Image: Xavier Navarro Photographe
I am opening the door on the FWS Study today as I introduce you in my Meet the Experts series, to the lady behind multi talented Lavender & Rose Wedding Planners, Kerry Bracken. You will probably recognised the Lavender & Rose brand, having graced the pages of renowned wedding blogs such as OnceWed, Grey Likes Weddings and Style Me Pretty with inspirational editorial shoots and romantic destination weddings.
A native of the North West of England, today Kerry exclusive lets French Wedding Style readers behind the planning curtain, to find out more about how she became a planner and what it is really like being a wedding planner in one of the more beautiful and sort after destination wedding locations. This is must read post for anyone interested in becoming a wedding planner and brides a chance to find out more about the team who could be planning your dream wedding in France.
Image: Xavier Navarro Photographe
Introducing Kerry: “I had always been interested in event planning. I am from the Lake District in the North West of England, an area of the UK that is very popular for corporate team building events and executive management training programmes.
At university, I studied French, Business and Management and toyed with the idea of many different career paths from teaching to management consulting, marketing… all perfectly plausible options at the time. During my 3rd year of university, I went to France as a compulsory “year out” part of my studies during which time I was teaching English in a high school in Cannes where I had been placed by the British Council. It became apparent that the events industry in Cannes was thriving, not just with the Cannes film festival but all of the other conferences and global events held there each year.
After my teaching contract had ended, I did a few bits and pieces of freelance event work until it was time to go back to Manchester to finish my final year. Leaving Cannes was very hard as I had met my now husband Gregory during my stay in Cannes. There was no doubt I would move to Cannes permanently after my final year, so as soon as I got back to the UK, I knuckled down and finished my degree.Image: Caught the Light
Only a few weeks after moving to Cannes in June 2007, I landed a job in an international event company in central Cannes, specialising in the luxury market for weddings, private and corporate events. The role was EA / PA to the CEO of the company, not exactly the job I set out for but the skills I learned as an EA / PA proved to be invaluable to my career in wedding planning.
After one year at the event company, I started to integrate the event team and had my first taste of a wedding back in November 2008; a lavish Russian wedding in a Chateau in Vence on the French Riviera. The company I was working for was not 100% focused on the wedding market, so in 2009, I left the event company to set up independently as a wedding planner focusing exclusively on weddings on the French Riviera and Provence for an Anglophone clientele.
I actually began with a blog and couples eventually began contacting me for my wedding planning services and I did my first weddings in summer 2010. Since then, my business has grown from strength to strength thanks to a lot of hard work and dedication, a network of superb vendors and now two brilliant team members Jennifer and Sarah.”
Image: Xavier Navarro Photographe
What do you need to be a great wedding planner?
“To state the obvious organisational skills are key. The ability to multitask is also paramount. Being able to cope with stressful, high-pressure situations and problem solving skills are also very important. Creativity and having a good head for numbers are two skills that are required in equal doses.
Good people skills are essential as are an understanding, interest and tolerance of different cultural norms. Proficiency in the French language is essential for a wedding planner in France. You need to be a good listener and be sensitive towards emotions that can run high at certain points in the planning process. The ability to feel comfortable and adapt to different social contexts is important.
It may seem strange but physical endurance is important. At Lavender & Rose we are present on site from the arrival of the first vendors to the departure of the last vendors after the tear down. That often means a working day of 20 hours. We have even worked 24-hour days.
Regardless of fatigue, the wedding planner needs to remain alert, friendly and reactive at all times. We regularly have to fit our working days and hours around our clients’ availability so flexibility is also important. A wedding planner must care about what they are doing as they are involved in something that is so important to the couple and their families.
Laid out like that it sounds like a pretty hard job doesn’t it! Wedding planning is certainly more demanding than many people can even imagine but it is such a rewarding, varied and fun career to have.”
For those couples who are querying as to whether to hire a planner or not, what are the main benefits to hiring a planner for your big day?
“There are many benefits, here are a few that spring to mind: Local knowledge, a network of trusted vendors, linguistic skills, being able to make the impossible possible even at the last minute, the vision of a third party to help with decision making, an impartial ear to sound off ideas and concerns with, the opening up of ideas and possibilities that you may not have known existed, removes the stress on the day so you can really take a step back and take it all in.
Someone who has your interests at heart and who is dedicated to bringing your vision to reality. A good planner will be able to manage your budget correctly from the outset making sure there are no nasty surprises down the line.”
Image: Alban Pichon
Tell us about your clients and the type and style of weddings that you plan?
“Our clients are all very varied but all share a love of the South of France and most have either some sort of link or affinity with the area. Most of our clients are Anglophone; even our French native clients usually live abroad and often feel more comfortable speaking in English if they have lived away from France for a prolonged period of time.
The weddings we plan vary in budget, style and size. We are as comfortable planning a luxury wedding for 200 as we are with an intimate, bohemian gathering for 30. The weddings we plan often take place over several days.
At least 70% of the weddings we planned in 2013 for example had either a welcome event or farewell brunch or both as part of the celebrations, which we were involved in organising. Some weddings can even take place over 4 days with a rehearsal dinner, welcome event, wedding day and farewell brunch. As most of our clients are based outside of France, the wedding ceremonies our clients hold tend to be symbolic ceremonies conducted at the venue, often outdoors, by a wedding celebrant or a friend of the family.”
Image: Alban Pichon
Have you noticed any emerging trends over the last year in your weddings?
“In 2013 we were getting many requests for family-style service where all food is presented in the middle of the tables for everyone to share. It’s a very informal and relaxed way to serve a variety food without having to queue at a buffet but it doesn’t leave much room for flowers and décor on the table, which is a shame in my opinion. Festoon lights and beverage jars have also been a big part of the vintage craze.
I have a real thing for long steamed, Victorian style bouquets draped over the arm rather than held in front which I fully intend to propose to clients for 2014. Rose gold, copper and brass colours are going to be big soon I feel, moving away from gold and silver. I also think that a big trend for 2014 will be calligraphy and calligraphic font styles for invitations and other stationery.”
Image: Caught the Light
What is the range of services that you provide?
“We provide a complete and extensive range of wedding planning services that we call an A to Z service. We do not provide “on the day” only coordination services as our added value is not only our expertise on site on the day of the event but is our network of trusted vendors and our pre-planning and event design skills. The level of service we provided is adapted to each couples’ needs however, we do not impose services that a couple simply does not need or want. Our aim is to really tailor make our services to each couples’ needs.”
Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?
“I hope that my current colleagues will still be by my side and that we will be able to advance together learning from and with one another. I aim to keep the same boutique approach, with a relatively small team of planners.
I hope that our network of venues and vendors will have grown and evolved with us and that we will have worked with up and coming venues and vendors to help to bring them success. Possibly branching out further afield in terms of the destinations we cover. On a personal note, I hope I will have been able to start a family by then and that I will be living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
I told you that this would be a Meet the Experts not to miss! To find out how Kerry and the Lavender & Rose team can assist you in planning your wedding visit www.lavenderandroseweddings.fr or email firstname.lastname@example.org