Can you believe it? I’ve gone from only being in three weddings my whole life, to owning my own wedding venue, to hosting 100 weddings at Warrenwood Manor. Along the way I have learned about being an entrepreneur, about myself and about people. I’m going to try to narrow all this experience down to five key things I’ve learned. And the good thing about this post? At least one of these life lessons will apply to your own life right now.
The images in this post are from my very own wedding in October 2014. This was our very first time hosting a wedding at Warrenwood and will always be a huge part of our story. You have to start somewhere and this was our happy beginning. These memories were captured by Hilly Photography and Doug Smith Designs & Events handled the floral design and event coordination. Now, on to the lessons.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
When I first started working on Warrenwood, I saw the potential just oozing from every inch of the place. We’ll do this over here and that over there and oh, wait, what? That’s gonna cost me how much? Uh yeah, maybe we won’t do that…right now. I still see the potential, but I had to learn the hard way that money doesn’t grow on trees and that if you want something you have to set your sights on it, work your behind off and then make it happen. And I’m pretty sure with my need to constantly improve, I will ALWAYS be in the “work your behind off to make it happen” phase.
My husband, Nick, and I bought the property in October and I immediate began feverishly hustled to make everything perfect. I vividly remember my sweet dad saying, “You’re doing a great job! I’m so proud of you! Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” I think what he was really trying to say was hey, don’t get discouraged when everything isn’t exactly the way you want it, when you want it. Same goes for weddings.
I love Pinterest, I truly do, but Pinterest has created unrealistic expectations for weddings. Brides come in with a vivid picture of a $50,000+ wedding in their mind and it is so hard to accept that you cannot DIY your way from the $50,000 vision into a $10,000 budget in six months to a year. But, what brides need to realize is that there’s so much fun and goodness in the journey. As long as you have the right attitude, working to make a wedding as close to perfect as possible is something that so many brides enjoy and not having all the money in the world can actually make the process even more memorable. And here’s where life lesson number two comes in.
Nothing is perfect
Y’all, I am a recovering perfectionist. I’ll admit it. I was a workaholic, perfectionist that worked seven days a week and believed that if you couldn’t be the best at something or make every little pea pickin thing perfect, then well, it’s the end of the world. No seriously, I thought everything had to be perfect. Then, over time, and after many lectures from my well meaning husband, I began to realize that the word perfect really just shouldn’t even exist. It’s rare that I will say this word, but it is impossible to have a perfect business, perfect life, or perfect wedding. Impossible.
First, I was overwhelmed by trying to build my perfect version of Warrenwood in a day, or even better, like yesterday. I quickly realized that was impossible even if I had all the money in the world. Same for a wedding. Even if you have all the money in the world your wedding will not be 100% perfect. We’ve had countless almost perfect weddings, but I cannot think of a single wedding that was down to the sparkler send off perfect. Every single wedding has at least one little hiccup. And you know what I’ve learned? Hiccups make for good stories. Hiccups make weddings memorable. It’s in the imperfect moments that you have an opportunity to see something funny happen, to fix something, to rise to the occasion, to save the day or whatever.
In realizing that nothing is perfect I actually realized that imperfection creates opportunity. Then, after realizing that imperfection creates opportunity, I realized that I was overwhelmed by opportunity. Wait, so you went from being overwhelmed by trying to be perfect to being overwhelmed by opportunity? Yup. It’s complicated. But, the good thing about being overwhelmed by opportunity versus imperfection is the ability to dream. If you’re always seeing opportunities as a way to improve and a way to dream up what is possible, you’ll never stop dreaming. So really, when you think about it, by nothing being perfect, everything is an opportunity.
Guard your energy
In the beginning, I would let comments get to me and honestly, sometimes I still do. Or I would get caught up in looking at other businesses and think I need to be just like them and admittedly, I still catch myself doing this sometimes. Remember, I said “recovering perfectionist.”
It’s easy to get caught up in comparison or let someone’s comment bring you down. For example, if I had a penny for every time someone told me I was too young to own a place like this or better yet, I have at least one person a weekend tell me that they are going to open a business just like this because it has to be so easy and I must be making tons of money. I just smile that tired 70 hour work week smile and say, “I wish you all the best.”
Oh and here’s the one of the toughest experiences to date. I’ve had one bad review in all four years in business and y’all I cried over it for an actual week, probably longer when you add it all up. Like almost just quit everything because this one girl wrote a terrible review after coming for a tour. If I think about it long enough, I’ll probably cry over it right now. I will NEVER forget how she made me feel. But the truth is, I’ve forced myself to learn so much from that one negative experience. I’ve learned that to survive and thrive, you need to learn from your mistakes and you must guard your energy.
