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How J. Lo and Nelson Mandela helped me plan 1,000 events, with a little help from my “Friends”

I thought I was living the dream. Until I watched an antique wedding ring roll on the floor of an elevator and fall down the shaft, 30 minutes before the ceremony.

It wasn’t my wedding, but I felt sick as I watched it happen. I was the wedding planner. Beyond the fairytale details, like dress, cake, and decor, I was responsible for making the entire experience flawless, including the not-so-fun parts of the day — like a lost ring.

When it comes to planning weddings or events — I’ve done both, more than 1,000 times — I’m a visionary (creating a unique plan to meet or exceed expectations), a master organizer (checking schedules three, four — okay, really, about 50 times), an expert on clocks (everything has to happen on time, to the second), a Hollywood director (places everyone!), and chief problem-solver.

By the way, I found that ring in the dark basement of the building — with seven minutes to spare.

The one where I learn the ropes

J. Lo and I have something in common. No, it’s not her insane rock-hard abs (a girl can dream). I decided to become a wedding planner after seeing her in “The Wedding Planner.” As cheesy as it sounds, she made it look so glamorous and effortless — plus snagging my very own Matthew McConaughey didn’t seem like a bad lifestyle choice.

Alas, what once drew me in as a teenager isn’t exactly what has kept me in events for the last decade.

Along the way, I realized nothing motivates me more than creating a meaningful experience that brings people together and breathes life into someone’s vision. I’m a connector. At the end of every day, my job will always be measured by my ability to create an opportunity or a moment where people can come together for a purpose — sharing information, building awareness, celebrating an accomplishment or milestone, the list goes on. We’re humans who need connectivity and interaction. And life’s moments are defined by experiences. Building that is my “why.”

As it turns out, J. Lo wasn’t the only link to Hollywood along my path. In 2019, I found myself thrown into a world where I was surrounded by icons — Michelle Obama, Savannah Guthrie, Tom Hanks — all center stage for a gala. I bonded with Tom (yes, I’m just using his first name — we’re that close, at least think we are) backstage. We had a full-on conversation about someone’s haircut. He deemed it the new “Rachel” do. He didn’t even know I’m obsessed with “Friends.” I’ll never forget that moment.

Most people think about events being glitzy, swanky, and exciting. And to an extent, they are. But a lot of my work has been totally unglamorous: navigating power outages, tornadoes, blizzards, and floods, pulling countless all-nighters, and even encountering the impossible clients that will simply never be happy (and you have to realize that has nothing to do with you). Despite that, I’ve Hula-Hooped, bowled, mechanical dolphined (yes, a thing), slid, danced, and champagne walled my way through it all.

These events have paved the way for some truly incredible outcomes as I created experiences that resulted in new jobs, strong friendships, lasting marriages, impactful business opportunities, memorable celebrations, legislative changes, and million-dollar donations.

A glimpse into my pre-pandemic life.

The one where the world shut down

I knew what to expect in the controlled chaos of planning events. There was a rhythm and a method to all the madness. Then, COVID hit. My world as a professional planner was rocked as I scrambled to pivot to a completely new world of engaging people. I remember thinking how it all seemed impossible. Then I remembered a quote from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The event industry’s most overused word of 2020.

Just like that, my planning game went into hyperdrive as I was thrown into a world where ‘technology expert’ was now attached to my role. My portfolio went from being a healthy 20–25 events annually, to over 100 in the 12 months after the pandemic changed our world. Yet, some pretty unexpected things happened in the middle of the new chaos.

Instead of being behind the curtain, I facilitated and moderated countless virtual events and was able to lead Congressionally mandated working sessions, work with Dr. Fauci to provide a keynote address, and foster virtual spaces that allowed for human connectivity, despite the isolation and distancing that became part of our lives.

Navigating and creating a new world of connectivity.

The one where the future is bright

I never shy away from pushing the envelope or trying something new. This pandemic has been no different. And navigating back to normalcy will be charging into the unknown of event planning once again. That is a high I will gladly continue chasing.

Finding calm in the chaos is exactly what I do best, and I’m excited to keep doing this work through whatever curveballs come next. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to my Hollywood roots and star in a movie about an event planner. Tom, call me.

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