Courtney’s been planning Richmond (and area) weddings since 2008, and she knows what’s up in terms of what you need to worry about and what you don’t. Her weddings are elegant and stunning, but still a lot of fun. Herein, she shares her wisdom.
May ceremony at Westover Plantation in front of the 18th- century iron clairvoyee Photo by Jen Fariello
Courtney Spencer is one of the area’s most sought-after wedding planners–and it took her so little time to reach that level of prestige that she must be doing something right. Probably a lot of things. On a huge checklist. Every weekend. Her company, Merriment Events, specializes in beautiful things. I suggest you follow Courtney on Pinterest if you’re planning an event or if you have a preschooler who turns various ages. Her boards are choice.
The biggest challenge that comes from gathering inspiration on Pinterest…is that clients see (and fall in love with) ideas, without any context for what made that idea possible.
Like so many, I planned my own wedding and was hooked. My husband, Jon, and I were married in December of 2007. I had just graduated from Brandcenter and was working at Martin Agency as a strategic planner. At that time, wedding blogs were brand new, and I had one of my own, Little White Book. To my surprise, more than my family and close friends were reading my blog, and it took off! My first clients (and so many people in the industry who I am fortunate to call my good friends and mentors) reached me through Little White Book.
Planning, designing, and producing weddings has been my sole occupation since spring of 2009. The year I launched (2008), I booked eight weddings, then fourteen the next. To date, I have planned 42 weddings (the largest for 350 and the smallest for 45) throughout Virginia, but primarily in and around Richmond. When I’m not planning weddings, I’m chasing my three-year-old or maintaining a most-every-day-of-the-week yoga practice.
What effect do you think sites like Pinterest and wedding blogs have had on the industry?
The biggest challenge that comes from gathering inspiration on Pinterest, blogs, and, now even Instagram is that clients see (and fall in love with) ideas, without any context for what made that idea possible–the weather conditions, the cost of the idea, the feasibility of producing that idea at client’s chosen venue/location, the season, etc.
Moral of this story: while it’s so very important to communicate in visuals with your creative team, visual references work best when they are a starting point, rather than an end point. Let your team guide you to what is right for your wedding date, location, budget and event.
What are some things you think that brides and grooms worry about that they really shouldn’t?
Cliché details that don’t contribute to your or your guests’ experience: flip flops with twee signs ( “Trade your heels for flops!”), branded paraphernalia littered with the couple’s monogram, chalkboard signs at the ceremony aisle (“Take a seat, not a side!”). When it comes to wedding design, doing many small (tired!) things is not the same as doing one large (unique!) thing.
Things you cannot control, like the weather. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, the reality is it could rain; accept it, make a great back-up plan, then let it go, trust and enjoy! (This is one of the most fun times of your life! It’s a party with your favorite people!)
Who are some of your favorite local vendors? And why?
I adore Sweet Fix Bakery. Amanda’s cakes look and taste good (rare!). Amanda listens well, delivers on time, and always exceeds expectations. (Those are the kind of vendors we love!) I also adore my good friend and floral designer Janie Medley, whom I’ve known for years. I feel like I grew up in weddings with Janie.
Another person whom I adore is Gay Beery of A Pimento Catering. Gay is local-ish (she’s in Charlottesville); her team is stellar and the food is divine.
Those are just three of the very talented people in this area. There really are too many to name, and I’m so grateful to be able to work in such a creative wedding community!
Tell us your very favorite wedding story, whether it’s a horror story or a moment of beauty.
Last year I helped my production assistant, Brittany, plan her November wedding at Tuckahoe Plantation. Brittany has worked with me for more than five years, so obviously we’ve been planning her wedding for a long time (even before the groom came along!).
It was such a joy to see Brittany and Andrew exchange vows. What we thought would be a brisk fall day was actually a very cold, windy and rainy day (with a threat of snow, and a side of I-might-die cold for me, just to keep us on our toes!). We regrouped the week before the wedding and ordered heaters and a cocktail tent to keep guests warm before they moved into the dinner tent. We quickly gathered wraps for the bridesmaids, and I stocked up on cold meds at Ellwood Thompson.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Brittany’s good attitude prevailed. About thirty minutes before the ceremony began, it stopped raining, and everything went as planned. It was truly one of the best days! And it was also her birthday! We piled gold taper candles on a hand-painted birthday/wedding cake designed by Sweet Fix, passed out party horns and noisemakers, the band played “Birthday” by the Beatles, and we feted Brittany and Andrew. Such a great night. So. Much. Fun.