Kendall and Nic’s High Country Wedding at the Camp at Eseeola in Linville NC

It was intimidating planning an event for a professional event planner, but I couldn’t ask for a better experience! Kendallwas a pleasure to work with. She expertly conveyed direction and expectations so I was never left guessing.  From the venue, to thelinens, to the band, Nic and Kendall’s personalities were visible in every element. The color palette was very Kendall; greys, silvers, creams, and pops of pink and lavender. The flowers and dresses, and table settings captured the colors radiantly. The cake pops and lots of indirect lighting were Nic’s requests. Stage diving to the band, We Got The Beat, was the way this couple partied. The night ended with a sparkler send off, followed by a surprise firework show arranged by Kendall’s mom.

The Camp at Eseeola in Linville NC

The Camp at Eseeola in Linville NC


Planning and Coordination – The Whole Shebang, Flowers – Callista Designs, Reception Music We Got The Beat(East Coast Entertainment), Photography - Fletcher and Fletcher Photography, Transportation - Air Haven LimoVenue and Catering and Cake - Eseeola Lodge, Makeup – Beautiful Bride

Best Wedding Wire review ever!!!

One of the most amazing WeddingWire reviews I’ve received all season! Thanks so much Jennifer for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and thorough evaluation of our work!!!

The Inn at Crestwood - Blowing Rock NC

The Inn at Crestwood - Blowing Rock NC

“My husband and I have discussed time and time again how Meris was the best investment we made in planning our wedding."

"Many brides describe their wedding day as stressful and exhausting; ours was exactly the opposite, and that is 100% thanks to Meris’ help and involvement along the way. Meris was intricately involved in every detail of our big day – from securing the venue and dealing with related issues that arose along the way, to recommending local vendors who were professional and worked within our budget, to helping us determine the timeline of events. Day of, her team ensured that everything flowed smoothly, that wedding party/families were in the appropriate places at the right times, that my husband and I knew when it was time to cut the cake, etc. Meris is genuine, charismatic, and professional. She is type A and detailed oriented, and impressively balances it all without in any way being overwhelmed by the details. And what I appreciate most about Meris is her calming presence; not fussy or dramatic, but professional and proactive. No matter the circumstances, regardless the issues that could/did arise, Meris and her team worked tirelessly to ensure that every detail was perfect. And they did so with a smile, a calm tone, and a “don’t worry, this is all going to work out perfectly” attitude. It alleviates day-of stress to know that there is a seasoned professional on site to take care of all of the little (and big!) details, so you don’t have to worry about them and can focus on soaking in every single precious moment. Our wedding day was so special, so effortless, so joyful, so perfect. And we owe a world of thanks to Meris for making sure it flowed so smoothly and could be that way.” - Jennifer Cole Tolley

Lyndsay and Skylar’s Fall Mountain Wedding in Banner Elk NC

When the church bells rang, all of Banner Elk could hear that Lyndsay was about to marry Skylar. The trees joined the event team by turning the perfect shades of orange, red and gold overnight. Lyndsay was a stunning bride, all romantic brunette against the fall colors.The reception was at The Farm in Banner Elk. A little rain came, for good luck, but the tent and pavilion kept everyone dry, warm and dancing all night. Lyndsay wore a full dress for the ceremony, with romantic loose locks, and then changed into her party gown, and had her hair pinned up in time for a lip synch contest with her father. I think she won, but I can’t be sure! Their performances were hilarious, impressive, and well rehearsed. I know I won’t soon forget it! I had so much fun working with Lyndsay. I felt like part of the family. It was truly a romantic, lovely, memorable day.

