Growth and Mistakes

I am not a person who likes making mistakes, some may even call me a perfectionist. I hate when I make mistakes and I am still working on not obsessing on mistakes I made. I wanted to write this blog to talk about some of my biggest mistakes working in weddings. I wanted to write this months ago but kept putting it off because honestly I didn’t want to look incompetent as an event planner. I am writing this now because I realize we are all human event planners and we make mistakes but we learn from them so we don’t repeat it, and that’s where we get our experience.

Okay so for both of these mistakes they were both with the same lead planner and yes I am still mortified. The first was this wedding in Mt. Prospect. Now this wedding was kinda crazy not the craziest I have worked by any measure but things happened.

My roll when it comes to weddings with the company I work with is essentially an assistant for the lead planner. The company has 5 lead planners and they each take anywhere from 2 to 4 or 5 weddings in busy months. They have a bridal assistant who stays with the bride from the moment they wake up till they get to the venue, when they get to the venue the coordination assistant (me) and lead planner takes over. Every wedding is completely different on what happens and depending on the lead and what they need. My very first and second wedding was also with this same lead and she is very trusting. she will let me know what needs to get done and trust me to do it. To coordinate with the venders to make sure all the set up is done right, to double check name cards, or make sure people are where they need to be. With this wedding there was a ton that needed to be done, so she told me what needed to be done. The welcome sign, gift table, memoriam table, and escort card needed to be done. Once the ceremony was staged to light all the candles on the stage except the tapering candle. Make sure the officiant was good and didn’t need anything. Line up the bridal party under the stairs and go over timing and what they need to do. Once everyone was don set up the bridal suite for the couple’s pre cocktail hour alone time. Then double check table placings and other stuff. I get started also venues are tricky as to where you leave your personal belongings, normally have a large purse or bag and keep my wedding binder and phone with me. This wedding was a lot to do and I set my phone down right after doing the memorium table. This venue was also huge it was two floors and just huge. I didn’t see the lead for a hot second. I look at the time and realize I need to check on the officiant and light the candles. In my head I am going over my check list like: Okay so make sure the officiant is good see if he needs anything light the candles on the stage then get a bridal party lined up. The officiant is on the stage when I get there and I start lighting all the candles and get to the table with the tapering candles that she told me not to light but I forgot that part until after I lit the long taper candle. I went, that doesn’t look right, does it. The officiant went Oh are we starting off with the candle lit or was I supposed to do right before the vows. At this moment the lead comes running down the staircase towards the stage and goes “NO DON’T LIGHT THE TAPERING CANDLES” We blew it out and she’s so nice and kind and explained how with some traditional wedding ceremonies when they do the vows the bride and groom light their tapering candles on the parent tapering candle that the officiant is supposed to light. The mother of the groom who was partially our client was very traditional and particular and she saw it because she was with the lead.  It sounds minuscule but like I said I am perfectionist and also weddings are very high maintenance and important events on how things are done. Needless to say I still lose sleep over this but wait I did worse.  

Then of course the venue was also understaffed so the room turnover put us 45 mins behind schedule. This was the first wedding where myself and the lead planner were actually physically setting up tables, filling water glasses and putting place settings down. Then cleaning the dance floor and clearing the dining area. It was crazy, kind of fun. The reason why the whole tapering candle debacle does not bother me as much anymore is in part things went wrong as well but also because the next wedding mistake I made really over shadows it. 

The next mistake was more important. It is important to say and let you all know that weddings are very high stress events and I believe that if you are putting the importance on the event that it should be then it’s justifiable. There are few events that are as life changing as weddings, you are literally giving your heart and soul to someone and taking that step into forever. It is often believed that the weddings set the tone for the rest of your marriage, so an understandable stressful event to be made perfect. The thing with the lead planner I work with is she is honestly how I want to be when I get older, She is part owner of the company and just launched the destination sister company, on top of that she still is a manager at an event venue/ restaurant on North Avenue beach. So she wears many hats, but she is still able to keep everything organized, especially trusting her team, and like I said I definitely look up to her so my perfectionist thing goes into double overtime when we work together. 

This particular wedding was interesting because 1 the venue was a luxury hotel downtown the cocktail hour was in this beautiful library and the dinner and reception was held in this giant ballroom the next floor up. So decor was accounted for all of the space. The couple also had the most personal items that I have ever seen in a wedding. We filled up 3 luggage carts with the personal items. It was around a 300 person wedding, with all assigned seating and meals. The venue for this one was honestly so amazing they had it together. This wedding was just a lot and the couple had high expectations, again understandably so. The schedule for this wedding was also very tight. In other words this wedding was a defiant learning experience. When we got up to the ballroom the first thing the lead planner did was go through the checklist they had and all the boxes to make sure we had all the personal items, all the stationery and favors and whatnot. It was then that we realized we were missing a box of photos. Side note for weddings with personal items normally they leave the personal items with the wedding company a few days to a week before the wedding and the planners can keep everything together since things like menus, name cards, and other vendor stuff will be sent to them. With this wedding I am not 100% sure but I think some things the couple kept until the morning of and the lead planner picked up. Regardless we realized we were missing a box, so the lead planner obviously needed to go find it, and left me in charge of getting everything ready by the time everyone returned after the ceremony. Ceremony ended at 6pm which means everything needed to be ready by 5:20pm. It was 3:30pm. The lead planner was like start on the most time consuming things 1) the name cards because they have to be alphabetized and set out in the cocktail hour room. This gives you an extra hour to get the dining hall together. 2) The place cards with the menus, they also are not alphabetized or organized, since there are around 300 guests that’s going to be time consuming. She left and me being a type A person set a time for me. I had to have the cocktail hour room done by 4:15pm at the latest and have florals set up by 4:45pm and check to make sure it is good to go. Then I can have the rest of the time for the menu. The lead planner warned me many times not to underestimate the menus, she just got them so have not checked them and the bride ordered them, hence why it was not organized yet. 

