Today is a very, very exciting day because Stephanie Shaul Events officially celebrates NINE years of business! It’s pretty surreal that it’s been nine entire years since I launched my wedding planning and design business and to see just how far it has come over the last almost-decade. It’s crazy to think that I’m fast approaching a decade in business and as a small business owner, entrepreneur, and my own boss! For the last nine years, since January 2014, it’s been my biggest joy and honor to plan, design, and style weddings for dozens and dozens of the most incredible couples imaginable, to be surrounded by love and beauty on a daily basis, to literally work my dream job, to have the pleasure of creating alongside the most talented and kind professionals and friends in the wedding industry, to mentor and coach small business owners, to grow creatively, and to have clients turn into dear friends that are like family. I’m SO wildly thankful and so deeply appreciative of every bit of it.
I cannot believe that this little dream of mine has become what it is today, and it really does feel so surreal sometimes. I feel like I’m able to use the talents and passions the Lord has blessed me with to serve others well, to spread as much love, joy, and beauty as possible, and to celebrate life and love on such a milestone day and during a once-in-a-lifetime season! I’m so grateful to every single person who has been a part of this exciting journey (especially those since day one), those who’ve encouraged and supported me, and those who have entrusted me with their wedding days. What an honor and what a profound privilege. It takes a village, and I’ve got the very best one imaginable!
As I suspect is true for all of us, so much has changed since I launched my business in January of 2014. I lived in Washington DC, I worked full-time at a mentoring and literacy non-profit for inner city elementary school students, I was single, I had no idea what I was really doing but had the heart, drive, and skills to take a risk and see how it panned out. I loved weddings, I believed in what marriage stands for (and fervently hoped it was a part of my future), I knew God was calling me to use the skills and talents He gave me… but in a way that was so different from what I ever envisioned, what I went to college for, what I moved to Washington DC for.
Nine years later, I still love weddings, I still believe (more than ever) in marriage and what it stands for (and am joyfully, unabashedly in love and married to the perfect man for me), and still believe God is using me to in this work and in the people I get to serve through my business. I moved my business to Raleigh & went full time almost eight years ago now, I fell in love, planned our own wedding, and have now been married almost six years, and I firmly believe I have the heart, drive, joyful nature, and talents of a great wedding planner and designer.
So much has changed and evolved over the years, but at the end of the day, I’m in many ways the same girl as I was nine years ago who just wanted to bring a little more beauty and joy into the world in whatever way I could, a girl who wanted to have a job and a life filled with meaning and intention where I could serve others, a girl who dreamed big dreams and trusted in a big God who would lead the way and provide. Suffice it to say, I am deeply thankful — for where I was nine years ago and for where I am now.
As I’ve reflected on all that I’ve learned and so many ways in which I’ve grown in my business, I thought it would be fun to share nine fun facts & memorable moments from the last nine years as a wedding planner and business owner!
- I genuinely adore my couples, their families, and my work. I value them so much and am so grateful to get to serve them during such a milestone season. Genuine, authentic relationships and friendships are the crux to it all, and they take time, intention, and even vulnerability to develop. My relationships with my clients (my couples), with their families and even their friends and wedding guests, with fellow wedding vendors and venues, with my community… they are paramount in my business. I can’t emphasize just how important it is to have wonderful, genuine relationships to everyone around you and on all sides! It makes life and business so much better and richer when you invest in others and when you care more about them than yourself and in any selfish gains. I love getting to know each and every bride and groom on a deeper level (we work together almost daily for, on average, a year!), to serve them wholeheartedly, to learn their love stories and what’s most important to them, and to get to know their wonderful families. I’ve even had the honor of planning two or three weddings now within the same family, and I can think of no greater praise than when families hire me for two or three weddings. I also don’t think I expected just how much I would come to love so many couples and their families when I first launched my business! Years later, I am friends with so many of my couples and regularly keep in touch with so many more, too. This is invaluable to my business — but even more so to my life and my heart, as I just adore these couples and love doing life with them long after their weddings. All this to say, my business would never be even close to where it is today without the genuine relationships that have developed over the last many years, and I am so, so thankful for each and every person (couples, parents, bridesmaids, vendors, assistants, and more!) who is a part of my life and this business.
- Part of how I got into the wedding world was by attending 33 weddings in 3 years… and being a bridesmaid 14 times. It’s true! I have long LOVED weddings, but I never intended or even thought about being a wedding planner. In my early twenties, post-college, I had 33 friends get married over a three year span of time, but for me, it was such a fun and exciting season. I loved attending the weddings, I loved reuniting with my friends, I loved everything about a wedding, and I really didn’t get tired of all of the traveling and the very full calendar. MSNBC and CNBC even interviewed me and wrote articles about all of the weddings I attended and how I budgeted for them (and all of the other wedding events). And I’ve been very fortunate to have been a bridesmaid for 14 of my dearest friends over the years, too. Many may have mixed feelings about being asked to be a bridesmaid, but I passionately love it and adore the chance to celebrate my best friends every step of the way. So with a background in event planning, planning national conferences for the U.S. Department of Education when I lived in DC, and my experience planning & attending weddings and wedding events for my friends, it was only natural that my work quickly evolved into wedding planning!