Local Vendors - Planning/Coordination – Andrea Elaver of , Ceremony - Banner Elk Presbyterian, Minister - Ken Craig, Ceremony Music - Allegro Strings, Photographer - , Videographer - Jeff Brewer, Floral – , DJ - Les Postel, Catering – , Cake – , Rentals -        A &J, Hair - Changes salon, Celia marsh for bride, Makeup –

Yasemin and John’s Wedding at Chetola in Blowing Rock, NC

A calm and serene bride and groom, and a seamless, sunny day. Yasemin and John were lovely to work with. She has an elegant style, that shone through in the color choices and decor. Soft pinks and greens complemented each other, and the freshness of the spring day. The atmosphere was relaxed and unfussy relying on simple beauty of well chosen flowers, lots of candles, and a string trio.  The mood shifted once the ATL Groove stared up. Their sound, stage presence, and energy brought everyone to the dance floor. Even the groom’s mother was dancing on stage!
Vendors – Planning and Coordination – . Floral Design - , Photography - , Reception Music - , Ceremony Music -Amanda Tant Trio, Transportation - , Cake – , Venue and Catering –

Chris and Diana’s Misty Mountain Wedding at Banner Elk Winery

With the love of their friends and family and the gorgeous mid October leaves behind them, these two love birds wed on a  lovely misty day in the Banner Elk area of the NC High Country. 
Dark clouds threatened, but in lieu of moving the wedding ceremony to the barn, Diana and Chris decided that they wanted to get married outside on top of a mountain, “for better or for worse”. The guests shared in their adventurous spirit and joined them on the lawn of the Blueberry Villa at with raincoats and umbrellas. Diana walked down the aisle to a beautiful song that Chris' uncle Pablo had composed especially for their wedding.
The intimate reception following was truly memorable featuring dazzling food and deserts from Reid’s Catering, hilarious toasts and surprise multimedia productions, and a really serious dance party. We had so much fun with this crew.
All and all, a wonderful way to end out 2014 season. Congratulations Diana and Chris, all the best!!!
Local Vendors – Planning/Coordination – , Venue – , Catering – , Flowers – Desi’s Floral and Design Co., Shady Grove Gardens, Rentals – A&J, Cake – , Music – , Hair – Clynda Dowd, Makeup – , Photography – .

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Eve and Gray’s Wedding in Mount Airy North Carolina

This is one of my favorite families of all time. We have been fortunate enough to be a part of two fantastic Gillespie weddings. I wish they had more daughters to marry off! Both receptions were hosted by the Gillespie's at their stunning home in Mount Airy. Sweet Basil’s Catering provided an amazing spread on both occasions. Renee and her staff are a dream to work with and it may be the best wedding food I’ve ever tasted…which is saying a lot.  This is a truly a close, loving and lively family and that totally shines through in Adele Lee’s fabulous photos.The wedding had a  classic, timeless feel with so many sweet personal touches. Eve wore her mother’s 35 year old wedding dress for the ceremony and then changed out of it for the reception so they could dance the night away to the rockin’ music from Band.
Vendors – Coordination – , Photography – , Videography – Dandy Sese, Catering – , Reception Band – The Magic Pipers, Cake – Lorene’s Bakery, Ceremony Venue – Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Reception Venue – Family Home, Flowers – Mount Airy Florist, Hair and Makeup – Colleen Kelly

Jessica and Emil’s Great Gatsby,Woodland Inspired Wedding in the NC Mountains

This was a really really fun one! We had a blast putting together the decorations for this Art Deco, Woodland Inspired wedding! Jessica really outdid herself styling her wedding all by herself! She collected all of her china and vintage pieces for the tables and even made her own table runners. Not only was her decor absolutely gorgeous, the reception was a seriously great party. The wedding took place at The Twickenham House outside of West Jefferson and most of the wedding party and family was able to stay on site all weekend.
They greeted their out of town guests at the house Friday night for a Bourbon and Bowties Reception. Jessica and Emil LOVE bourbon and incorporated it into their vintage signature drinks and even had a bourbon ceremony during their actual wedding!
Everyone gathered back at the house for some bluegrass music by local band and some delicious southern comfort food by . I think it’s safe to say that a good time was had by all!
Local VendorsPlanning/Coordination/Transportation/Bar Service – , Photography – , Food – , Flowers – , Rentals – Miss Match Rentals and Jefferson Rent All, Venue – , Makeup – ,  Reception Music –

