In March of 2020, the coronavirus changed our lives drastically in the United States. COVID-19 hit and it hit hard. I suffered personal losses of loved ones with so many others in the world. But, in the midst of so much devastation, I kept thinking, “there has to be some good to come out of this.” I started thinking about what I could do to lift people’s spirits, including my own. I turned to what I love, which is to plan events and weddings. Since outside was closed, I started to share pictures and videos on social media of when outside was open (click here to see). This reminded me of how important it is to have a great photographer and videographer. They are worth the investment because the final product helps us to experience the celebration and all the “feels” again and again. It's priceless.
So, on my visual and verbal journey to “spread JOY” during this difficult time, I had an amazing opportunity to help celebrate the accomplishments of an awesome 2020 high school graduate from Jackson, Mississippi. Miss Kamilah Soleil Brown is on her way to study the viola at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory this Fall and her parents, Jeff and Yoluanda wanted to celebrate her “in” community. The coronavirus did not want us to be great, but I was determined to find a way. I shared with Yoluanda that I figured out a way for us to do it being “COVID compliant” and she immediately said “Yes, let’s do it!” We had exactly 4 weeks to make it happen. Since I could not travel to be with them on site, we aligned on the platforms we would use to connect with each other and to track our progress throughout the planning, designing and coordination stages. We were set.
So, with Yoluanda in Jackson, MS and I in Brooklyn, NY, we planned a fabulous No-Contact and Virtual College Trunk Party that included 3 live performances from Kamilah on the viola and 1 private Zoom party. The “stage” for her live performance was set with beautiful organic balloon garlands installed outside their home. Complimenting Kamilah’s “stage” were garden lawn signs and hanging banners that congratulated the 2020 graduate and pointed all eyes in her direction. We also designed a table dedicated to Kamilah’s journey and another table with special favor bags for guests who attended.
To help guests socially distance while attending the event in person, custom lawn signs were created and positioned in front of the Brown’s home for “Car #1,” “Car #2,” etc., to line up and have great seats in their cars for Kamilah's performance (click here to see). We coordinated a site survey in advance of the big day for a sound technician to determine the right equipment needed for guests to clearly hear Kamilah perform live up to 60 feet away. After each of Kamilah’s beautiful 10 minute performances, guests were directed one car at a time, to exit their vehicle and stand on the “X” marked in the walkway. At this safe distance, Kamilah could be seen standing behind them on stage for the photographer to get “group shots” of guests with Kamilah and no one touching. It was a great success! Our guest of honor was pleased, Jeff and Yoluanda were happy and guests expressed great joy for being invited to the celebration. One guest told Yoluanda, “This made my entire day.” I was beyond proud as I attended and coached virtually. Later that night, the Browns hosted a private family Zoom celebration with loved ones who couldn’t be there in person. The private celebration included dinner delivered from a favorite local restaurant and cake to top off the sweetness of the day.
Here's what Yoluanda had to say about her experience planning this celebration.
Tell us why it was important for you to plan your special celebration during this time?
To honor a wonderful, talented, scholarly young lady who has worked very hard. To celebrate her accomplishments. To allow others to recognize and celebrate her. To allow her to share her gifts.
What part of your celebration was most special to you?
The concert. Watching our guests enjoy her music.
What was it like working with Suzette virtually? What was it like working with the event Team?
I enjoyed working with Suzette so much because she is super organized and handles things down to the detail. She has great ideas and vision beyond what I could see and envision. She is super responsive and follows up as she promises. She is resourceful even across the miles finding vendors and sources that allowed me peace of mind and took things off my to-do list. Very personable, easy to talk to, like talking to an old friend.
Would you recommend Envisioned Events by Suzette to others? If so or if not, why?
Absolutely because of the level of warm and homey professionalism. Delivered on what she promised and was able to give good advice, support, and had the experience to know what would and would not work.
Thank you so much Yoluanda for trusting us with such a special celebration in your family’s life. It was an honor and a pleasure to collaborate with you and I am most happy that we were able to celebrate Kamilah safely and JOYfully. Wishing Kamilah nothing but the best. Go Class of 2020!
On 2.20.20, my daughter forwarded me an email whose subject line read, "You're Graduating! 100 Days Until Commencement." I was excited. I felt proud. I was ready to attend GRADUATION and bare witness to the successful completion of her undergraduate college career at the school of her dreams. Go #risd2020!
Twenty-one days later . . . students had to completely move out of campus housing for the remainder of the semester; online classes would begin after Spring break; the Seniors' Fashion Show was cancelled; and the graduation ceremony scheduled for 5.30.20 was highly unlikely. (Side bar -- this was also the day that Broadway announced that they were shutting down until April 12th (now it's 6.7.20), so my April 4th tickets to see the Tina Turner Musical with friends and family members for my birthday had to be rescheduled.)
