you. Making your life your own and creating it just the way it is meant to be for you so you can build your masterpiece of a life will look differently at different times. Approaching your first job after college as the first tile /art piece in your beautiful lifetime mosaic is an exciting thought. Don’t over-think it. Just take that step to lay down the first piece. The rest will fall into place piece by piece. And remember, variety is what makes mosaics exquisite!
I am delighted to be of service in inspiring or mentoring any college student who is interested in the wedding and special event industry as a possible career choice. Before we arrange a telephone call or to meet in person, I ask that you review my top FAQ’s below. If you feel you would like more individual attention after reading this, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
We currently are at maximum capacity staff-wise and due to our work load this year, do not have any openings for dedicated internship training. However, if you will be in our area and would like to shadow us on a single wedding or event after an interview process, we are happy to consider a one day mentorship experience.
How long have you been doing weddings and events?
I have been doing weddings and events for over 15 years. I have done over 600 weddings and over 1,000 corporate events. I am also a third-generation Santa Barbaran, dedicated to the area in which my grandparents were born, raised, ran several successful Santa Barbara-landmark businesses. My knowledge of the area in which I work and have done events is on a deeply soulful level and intimate knowledge of my homebase. I feel like I am sharing my home with clients, who are more like “guests”.
Do you have to be trained to do weddings? Where did you get your experience?
There are many great certification training programs out there: ABC (Association of Bridal Consultants) being one of them. I always encourage everyone to get as much training as you can. Weddings are so much more than just hosting a party. They are full-scaled productions. It is not just choosing vendors and scratching things off your to-do list (choose venue, invitations, hire band, etc). Many think that it’s just “so much fun” to do all the shopping for the services that are used for a wedding, and that that is what comprises “wedding planning”. Nothing could be further from the truth. A truly experienced wedding professional is schooled in etiquette (at no time in your life will you be faced with so many dynamics of how to handle delicate social situations), is an Ambassador to both the client (the bride) and the vendor (special event supply partner), has critical thinking skills under pressure and knows how to prioritize under strenuous situations and is also a natural leader.
Above all: true professional wedding & event planning is a full working knowledge of how all these services play off each other contractually, time-wise, how one service affects the other, etc. and this only comes from experience.
I accidentally “fell” into this industry. In college , I was the Social Head for my dorm/house (Howard House at Principia College in Elsah, IL). I loved it and grew up entertaining in my family home all my life, but never thought about a career in it. Following college graduation, I went to work as a Special Events Manager for one of the leaders in customer service: Nordstrom. This would later lay the foundation for the principles on what starting my own business would be about. But where I really got baptized in the event industry was working as a Director of Catering/Sales and Weddings for a historic boutique inn. I had the opportunity to learn about weddings from all angles but most importantly, from the most critical backbone of a wedding: catering. I learned about rentals, timing the food and beverage as it related to guest flow, set up, proper service, the crucial nature of communication between all departments the day of the wedding as the day unfolded , as well as learned a sacred regard for venues who host and produce weddings. This was the foundation for the rest of my career, which eventually led to experiences and contacts locally and nationally. These experiences yielded opportunities even beyond event planning and included speaking engagements for the industry, writing a training program for wedding professionals and certifying wedding professionals world-wide, being on –retainer to the horse whisperer himself, Monty Roberts, for his corporate event program and much, much more. Because I had invested my time in actually working in the trenches of a wedding supplier – and an important one at that- I could speak the “language” of the vendors with whom I’d be working and it established an instant rapport and trust, which was critical for our working relationship and setting me apart from many other coordinators who are known to stereotypically just “bark” orders at others without understanding the full picture.
Do you travel all over to do events?
I prefer to remain in Santa Barbara- it is my specialty and I feel as a professional, my clients will have superior service with one who has an intimate knowledge of their area and the best venues and vendors suited for them. If a client has a wedding in another area, I will generally refer them to a well-established professional in that local area.
How do I get started in this industry?
You start just as you have been. By reaching out to anyone in the industry and asking to shadow them, interview them, intern with them, etc. Take any opportunity offered to you. Anything. The best event planning industry professionals world-wide – the most respected- are those who actually have worked in the trenches of an event supply partner (vendor). Because of this, they are able to be Ambassadors to all sides making sure everyone has what they need to successfully accomplish their service and shine. If you really want to get a head start, start out by doing an internship or working in catering – either for a hotel or for an independent, offsite caterer. No other service is as paramount to the success of a wedding or event. It is there, you will learn about ordering rentals, set up, staffing, timing, why as a Coordinator you can’t just run an event on your own time schedule without running any changes by the Chef and much, much more.
You may wish to read this article on some of the distinguishing characteristics of what sets apart a true wedding planner of distinction.
What exactly do I have to have set up to start my own business?
Firstly, do not let the thought of starting your own business overwhelm you. Start simply and keep it as simple as possible for your life. Most professional wedding consultants are Independent Contractors. You can operate under your own name. In my case, however, I wanted a separate business checking account and distinct business name. I went down to the local courthouse and filed paperwork for a DBA (Doing Business As) for my company name and went through the process of publishing it in our local papers and then receiving my formal “DBA” certificate that I presented to my bank and opened up a business checking account. When you are just starting out, take it in baby steps. Your business is you. You don’t need to worry about incorporating, staffing and renting an office and all of that. I have always worked out of my home office. I do not have clients come to my home, but I do my administrative work out of my office and then meet clients on location. Of course, it goes without saying that professional business cards and a Website must be a priority, too. Don’t get too hung up on advertising. Build your business through word of mouth and when it’s time to consider advertising, consider where your clients are based and how they will find you. For example, almost 90% of wedding planning is done online now, so you will need to know the most reputable online wedding marketing vehicles to drive traffic to you. I never invested in advertising in any local publications after my first year in business (which was a learning curve) because nearly 100% of my business is from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Now I do not advertise online or otherwise. My boutique business is thriving and I am sought after on a referral basis only and carefully screen clients and turn many away. My business has evolved into just what I need and love it to be.
What inspires you?
1. Family. The coming together of hearts to support a celebration. I love making the celebration not just for the couple, but for all the family coming to join them. Grandparents are my favorite.
2. Being an entrepreneur. I have done the corporate job world. I’m just not cut out for it. I like managing my own schedule. I work insanely hard and because of this, I also don’t believe I should have to get “docked” for days off if I need to take more than the standard 2 week annual vacation most of Corporate America offers. But I have to say, having your own business takes an incredible amount of drive and self-motivation. You are the CEO, Marketing, Accounting, PR and Sales Departments all in one. There is no one else but you and if it doesn’t get done by you, it won’t get done. I also thrive in getting into an industry and learning it so well that I love creating new avenues to better it and simply cannot just keep doing the same thing over and over. I have to evolve and create inspirational solutions for this industry to stay fresh and inspired.
3. My new division to my business: Engaging Inspiration. When you start your own business, if you are evolving, you will see new niches you can fill and with which you can lead your industry. After years of training others and consulting with wedding businesses, I saw a niche that was not filled in my area and founded Engaging Inspiration. I now run my event division of Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events and also consult with wedding businesses on marketing, social media and customer service for our industry with Engaging Inspiration.