Wedding Business Owners Are Not Rejects from the Corporate World

WeddingIQ Blog - WeddingBusiness Owners Are Not Rejects from the Corporate World

I encountered a blog post yesterday that was directed at a “twenty something year old girl” who dared to email a planner about her own event-planning dreams.  I guess the email really got under the planner’s skin, since the post was all about how “stupid” it was to aspire to work in “the industry.”  Pretty standard “my job sucks worse than anyone could ever imagine” fare, in my opinion anyway, but the post did contain one particularly (and, I imagine, purposely) incendiary remark:

“I can tell you that everybody in “the industry” got here because we were rejected from all of the other industries.”

<cue record-scratching sound effect>

Wait, what?

I don’t know where this mystery planner operates her business (her blog is written under a pseudonym and a hyper-bittercakes persona), but I do know this: her industry is not my industry, and it sure as hell isn’t representative of the industry.

The people I know in “the industry” are smart, ambitious achievers (traits I believe to be beneficial in any number of industries).  They didn’t fall into the business by default or because they were rejected by anybody, and their experience in their previous industries only benefits their wedding clients now.

A few examples:

Jennifer Cody of Egomedia Photography worked for the International Monetary Fund, managing a $17M technical systems budget.  She left that field because the wedding photography she was doing part-time became so in-demand that it was logical to transition to a full-time business pursuit.  “I loved working for IMF,” she says.  “I had no reason to leave.  But as my photography got more popular, it only made sense.”

Tori Maltby of Blue Canary Events worked in public relations for Greater Than in Cape Town and Style by Solares in London.  Her projects included fashion shows, rcok concerts, media launch parties, and print/radio/online publicity campaigns.  “I feel that working in such a creative industry on so many different types of events and PR campaigns gave me a broad frame of reference when coming up with design and wedding ideas for my clients. I look at weddings from an overall event perspective,” she says.

Gerry Rogers of Petal’s Edge Floral Design formerly worked as an educator, curator, administrator and freelance evaluator in the museum field, in places such as The National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Des Moines Art Center, Institute for Museum and Library Services, American Association of Museums, and Institute for Learning Innovation.  Her business partner Rebecca Henry worked with two landscape architecture firms in the D.C. area, and contributed to the design of multiple major projects including The Washington Convention Center, the Chinatown streetscape and more.  Both Gerry and Rebecca hold advanced degrees in their respective fields.  “Rebecca and I both bring strong design backgrounds to what we do, and our understanding of design guides the style of our work.  We are well versed in a number of engineering principles, which also guides the complexity of some of our designs.  We actually think about things like stability and tensile strength, among other things.  (And as an aside, design is more than being able to put together a pinterest board – a strong bone of contention for us!!)  Floral design requires a specific skill set, and works in more places than just weddings,” Gerry says.

Laurie Bracewell of Laurie Bracewell Photography spent over 10 years as a graphic design manager for an I.T. company, a position created specifically for her in which she designed logos, created brochures and other print collaterals, managed tradeshows and produced web graphics and proposal graphics.  “Having managed my own workload for many years, including prioritizing my task list from work requested by many different colleagues on various projects, I’m able to prioritize in my business and multi-task to accomplish work and goals.  In the corporate world I also had to learn how to communicate with colleagues, who were essentially “clients” for whom I worked on graphics projects/tasks,” she says.  “These communication skills have translated directly into communicating with current clients.  And, quite obviously, my graphics background transitions well into the way I visualize and capture images.”

Wedding officiant Celia Milton started and operated a successful, upscale off premise catering company for almost 20 years, and previously was a menswear designer for a major apparel company for 10 years.  “Learning how to create culinary celebrations has given me a window on the bigger picture of a wedding day,” she says.

Jennifer McMenamin of Jennifer McMenamin Photography spent years in newspaper journalism, writing for first The St. Paul Pioneer Press and, later, The Baltimore Sun, covering stories on crime, the court system and the death penalty.  She took a temporary leave of absence to attend photography school, and later spent 2.5 years simultaneously shooting weddings and working for the newspaper.  “I chose to leave the newspaper to pursue this [photography] full-time,” she says.  (The operative word, of course, being “chose.”)

