As a successful wedding professional, I get the unique chance to become associated with top-notch providers in every event category. This allows me to reach out to a one vendor each month and ask them the tough questions you are wanting the answers to.
This week I feature Kathlee Akers, CEO of Beau Tied Events in a candid discussion of how creativity and experience plays a major role in producing a success event. We tap into the importance of inspiration and love for your job. Also, expanding into how trends influence both brides and planners, as sites like Pinterest and Etsy have allowed brides to express themselves more openly.
Thomas McGregor: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions today!
Kathlee Akers: Thanks for asking!
TM: So I know you love what you do, it shows. So tell me, where did the inspiration come from to start planning weddings and events?
KA: I planned my own wedding, which I think is a common theme I hear a lot. I guess because you don’t really get a chance to plan weddings until you do your own, it never even really occurred to me I could do it, though I had always been interested. When I did my own, I became compulsive about learning as much as I could, and about the design behind it all. I was definitely interested in doing it long term, from the beginning, and started taking classes right after I got engaged.
TM: Was there something specific that sparked your interested, after doing your own wedding?
KA: The design aspect, first and foremost, and then the rigid organization and planning. I’m very detail-oriented, so that fit me to a ‘T’.
TM: Have you always been detailed-oriented?
KA: It was something I had to reign in as I got older. I was always a really creative kid, always putting on plays and writing stories, and I would lose myself in my projects and my imagination, often to the chagrin of my parents. When I went to college and was able to focus intently on things that I felt passionate about– design, literature, etc., I saw that side really come out. I really wanted to be successful, so I became very focused on any and all details that would add to that.
TM: And would you deem that hyper-focusness a requirement for success in the category of event planning?
KA: Absolutely. And I don’t think you can fake it. You have to be 100% focused and in love with this job to make it work, because you have to care as much about the details as your bride would.
TM: And as a result, would you agree there is a personal reward to the results you produce?
KA: Yes. I get very close to my brides over the course of a year, I often become their confidantes and friends and therapists, even. So when their wedding day comes, and they give me a hug and tell me how thankful they are I was there for them, it’s hugely rewarding. It’s sometimes hard to part with them after the fact and maybe sometimes… I don’t… haha we remain pen pals.
TM: Well then that would be a bitter-sweet reward of your job, which is arguably the best kind.
TM: Now, as many of the readers may not know; there is a constant shifting in trends in the wedding industry. Can you elaborate as to how you have need to adjust to the changing trends throughout the years? What has changed in style, tastes and the way you have approached each event?
KA: I really try to stay away from anything too topical or too trendy, because I feel like it dates weddings within 5 years. Obviously, there’s a huge DIY shift that’s happened in the wedding industry since, and undoubtedly due to the recession, which I found has creatively really inspired brides to see something they love and do it themselves instead of hiring someone. It also has given me a bit more creative freedom with design. Also with Pinterest that DIY wedding aspect has exploded.
TM: So, the shift has taken place mainly via the online collaboration through sites like Pinterest and Etsy?
KA: I think it’s been two-fold. I think that sites like Pinterest and Etsy saw an opportunity with the explosion of DIY culture, and that culture then has propelled Pinterest and Etsy into simple crafting and inspiration sites to wedding planning staples. All my brides use them for either planning or decor purposes.
TM: Very interesting! And would you say that has enabled your brides to be more hands through the designing process?
KA: I think that brides, since forever, have secretly or quietly done DIY projects themselves because it’s more affordable–not everybody has the money to buy the most expensive invitations, for example, but you can certainly fake it–but it’s now become “cool” to DIY your own wedding. I think with the recession, a lot of brides knew that they were going to have to do a lot themselves, and did so proudly. That’s why I love DIY brides, it’s a very can-do tough attitude, with a whole lot of love, and they’re a joy to work with. I was–and am– a DIY bride so I get it.
TM: So this shift in trends to more of a DIY approach as allowed brides to feel more empowered to do what they have always done, due to economic reasons?
KA: Yeah, I think so.
TM: As a result, what has been some of the strangest requests you have been asked by brides, mothers or second cousins?
KA: Haha! This will be tough, I certainly don’t want to offend anyone.
TM: We are all friends here.
KA: Oh! I have a good one– and this bride is totally lovely and it ended up being one of my favorite (albeit strangest) requests. I had a bride who wanted to do her wedding backwards! She had cocktail hour, and greeted guests in her dress as they came in, and then they ate dinner, did toasts, and then got married at sunset, around 8:15 PM. Then they had their first dance. It was so cool; casual, and relaxed. There was no pressure, no jitters… it was fun!
TM: Considering the way you just described it, maybe you’ll set a trend of weddings performed backwards.
KA: I hope so, I’d love to do it again!
TM: So we are reaching the end of our time, but I want to ask you one final question regarding your experience thus far with event planning. In hindsight, what would you have loved to know as a planner setting out on her first wedding?
KA: Bring more safety pins? Haha. No, true, but I’m kidding. I think I would want to relax a bit more. I think I was so stiff the first wedding I did, I was so laser-focused on making sure everything was perfect, that when things did go wrong, I let it bother me more than it should have. Now, I expect the unexpected as part of the job. I’ve realized it’s not my fault, but that it’s my opportunity to make things right. Knowing that things are going to go wrong that are out of your control is a huge part of this industry, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts and ability to fix problems that come up, so I don’t fear it anymore. Oh, and to LAUGH and enjoy yourself in the midst of it!
TM: So you have developed a sense of fearlessness founded on the knowledge that anything can happen and it’s up to you to turn the debacle into a opportunity for success?
KA: More or less. I take a lot of pride in solving problems, and have solved a LOT of problems, but I also know that some things may be completely out of my control. Essentially, it’s taking pride in knowing that I do my best every wedding, and I try to make the best out of every situation. If I can save the day, I will!
TM: That perspective is refreshing, as many might disintegrate under stress.
TM: As a bonus, tell us your plans for the future!
KA: I’m taking a more one-on-one creative approach with brides in the next year. I no longer plan on doing month-ofs, I really feel a huge benefit from working with a bride over the course of the entire engagement, both for creative and technical purposes.
TM: Would you consider that a unique approach in the planning space?
KA: I’m not sure, there are a lot of planning companies that do
design, but the main focus of their business is to do many weddings over the course of a year, and work out logistics, make sure everything’s on track, etc. I’ve never really had that approach– I really enjoy working one-on-one with fewer clients over the course of a year, with more of a design focus. I, of course, would work out details and logistics too, but I really enjoy helping brides find vendors, choose florals, pick out invites, I just feel the event is more cohesive and flows more smoothly.
TM: Well, I can speak freely when I say just like your approach to stress is refreshing, so is your approach to client service. It seems that you are services oriented, detailed and creative-focused, with an open mind to requests(even if it means doing a wedding in reverse) of each bride per their individually unique styles?
KA: Yes, that’s right.
TM: I want to thank you for taking time to speak with me today!