Meet my new friend Jennifer Ashford, owner and planner extraordinaire of Altar Ego Weddings. She has been in the business for eight years, originally based in Dallas, Texas, but now living in Austin. We hung out over yummy Hopdoddy burgers and got to know each other. We chatted about what it’s like being a wedding photographer (me), and being the planner (her). It’s interesting to me how critical it is that every vendor participating at a wedding works with the others as a team. If we know each other, if we are friends, we’re communicating and working perfectly to pull off the Best Day Ever for YOU, the bride.
In the spirit of promoting other talented wedding industry vendors and helping brides make the best decisions regarding one of the most important decisions of their lives, here’s a spotlight on Jennifer:
Jennifer, what brings you to Austin?
My husband, Justin, and our two sons, Jared (6) and Jake (4) relocated to Austin from DFW for my husband’s job. It was a perfect opportunity to expand my business and bring stress-relief to brides planning their weddings in both Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin. I will be planning and coordinating weddings in Austin and my other planner, Heidi Miller, will head up DFW. I am excited to see both the differences and similarities in Dallas and Austin brides. Austin is a major destination wedding city. Couples who want their weddings in Austin come from all over the country for all different reasons to get married here. I’m excited to meet brides from everywhere!
So tell me about your business. What is the most important thing to you in serving your clients?
My passion is planning weddings and my main goal is to provide stress-relief to brides. I want them to breeze through their planning and wedding day feeling like a bride, not a manager, wrangler or anything other than BRIDE. At the end of a wedding day, I want the bride to say, “I didn’t worry about a thing.” The main way I want to portray myself and my business is approachable. Every wedding is unique and my job is to give the couple what THEY want, not what a wedding SHOULD be. I want my clients to feel 100% comfortable coming to me to ask any question at any time. I want them to be honest and I don’t want them to hold back. The best way for me to give a bride what she wants is for her to tell me! I am not the big bad wedding planner. I am her advocate and am there to make sure she gets what she wants.
What are the benefits of hiring a wedding planner? I hear this comment often: “Isn’t it expensive to hire a wedding planner? Is it really worth the money? I’m pretty organized and figure I can do it myself.” I’ve had brides crying because the groom didn’t move a stack of chairs, or the entire wedding start 30 minutes late because no one knows where the boutonnieres are. The worst is trying to capture beautiful, happy images of a bride getting ready for the wedding and she is completely stressed out because she’s ordering people around and asking if everything’s been done.
When talking about the cost of hiring a planner, we always talk about the cost to NOT hire a planner. I don’t sell a product. I sell a service. I sell stress-relief. I sell the comfort of knowing an expert is behind you using their expertise and relationships in the industry to get you exactly what you want. I am going to help you create a cohesive vendor team that will work seamlessly on your wedding day. This team will have me as their point-of-contact on your wedding day and throughout the process. You don’t have to answer the same question from all 15 of your vendors over and over. I will coordinate everyone and make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be at the right times. My focus is on YOU. My focus is not the venue or anything else. It’s making sure things are going the way you’d like. Every bride needs a wedding planner, even if it’s only for the month-of. Month-of packages include vendor recommendations, two trained wedding planners on-site on your wedding day and complete rehearsal, ceremony and reception coordination. Every bride will tell you that the cost to hire a wedding planner is the best money they spent on their wedding. You’re investing a lot of money in your wedding day. Let an expert manage it all while you enjoy!
Ok, I’m convinced. I need a planner. What can I expect once I have hired you?
First we’ll get together and chat about your wedding. This is your free initial consultation. I want to know about your hopes and dreams for your wedding day! I’ll listen to what you want and what you’ve already accomplished and help you determine what level of service you need. The base package is month-of coordination and goes up to full-service wedding planning. Once you book, you will receive access to an online planning system where we can collaborate on your wedding day. Based on your level of service, the first thing we’ll do is talk about vendor recommendations. These will be based on your style and budget and will be pre-qualified for availability. If you’re a month-of client, you’ll tackle all your meetings yourself. I will attend your meetings with full-service. Throughout the process, you or I (based on service level) will manage your wedding planning checklist and budget. A month before your wedding, we will sit down at your reception venue and hammer out your wedding day timeline and ceremony seating diagram. We will discuss everything, down to the last detail. I will update the timeline and, after you approve, I will send it to the vendors to confirm. On rehearsal day, I’ll coordinate the rehearsal. You don’t have to be the one telling everyone what to do! On the wedding day, I will arrive at least two hours before the wedding (based on how involved setup is) and will remain until all your stuff is packed into the designated car. The end! Your wedding day went perfectly! If anything went wrong, you don’t know it! I took care of it!
Jennifer, we met at an industry networking event last month. What are you doing to meet other vendors in Austin and what have you noticed about the industry here?
I have been networking in local groups, such as NEAWP, ISES (International Society of Event Specialists) and Thursday Therapy Austin. I have enjoyed meeting all kinds of vendors. It’s good for us to have not only a professional rapport, but a friendly one as well. I want to know which vendors I will work well with and what their styles and price points are. One thing I’ve noticed here is there are tons of venues and new ones pop up every day! Just as in Dallas, it’s impossible to visit them all, but it doesn’t mean I won’t try!
What is your favorite Austin experience you’ve had so far or are looking forward to?
I really enjoyed Barton Springs Pool, although my kiddos were freezing. I can’t believe how cold it was in there. It didn’t matter that it was 100 degrees outside! I am looking forward to really learning what Austin is about! I want to know why Austin is weird and see some of it!
Altar Ego Weddings | Austin 972.742.6407 | Dallas-Ft. Worth 914.954.7094 | www.altaregoweddings.com