Vendor Feature: Jen at A Fresh Event
I sat down with Jen, founder and lead planner at A Fresh Event, last month for another wedding planning installment in my vendor feature series, and I loved hearing her story. Moreover, I was completely blown away when she told me about her client experience. I think Jen and the squad at A Fresh Event deliver a full-service wedding planning experience like no other!
Read on to learn more:
Please introduce yourself and A Fresh Event
Hi, I’m Jen! I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and I started planning weddings in Milwaukee. I worked for Dare to Dream Weddings, which is another wonderful company! I started planning weddings by complete chance. I was never somebody who wanted to be a wedding planner — I just didn’t think it was in the realm of possibility for me.
I started assisting at Dare to Dream and loved it because it’s the ultimate customer service job. I’ve been in customer service since I first begged my mom to let me start working when I was a teenager. Every couple is different. I never change who I am, but I always adjust how I approach each couple depending on their needs, and I love it.
I moved to Chicago and discovered it was a totally different market, but it was really fun to have the comparison after working in Milwaukee. I still worked under the Dare to Dream brand for about four years, and then it just made sense to start A Fresh Event in December 2016.
Even the name of the company is special. I really feel like I take a different approach to wedding planning. It’s nothing revolutionary, but more holistic instead — it’s really all about the client. We don’t produce one particular type of wedding or work with one particular style or group of people. I wanted my business to be as approachable as possible — for my website, I wanted to stay away from traditional “female” colors and have it be a place where grooms could come online and feel comfortable there as well.
A Fresh Event has grown over the past four years. It was just me at first, but now I have three other planners on my team, and I think what really sets us apart as a team is that our process really is all about the couple and their journey. We’re just the advisors. We’re the people who help make the process more enjoyable, more fun, and less stressful. It’s never about us!
There are things we’ve implemented to really prove that. For instance, we don’t take commissions when referring other vendor services. We don’t want to have any money hanging in the air to push people a certain way. For us, it’s really about finding vendors that are the perfect fit for the couple. We want to make sure they’re matched with the best vendors for their day, and we’re really careful that we’re not pushing our design style on the couple. We always want the wedding design and vision to be driven by the couple themselves! We want to bring their style to life!
We also try to be really respectful of our couples’ money. It’s a huge investment — one of the biggest events couples may ever invest in over the lifetime of their relationship. And we want to make sure they feel guided, respected, and supported there.
And we’re fun! If we don’t laugh during the initial conversation, then maybe we’re not right for each other.
Tell me about how you work with your team at A Fresh Event.
I do all the consultations at A Fresh Event, and I feel like every client should always have a touch-point with me. It’s my company, and I want to know these couples, even if I’m not their lead planner.
We try to be as accessible as possible. Even for our couples who only work with us for wedding day coordination instead of a full planning relationship, we’re always accessible by email for logicistical questions and then we step in and start really working about two months before the wedding. For our full planning clients, we go even deeper than that. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve been doing this now for ten years and couples have the option to work with me or one of my teammates. It’s very important that there’s a good relationship between the planner and the couple, so I always make sure brides and grooms connect by phone or meeting with whoever is going to be their lead planner before the contract is signed. You have to get along well and have a good relationship. You have to trust each other, and there needs to be that spark of “Yes, this is the planner for us!” and vice versa. We want everyone involved to enjoy the process.
We want to walk in the room and see relief in our couples’ faces, so that’s how we’ve structured the team right now, and it’s seems to be a great fit for all of our clients.
Tell me more about your planning process.
Once the contract is signed, we step in full force. The first thing we do is to set a budget. It’s very expensive to get married in Chicago, and we don’t pretend otherwise, but we want to make sure everybody has a realistic idea of what they’re stepping into. Often we find this provides valuable perspective for our brides and grooms, as many of them have never planned a wedding before and may not know what to expect.
We also keep our couples organized — we live in Google Drive here at A Fresh Event. Each couple gets a shared folder where we keep track of vendor contracts and recommendations, all of our planning sheets, etc. That way everything is in one place and easily accessible.
Then, we really dive into the planning process. One of the things I take pride in is getting to know a couple really quickly. I could almost plan their wedding right after the consult based on their personalities, tastes, and style.
We do all of the day-to-day tedious wedding planning tasks. Emailing venues and vendors, collecting links and putting everything into a spreadsheet so when the couple sits down they can compare everything side-by-side. We do a cost estimate. For instance, if you pick this venue, you can expect to spend about this much. We go on the venue tours with our clients, and we even help with contract negotiation.
We’re really involved in the decision making process. For vendor consultations related to catering, venues, and design, we always go along to those meetings, because they’re really huge decisions that are not just personality based (such as falling in love with a photographer).
We have monthly check in calls and task lists so clients stay on track and know what to expect. We also help with rehearsal dinner, Sunday brunch, and hotel blocks. We like to be involved in and help with pretty much anything that has to do with the wedding weekend. We really believe in being a full service company.
Even after the wedding day is over, our clients still have access to us and we help make sure that things like photo galleries are delivered and album meetings are set, that thank you notes have gone out, and in the very rare chance that there’s an issue with a vendor on the wedding day, we help with that, too. The wedding day is not goodbye for us! We stay in our clients’ lives to make sure everything gets wrapped up.
What kind of couples and weddings do you love the most?
Our couples typically have more time-consuming jobs like lawyers, doctors, dentists, or they’re in law school or finishing med school. Very high-intensity professions.
For my couples, when we start the consultation, they are very serious, but by the end, I’ve cracked them open. I see a little bit of quirkiness, and I love those little details. Not full on Star Wars wedding, but they might have little Yoda cufflinks. My couples love music, so music is always a big part of the planning. They have really ecclectic music taste, and it’s really important to them.
Typically, family is involved a little bit, too. The mother the bride often helps with a little bit of the planning as well.
Where can we find you online and get in touch?
Our website is our online home where you can learn more about our wedding planning experience, meet the squad, see past couples, and start a conversation through our contact page.
We’re also on Instagram as @afresheventco!
Are you looking for a Chicago Wedding Photographer? I would love to be a part of your special day. 2021 and 2022 dates are extremely limited, so reach out ASAP for my very best availability.