This week on Planner’s Lounge, we are sharing the stories of how four different wedding planners changed the course of their business and careers to better fit their lifestyles and passion. I’m continually fascinated and excited when I hear about event professionals making positive changes to be happier, more successful and less stressed. Earlier this week, I shared my story about the big changes I made at my planning company in the past few years. On Wednesday, we shared the challenges and advantages of merging businesses from revel and bloom. Yesterday, we shared Michelle’s story about closing her successful planning business to work in the events department at a prominent local hotel.
Today, Jen Hammond from I Do shares her story of closing her planning business, working briefly for a resort company then re-opening her planning business. Jen is incredibly authentic and truthful about the ups and downs she has overcome in the past few years.
I am a wedding planner. I breathe weddings; collecting images, dreaming up new ones, planning and designing weddings for legitimate clients, and crashing weddings that my friends or spouse are doing. I look around my home and see tools of my trade; pretty little things that I might borrow from my own dining room, the technology that allows me to do business from my bedroom, the books and magazines that remind me of the outstanding and creative work of many others. I pride myself in being many things to my brides: consumer advocate, efficient assistant, gracious hostess & talented designer. I have had nearly no boundaries. Wedding anxiety at 3 am? I’m here and waiting, I don’t sleep. Want me to fetch deodorant from the grocery and bring it to your hotel? No problem! Your bakery won’t deliver the cake to your on-mountain venue? I’ll drive it up in my Subaru! Your best man going into anaphylactic shock after eating a peanut? I have an epi-pen! Your IBS kicked in and you soiled your gown? I have Shout wipes! You lost your job and can’t afford a florist? I’ll do your table-scapes! But, the skill that I put the greatest emphasis on over the last many years, was my ability to take stress from another person, to re-frame or diffuse a situation, snatching my spinning bride out of her orbit and rooting her firmly back on earth so that she could remain present, walking down that aisle with clear intention, entering into the powerful covenant that is marriage. Weddings are important to me, the relationships and the families they celebrate are important to me. The only thing that was left neglected, was me.
I am not only a wedding planner. I am a mother – of three. I am a wife. I am an artist, a blossoming yogi, a lover of literature. All of these things I shelved, so that I could book those events and earn a living, and it wasn’t long before I crashed and burned. My life started to fall apart, my marriage was in shambles, my teen-age daughter was in crisis, I was depressed. In a workshop the teacher asked if I ever took on stress that belonged to other people, and made it my own. I laughingly replied that it was my job description and was written exactly that way on my website. That was my Come-To-Jesus moment. I had to make a change. I was so busy taking on other people’s anxiety, that it left me with no ability to be present in my own life.
The first step I took, in the Transformation of Jenifer Project, was to walk away from my business and accept a job working as a wedding specialist for a resort company. I took three hundred steps back from weddings and let someone else worry about running the business, paying the taxes. I wanted to be able to go home at the end of the night, absolved from the responsibility. I had a regular paycheck, health insurance, ski pass and could work in an actual office, creating a much-needed separation between my personal and professional life. For the first few weeks, it was grand, the best idea ever! I felt renewed confidence. I was hopeful that I would find my place in the corporate world, but it wasn’t long before I realized trading responsibility for regularity wasn’t the proper move for me either. I felt stifled. I still didn’t have time for my family or to take care of myself. My personal relationships spun further out of control, and I was in the office and not able to manage anything else. I could no longer pick up and travel, take my kids camping, be in their schools, take that mid-morning yoga class. My health suffered. Professionally I had very little creative control. I found layer after layer of management over my head blocking any change I’d hoped to make to improve the company. Eight months after I began, I gave my notice. I did finish the summer season, and left at the beginning of off-season with no work on the horizon.
The second step in the Transformation of Jenifer Project was to stop all the spinning around me, and to take a month off to reassess. I had an opportunity to re-structure my company with appropriate boundaries, to both offer comprehensive service to my clients while leaving room to honor my own needs and desires. I rented an art studio and spend half of my week there, exploring that side of my psyche. I attended a professional conference to motivate and infuse new life into my company. I traveled with my family to both coasts this holiday season. I yogify and hit the gym nearly every day with my spouse in a commitment to live a healthier life.
I am seeking balance and creative fulfillment. I am happier. The burning question is, “How are you paying your bills if you’re not working?” I am broke, I’ll admit it, and I am frightened sometimes that I may not be able to support my family. I do believe the money will follow when I do what I love, and what I excel at, in a way that is self-honoring and not self-destructive. I resist the urge to accept events for less than I should, or that just don’t feel right because I want a paycheck. For now, I have a hard-working spouse and a credit card that will float me along for a little while. I have made the choice not to compete with my peers, but instead to be the best me that I can be. I limit my workload and keep the health and happiness of my family at the top of my to-do list. I think sometimes we can be paralyzed with the fear that the step we take might be the wrong one but I have learned that I can always change course. Life is a learning process, isn’t it? The last two years have been tumultuous, but I’ve come out the other side still loving all things wedding. I am a wedding planner. I am a smarter, healthier and contented wedding planner/wife/mommy/artist.
A HUGE thank you to Jen for being so open in sharing the changes you have made in the past few years.