Friday, September 11, 2015

Interview with a Catholic Wedding Planner: Andi Compton of Now That's a Party on Pre-Pinterest Wedding Planning, What Not to Forget, and How to Help Your Wedding Coordinator

Never-before-shared fact: I spent the first 20 minutes of my wedding night taking off my makeup and going about my usual, semi-elaborate skincare routine because I forgot to pack the face wipes I bought, specifically for wedding night purposes, in my overnight bag.  Maybe if I'd had a someone to help me keep on top of those details, things would have proceeded differently…

I'm happy for this opportunity to share the tip of, yes, packing an overnight bag, but even more so, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Andi Compton, a wedding planner based in San Diego who works primarily with Catholic couples.  I have such admiration for the fact that in every sense, Andi really did turn her childhood love (wedding collages!) into a thriving business, Now That's a Party, and that her passion for the sacrament of marriage flows from her work directly into her vocation with her husband and kids.  I'll let her take over the storytelling now!

All photos from Andi's event portfolio; photo by Weddings by Chad Cress
By the sound of it, you've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time!  How did you get started in this business?
I've been planning parties since my 4th birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese, and each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever growing love of crafts: always taking me to the craft store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then closet) for all of my craft supplies. I'm sure my parents looooooved it. 

Then, when I was 15, the movie The Wedding Planner came out. I had no idea that people could earn a living getting to help people with parties! This is way before Pinterest, so I would save up my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on and then cut and paste together mock weddings. Soon it was time for college and even though I was accepted and registered in Loyola Marymount's film program, I decided to walk away and stay close to home, which ended up being such a blessing. My craziest job in college was working at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends. Win win win! 

In 2006 my husband proposed, we came up with a budget, and I FINALLY got the chance to learn how to put together all the details and ideas I had been reading about for 5 years. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.  Soon I was being asked to essentialy coordinate these weddings. Things kept snowballing and I really felt a pull towards making things official with a name, branding, and a website. Then came networking and offering to coordinate styled shoots, where I could get to know other local vendors and build a relationship. And now I get to help couples with their weddings and am also on the committees for a few fundraising galas in my area.

Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well?  Regardless, what, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?
The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really like that to be my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly friends of our family or of other friends. 

JESUS is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal. I mean, heaven is kissing the earth at your wedding! 

As a Catholic bride yourself, do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with? 
I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and just sat and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to just go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was so beautiful to see him, his brother, and a friend just praying. 
Your business, Now That's a Party, offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish.  What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by? 
I think the biggest surprises are all the little details that can easily be overlooked- like ordering meals for your vendors (we work better with full stomachs!), packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, identifying who is going to take your gifts home, and thinking about cleanup even though the bride and groom get to skip that part. 

One San Diego wedding I did, for instance, was in a little park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had to have her look over the regulations the city has, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into my timeline. For Catholic weddings, many brides don't realize that the Church has restrictions on the type of music that can be used in weddings. It varies parish to parish, but it's super important to remember that it's not "all about you" as the magazines say.  It's still a liturgy, and the music needs to be in line with that.

Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors.  As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this? 

Absolutely! Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visually lay out all your ideas and be exposed to trends and lots of new things. On the flip side, it can make everything seem so overwhelming, almost paralyzing, for some brides, too. The biggest downside for me is having people tell me, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal of their wedding. NO! Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be the focus.  People will care about it for maybe a day then move onto the next thing, but the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.


True Photography
Obviously, you are there to make a bride and groom's wedding day go as smoothly and memorably as possible.  What's the most helpful thing the couple can do for you, as their planner, before and during the big day? 
Hands down, send me copies of every single contract they have signed with all other vendors and give me the contact info of each vendor, friend, or family member who is planning to be there for setup, as well as who I can contact in case of an emergency. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each person so I know what to expect and can weave together a timeline for each person so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of! 

Another huge disadvantage of visual inspiration overload is that often the images we see on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average person, but it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Have you noticed that none of the style blogs feature simple receptions in church halls? I've happily coordinated those and let me tell you, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding and it is just infectious to all their guests. 

I'd love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones? 
One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out in smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me: most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.

Though I'm 4 years removed from my wedding, writing this blog often calls to mind memories of my engagement and wedding day.  Do you experience something similar?  Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa? 
Yes! A big trend I've seen over the past 5-7 years is big, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, become YouTube trends, and are all over Pinterest. Even though I love my husband, he absolutely did not give me my "dream proposal" and I've had to try really hard to learn humility, accepting the reality of what happened and learning to be grateful for having him in my life. A proposal is all of 5 minutes, but having someone by your side that is constantly choosing to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in goodwell, that's real love.


Katie Beverley Photography
Any planning tips or secrets you could share with Catholic brides-to-be? 
Before booking any vendors, book your church! Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Each diocese also has different marriage prep requirements (ours has a Pre-Cana day and your choice of Engaged Encounter or Evenings for the Engaged). Also, look into Natural Family Planning. For many, it's the first time they've ever heard of it and learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.

***

That, friends, is what, to me, sets a Catholic wedding apart; not just in the way that you, as the bride and groom, choose to celebrate the sacrament, but in the fact that you have a choice to support our brothers and sisters when booking your wedding vendors.  Catholic creatives who see their work as a call and a ministry can not only give your day an extra-special spin (I love Andi's story about inviting a groom to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, and consider that a Catholic photographer will be able to get amazingly meaningful shots during your wedding Mass), but in my opinion, their craft deserves to be honored and seen.  I've been spending a good deal of time on discernment and emails with Jiza and Elissa in the last few weeks, and we are feeling a pull to create a new Catholic wedding site that combines resources for brides with community and marketing for Catholic wedding vendors.  I can't wait to share more as our ideas shape up over the next few months, and in the meantime your prayers are so appreciated.

Andi, thank you infinitely much for sharing your heart, your business, and a few planning secrets!  If you're planning a wedding in the San Diego area and looking for a coordinator, I think it's safe to say you've found your woman.  Be sure to visit Andi and check out her gorgeous work on her website and on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

5 comments:

  1. Love the idea of a Catholic wedding planner! If only I wasn't on the other side of the country :(. Finding a local one is definitely now on my list of things to eventually do.

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    1. Andi's site has info on her phone consultations! Maybe a good alternative?

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  2. Thanks for all your helpful posts, Stephanie! I just got engaged (!) and I just wish your new book was coming out sooner. :)

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    1. Congratulations!! How exciting! I'll be sharing a few excerpts from the book as the spring release gets closer, and meanwhile I hope you find some of the past blog content helpful =)

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  3. Yeah I completely agree that the planner did awesome work in this Catholic wedding. Gratitude for sharing these brilliant photos!! Anyway, I am going to have country wedding on holy occasion of Christmas. I had a hard time in getting reservations for the best SF event venues for my wedding ceremony.

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