Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Guest Blog: Some Q&As with Event Planner Cristie Vito

It’s Monday, so it’s guest blogger day. Today, I’m lucky to have Cristie Vito of Stellar Events with me for a little Q&A about what event planners do, and how they can help with destination weddings. 

Cristie and I keep meeting at various networking events around Ottawa, and have realized we both have the same attention to detail and service philosophy, and we both love what we do. And, Cristie was just awarded the young business person of the year for the 2010 TD Canada Trust Peoples Choice Awards for the Orleans Chamber of Commerce.  If you need an event or wedding planner, give Cristie a call. Her contact details are at the end of the post.

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Why are you in event planning?

I worked in PR for years, and enjoyed media-related events. When I thought about starting my own business, adding weddings to event coordination seemed a natural fit.

 How do you become an event planner? Do you have any specialities and/or certifications?

I graduated in Communications from the University of Ottawa, and did a Post-Graduate Certificate in Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto. After working in PR in Toronto, I decided to move home to Ottawa and start my business.  I was certified as a wedding planner through the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada (WPIC).

 How long have you been doing this?

I am going into my third year of business, but I have been involved in event coordination for almost 10 years (in one capacity or another)!!

 What’s your favourite memory of working with a client?

It is hard to narrow it down because there are so many amazing couples. Working with wedding couples is always rewarding because it is such a milestone in anyone’s life.  The fact that I work with a couple to create the wedding that truly reflects their relationship and personality is always such a privilege. My favourite moment with any couple, though, is when everything comes together on the actual wedding day, and I get to see how happy they are!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome with an event, just by your own sheer will and determination?

The most challenging event I have ever coordinated was a wedding this past summer.  The ceremony, dinner and reception all took place on a cruise boat. We had to transform all three levels into their Las Vegas theme in less than four hours!  As you can imagine, it was a huge challenge.  We had limited time to pull it off on the actual day, I worked very closely with the couple leading up to their wedding,  and assigned people to specific tasks.  I had two assistants, as well as 10 volunteers, and we worked tirelessly to get the job done. We had organized everything so well leading up to the event, it was just a matter of me directing what needed to get done in what order.  It is crazy to think that we pulled it off, but we did! We had so many compliments, especially from the crew that they had never seen their boat look so great!

What’s the biggest stumbling block in working with a new client?

The most important thing for me is to get a clear understanding of their style and vision, so I am recommending vendors with their unique wedding in mind.  It is really important to know my clients so I can help them come up with unique and special details. On the actual wedding day, I sometimes make decisions on their behalf, so I need to know them well to make choices with them in mind.

What’s the biggest misconception you wish you could correct for new clients?

There are two when it comes to wedding planners:

1. That people can’t afford to have a planner and

2. The wedding planner will take over. 

When it comes to hiring a wedding planner, it really isn’t that expensive if you have someone for the day of the wedding.  Most couples I have worked with say it was the best money they spent on their entire wedding. It relieved so much stress, and they were actually able to relax and enjoy their wedding day.  And, wedding planners can actually help save money.  Vendors see me as a returning client, so I often have access to better rates for my clients.  Because this isn’t my “first wedding”, I also have creative suggestions to save money. 

And, my role is to help guide couples through the planning process, not to plan the wedding for them.  This is not my wedding, it is theirs!  I am here to help bring their vision to life.  For example, rather than spending hours online searching for a photographer, I can narrow options (of vendors I know and trust) based on the clients’ style and budget.   On average, couples without a planner spend about 250 hours planning their wedding.  By hiring me, that time goes down to a fraction!

Can you do day-of-event in addition to full wedding planning?

All full wedding coordination packages include day of coordination.  Not only do I help plan the entire wedding, I am there on the day to ensure everything goes off without a hitch!  For day of coordination services, it is actually more like the few weeks leading up to the wedding.  I take care of the last minute details, and am there on the day of the event to ensure it goes well.

Obviously, you work with travel agents to do destination wedding planning. Can you travel with the bride-and-groom to assist at destination?

I can definitely travel with destination couples to assist them on location.  Some resorts have coordinators on site, and I work hand in hand with them to ensure all details are as the couple envisioned.  The benefit to having a planner travel with a destination-wedding client ensures everything is the way they had planned.  The job of resort coordinators is to make sure everything goes well from the location’s perspective (which may not always be in the best interest of the couple).  My number one priority is to ensure the bride and groom get what they want.  If something isn’t quite right, I work with the resort coordinator to ensure details are changed to suit my clients.  Depending on the size of the group, and gateways, sometimes tour operators offer incentives that may cover my travel expenses. Definitely a question to ask your travel agent if you are considering a destination wedding!  Resort coordinators are great, but it is always good to have someone with your best interests at destination to make sure your day is exactly how you imagined!

Cristie Vito, WPICC
Creative Director
Stellar Events
Tel: 613-302-3700                                                                                                                    Web: www.stellareventsandweddings.com                                                http://www.youtube.com/watchv=xQ0b8RU5mo8                                                   http://www.facebook.com/StellarEvents                                                        http://stellareventsandweddings.blogspot.com/                                                                             http://twitter.com/Cristie_Vito

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November 22, 2010 - Posted by | Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons

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