This Is What It’s Like to Be a Wedding Planner
Wedding planning is no joke. There are so many parts to planning your big day, and for some brides, it’s easier to have an event planning pro come in and take care of everything. But if you’re a gal who adores every single detail of organizing a wedding and can keep cool under pressure, you might want to consider a future as a wedding planner. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Shauna Gartz, who started her own event planning company Shauna Loves Planning. Below, Gartz shares her journey from corporate event planner to boss lady.
(Photo via Anne Liles Photography)
MEET THE WEDDING PLANNER PRO: SHAUNA GARTZ
After spending seven years planning events and weddings for corporations, wedding and event planner Shauna Gartz decided to take the leap and start her own company. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, the mom of three sons turned her top-notch organizational skills, attention to detail, and love for weddings into a full-time career. On her website, happily married couples rave about Gartz’s ease and calm and how she took care of every wedding moment from start to finish. The planner extraordinaire lets us in on her day-to-day, what she loves most about her job, and how she turned her dream of working for herself into reality.
(Photo via Anne Liles Photography)
Brit + Co: What’s your morning routine?
Shauna Gartz: After I’ve gotten my boys dressed and fed, made lunches, and dropped everyone off at school or grandma and papa’s house, I treat myself to a cup of coffee. I can’t start my work day without it! As a wedding planner, I believe one of the most helpful things I can do for my couples is to make the planning process as easy and fun as possible. Responding to their emails or phone calls in a timely manner achieves both. (I can’t tell you how many of my clients have expressed their appreciation for this.) The first thing I do every morning is check my email and return any phone calls. If it’s an event day, then I pack my vehicle and head out the door to begin set up and installation. If it’s not an event day, then I’m usually working on whatever event needs my immediate attention. My boys are in preschool three days a week in the mornings, and then spend a couple afternoons each week with grandma and grandpa, so that’s when I get the majority of my work done. That and a few late nights here and there!
B+C: What inspired you to start your company?
SG: I was working as an event planner for a golf and country club on an exclusive island, accessible by ferry boat only, with two young boys at home. I loved what I did, but I also wanted to be present in my boys’ lives while they were still young. I had been contemplating starting my own event and wedding planning business for about eight years, and finally one day it hit me just how much time I was wasting commuting to work. It was a 45-minute drive, followed by a 30-minute boat ride, followed by a 10-minute golf cart ride before I sat down at my desk. And I had to do it all over again to get home, which was three hours a day that I could have been either working or playing with my kids. The company I worked for was understanding and allowed me to work from home two days a week. I did that for about a year and a half, but I needed to work for myself from home.
B+C: How do you challenge yourself as an entrepreneur?
SG: I push myself to go outside of my comfort zone and take on various projects or tasks that are new to me, but things I still enjoy. My strengths are planning a wedding, but the business side of accounting, advertising, and social media upkeep are my weaknesses. My goal this past year has been to outsource any part of my business that doesn’t bring me joy so I can focus on what does.
B+C: Tell us about how your family and friends help support your business.
SG: My husband Matt is my number one supporter. There’s a wedding pastor I work with frequently who preaches at weddings that, “in marriage, your successes are doubled because you have someone to share them with. Also in marriage, your sorrows are lessened because you have someone to share them with.” Matt fully embodies this for me. He is excited for every step the company takes, for every great review received, for every compliment paid. He’ll be the first to have my back and be there to steady me.
My family has also helped in numerous ways, from proofreading my website before launch, to congratulatory texts and phone calls and spreading the news on social media. My in-laws and parents provide ongoing help with babysitting our three boys whenever I have an event or a project that needs my attention. I launched Shauna Loves Planning in October 2015 — six months after having my second son — and then in April 2017, right at the start of my wedding season, I gave birth to my third son. Fortunately, I have an amazing assistant, Ashley Pate, who has worked with me since the beginning, and was able to run that first wedding of the 2017 season solo so I could recover a bit from the delivery. The following weekend, at our second wedding of the year, my husband accompanied our week-old son to his very first wedding so that I didn’t have to be away from him all day, while my mom, who was staying with us for a month, stayed home with our two older boys. It really does take a village!
B+C: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
SG: When I first got into wedding planning, I worked for a country club as their in-house event planner and catering sales manager. Lindsey Cheek, the woman whom I was replacing, came back to train me for a couple days and she said something that has stayed with me since: “You have to be the voice and advocate for your couples.” What she meant is that it was my responsibility to make sure that no corners were cut and no details were missed. At every wedding, there are a hundred moving parts and dozens of vendors working together to produce the most perfect day for two very special people. As a wedding planner, it’s my responsibility to make sure that everyone did what they were supposed to do because there are no do-overs at a wedding.
B+C: What do you love about your job?
SG: That I get to be there for the happiest day in two people’s lives. [And] I love the whole process of finding out who my clients are, what they like to do, and what their styles are, and developing a vision around it. I love working with some of the very best vendors in the industry. One of my absolute favorite bakeries, One Belle Bakery, I discovered through working in the wedding industry and they have since created every cake, cupcake, and cookie for every birthday or special event my family has celebrated. I met photographer Theo Milo while working, and he has since photographed each of my children shortly after birth and every year following. A favorite florist of mine, Kim Fisher Designs, not only did the flowers for my own wedding and a large percentage of my clients’ weddings, but they have also become like family to me. My clients all tell me that I make them feel calm because I’m calm. There’s a reason why I’m calm before a wedding — when you surround yourself with some of the very best vendors in the business, it’s easy.
B+C: Name two female heroes who you think should get a shout-out.
SG: My mother Joani Harris was a working mom, but I don’t ever remember her not being there. She gave and never needed anything in return (except hugs). She was always so patient — something that did not get passed down to me unfortunately — but because of that, she is someone I aspire to be more like.
I think every woman in my life has been an inspiration for me. I take little pieces of each of them with me, in everything I do and everywhere I go. My sister, best friends, aunts and grandmothers, previous coworkers and employers, teachers and coaches, and even now, my brides. I’ve had such an astounding group of women play so many important roles in my life. I really don’t think I’d be the woman, mom, or business owner I am today without their influence.
B+C: If you could tell aspiring creative women anything, what would it be?
SG: Just do it! I can’t tell you how many times I thought about creating my own wedding and event planning company before I finally did it. I was pretty sure I could do it, but for years, doubt always found a way to creep in. The safety net of an employer was too alluring. Until one day I decided that I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets. I would much rather have tried and failed than never even tried. Not only am I doing what I love and working for myself, but I also get to control how much I work and when I work. Being a mom of three young boys has its challenges, but I get to be there for each of those challenges, each adventure, and each new milestone. Yes, I trade in my mommy hat for my planner hat some weekends and I still struggle with balancing both worlds, but I manage because both are important to me. Being a mom makes me a better planner and being a planner makes me a better mom. I know where to find a face painter at the last minute, as well as the best birthday cakes and a thousand other things I never would have thought of if it hadn’t been for my chosen career path.
If you’re thinking about doing something and wondering if you can or should, start doing it. Take the steps toward making it happen and the rest will follow. For me, it was creating my website. One night I got on my computer and started designing pages and writing content. The next day I worked on it a bit more and when I got it to a point where I was happy with it, I set the next steps in motion. So start taking the steps to get you where you want to be!
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!