Why this behind-the-scenes ninja & logistical badass is the wedding planner of your offbeat dreams #Sponsors#maryland#virginia#washington-dc#wedding planner Posted Jun 26 2018 Catherine Clark bijouxandbits This business paid a fee to be listed on Offbeat Bride because they feel their products and services are a great fit with offbeat philosophies… and we agree. Learn more about our ads. Photo by Cassidy DuHon Photography Sometimes an offbeat vendor just melts into our mindset so well that they've felt like they were always a part of us. That's exactly how I felt when listening to Meigh McNamee-Mahaffey, wedding planner extraordinaire, from Lula Mae Special Events. From month-of coordination to full-on event planning, this behind-the-scenes ninja and logistical badass is absolutely the right fit for offbeat couples. It was pretty easy to see how a super experienced, queer lady business owner who truly understands the importance of the event to you AND to our own cultures can take a day and make it so much extra magical. If you're in any doubt of what hiring a wedding planner can do, it's time to drink the Kool-Aid. We heard from Meigh about how she rolls with weddings, what makes her different, and why your stress will melt away as soon as you hire her… Photo by Smitten Chickens What's your offbeat wedding MO? Lula Mae Special Events is also featured in our Offbeat Vendors guide! I'm a wedding planner/coordinator in the DC area (DC, Maryland, and Virginia), helping awesome people get hitched in a sane, fabulous, and authentic way. (I've also been reading Offbeat Bride since before my own wedding, lo these seven years ago!) As a planner, my goal is to help people bring their love to life; having the guests say "this wedding is so them!" is the best compliment. I love me some nerds, some artists, some brilliantly brave and thoughtful people, etc. I've recently done a multi-fandom donut brunch wedding (with bonus dragons!), an afternoon wedding complete with petting zoo, and I'm currently working on one the clients described to me as "'80s Miami Vice meets Jurassic Park." So, I love getting the opportunity to work with offbeat clients (whatever offbeat means to them). Photo by Amber Wilkie Photography What are the biggest facets of your biz? The three big things I do (in addition to add-ons like DIY floral or hourly consultation) are: Month-of Coordination: I give clients a set of starter docs like Timeline, Packing List, Contacts lists, etc, with examples for each. At a month out, we have what I call our “brain-dump” meeting, where we go over everything they have planned so far and optimize it, figure out what still needs to happen, and cover any extra potential stumbling blocks, e.g interpersonal family conflicts, structuring the day for clients with anxiety or other special needs that need accommodation, heirlooms that need an eye kept on them. We typically do a walk-through of the venue, then I contact all the vendors to establish myself as point person (so they’re not calling the couple while they’re getting their hair did or whatever) and make sure they have all the relevant logistical info. We do a rehearsal the day before, and then the day of the wedding, we’re basically the first people there and the last people to leave. We manage the whole day, making sure vendors are on task, the wedding party is where they need to be, and everything happens according to the timeline. We are the behind-the-scenes ninjas that make the party feel effortless. At the end of the day, we pack up all the presents and decor, load it out, and make sure the all-important clean-up happens. It all comes with one assistant (frequently my wife!) and a mega-emergency kit. Partial Planning: This includes all the month-of stuff, plus guided help throughout the planning process. Once we meet, I create a budget and a custom planning timeline detailing all the tasks, meetings, and payments that need to happen before the wedding. We then do monthly or bi-weekly check-ins to answer questions, give advice, and make sure the clients are staying on task. Once the big pieces are in, I work with the couple to create a design plan that condenses all their ideas into one executable document. Full Planning: All the things! Clients get to choose from a few tailored proposals from each vendor instead of navigating the whole thing themselves. I take the clients’ ideas and create a design plan to make sure everything is cohesive and generally spectacular looking. On the logistics side, I handle invitations and RSVPs, vendor communication, table seating, etc., everything needed to make the wedding happen. Due to the intensive nature of this relationship I only hold a few slots for full planning each year. Photo by Kelly Walsh Loss Photography RAD! So what makes working with you different? Yes, I can make sure you’re on time and your napkin folds are on point, but more importantly I think people like working with someone whose Venn diagram of interests/identities overlaps with theirs. 1. I’m friendly and warm, and good at reassuring clients and helping them de-stress. I’m pretty outgoing (seriously, I have zero chill) and I’m always SUPER excited for my clients and about helping them tell their love story. I think/hope clients can tell I genuinely care about them, and that helps them feel like their wedding is in safe hands. In a lot of ways, my whole job boils down to getting between my clients and stress. You almost never get all the people you love in one room; my job is to give you time to enjoy it! All of the details I take on are ones clients no longer have to worry about, and that seems to really help them be present and enjoy their wedding day. 2. I’m a knowledge base and I help answer questions clients didn’t know they had. If you, like many people, haven’t planned a wedding before, there are a lot of times where “you don’t know what you don’t know." With the experience I’ve gained over the past seven years of making weddings happen with Lula Mae, plus working in various events fields since 2005, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve dealt with lots of behind-the-scenes disasters and I know a lot of pitfalls to avoid. When you’re planning a wedding it feels like approximately 87 million people have advice for you, and if you make a mistake, EVERYTHING WILL BE RUINED!!1!!one!1!!! Being able to rely on my experience and say, “this is how I’ve seen things like this play out” seems to really help my clients have confidence in their choices and less anxiety about all the options. 