Honestly, I was gut punched. I could not wrap my mind around how graduating seniors would not have a graduation ceremony nor their senior activities. It took me a few days to mourn the loss of these life milestones because we had invested so much and waited so long. I needed a minute to get out of my feelings.
It's here that I want to encourage others to be mindful of the fact that people, young and "older" (not old), have endured a variety of losses as a result of the Coronavirus. People have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, money, health insurance, access to healthy meals, distance from abusers, freedom to live their best lives, proms, senior trips, college sweatshirt days, graduations and the opportunity to do the things that seniors do to create memories together for the last time in that place.
In the midst of these difficult times, there are people who step forward to help others get through it. I want to thank our front line workers everywhere, in every capacity, who are risking their lives to help us get through this pandemic.
I also want to thank those who are helping others in ways we don't see publicly. Those who are shopping for their neighbors. Those who are providing financial assistance to people who need it. Wives who are lining up their husband's hairline (LOL); and Makeup Artists who are helping brides do their own makeup for their virtual weddings (shout out Meagan J for her work in this area!)
There may be things that don't seem important to you or are not a big deal in your opinion, but it means something to others. Life is still moving forward on many levels and people need help on different frequencies. Let's respect that. Let's honor that and not be so dismissive. "The little things matter a lot." I encourage us all to remember that.
So, I'm excitedly working with some parents "up North" and "down South" who want to celebrate the hard work of their children who are going off to college this fall. What we're creating in honor of these amazing seniors will be "COVID-19 Complient" and so much fun. Tune in on social media to see what happens.
Note that a "reworked" graduation celebration for my daughter & her friends is in the works. We've got to do something. Not just because I'm an Event & Wedding Planner and I do what I love. It's happening because this is what I've been called to do. It is who I am and I won't apologize for it. I've been called to help people #celebratelife. Celebrations help us to see the good in life. Celebrations help us to reconnect with others when time and distance has kept us apart. Celebrations create good memories and make for good stories. Celebrations help us to play harder than we work.
We need some light and joy in the midst of this tough time. So, let's remember the #classof2020 & celebrate!
One of the largest expenses of your wedding will be the venue and catering. Some report that the venue and catering can easily be up to half of your wedding budget. So when couples begin to identify who their wedding vendor team will be, they also look at where they can possibly save money. There are times that this budget review leads some couples to opt out of hiring their own Wedding Planner or Day of Coordinator, especially when the venue says that they provide Coordinators/Assistants for all of their brides.
Venues providing a designated Coordinator and/or Assistant for your wedding is a wonderful bonus. I actually serve as a Wedding Ceremony Coordinator for an amazing venue in Brooklyn and assisting brides with the planning of their ceremonies has been an awesome experience. I've had the pleasure of working with some of the sweetest brides ever and I love it!
But one thing couples should note with Wedding Coordinators or Assistants provided with their venue of choice, is that their duties do not include ALL of the bride and groom's wedding planning needs. Venue Coordinators and Assistants add great value to your experience, but couples need additional help. The couples I work with at the venue in Brooklyn have the option of adding on services with me, beyond what's included in their packages, to cover additional needs.
For example, if your wedding ceremony is taking place at a church or another location not connected to the venue, you will have to coordinate the logistics of the ceremony on your own or with the Planner/Coordinator you've invested in for yourself. That Planner/Coordinator you've invested in will help you schedule your wedding rehearsal at the designated location or your home and help to get your family and bridal party all the way together for what they will actually do on your wedding day.
Also note, that if you have out of town guests who need ground transportation to and from the airport, along with hotel reservations while they are in town; the Wedding Planner you've hired to work with the intricate details of your wedding can take care of all of that and make sure that your guests receive the special welcome gift you curated for them.
The Wedding Planner/Coordinator that you invested in as a part of your wedding vendor team will also: (1) brainstorm the perfect "first dance" song(s) with you; (2) offer suggestions on where to find those blinged out sneakers you want for your reception dancing; (3) help you find another makeup artist because the one booked, had an emergency the night before your wedding and can't make it (unfortunate, but true); (4) help coax your flower girl down the aisle, while sprinkling the flower petals from her basket; and (5) work with your photographer to submit your photos for featuring to a wedding industry publication.
Investing in a Wedding Planner or Day of Coordinator to work with your venue provided Coordinator will cover you in ways you don't yet know. We bring so much value to your planning and work with your entire wedding vendor team to create an amazing wedding experience for you and your guests. Let's get you married in peace!