Allison Barnhill of Allison Barnhill Designs had a management career for a major consulting firm, Accenture, in D.C.  “I had a seven-year career there, and left it all to follow my heart.  Best decision I ever made,” she says.  “But those experiences from my ‘former life’ still help me today!”

Amie Otto of Amie Otto Photography spent seven successful years in the technology field, working in sales and programming, before leaving to focus on her growing photography business.  “When I put in my notice, they actually tried to get me to stay and offered incentives to do so, but the time was right for me to go out on my own fully, without the safety net of a paycheck deposited into my account every two weeks,” she says.  “My background benefits my clients not only because I can relate to their lives (i.e. working full-time, planning a wedding, etc.) but also because I worked extensively with clients and am trained in customer service.  I know how a legitimate company is run and use that knowledge in running my own business.”

Neil McKinnon of PoshBooth Custom Photo-Booth Rental spent seven years working for a certain major insurance company whose mascot is a gecko.  He started as a management trainee in Florida and eventually was promoted to the company’s Maryland headquarters, earning six figures as an auditor and project manager.  He says, “As a member of the training program I was able to experience every part of the company’s structure and that’s what benefits my clients now.  The company stressed customer service because they knew it would keep people loyal to their product because they could get insurance anywhere.  They also were very budget conscious, so there were no flashy trips or expense accounts for executives.  They passed all the savings on to the customer and employees.  I try to run PoshBooth the same way.”

Lisa Manting of Pretty Stationery for Beautiful Souls was a successful graphic designer in New York City for 8 years, working in the advertising, non-profit and retail industries on international campaigns for world-renowned organizations.  “Being in the advertising industry taught me a lot about technical aspects of running a design studio and interacting with clients.  The experience of working with non-profit agencies made me appreciate budget concerns while still being creative.  Retail taught me the value of offering great customer service.  I am able to leverage my experience and parlay it into an award-winning design studio that has seen customers from six out of seven continents,” she says.

There are so many more people I could include on this list, if it made sense to have my post be the length of a novel.  But the point is that “the industry” isn’t full of a bunch of losers who couldn’t do anything else.  Promoting the idea that the wedding business is ZOMG! so much more awful than anyone could ever comprehend, and, even worse, that it’s staffed by a bunch of dysfunctional dimwits devoid of options is not only damaging to the wedding business’ reputation, it’s also just plain untrue.

Post-script: On a purely personal note, I want to take a moment to defend the “twenty something year old girls” out there.  I get that the wedding business is tough — of course I get it, I’ve been in it for over 15 years — and I don’t condone people “playing” at being a wedding planner, or playing at anything in this industry.  But I will always, always condone dreaming.  I myself started in the wedding business at 21, for no other reason than I was bored at my first post-collegiate job, thought wedding magazines were pretty, and applied for (and received) an entry-level sales job at a country club.  From there I went on to hotel catering sales, hitting million-dollar benchmarks and learning as I went.  (And yeah, I spent plenty of times helping to plate food, digging hors d’oeuvres out of hot boxes in my suits and heels — it wasn’t the most glamorous part of the job, but hell, I was working in an industry I loved, which made it way more worthwhile.)  I later jumped into entertainment sales, again with no direct experience, and rocked that too.  I’ve operated my own company for 10 years this year and am extremely proud of the success I’ve created.  I’m sure someone out there would say that I wasn’t right for other industries, that I wouldn’t have what it took to succeed at something else — never mind that I spent some of my wedding business years also working in corporate marketing and communications.  But, when you find what you believe you’re meant to do, the stuff you’re not doing doesn’t much matter.

Score one for the dreamers.

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Jennifer Reitmeyer

Jennifer Reitmeyer is the founder of WeddingIQ and the owner of MyDeejay, Firebrand Messaging, and Authentic Boss. She is also a WeddingWire Education Expert, a small business coach and a professional speaker on the event industry circuit.