Courtney Swierczek of A Sweet Soiree is a fantastic planner -- we've been fortunate to partner with her on several weddings, and she's detail-oriented, organized, and a joy to work with. Her clients love her just as much! Recently, Courtney was kind enough to share her thoughts on the wonderful world of weddings with our readers. Take it away, Courtney!
How did you get started in the wedding business? I got started back in college, by building a foundation with my education. I have my bachelors and masters in Sport Management from West Virginia University. Sport Management was basically learning how to manage large scale sport related operations, everything from compliance, marketing, to facility management. After graduation I had the pleasure of going to work at RFK Stadium for a food and beverage subcontractor for the Washington Nationals and DC United. I was able to put my education to use and learned a whole heck of a lot about budgeting, operations, timeline management, people management, and customer service. Through planning my own wedding, a light bulb went off in my head that planning a wedding also involved all of the aspects above. It came naturally to me, and ignited a passion in me. Over the course of the next two years, I did a lot of business planning and research, and began the business officially in 2008. Since then, the business and number of weddings we’ve done has grown 400% and we have added to our team 4 other associate planners so that we can help more clients.
What do you do when you are not working? Spend time with my family. I have a wonderfully awesome and supportive husband, and two beautiful and fun children. We enjoy going to baseball games, taking walks to the playgrounds, dining out, exploring our metro area as tourists, and traveling whenever we can.
How would you describe your approach to weddings? I typically describe my services as a subject matter expert and true consultant. When speaking with potential clients, I use the analogy that you wouldn’t typically go to court without a lawyer, so why plan a wedding without a planner? We have the knowledge, experience, and relationships that we use to the client’s benefit. Moreover, we are advisers. I would never tell a client that they have to do something one way or another. I had my dream wedding, and I am here to help them have theirs, not mine all over again. So, when I advise my clients, it’s my job to show them the pros, cons, and everything in between so they can make the decision and I can do everything in my power to support it.
What inspires you in your work? Paper and shoes. I was the kind of person that when planning an outfit for a special occasion, I always bought the shoes first and planned the outfit around it. It’s about the same with weddings. A shoe or an invitation design can speak very loudly about an event’s theme, feel, atmosphere, and color scheme, and it’s easy to run with ideas from there. If you are curious about the shoes I love, I have a board on Pinterest. [Ed. note: here's Courtney's awesome "Addiction to Shoes" board]
What do you find the most rewarding about your job? My favorite part about weddings is often what I see when I just sit back and observe the scene before me. It’s so rewarding to see the expression on a couple’s face when they see their reception space for the first time. Or when a Dad sees his daughter in her wedding gown as she comes down the stairs. Or at the end of the night, as the couple is leaving into their getaway car, they stop and pause for a second, just to whisper in my ear and give me a hug to thank me ever so much for delivering their day. Those are priceless moments.
What's the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business? That a planner in general is worth the investment. I can’t tell you how many times I have a bridesmaid or a friend of the couple comes up to me at a reception to say how much they wish they would have had me at their wedding. I typically hear that it’s their biggest regret they have about their planning process and wedding day. I agree, and that is why we are so flexible in our pricing structure and services we offer, because having peace of mind and someone to count on for your wedding day shouldn’t be a luxury.
What do you think sets your company apart from other planners? Our operating plans and day of execution of those plans. We have been told over and over again by those that we work with, that our plans and communication with those wedding professionals that we have the most detailed and organized plans of anyone they have worked with. Our clients tell us in their reviews that we have a keen knack for troubleshooting problems, delivering solutions, and remaining completely calm in the process.
What do you love about weddings? I love developing relationships. I really enjoy getting to know my clients during the planning process. And what’s better is that when their wedding day arrives, I watch them exchange their vows as if they are old friends. It makes sharing in their joy much more personal and so very rewarding.
What do you hate about weddings? I don’t hate anything about weddings. It’s more of the opportunity cost of doing what I do. Meaning the things that I miss out on for my business. I have missed my high school best friend’s wedding because I had a client’s event. No worries though; I sent my husband with a video camera in tow!
What is the coolest thing you've ever seen at a wedding? The coolest thing, and in my opinion, will never grow stale, are the Indian events where the Groom rides in on a white horse. It’s literally like a fairytale in the making. I love that it’s tied in such rich traditions, and that in those moments, he is akin to a Prince. It’s romantic and fun and remarkable all at the same time.
What's the best piece of advice you can give to couples planning a wedding? Captain Obvious, I know, but hire a planner. Even if it’s just for the day of. Think of it as an extra insurance policy for your wedding….that you’ll one get one shot at making perfect. Investing in a planner is not where you want to skimp.
Who is your favorite artist or band? Dave Matthews Band. And another opportunity cost of the business; I will miss the show at Jiffy Lube this year, but will have a rockin’ good time with Anne Marie and Tyler!
What is the worst song of all time? Of all time??? Goodness, that is a tough one. Even though I probably loved it at the time, and given that hind sight is 20/20, I’m going to go with Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Cyrus.
Open mic, final thoughts: Thanks for your time today in reading this and for getting to know us just a bit better! And thank YOU, Courtney, for taking the time to chat with us and letting us pick your brain!