3. I’m pretty good at staying calm and unobtrusively keeping things on track. When you’re dealing with events, something will almost certainly go wrong; it’s my job to keep all that “backstage” and present a seamless front to clients and guests. I frequently have to handle making changes on the fly, but being able to think on my feet without freaking out (and having back up plans to my back up plans) has saved me more than once. Since another big part of my job is keeping everything on schedule, I have gotten pretty adept at subtly ushering things along without making people feel rushed. I make sure to give my couples enough time to wrap up conversations, get a drink, use the bathroom, etc. before I drag them off to the next event. A wedding day can be pretty overwhelming, so I want to make sure I mitigate that as much as possible for my clients. 4. Sure, I’m a logistical badass, but I’m also here for the feels! As much as all my weddings are killer parties, they’re also a big rite of passage in my clients’ lives, and I try to make space for the gravity of that in the whirlwind of wedding planning. Fun fact: I have my M.A. in Folklore Studies, and I actually wrote my thesis on wedding traditions and the way they’re adapted by different groups. All that is to say that I understand and value the cultural work a wedding provides in our social communities, and I try to give equal importance to the ceremonial and the quotidian. 5. I’m a queer lady business owner. When the business is mostly just you, your brain, and your hands, you are your brand. So, who I am as a person (Queer, female business owner, nerd, married, cis-lady, working mama, sartorial adventurer, logistical badass, glitter-lover, member of the Resistance, Maker, cat person who loves doggos, dry-witted extrovert, Slytherin (don't hate.), beloved kook.) is relevant to why people hire me. Yes, I can make sure you’re on time and your napkin folds are on point, but more importantly I think people like working with someone whose Venn diagram of interests/identities overlaps with theirs. Photo by Eric Lee of George Street Photo + Video Can we hear from one of your clients? Yep! Here are a couple of favorites… "Meigh was incredibly helpful, organized, flexible, and fun. Our DJ didn't show up to our wedding, leaving us without any music. Meigh quickly put together a playlist (an awesome playlist, btw), and I don't think any of our guests even noticed the mini-crisis. When the zipper on my dress split open after the ceremony, Meigh noticed before anyone else, subtly pulled me aside, and fixed the zipper. When a guest who hadn't RSVPed showed up for the reception, Meigh quickly found him a chair and a meal. I'm sure she did a thousand other things that made the day run smoothly, but I didn't notice because she was so quick, efficient, and non-intrusive. The guests who did interact with her loved her — she seemed relaxed, friendly, and fun the whole time she was managing the issues my haphazard wedding planning created. The only regret I have about Meigh is that I did not hire her sooner or have her do full wedding planning." – Kate, Married September 2013 Meigh was a lifesaver! We hired her for month-of coordination, and when that month arrived, we felt all of our stresses melt away. She took over just about everything, helped us answer questions we didn't even realize we had, and made the day go seamlessly without the bat of an eyelash. On the day of the wedding, she was cool, calm, and collected — and we definitely needed that! 🙂 We'd also like to give a shout-out to Christina, Meigh's wife and wedding day helper. You could tell that Christina was just as clued in to everything and could pick up wherever Meigh dropped off. They operated really well together, and just knew what to do. E.G. We gave them a pretty detailed outline for how we wanted things set up, and then included some extra surprise decorations in case they found a place for them. Meigh & Christina did amazingly! They created a beautiful space; we were blown away when we walked into it for the first time. One more thing: throughout the day, we were making all kinds of last-minute decisions — let's cut the donuts an hour early, let's be announced as a married couple as opposed to sneaking in all of a sudden, etc, etc., and Meigh & Christina handled it all like pros. There was no evidence of scrambling, just making things happen when they needed to. We are beyond happy with our decision to work with Lula Mae Events, and highly suggest anyone else in the throes of wedding planning to seriously consider them. – Cello, Married December 2017 OMG how do we hire Lula Mae Special Events?! Seriously, if my wedding were happening in your area, you'd be the one for me. Thankfully, those of y'all in the DC area CAN hire Meigh for all your planning needs. Go get in touch to secure your date and tell her we sent ya! Catherine Clark Catherine Clark loiters at her local library, makes art, watches movies en masse, plays video and tabletop games, poorly cooks healthy things, cuddles with her feline fur babies, and blogs at BijouxandBits.com. @enidjcoleslaw @bijouxandbits @bijouxandbits PREVIOUS Funky instruments & muted flowers at this dark and eclectic inspiration shoot at an old Brooklyn theater NEXT Avoiding wedding fights: how to plan your wedding planning Show/Hide comments [ 1 ] Ah she sounds so nice. I am already married. 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