You cannot let comparison and negativity get you down. I have had to learn to let things go. I’ve had to learn to guard my positive energy. Not in a tough building walls kind of way, but in a way that allows me to focus on what’s important and let everything else just roll right off as best I can. To bring the chill to over 100 weddings I’ve had to learn to be calm in the craziest situations. From hail storms during the ceremony to a drunk bridesmaid literally swinging from the rafters of the barn, I have to bring the chill and I have to handle things with grace. To do this, I guard my energy.
If anyone could learn from this particular life lesson, it’s a bride. Over the past 100 weddings, I’ve seen bride after bride after bride come in here the day before her wedding just beat down. She’s exhausted. She’s planned this beautiful wedding and worked SO hard to stick to her budget and she is tired. I can see it all over her blank face as she feels like there are one million people asking one million questions. All she really wants is for the wedding to be over and to be married.
So, if there’s anything at all I’ve learned from 100 weddings it’s that as a bride, you have to guard your energy. Do not let all of the questions and the issues get you down. Instead, hire a wedding planner! (shameless plug and only kind of kidding) Seriously, though, for those of you reading this and wondering if you should hire a planner or at minimum a day of coordinator, DO IT. You will not be sorry! Their whole purpose is to guard a couple so that their wedding day is the most magical, (almost) perfect day of their entire lives!
It’s easier said than done. Sometimes, simply because you are who you are people will like you. Other times, it’s just the opposite. Sometimes being authentic means that you don’t earn the business or you don’t please every single person. There are even times that people like you and what you’re doing so much they copy what you’re doing. But the thing is, only you can be you. Only you can execute your dreams in a way that makes other people want to support what you’re doing and want to be a part of it. And what you should know is that if you’re not authentic, people will see right through you. Maybe not all of them, but most people can tell when you’re being fake so don’t do it!
You are enough just the way you are. I am living proof that you do not have to fake it until you make it. By being honest with people, by treating people the way that I would like to be treated and by showing so much grace to others it’s exhausting, I have built a business that I am proud of. (Disclaimer: Building this business has taken the support of my entire village. I couldn’t even pretend to have done it alone. But that’s a post for another day.)
By being real with people and by treating every wedding like it is THE most important wedding of my whole life, I have made people feel loved. I have made people feel loved and important instead of making them feel like they’re just another wedding. And some may frown upon this, but I’m a big believer that you should have a wedding that is authentically you. You do not have to do what everyone tells you to do. Make choices that honor who the two of you are as a couple and you will be SO happy you did. Because you cannot fake happiness and why would you want to? After celebrating with 100 couples, I can tell you that the couples that enjoy their wedding day the most are the ones that plan a wedding that truly represents a celebration of their new marriage.
Never stop learning
Over the years, I have built this business from the ground up through literal blood, sweat and tears. When I started there was no owner’s manual, no “How to Run a Wedding Venue for Dummies” book (although maybe I should write that), and there was certainly no lottery winnings from which to work from. I continue to learn so that I can do more with less and serve my clients at a higher level than I did the day before.
I’ve learned about everything from building codes to how to automate a bride’s payment schedule. I couldn’t even begin to tell you all that I’ve learned over the past 100 weddings. You probably wouldn’t even believe it if I started listing it out because you’d be like, “girl, what were you thinking when you thought you could start this business? You literally knew nothing. NOTHING. You should have just kept your job at Lowe’s.” Ah yes, those were the days, working at Lowe’s selling windows…now THAT seems like a lifetime ago!
But, seriously, what I can tell you is that whatever it is that you’re into, whatever your goal is, do not stop. Just because someone tells you it’s a dumb idea or because someone tells you no, do not stop. Because one day, everyone will go from telling you your idea is so dumb and that you won’t be successful, to telling you that they’re going to start a venue themselves. They’re going to do the same thing you’re doing because it’s a great idea and they can do it better than you. Don’t listen to the noise. Dream your dream, put your head down, your headphones in and do the work. Because it’s going to take work!
You can’t just dream up a goal and achieve it by writing it down. Don’t get me wrong, that helps, but you have to learn the hard way. It’s like do the crime pay the time, but the opposite and less catchy. Dream the dream and work and work and work some more. Learning the hard way is how you gain the experience to do more, and be more, and dream more. When something breaks, look it up and learn to fix it yourself. If a system seems cumbersome and inefficient, stop and figure out a way to do it better. Never stop learning.
There you have it! I’ve listed 5 life lessons I’ve learned after celebrating 100 weddings. This may be the straightforward wedding advice you were looking for, but I advice like that in tons of other posts. I wanted this post to be about the nitty gritty stuff you learn from running a business in the wedding industry. While I’ve actually had weddings that included magical sunshine and rainbows, actually several of them, it’s not always like that. But it’s in the moments that aren’t perfect that I’ve learned the most and gained the most strength. And from all of that, I am able to better serve my clients and I’m a better person.
Maybe you’re working towards a goal right now too. Did any of my life lessons hit home for you? Are you thinking about pursuing a dream but just haven’t gone for it yet? Tell me about it in the comments! I would love to hear about you!