Megan + Lance–A gorgeous early fall wedding at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock

Love love love this couple. They are truly some of the most loving and kind hearted people I have ever met. planned the rehearsal dinner at Megan’s parent’s home in Boone as well as the wedding so we were able to spend the whole weekend with Lance and Megan’s friends and family and let me tell you, we had a blast! Planning Megan’s dream wedding was such a fun collaborative process. She loved the color purple and  Philosophy Flowers did a magical job as always pulling together Megan’s concept and executing it to a T. The colors were complemented by the deep green of the late September foliage and the serene back drop of Chetola Lake. Check out the pictures from Andi Gelsthorpe below!
Local Vendors – Planning and Coordinating – The Whole Shebang, Photography – Andi Gelsthorpe, Venue/Catering – Chetola Resort, Floral Design – , Officiant – , Music – , Makeup – , Hair – Absolute Style, Cake –

So you want to be a Wedding Planner…

I wanted to take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts I have on what it takes to be a wedding and event planner. I have students and aspiring event planners approach me all the time either wanting to intern with us or shadow us on weddings or just pick my brain about how to break into the industry. They want to know what kind of background they need to have and if they need to get certified, take a class etc. Yes I think if you’re new to the industry a course on wedding planning is definitely helpful but that’s no match for actual hands on experience. I’ve listed a few key points to consider if you’re thinking wedding planning might be a good career choice for you.

Service Industry, Service Industry, Service Industry -
If you haven’t waited tables, do that first. You will learn much of what you need to learn for wedding planning through either waiting tables, bartending or working events with a caterer. You learn how to deal with customers, think on your feet, get along with co workers and crazy owners and kitchen staff. It’s the fastest way to develop a thick skin and it teaches you diplomacy. Those are all key ingredients in wedding planning.
I truly believe that if you hate restaurant work, you will not like wedding planning. If that’s the case, that’s fine! There are so many avenues to the wedding industry that you may be well suited for but at the end of the day, wedding planning is so much like working in a restaurant you just have to try that first and see if you like it.

Marketing –
You must learn how to put yourself out there and not spend a ton of money doing it. Especially in the beginning when you have more time than money. I learned a lot about self promotion doing real estate. That was very helpful when I went to launch my own business. I think the key is blogging/writing about what you know so that potential clients can get a feel for you as a person and whether you are a good fit for them.
Getting involved in your local bridal association or group of wedding vendors is key as well. You have to get to know your sphere of local vendors face to face.

Slow and steady wins the race -  
Be patient. The first year I went into wedding planning, I did 2 weddings. Then the next year it was 5 and then 10 and then 15 and now we’re at 30 plus weddings a season. It’s definitely not a get rich quick scheme. It takes a while for local vendors to get to know you enough to throw your name out there to their brides. Reputation is key and it takes a long time to build that trust. Be patient and keep another job on the side as long as you need to so that you don’t put pressure on yourself to under sell your services or book brides that aren’t a good fit because you are desperate for work. 
Now when you’re first starting out, you’ll charge significantly less than you will once you get established and that’s ok. You’re training yourself as you go along but on that same note, once you get to where you really really know your stuff, make sure you get paid for your time and expertise. Log your hours and see how much time you are actually putting in and then divide that into what you’re actually making to see what you’re making per hour. Then think about how much money you’re putting into marketing and gas and supplies on top of that...
Most importantly, don't work with clients that don't see the value in your work. Make sure that you know how to educate your potential clients about what you do and why you charge what you do without sounding confrontational. People will ask you "why do you charge more than this other wedding planner" or "can't you just do "day of planning"" or "why does it cost more for you to plan a wedding at one venue than another". It's important to be comfortable answering these questions. Think of it as educating your clients so that they see your value or your work rather than feeling like they're trying to shake you down in price. People are willing to pay more for quality service but they want to feel justified in that decision. Write down your strengths and why you charge what you do on a piece of paper that you can pull out when you are on the phone with them so that you have the talking points right there. 
Be skeptical of clients that are making a decision based solely on price. Having a "here's what I do, take it or leave it" approach will take you a long way. There are plenty of fish in the sea and if you can afford to play the waiting game and not go for those clients who are not a good fit, you will build a solid reputation faster.

