A planner is only as good as the vendors around her, and as a day of coordinator, I typically get hired after the main vendors are already booked (like the venue, catering, DJ, and photographer).
Although Pittsburgh boasts a tight-knit wedding planning community, I'm constantly meeting new people in the industry. As a new-ish planner myself, I'm always so grateful for the vendors that not only kick butt at their job, but share their knowledge, and have some fun along the way.
I had only planned five weddings before Joanna and Joe's Sunday evening wedding at the sprawling Oglebay Resort in West Virginia. I was still so new, and learning how to balance being 'in charge' without micromanaging vendors who have been doing their jobs since I was in high school. As I drove from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, I practiced my confident face.
Ben McMillen and Eddie Hughes of McMillen Photography (based in Waynesburg, PA) arrived the morning of the wedding ready to rock, and their energy only increased as the night when on. Zero micromanagement necessary with these two.
Because Joanna and Joe treat everyone like family, all of the vendors had their own dinner table during the reception, and enjoyed a traditional plated Italian meal (pasta served first), plus champagne! It was delicious, and gave us a breather in between the grand entrance and the shoe game (which was hilarious).
Ben and Eddie were beyond kind, and asked me all about my new business. Ben, the owner, shared that he started McMillen Photography almost 10 years ago, and now not only has office space, full time staff, and a ton of awards, they also offer education and training courses for aspiring photographers to hone their craft and learn more about the industry. Goals!
They immediately connected with me on social media, and invited me to join a vendor-only Facebook group called Food I Ate At The Wedding (Spoiler: It's laugh-til-you-cry funny). Ben shared some of the moments he captured of Joanna and Joe on their cameras, and already had a few up online with tons of likes and comments. Their turnaround time was literally 5 minutes, and the photos were stunning. I learned more about the wedding industry, marketing, and social media after a 20 minute conversation with them then I had in any webinar or workshop.
After dinner, the party got started thanks to DJ Sam Crawford, whose set made Sunday at 7 p.m. feel like Saturday at midnight. Ben started setting up a ladder behind the DJ booth for the Big Dance Floor Photo. We got every single guest to surround the bride and groom. They cheered, and posed for the camera.
"Get in the picture!" Ben shouted at me. I felt silly, but turned and smiled, pretending I was doing something important. DJ Sam joined in and looked way cooler than me.
Two minutes later, Ben texted me the photo. It was the first time I saw of photo of myself working a wedding. I loved it immediately.
"Post it!" Ben said.
I did. Caption: "Love my job! @mcmillenphotography with the photo!"
Two minutes after that, I had a new comment!
@mcmillenphotography: "Killer job today. Keep up the good work!"
I'll never forget the kindness Ben and Eddie showed me at that wedding. They treated me like a peer. One day, I'll get to pay it forward to vendors who are just starting out.
Bonus Vendor Story!
When Sam and I were breaking down the reception after everyone left, I noticed the 'toss bouquet' laying on his DJ booth.
Wedding lingo: A toss bouquet is a second, smaller handful of flowers the florist puts together. Brides will use it during the bouquet toss as to not damage their actual bridal bouquet (or a guest!), which is typically much heavier...and expensive!
Joanna chose not to do the bouquet toss at the last minute, so there it was, unused.
"The toss bouquet!" I said. I picked it up and looked at it.
"What should we do with it?" I asked Sam. He smiled.
Sam perked up, and rubbed his hands together. He jumped up and down excitedly.
"Pick me! Pick me!"
I backed up and turned around, bending my knees and and stretching out my arms for full effect. I tossed the bouquet to the ceiling in the empty banquet hall.
Sam jumped and caught it, celebrating like he scored a touchdown.
I was cackling. "You're next!"
I love my job.
Photos by: McMillen Photography