I am SO excited to kick off our new monthly "Behind the Veil" series where we spotlight a fellow wedding planner so you can learn from the best of the best! This month, I'm thrilled to introduce you to my friend Crystal Strickland, an amazing wedding planner, wife and friend. Let's dive in and get to know more about her!
Tell us a little about yourself! Are you married? Do you have kids? How many years have you been in business? What location do you serve? What is your specialty? Any other fun facts about you that we should know?
As a little girl I always loved creating. Whether it was bedazzling my shoes, sewing my own clothes or making purses out of old worn out jeans….I was always dreaming up a new invention, idea or creation. It was pretty normal in my teen years for you to find me laying out fabrics and patterns on our dining room table learning to sew my own clothes - which is what led me to my degree choice.
While attending college at Auburn University and majoring in Apparel Merchandising with a dual minor in Finance and Business Administration I had the opportunity to intern at a magazine and learn the ins and outs of marketing, branding businesses as well as event logistics and design. Right out of college I began working full time at RSVP Montgomery magazine and at one point worked 2 other jobs in the events industry (an event venue - 129 Coosa Stree t) and then some weekends with a talented floral designer/planner who is a great friend of mine to this day, at the same time. I was eager to learn about events, the business, the vendors, designs, florals, all of it. While I originally thought that apparel was my main interest, it truly led me to realizing my love for putting things together, patterns, color and texture.
It was not until January of 2012 that I seriously considered doing something about my passion. My husband and I sat down and had long conversations about whether or not this was the right time. I had done a few weddings for friends as well as flowers for people but I currently had a full time job at that point and was comfortable but still wanting to try to do weddings more. Side note: the job I held at that time was after I left the magazine and went into working for Gannett (a corporation that owns the Montgomery Advertiser). I was their Deal Chicken rep (lol!) and sold deals to businesses across the state. Very similar to Groupon. It was a tough job (100+ cold call requirements a week) and definitely not something I loved doing but the pay and benefits were good.
I was scared to dive in completely to my own business, as was my husband. We were newly married and had no clue about owning and running a business. But God had a different plan and being scared was not an option. I remember it like it was yesterday…it was a Wednesday in March of 2012 and I received a call from my boss that my current position had been terminated. A frantic me on the other line was shocked and boo hoo’ing while my boss kept explaining it was not me nor my performance but just that they did not need me or my position any longer and my last paycheck was in 2 days and I had 2 hours to get my things out of my office and go.
WHOA! You are talking about a wake-up call from the good Lord. This was it. He had closed one door and opened another and I felt this was my sign to take action. So after months of praying, researching logo options, company name decisions, determining pantone colors, marketing ideas, financial planning, etc. I launched Southern Posies in October 2012 and began working for myself full time.
Looking back now, I honestly cannot tell you how big of a blessing it was for me to get that call that Wednesday in March. I would probably still be talking about my dreams instead of doing some about them. My first full wedding year consisted of 20 weddings plus other events. I was running a full blown wedding business and floral design company out of my living room. I had a walk-in trailer with shelving packed in as tight as you could imagine with vases, containers and decor that I had scored at local thrift shops and yard sales.
My goal was to start this business without any debt, so I had to come up with many different ways of designing for clients without breaking the bank. My parents also ran an antique shop called, Lulu's, and I was able to connect with various 'pickers' from across the state and most were always on the hunt for wedding items for me. So neat to look back and see all the memories of places I have gathered items from and how much memory they hold now after being used on special wedding days for clients. The next year I rented out a studio on Mulberry Street and then a year later I rented an entire house on Mulberry Street due to the need for more space. Currently, we manage around 30 weddings a year, plus rehearsal dinners, corporate events, debutante balls and daily arrangement deliveries across the Southeast.
What made you want to get into wedding planning?
Definitely my love for creating and design, but most importantly my heart for serving others. Weddings are a joyful and exciting time for couples and knowing that I have a small part in bringing their love story to life through meaningful details infused into their special day excites me.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out, what would it be?
Be okay with saying no. It is hard when running a business to turn down jobs but something I have learned over the years is that it is equally important to not let your business run you. Give yourself breathing room outside of work and know that it is okay to not do it all. Focus on what brings you the most joy in your business and let that guide your steps.
What are your strengths as a wedding planner?
Organized and detailed (perks of OCD!)
What do you struggle with as a wedding planner?
Managing the books and taxes: I have now passed this over to a bookkeeper which is something I definitely recommend for any business owner. Also, staying creative in the busy: I love to think outside of the box and giving myself the space and margin to do this is sometimes challenging when my mind is pulled a thousand other directions in the business.
Tell us about your favorite wedding you've ever been a part of?
That is a tough one, but I would have to say the one I did in Dothan at the botanical gardens. We created our largest floral chandelier to date (think: 8 hours, 4 girls, 3 ladders and over 1,000 pounds of blooms).
What are some wedding day challenges you've experienced and how did you work through them?
Like I tell all of my clients, no event is perfect, as nothing in life is ever perfect. There will always be something that happens - whether it is a bridesmaids dress not zipping up the back (hence, my sewing comes into good play here!), grandmother getting locked in the bathroom as ceremony begins (true story) or thunderstorms rolling in during wedding vows. However, the plus of hiring a good planner is that when those not so perfect moments happen you are either unaware of them or they are taken care of in the best manner possible and sometimes those Plan B’s and C’s turn out even better than the original!
My best advice for new planners when dealing with a challenge on wedding day is to always keep your cool. As soon as you get upset, frantic or worried it reflects not only on your team’s attitude but most importantly the client and her wedding guests.
Where do you go for inspiration in your business?
Nature is a big source of inspiration for me as well as architecture. I also love immersing myself in wedding mags and flower books.
Who do you admire and look up to, both personally and professionally?
My parents and their constant positivity and optimism in business. As homebuilders, they have gone through so many ups and downs in the industry and hearing their positive outlook in every situation encourages me to always keep going regardless of how tough things are. They are also big dreamers and instilled in me when I was young that I could do anything I truly wanted to do.
What is your #1 piece of advice for both seasoned and professional wedding planners?
Focus on what brings you the most joy in your business and use that energy to serve others well. Sometimes saying no to the good opportunity will leave room for a yes in the best opportunity.
How can our we stay in touch with you?