Make sure you hire enough support staff to make the job look effortless -
This is something took me forever to learn. When I think of all of the years I worked by myself or with only one assistant and just ran my tail off.….I don’t think the quality of service was lacking but it was way more stressful for me. Finally I’ve learned that you can almost never have too much staff . Now that I’ve figured that out, weddings are a walk in the park. It doesn’t cost that much to have a few extra hands on deck so that you, the planner, can focus on the important stuff and not get sidetracked with random details. 

Organization -
Obviously this is a key element. There are so so many details to keep track of. Putting your systems in place is an important thing to do when you first set up your business. Your methods and checklists etc. will evolve as you go along but you need to have a clear game plan and stick to it. Be constantly figuring out new ways to work smarter and more efficiently.
It's also important to size up your client and figure out how they fit into the picture. Some clients are very involved and want to share checklists, spreadsheets etc. Some clients are more hands off and just want you to handle everything without bothering them. Know your audience. You don't want to inundate a hands off bride with lots of details...that's why they hired you. You also don't want to seem unorganized to a Type A bride that wants to see the process. I think it's important to ask what level of involvement the clients wants and what kinds of organizational methods they find helpful.

Go with your strengths -
Know yourself and learn what comes natural to you. Let that be your focus. Wedding planners come in all different forms and offer a range of services. Don’t promote something that is not your strength. For example, I don’t promote myself as a designer because I’m not the creative type. That's why I have people on my team that are! I’m a business person, I like putting all of the details together and running the show. I can’t take 3 adjectives and 2 colors from a bride and miraculously come up with a whole design concept. I have a good eye and know what looks good and what does not. I’m a great person to bounce ideas off of. I can put together the decorations that the bride sets out for me but I don’t pretend to be a visionary and I’m very upfront about that fact. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not!

Smile!!! -
You should never ever look stressed out. Your face should be locked in a pleasant expression…always. Pretend you’re a flight attendant. They can’t look worried or flustered or everyone starts to panic. Same thing with weddings.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I have to say on starting a career in wedding planning.  I’m considering writing a book called “So you want to be a wedding planner”. I don’t pretend to know everything  but I do think I have come at it from a unique angle since wedding planning is never something I ever imagined myself doing.  I was actually a Music Theatre major in college but finally realized that wasn’t the life I wanted so I mainly worked in the service industry after college until I fell into this. I think it’s actually a pretty ideal background. Running restaurants with a side of directing musicals is about what wedding planning is at the end of the day!

April and Mike’s Mountain Wedding at Grandfather Vineyard

April and Mike shared a heartfelt, glorious day with their friends and family at the Grandfather Vineyard. The weather and scenery were perfect, enhanced by the always impeccable floral design from . April and Mike wanted a fun intimate backyard bluegrass barbeque with a romantic feel. There were just so many unique personal touches from the fun signage and kids games to the song Mike sang to April during the ceremony. The wonderful way they truly involved Mike’s daughter Kayleigh in every part of the day. The Cook Out Milkshakes for desert and the honey from her father’s bee hives for guest favors. All of the rustic and hand made touches blended seamlessly with the timeless beauty of the venue and décor.
Vendors – Planning and Coordination – , Floral Design – ,  Photography – , Rentals – Boone Rent All and , Hair and Makeup – and , Venue – , Catering – , Music – Elkville String Band, Desert – Cook Out Milkshakes