The night goes as plan, I finish the cocktail hour by 4pm and rejoicing I am ahead of schedule. The thing with being an event planner at any event is you are the person all of the vendors and venues come to when something happens for you to solve and figure out, it’s a part of the job but it’s also time consuming. There was that going on so by the time I got to even open the box of menus it was around 4:30 which left me an hour, and I still had to double check the florists in the cocktail hours so like 45 mins. In my head I got cocky thinking I did the escort card table in 30 mins. The menus couldn’t take much longer than that. Yep that was my first and fatal mistake. I open the box and start unpacking the cards, and immediately freak out. The first name was like “Tree” it wasn’t that but it was a nickname, all of my papers had the proper names of the guests, it was then when I started freaking out. I put the cards in stacks of 50 and was surrounded by menu place cards. I was freaking out in the sense that I had no idea where to start and approach this task, I spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I tried going table by table and got through 1 table in 15 mins, then I tried going through each stack and placing them on tables, that took another 15-20 mins. By the time all that has happened the florist comes up to let me know they have finished the cocktail hour. I go down quickly check that and set up last touches. It is 5pm by the time I get back to the menus and I still only have 1 out of 24 tables done. I am in a full blown anxiety attack mode at this point. I call the lead planner actually a mess, I told her I don’t know what to do, the cards are in nicknames they are in absolutely no conceivable order the wedding is starting and I don’t even have the cards organized by tables non the less set out and I don’t know what to do I don’t even have the table numbers out yet. Me absolutely freaking out. She actually went “Lauren close your eyes and take a deep breath right now. okay are you good? It’s okay here put the cards in alphabetical order first then organize them by meal, then go by the tables that have the detailed menu for each guest and you can just go to that letter stack. But make sure they are in order and place them on the first chair and ask the venue staff to start placing them down but they have to be in order. If there are nicknames you do not know leave them out and well will do them last. I should be there by the time the ceremony ends.” She was so calm and it made so much sense I was could have slapped myself, I hung up before I even said by. Got the menu cards organized in 10 to 15 minutes and started organizing tables and I realized the room was set up wrong, but at this point there was nothing to do about it. I had them redo the head table because that absolutely could not be wrong and was like I will work through the rest later. Mistake number 2 was putting it off because I later found out that each server had a list of their tables and meals for each table.  Mistake 3 of the night, I did not put the stacks of menu cards in order of chair places. I had 18 out of 24 I think done by 6pm and the lead planner was back and helping with her we knocked out the rest in like 10 mins. We realized my 2 mistakes when they were doing empty room shots and one of the servers were moving the menu cards around because it didn’t match their seats. This set us back another 30 mins figuring out what we’re going to do and making sure the servers knew the updated menus. Also as mentioned before the menus were in nicknames, which for most where Nicholases was nicks and Michaels Mikes, was easy but things like “Bop Bop” was a bit harder so we kind of guessed and since the lead planner, the venue manager, and myself did them we knew where about everyone was sitting so we would just escort them to their seats. There were a few other hiccups that night, and yes I am still mildly mortified at making mistakes. 

What helps me appreciate that experience is:

  1. Working with the lead planner that I did. She is so incredibly quick thinking, and kind and understanding is the only way I got through that night.

  2. The couple, honestly the couple was so chill after the ceremony and they were the kind of couple where they didn’t really care about anything other than each other during the wedding.

  3. I learned so much when it comes to wedding event problem solving, analytical innovation, and a greater appreciation on staying level headed in the midst of chaos.

Now, did I still immediately go to my other job around the corner go into my office and completely break down and cry at like 2am, before I drove home, because I under-preformed for my own standards? Yes. Do I still have moments where I am working with a client or setting up event plans and think about that wedding and still feel mortified? Yes.

The reason I am writing this blog now, is because at my other job I was talking to my boss about her upcoming wedding and one of my coworkers made a comment like “I can’t wait till I am older and have my life together and be a perfect worker like you.” I actually laughed when they said that, because I know that I am not perfect. I mean I started an event planning business right before the world got shut down. I constantly make mistakes, but the goal should never to be perfect but to constantly try your best and not continually make the same mistakes. With every wedding and event I do I am always implementing a new technique or organization method to be preemptively avoid situations that would lead to mistakes. I am learning to balance asking appropriate questions when given directives but also taking initiatives and stepping out of my box to figure it out myself.

At the end of the day even though those were detrimental mistakes to me, they weren’t a blimp on the client’s radar, and if they were it’s one small piece of a larger puzzle. I didn’t want to write this blog for so long because I didn’t want to appear incompetent, but I also do not want to appear perfect. I want people to work with and contract me because I am innovative, and analytical and hard working. I would rather someone work with me because they know that I will work hard to solve in issue that arises verses, expecting there to be no issues at all. At the same time I want my team to be able to tell me their mistakes early and would rather learn from their mistakes than justify them. That is the only way you grow, because you will never stop making mistakes.

To anyone who is thinking about launching your own business or taking a risky step in your career, do it. The amount of mistakes I have made starting my own business is a whole other blog series, and I am still making mistakes and learning. I would never trade my business and the accomplishments I have and will make for those mistakes. To anyone who has make a big mistake at work and you are still mortified about it is a good thing, it means you care about your job and the company you work for, it also means you stepped out of your comfort zone of knowledge and experience to make it. You took a step to further your knowledge and experience. That is amazing.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, check out other articles for event inspiration and other just event things throughout the site. I am starting a new series about event playlists, based on songs and playlists I have put together for past events.

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