What It's Really Like To Start Your Own Wedding Planning Company
Kaitlin Shea always knew she wanted a creative career. After studying art at University of Colorado, Boulder, she officially entered the world of weddings in 2015. First, she worked at a bridal boutique, and later, scored a job at a planning company in South Denver. After a couple of years learning the ins and outs of event design, she knew she wanted to launch a wedding planning company of her own. Enter: Kaitlin Shea Weddings! From organization to design, Kaitlin helps couples every step of the way to make sure their day is beautiful, fun, and stress-free. Listen Episode 33 of the Love Stories Radio podcast HERE and read on for our interview with Kaitlin to learn more about how she turned her dream company into a reality and her best advice for future wedding entrepreneurs.
You worked for a planning company in South Denver for a few years before officially starting your own wedding planning company. How did this experience prepare you for life as your own boss? I'm someone who tends to jump the gun, I almost started my business a few years ago and even registered my business name before deciding that I needed to take the proper steps to make sure this was the career I wanted. Working in the industry showed me sides of event planning that I never would have gotten from a book or online. Thankfully, I still loved it! Hands-on experience is everything in this industry (and many others).
There are definitely some creatives out there right now who are thinking of starting their own business in the wedding industry. How did you know you were ready to start your own company?
That's a tough question, I think there's never a perfect time to start a business. I had just gotten to a point where I knew I was dedicated to this job and wanted to succeed in this industry. I had also gotten enough insight from other business owners to know what goes into running a company and the hard work it would entail. Passion is everything when it comes to owning a company, but know yourself and what you want out of your career before glamorizing the idea of being a business owner.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into wedding planning?
Start by familiarizing yourself with the industry, take classes, get an internship, read books, etc. Start following other professionals to get a glimpse into their lives. All experience is good experience and there's no such thing as too much studying!
What’s your favorite part of planning weddings?
My favorite part by far is helping my couples keep their stress levels down. During my engagement, I found myself in an eating disorder treatment center and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The wedding became something for all of us to look forward to and to work hard for. While all of my couples have very different planning experiences, I love being there for them when things get a little bit overwhelming. Weddings (and other big events) are the things we look forward to or look back on when things get tough and I love being a part of those events.
You offer a variety of planning options to your clients: full, custom, and month-of. For couples who are new to the whole wedding thing, can you explain what each of these services entail and who they are best for? Absolutely! Month-of planning is for those couples who are feeling good about much of the planning process or have gotten a lot done on their own, but want someone to help fill in the gaps and be there on the wedding day to keep things on track and finalize the details. On the other hand, full planning is typically for clients who don't have the time or desire to do much of the planning and want someone to guide them the entire way. Partial and custom planning is for all of those couples in between! Regardless of package, planners do a lot of things that you wouldn't necessarily expect, like gathering and packing all of your cards and gifts, running rehearsal, etc.
What is a typical workday like for you?
One of my favorite parts of the job is that I don't have a \"typical\" workday. On a Monday I might be calling hotels, creating inspiration boards, and going to networking events, or I might be picking up decor, meeting with vendors, and working on marketing! Every day is totally different and it keeps me on my toes!
Which parts of your job are the most challenging?
Probably navigating the emotions. Whether the mother of the bride is freaking out about flowers or the groom waited too long to get his suit, there are a lot of emotions that go into planning a wedding and (surprise!) sometimes those emotions are negative!
Who are your fave wedding planners to follow on Instagram?
I actually try not to spend too long looking at what other planners are doing anymore. It's great for market research and a little inspiration, but it's so easy to get sucked into comparing your business with others and to start overthinking things!
Tell us about one of your favorite weddings you’ve planned to date. Why was it so special?
One of my favorite weddings was actually my first wedding as a business owner. It was a backyard wedding in Boulder and the couple was beyond amazing! It also taught me a lot of tough lessons, not the least of which being: don't overthink the little details! I lost a lot of sleep that week wondering if I had double- or triple-checked everything, but I could have never expected that someone would break (yes BREAK) their leg on the wedding day. You have to expect the unexpected in this industry and be ready for anything!
Do you have any great tips or hacks for networking in the wedding industry?
Never, or almost never, turn down a networking request. You never know what a connection will lead to and the more vendors you know, the more you're likely to have clients referred to you! If you're going to a bigger networking event, give yourself a goal going in (e.g. leave with three new connections).
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self, and probably my current self, not to be such a perfectionist! As a planner, it's my job to focus on the details, but I also have to set aside time to relax and to appreciate where I am in life. Recognize your accomplishments and be kind to yourself when things are slow or you're going through something challenging!