- Did you know that about 1/3 of my couples book me before they’re engaged?! This is a fun fact and one that surprises many outside of the wedding industry! I’ll never disclose more, but with such a boom of weddings in the last two years, with couples wanting a very particular wedding date and/or venue and/or planner, for peace of mind, and to get the proverbial wedding planning ball rolling, roughly one third of my couples book me anywhere from a month to upwards of a year before they are officially engaged! We can get started with planning the larger pieces (wedding date and venue(s), guest list and addresses, budget, key vendors, and overarching design) well in advance of a ring being on her finger, and no one ever has to know. And then once the question has been asked and the celebrating has begun, we’re already well ahead of the curve and deep into wedding planning! If you have your eye on a peak date during a peak wedding season… or a dream venue… or a dream wedding planner… it’s never too early to inquire and lock things in.
4. Those crazy stories that only a wedding planner could tell… Someday, just maybe, once I’m long retired, I’ll write my memoirs about all that I’ve witnessed and experienced as a wedding planner. Oh the stories I could tell! But for now, I will just divulge some of the memorable moments I’ve experienced over the last nine years. I’ve had three brides pass out at the altar in the middle of their ceremony… I’ve had more ripped wedding dresses from stumbling dance floor guests than I can count… I’ve had toasts that range from drunken to 25 minutes to too much information… I’ve had grooms forget their shirts to grooms who’ve needed a new shirt every hour from sweating to grooms who’ve gotten lipstick on his shirt from his bride… I’ve had assistants who carried around changes of attire & shoes for the bride and groom throughout the day… I’ve had a wedding dress rip down the front when the bride put it on at the start of the day… I’ve had an entire glass of red wine spilled down the front of a bride’s gown… I’ve dealt with & made it through a global pandemic… I’ve had all sorts of crazy weather to contend with at a moment’s notice… I’ve had a horde of drunken groomsmen… I’ve seen and walked with my couples with a myriad of tricky or hard or sad family situations… I’ve been a therapist to many couples and their families… BUT at the end of the day, I’ve dealt with it all seamlessly, quickly, efficiently, calmly, with a smile on my face, and with a quick solution so that no one would ever really know that many of these have happened.
Amidst the crazier stories and scenarios, I could also tell the sweetest, most touching memories of when a rainbow broke out at the perfect moment for the bride and groom after a storm… when birds are chirping and the sun is shining and the weather is picture perfect during a ceremony… when families are brought together and united in shared joy and love… when new siblings are made… when flower girls and ring bearers steal the show with their cuteness… when touching, special tributes are made to a parent or grandparent who has passed away… when couples see their reception space for the first time… when brides feel the most beautiful they’ve ever felt… when friends lift up and encourage the couple… when prayers are prayed and hymns are sung and vows are exchanged. I wouldn’t trade these unforgettable, precious, joyful moments for the world!
5. Learning to lean into what I’m best at, staying in my own lane, & refining my business offerings. Over the years, especially as my business has developed and thrived, I’ve learned that it’s best for me to lean into what I’m innately best at and to be okay with sticking to my own lane. I try so, so hard to not compare myself to other wedding planners and designers and to just do what is best for me/for our family. This isn’t always the most popular or trendy thing, and it’s definitely not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s best for my heart and for us, I firmly believe. There’s a lot I have to say about this, but I try to create and plan from my heart, to lean into what I’m best at, and to not try to keep up with what everyone else is doing. I think it’s okay to say no, and I do this regularly in various capacities. After much thought and prayer over many years, I still do not want to grow my team — it’s just me (and several incredible day-of assistants who are just the greatest!). In my heart and also in my business model, I don’t want to be the biggest and most popular wedding planner in the world or in the south, which may be an unpopular thing to say — but something I’m passionate about for my business. I want to be the very, very best wedding planner and designer I can be to my couples and to my future clients and to serve them wholeheartedly with everything that I have. But I don’t want my business to grow beyond my control or where I feel stretched too thin and am unable to serve my clients at my absolute best — the most important thing in my business. I believe my clients are hiring me for me — for what I bring to the table, for who I am/my personality and heart, and for my specific, unique planning and design skills. It’s okay (and great!) to evolve over time.
For me, this means that I no longer do flowers for weddings (once upon a time, I did all the flowers for several weddings), as it’s too much time, expense, and too few hours in a day to be the wedding planner, designer, styling, and florist as a business of one. I’d rather work with one of the many incredible florists out there! I also haven’t offered partial nor month-of/day-of coordination for almost five years now (far and away one of my wisest business decisions ever) and just offer full service planning, design, and styling for 6-8 weddings per year. The weddings I plan now are far more complex, logistically and design-wise, and with higher budgets, more vendors and creative partners, and more details than in the past, and this is such a sweet spot for me. Design and logistics/planning are so intertwined and go so hand-in-hand, and being able to full serve my couples as a full service, comprehensive wedding planner and designer just makes sense. I could write a whole lot about these decisions and why, but I have learned over time that full-scale wedding planning, design, and styling is my forte and what I’m best at — and what I love the most. I love looking back and seeing just how much my business has developed and grown (or even scaled back, in some ways) to make room for what matters most for me and how I can serve my clients to the best of my abilities. I am thankful for the freedom and flexibility of owning and running my own business, as I am able to choose what works best for us. And I have gained so much wisdom from mistakes I’ve made, trajectories I’ve changed, and ways I’ve grown (and am still growing) over the past nine years!
