Having been going for 13 years now, we felt it was time to ‘reintroduce’ some of our longer standing members. We are kicking off with the fabulous Isabel Smith Wedding Design. Over to you Isabel…
How did it all start?
This is a well told story: I fell into wedding planning by accident. Having helped a boyfriend’s parents plan their silver wedding celebration and absolutely adored the rush when it all came together, I wrote to some hotels looking for some work experience when I left university. I started a two-week marketing role to find that the wedding planner there wanted to move into marketing and since I wanted weddings, we switched. Within a month, I knew I wanted to set up my own business but wanted to spend a few years gaining the experience and contacts to make me really stand out. It’s been over 10 years since then!
When did you launch your business?
I launched as a sole trader in April 2009. I took the company Ltd in 2013.
Which UKAWP member level are you?
I am really proud to say that I am a Supreme Member of the Alliance. I have been a member since day 1 of the business and have always got so much out of my membership. I hope I now give back to newer members as much as I have gotten over the years.
How has wedding industry evolved since you launched?
Gosh, it’s like a totally different world from when I started. The whole industry is so much more established and sophisticated than it was when I started in hotels in 2006. Many more venues, suppliers and planners (of course!), all with much better branding and marketing, all taken so much more seriously by the wider business world (although we still have a way to go on that score). Couples are much more sophisticated too and far more design led which is such a pleasure to see.
Who are your ideal clients?
My clients tend to be what I call ‘loaded but grounded’. They are wealthy, often self-made, have very high expectations and are used to the best of everything, but are also sensible. They will pay almost anything for what they want, but won’t go over the top just for the sake of it (you don’t stay rich by being stupid do you!?). As my website says, they love luxury but hate ostentation. They are genuinely lovely people too – there is no sense of ‘upstairs/downstairs’ with them. OTT princess types aren’t my bag.
How would your clients describe you?
Calm, organized, passionate, experienced.
What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve worked on?
It’s funny isn’t it – you tend to remember the ones that were the most challenging or had geeky technical bits that you loved but that don’t seem too sexy to those outside the industry. I did one which had a really odd-shaped marquee and I just loved it for that but that’s not something most people would appreciate. The bride that had hand-reared white bunnies for guests to pet during the drinks reception springs to mind.
Whose celebrity wedding (dead or alive) would you love to design?
When I last answered this, I said George Clooney but sadly, I wasn’t picked to plan his wedding to Amal. Actually, I feel rather robbed since their UK celebration happened about 7 miles from where I live! Now, I would probably say someone I admire like the Obamas, or Karren Brady – missed the boat on both of those too!
What themes/trends are you seeing the moment for 2017/18?
Most of my weddings this year have a really chilled out vibe which is showing through across all elements of the day. Colour wise, I personally am still obsessed with copper. I know it should be well and truly over, but I just love it! It is so versatile and just so much more interesting as a base than gold or silver.
Destination weddings are getting larger and taking place further afield. I am enjoying that. Clients are also adding a touch of theatre to their weddings – either in their outfits, their dining or the entertainment. Great fun!
How do you unwind?
I’m not very good at unwinding in truth. It is an occupational hazard of the self-employed. But a massage and a glass of wine can do the trick.
When was the last time you laughed or cried?
Oh my god – I cry all the time. I am SUCH a crier. It is my coping mechanism of choice. If I get frustrated or angry, it seems to come out of my eyeballs. I’m also still very much a toddler when it comes to being tired or hungry so that can contribute. But I tend to have a little cry in private then move on very quickly.
I am also a giggler! Political/social satire tends to set me off, but so do the dirty double entendres of life (those who know me know they can always count on me to lower the tone).
What is your vice?
Ah – this hasn’t changed in a decade: Shoes, Terry’s chocolate orange and champagne.
Which business/ motivational book has inspired you?
Not surprisingly I tend to prefer books written by women. A few favourites are Caitlin Moran’s series, The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, The Go To Expert by Heather Townsend and Jon Baker and of course, Feminist Fight Club (which EVERYONE should read).
What is your key advice for newer planners?
I know this is said over and over, but truly, find your niche and roll with it. You will be so much more comfortable and successful if you seek out clients who are like you and whose wedding style reflects your own. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole just doesn’t work. I would also say to keep the faith. It is so easy to get discouraged and give up when you find the enquiries don’t pour in at a great rate in your first 2 years or so. But keep marketing and keep networking and great things WILL follow.