On the blog this week is a one-on-one interview with a talented event planner and designer near Denver, Colorado: Melanie Desiree Event Coordinator. I chatted with Melanie to get a little more insight about her story, her event coordinating experience, the event planning business and more.
K: How long have you been designing and planning events?
M: Personally? Years! Professionally, since January of this year. But probably 10-15 years for friends and family.
K: What made you first want to get into planning events?
M: I’ve always wanted to do it. Everyone knows how I love to decorate and so they’d always ask me, “What do you think this?” Over time I’ve come up with all these ideas and people would tell me, “Oh, wow! You know how to throw a party! You should do this for a living!” And I started to think, “Maybe I should!” I often helped with decorations and helping to make things for events and I thought, “I could charge people for this.”
K: What’s your favorite part of doing this line of work?
M: The decorating itself. The designing comes naturally in my head, but I love the decorating the most because I love seeing it all come together, all the tiny details.
K: What style of events do you have the most fun putting together?
M: Definitely vintage, or chic and romantic. I’m not really a girly girl but when it comes to decorating and event planning, I tend to love lots of pink and other vintage colors. It’s just so romantic. I just love shabby-chic. That’s just my thing when it comes to decorating. Like tea parties and bridal showers. But I’ve also been to Paris and it’s so romantic there, and the idea behind the setting there, with all the love, the music, the Eiffel Tower, and the language.
I recently had a milestone birthday and I thought to myself, “I’ve never really thrown a party for myself, or had a milestone birthday I should celebrate.” So I did a Paris theme, and it was just fantastic. We did everything from the champagne and pearl colors to a giant candy bar. It turned out really cool.
K: Tell me about your favorite event you’ve ever put together.
M: I put together an event for me and my husband, our 20th anniversary. We did a black tie affair. I rented a room at the Historic Manor House in the Ken Caryl Valley. It’s an old mansion and you can rent individual rooms, and they do a lot of weddings up there. It’s beautiful! I rented a really nice little room, and we had all the men in tuxes and the women in evening gowns. We invited maybe ten couples, so it was small, but we had a nice intimate dinner together.
We didn’t renew our vows, but it almost felt like we were doing our wedding again. When we first got married, we didn’t really have all the fancy stuff people have now. No decorations, very simple wedding. But for the anniversary, I hired a photographer, we had cake, we had flowers, a guestbook. We had everything I didn’t have when we first got married. So that was my favorite and it turned out to be a lot of fun.
K: Who would you say your ideal client is?
M: Probably someone who really knows what they want. Because even though I like designing and coming up with ideas, it’s so hard when somebody says, “I have no idea.” And I have no idea what they like; I can have a million ideas but I can’t keep coming up with a million ideas if I don’t know what they like. I have a hard time with themes that I’m really not a fan of and going, “Oh yeah, that sounds great!” I know people like to be unique, but at the same time I sometimes like to be traditional with things.
K: So you try to stay away from the trendy things or stuff that will go out of style in 10-20 years.
M: Exactly. I mean, I know you aren’t throwing a wedding solely for your guests, but you sort of are. They may not understand your passion for…say, the Rennaisance or Star Wars. But at least they know what they want. And that makes it easier for me to help with ideas. I ask, “Do you want glam and bling? Do you want vintage? Do you want simple?” Or, “What colors do you like?” It’s hard for me to help them if they answer, “I’m not sure.”
K: What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?
M: Definitely clients who don’t know what they want, but also people who haven’t done the research and aren’t familiar with how much goes into being a day of coordinator or planner. Some people want to know how much it costs, but there are many aspects to consider. Do you need someone who helps with the timeline and talks to your vendors to make sure they all show up on time? Do you need help with set up? Do you need help with take-down? What is it that you’re looking for? Is it a two hour event or a ten hour event? It’s easier to give a rate if I know what I’ll need to be doing and where the wedding is located.
K: How wide is the price range for your services, say from day of coordinating to full-blown planning?
M: It could be anywhere between $500 and $2500 or more. There’s so much that goes into it; I could put in over 100 hours to help plan a wedding. Even for day of coordinating, people often don’t realize that it’s often not just that I’m showing up the day of for a couple of hours. I’m meeting them a couple of times, I’m going to visit the venue beforehand, possibly setting up the tables for them, decorating, talking with vendors. That takes time — a lot of time.
And people also don’t realize why things cost what they do for decorations. They say, “Oh, I can make that.” But there’s all these things to consider, the supplies and the time. There’s this joke about creating things for weddings: “Why buy something for $7 when you can make it for $90.” It’s crazy when you think about it; it’s not always less expensive to do it yourself. There are all these companies that mass produce items and can do it for a lot less than you can yourself. I do think handmade stuff is nice, and there are times when it is less expensive to do it yourself, but it may take up a lot of time and energy.
K: What would you like to start doing more of? Certain styles or types of events?
M: I would love to do more parties and maybe corporate, although I hear that’s very different from doing weddings. But overall, I’d love to do things like anniversaries, retirement parties, and bridal parties. Or even adult birthday parties, for when people turn 30 or 40. They’re just so much fun!
I would also love to start doing destination weddings, and I think they’d be so fun to do. They’re often smaller and in all these really cool places.
K: What place(s) would you want to plan destination weddings for?
M: Mexico! It’s close, easy to get to, warm and tropical. I wouldn’t mind doing other places, but the farther away you go, the harder it is to plan.
K: What have you been seeing more of lately? What trends are really popular right now?
M: I would definitely say rustic is really in right now, probably because it’s more budget friendly or DIY. Everyone loves the idea of a mountain wedding with burlap, mason jars, and lanterns. And themed weddings are also popular and trendy right now. And I get wanting to be unique, but I think you can still be different and unique without being really far out there.
K: I think you’re right, there’s a way to be traditional but still have a unique spin on things. Maybe it should be more about how you spin the traditions to do something in a way no one else has. Okay, one last question: how far in advance do you suggest couples contact you for wedding planning and coordination?
M: Not far enough! I need time to look at the venue, get to know the bride, learn their vision for decorating.
K: So, sooner the better, especially for helping plan ideas and colors, right?
M: At least a year in advance, for sure. And at least three to six months in advance for day of coordinating. Then you’re not rushing and there’s less stress. It also gives me time to help make things for their big day if that’s what they’re looking for.