Today I'm sharing a conversation between yours truly and the fabulous Crystal Adair-Benning of Distinct Occasions, a full-service wedding and destination planner serving the Niagara Region and beyond. Distinct Occasions is the newest sparkling addition to the Vineyard Bride Featured Vendor Directory, and I'm so happy to tell you more about Crystal and what she does!
In formal business card language, Crystal is an International Wedding Planner, Designer & Stylist, and founder of Distinct Occasions. She specializes in anything from far-flung destination weddings to intimate elopements.
Distinct Occasions has a simple mission statement: Your wedding shouldn't look like, feel like, or be like any wedding you've ever been to. It should be personal, creative, and a whole lot of fun! With offices all over the globe (Canada, UK, Australia) - they've literally travelled the world to get inspired and bring back unique ideas, concepts and celebrations for your shindig. They want you to travel, mix cultures, have a dash of this and a smattering of that - shake things up a little or go classic romance. It's your day and they're here to make it happen. (Sounds nice, doesn't it?)
How long have you been planning weddings?
My mother swears since I was old enough to host tea parties and fake weddings with my Care Bears, but for real-life loved-up couples? Going on almost 15 years! It started as just something "fun" I did for loved ones and their referrals and turned into a lifelong passion. I've tried to ditch weddings for other events but the Universe keeps pushing me right back. I was MEANT to be a Once-in-a-Lifetime Wedding Planner. Why weddings? L-O-V-E. Plain and simple. I have always truly believed in my heart that marriage can change the world. A wedding is the celebration to kickstart that adventure. It's a small thing that can have a whole lot of impact on the world around us. Strong marriages build strong families. Strong families are the foundation of change I want to be part of in this world. I've tried other things but none of it means more in my heart of hearts than weddings.
What is your favourite part of the planning process?
The end of it (hahaha). Part silly and totally true. I just LOVE watching our couples walk down the aisle into this great big new adventure they're starting. I get teary eyed for them knowing how much their lives and everyone's in that room is changing! Super sweet, totally sappy and all loved up! The other part I totally totally go overboard with love for though is the details each couple brings to the table. My couples have ah-mazing ideas and just really go for it. They don't worry about Pinterest, bridal blogs or magazines. They're hosting this shindig to celebrate their marriage and they let their quirk flags fly and I love it! Whether it's a sparkly donut buffet, a wedding cake made of chewing gum, having their dogs be part of the ceremony, or wearing something non-traditional--it's all about the details and the meanings behind it for them.
What range of services do you offer and which services do you most recommend?
Your "typical" wedding planning services of course apply... Day/Month-Of for the bride who's going it alone but doesn't want to fret (& sweat) on her big day. Partial Planning for the couples who've "got this" but don't "got that". They're looking for limited behind-the-scenes support and guidance but are willing to do the legwork. Full Planning for the couple who's willing to go the extra mile with fulltime advice, planning support, creative ideas and execution of their big day. Destination Wedding Planning for my couples who dream of wedding weekends and weeks instead of days. Celebrating under tropical palms with oceans crashing, beautiful european vistas, crazy natural scenery and the great outdoors. And my super fave... "Surprise Wedding Planning" for couple who want the hitching without the bitching (hahaha am I allowed to say that?!?!). This service lets couples choose a location, guestlist, budget and any major "must-haves" but then lets me go to work dreaming big, creating, designing and planning their big day without them worrying a stitch about the details. They find the gown/tux/fairy princess costume they wanna wear and simply show up... we handle the rest!
Why do you think so many couples don't consider hiring a planner (or why do you think so many couples take on the bulk of the planning themselves)?
Full out honest answer? I think there are a lot of "bad" planners out there who don't get that weddings are a collaboration and brides have seen them (hello, weddings on TV). I'm the producer of this show while the client is directing it. You tell me what you want and I do my darndest to make it happen with some creative input, a whole lot of guidance and fun along the way. I think there's also a stigma of cost... "why would I pay someone to plan something I can do for free"? Well, just because I know I have a cavity doesn't mean I'm qualified to fill it! Sure, planners who've been doing this awhile (ahem, me) aren't the cheapest on the block. You pay for our time and experience. But, if you ever thought hiring a professional was expensive, wait until you hire an amateur! Think of it this way, if the "average" wedding takes 250 hours of planning - what do you think your Once-in-a-Lifetime wedding will take? Do you have that kind of time to NOT be paid? I think not. Hiring a professional allows you to go with confidence into planning your big day, while still making money at your real job and smiling!
What is the biggest compliment you can ever receive?
While a super awesome "thank you" in the couples speech is ah-mazing for me, it's all about the referral! I love when you love me enough to "pass it forward" when a friend, colleague or heck even total stranger needs a wedding planner.
Which weddings do you covet? Which do you loathe?
Creativity and heartfelt win EVERY SINGLE TIME. Seriously. We've done big and elaborate and meaningless. Those hurt my heart. I love the intimate, creative, sincere, meaningful lovefest! That's not to say you can't have a big wedding that's elaborate and not meaningful - just means we have to work harder at it. The weddings I loathe? The ones being done to satisfy someone else instead of the couple. The couples going into crazy debt over a day instead of a lifetime. The couples who aren't happy, but this is "the next step". Marriage isn't just a next step... it's an adventure! Treat it like one! What makes an exceptional bride/groom? OMG... the ability to have fun - no matter what! The couples who can laugh at themselves, who see the bigger picture, who want a strong marriage--not just a wedding. The couples who are humble and honoured that their loved ones are there. Gratitude is all in the attitude.
Is bride/groomzilla a myth or fact?
Fact! It happens to the best of us at least once or twice in planning. An "episode" of crazy is o-kay. A lifetime of it, is not. Be prepared to have a crazy moment. It happens. What you do before and after is what matters most.
Contact Crystal for more information about hiring Distinct Occasions for a once-in-a-lifetime wedding or event!