6. It’s still just me! I get asked from time to time about other full times wedding planners with SSE, and it’s still just me planning and designing 100% of the Stephanie Shaul Events weddings! I touched on it above, but this has been a decision that I very thoughtfully made many years ago and am still prouf of to this day. I send 100% of the emails, do 100% of the planning and the designing and the vendor communication and budgeting and timeline/layout/rental order/planning for all weddings… plus everything else that comes with owning and running a business (social media, blogging, marketing, advertising, events/networking, budgeting, finances, administration, etc. But, while it is just me as your wedding planning and designer, I do have the most wonderful, servant-hearted, experienced, helpful, talented, selfless, and loving team of day-of assistants for each and every wedding I produce! I couldn’t do it without these ladies, and I always hope they know just how valued, appreciated, and beloved they all are. Depending on the size, scope, location(s), and complexity of each wedding, I have a team of 2-6 day-of assistants helping me for almost the entirety of the day. And they help make it happen, truly! These ladies – all of whom have become dear friends – serve my couples with so much care, love, attention, and grace, even if they’re behind the scenes most of the day. It takes a village, and I sure am grateful for mine!
7. Wedding planning has taken me all over the south! While I am based in Raleigh, NC, I am thankful to have gotten to plan so many weddings all over the South! From Washington, DC to Charlottesville, VA to the coast of North Carolina to the Triangle of NC to Charlotte, NC to Charleston, SC, it has been such a dream come true to plan and design weddings in some of the most beautiful destinations and at some of the most gorgeous venues in this part of the country. I love traveling for weddings… and I also love planning weddings that are local! Wherever your wedding takes us is a treat for me, and I’m very excited to have several coastal weddings coming up this year at some dreamy Southern destinations.
8. I still cry at every single wedding. It’s true! Nine years in, and over one hundred weddings later, I still find myself emotional and tearing up at every wedding at the love and joy that I get to witness. My brides (and assistants!) can attest this is true! Sometimes it’s as the bride is putting on her wedding dress with her mom, sometimes it’s during a private, tender, emotional moment, sometimes it’s during the first look when a groom sees his bride for the first time, sometimes it’s during the ceremony, sometimes it’s during an especially poignant first dance or parent dance or toast… and often times, it’s more than once. Many wait a lifetime – or at least many, many years – to find the person they love unconditionally and want to spend the rest of their lives with, and to see these long-awaited, highly anticipated, incredibly emotional moments play out in real time… well, there’s simply nothing sweeter. What a gift and what a blessing! So yes, you’ll often find me tucked away a bit out of sight, wiping a tear or two from my eye as I get to see such loving, emotional, precious moments unfold.
9. My business is to glorify God and to celebrate His goodness and love. From day one, this has been true, and that’s why I can’t really take any of the credit or boast about anything. In every single decision, I aim to run my business and to do the work that I do for the glorification of God and not for man — and certainly not for myself. Through Him, I can do all things. I also believe in the transformative power of love because He first loved us. His unconditional, never-ending love is why I believe in love and joy and marriage and lifelong commitment and intentional living and and sharing others’ stories and celebrating the goodness of life and beautiful legacies so much. His love has changed the world, it has changed my world, and I can only hope that all of these beautiful weddings and marriages that I am pouring myself into can bring a little more love, beauty, and joy into this world in any way possible.
Here’s eight things I learned in 8 years of business, one of my favorite blog posts!
Launched in 2014, Stephanie Shaul Events is a full service wedding planning and design studio that plans weddings as perfect, memorable, and unforgettable as you’ve always dreamt yours would be. We joyfully serve couples who value meaningful, elevated design infused with your love story, an unparalleled and highly intentional planning experience, and a love of celebrating milestone events. Stephanie Shaul Events plans and designs every wedding to be uniquely stunning and highly personalized to our couples’ love stories. We believe that each wedding is the perfect opportunity to celebrate each couple’s love and the legacy, traditions, beauty, and joy that make up their life. We believe in marriages that are strong and lasting and that your wedding day is the first day of that beautiful marriage! We unabashedly adore love and celebrating that love alongside you, and we are rooted in legacy and strong marriages, kindness and joy, serving others wholeheartedly, and grace-filled love.
Endless thanks for following along and celebrating with me; it is appreciated more than you know! I am so deeply, deeply grateful, and cheers to the next nine years of Stephanie Shaul Events! To God be ALL the glory.
You can read more about the heart and mission of Stephanie Shaul Events and see the gorgeous SSE website here!
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
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