My Journey In Event Planning
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
I love the word journey. It's a little dramatic, sure, but who doesn't love a little drama. Maybe it's my obsession with the Bachelor franchise and the "journey to find love" that has always sparked my love for a good journey. Anyway...
I am frequently asked the question, "How did you become an event planner?"
It's a great question, because most people who are not in the industry have a fascination with the process of how one becomes an event planner. In theory, the job has this sexy allure to it (all of my event planning friends are laughing and rolling their eyes right now, I know). I'm not quite sure where that came from. Maybe it's the movie The Wedding Planner? Thanks a lot, JLo.
There aren't too many "traditional" paths to becoming an event planner, which is part of what makes the industry so fascinating. And I'm no exception to that. I wanted to write this post for two reasons: to share my story with those who don't know me quite as well yet, and provide a little perspective for those who are in college or early on in their career.
Before I share my background, I just want to say that I never imagined that I would be an event planner. Let alone a wedding planner. I never dreamed about my wedding as a little girl. For those who have, that's totally OK too! Some of us realize our life's passion sooner than others. The diversity in the event industry is what makes it so great, and I love hearing how each and every one of us came about finding our passion. I unintentionally landed here after finally discovering a job that I had the right demeanor and skill set for, am constantly challenged by, and am inspired by on the daily. That's hard to do.
When I started my undergrad, like many teenagers, I had NO idea what I wanted to be. Truly, no clue. I knew that I was passionate about ballet and contemporary dance and wanted to explore all the different classes that liberal arts has to offer. From government, economics, language, psychology,to religious studies - all of it. So that's what I did. At the end of sophomore year, I decided to follow my passions and my intrigue (despite all those ridiculous, external pressures to study something with a clear, defined path to a solid job) - and that led me to an undergraduate degree in dance and psychology. Yup.
I'm pretty sure my parents were secretly not thrilled that I was majoring in performing arts. But if they were, they never showed it. Nonetheless, I still found myself and others questioning - how does a degree in dance and psychology translate into an actual career where you can earn a decent living? I totally valid question. I wasn't sure, but I knew that I needed to do what I was passionate about and trusted that success would follow if I was doing what I love (BOLD, right?)
Now that hindsight is 20/20, it makes total sense how my arts and psych background helped lay the foundation for my career as an event planner.
With a college resume filled with stage production and festival experience I was able to land my first job at a not-for-profit performing arts presenter in Back Bay. Side note: DO INTERNSHIPS. Do them. Be an intern. Be an apprentice. Do it for free, do it for a stipend or minimum wage, just do it. Live with your parents. Work a second job. Make it happen. Without valuable and applicable experience, you will have virtually nothing of substance to talk about when it comes time for your first big job interview. If there's one thing that folks in the event industry value, it's rolling up your sleeves, putting in the work, and getting that experience. In my first job out of college, I gained all of those super fun (ha... ha...) intra-office and customer service skills as an office manager and box office associate. I learned how to handle unhappy patrons, juggle office dynamics and dozens of personalities, deal with a printer/copier that was constantly jamming, an organization-wide IT shift to the cloud, numerous vendor relationships, and more. All in just a year.
One of the great things about working for a small organization is that there will never be a shortage of things to do, and you will never get bored. While the pay may not be as attractive as a big corporate job - the experience is unparalleled.
From there, I was promoted quickly to a role in production. My. dream. job. My time in this role delivered some of THE COOLEST experiences. I worked with some of the world's most respected performers in some of country's most renowned venues -across genres of dance, classical, jazz, orchestral, and more. I worked with stage managers, audio engineers, lighting designers, and artists. I also had the unique role of being involved in the contracting processes, creating timelines, communicating with vendors and venues, and being a part of the team that pulls it all together for a series of over 80 performance events a year. We also produced two major community events - one taking place all across Greater Boston, the second right in Copley Square.
I loved my job. BUT, my passion and love for the performing arts was fading. Like any job, there were a lot of parts of the job that were sexy, and there were just as many that were not sexy. I wanted my love for the arts to stay a passion, not a labor.
What job would allow me to play the role of producer, collaborate, immerse myself in creative conversation, surround myself with things that inspire beauty and joy, and feel the same satisfaction?
Cue the world of special events.
I knew I needed to make the transition from concert production to special event production, and figured the best way to do that was to just dive right into working at a professional firm. I networked and networked, and with some help with my resume and a few introductions, was able to land jobs at two top planning firms in Boston. A combined 3+ years of facilitating the sales and contracting process, managing client relationships, and producing and coordinating 50+ major events, soup to nuts design, production, and overall event management.
A few of my all-time favorite events from the past several years include:
- A tented, celebrity birthday party at a private home on Lake Winnipesaukee; complete with a choreographed fireworks show to Michael Jackson's and Prince's greatest hits.
- An annual sales meeting for a top medical device company; we brought Faneuil Hall to them and transformed a warehouse space into Quincy Market for 500+ sales executives.
- A family-focused, farm-to-table, tented wedding in the beautiful and historic Concord, MA.
Now, the harsh reality is that gaining this experience was super challenging and not always pretty. Extremely long hours, very little work/life balance, and a daily struggle with the reality that the paycheck at the end of the day wasn't helping me properly invest in my future. Instead, I invested in experience, hoping that it would all pay off long-term.
I always try and maintain a 5-10 year vision for my life. From very early on, I knew I wanted to be self-employed one day. One doesn't simply become self-employed out of nowhere (OK, you can, but that shit is super scary if you ask me). So, I had to start taking all the necessary baby steps to get there. Granted, those steps are constantly evolving and I'm always reevaluating the path. Always assessing and redefining what happiness means to me and what goal(s) I'm working toward. Even if the vision is broad, it's helped me focus in on taking the necessary "in between" steps that help you get to where you want to ultimately end up. I'm always asking myself, "Is this helping me get to where I want to be?" If the answer is no, change directions. And no, the steps aren't always fun. Some of them might be a little scary or push you out of your comfort zone. Some might straight up suck. But if they're helping you reach your ultimate destination, then they're worth taking.
Everyone likes to talk about their successes, but in equal measure we should also talk about failure and uncertainty. I'm a firm believer that you really do have to go through a period (or two, or three) of feeling confused, stuck, fearful, etc. in order to find that desire and that burn to go after what makes you happy. For me, the things that bring me the most joy are also the ones that scare me the most.
So now - with 7 years of having seen virtually every facet of the event industry, I knew that it was time to launch my own venture. I had this feeling in me that I had what it takes to run my own business. Lord knows I was already putting in the hours, I have the experience, and I have the passion. But the road to get here was pretty ugly at times. And I have no doubt that it will continue to be ugly. There were/are days where I say to myself, "Why am I doing this?" And there certainly were days leading up to the launch of Revel and Joy where I'd say to myself, "Ummm... WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" But the truth is, there is so much opportunity out there. So I've been working hard on shifting from a "But, why me?" kind of attitude to "Hell, why not me?"
As Alexis from Schitt's Creek would say, "Love that journey for me."
What is your journey looking like right now? What steps are you taking to get to where you want to be? I absolutely love swapping stories and helping each other on our paths. We're all in this crazy world and industry together, and no one finds success and happiness without a little bit of help. Comment, email me, slide into my DM's - let's chat!