This is something I have been writing and re-writting for over past nine months. For a very long time I didn’t know if I should or should not share it. Some people I know had babies in this time and here is me trying to figure out why anyone would even want to read this. It’s deeply personal. I am choosing to share it with all wedding planners, event professionals and all creatives who may have been been on the high and low spectrum of this industry. I hope sharing my experience will help someone out there.
Some of you may know the back story and some of you were alongside me as I was dealing with the aftermath. Thank you for all the love and support over the past nine months.
How the hell did you end up here? You used to be so confident and enthusiastic about everything… people, their weddings, or life in general come to think of it. The fairytale of it, the love the excitement, the anticipation and your drive to create something really beautiful. Your love for flowers and for that WOW factor that led to create beauty and magical moments in time… The love for your craft took you around the world and helped to shape you, inspired you and sent you on adrenalin inducing high… Remember that?
Maybe it the praise I craved… that ego needing constant fuel until its insatiable hunger was too big to feed? Was it the money? Or was it the exhilaration of cheating dangers, be it avoiding being eaten by the lions in the middle of Madikwe, or escaping attempted highjacking at the patrol station in the middle of nowhere? Was it the rush of defining all odds and somehow pulling a miracle out of thin air? All these reasons seem so pathetic now.
Was it some kind of super hero complex?
Then there was one experience that not only tilted my world off its axis, shattered my rose coloured glasses and nearly stripped all my love for everything that is beautiful and sacred. It’s insane how one wedding can ruin everything.
The whole thing started off just like any other wedding would start – consult, budget and negotiations. And right there, in that crucial stage… I made the biggest mistake. Rule 1 – only work with your A team. And I agreed to work with client’s suppliers IF I feel they were up to standard. Long story short – they were not.
With only 2 months to plan a high profile guest list wedding, complex set up in a remote location it was all systems go. Somehow, in the rush of it all and at the end of the two months I found myself literally stranded alone in the middle of African bush. It literally felt like things were crushing down around me in slow motion.
Fast forward to PTSD counselling, heavy debt to creditors and a client debrief followed by a dreary legal route, I had to take stock and figure out how did this happen?
- I allowed someone who has no idea about weddings to be in charge
- I was not strong enough to challenge him on his decisions until it was too late. I knew better, I saw the train wreck coming. And in that train wreck there was one heavy casualty – me
- I was too forgiving with late meetings, lack of confirmation of vital information. I would sit for hours waiting for the client to arrive. Crucial wedding planning work was not done due to waiting around. Key decisions delay, no feedback on decisions despite numerous meetings and written requests. I knew the danger signs and I chose to stick around. Yes, he is an important man, but time is important for all of us. I should have walked away. I should have respected myself enough to not allow someone to disrespect my time
- I was seduced by the high profile guest list and I allowed the potential benefit of producing a wedding at all costs justify my patience
- I was relying on the past scenarios where at the last moment I was granted required funds and decision making powers to fix the problems but did not happen this time. This time, I had no funds and no decision power and I paid the price.
I should have walked away when all warning signs were loud and clear
And yet, a dear friend shared her view of the situation. She pointed out to me that I was not alone. I was with amazing people who were put on my path and helped me. I had all the tools I needed to complete the job. I had experience and I had the stamina to endure it. I was placed in that point in life because I was capable of producing a miracle for someone who challenged every single wedding planning strategy I placed in place in the past 12 years. He showed me, in the very twisted way, that my wedding planning processes work but only when the client respects the process and when I as a wedding planner follow my own rules. Rule 1 – work with your A team and Rule 2 – no payment, no wedding. Producing a miracle this time was traumatic, unrewarding and I found my adrenalin induced highs have limits and definitely not worth it.
And now, when I listen to the news and hear his name, I get flash backs and darkness envelops me and I have to pause and just breathe. Some days the rage is so strong that it makes me want to smash things around me into pieces, but I started boxing and that helps immensely. So if you see me at the gym hitting the punch bag, there is a high probability I am working off some serious anger issues from last year. Every day, I force myself to push him out of my mind and I focus on the beautiful and amazing couples I get to work with.
And yet, my excitement doesn’t come spontaneously anymore. Call it experience, being jaded or just plain getting old, but I found myself accessing the risk factors as couples walk through the door before I allow myself to dream up something amazing for them. The fear is now my constant companion, but I am learning to treat it as a reminder rather than something that is going to prevent me from living my creative life to the fullest.
What I have come to realise that there are ups and downs in every aspects of life. It’s a part of life. You can’t control or stop it. It is beyond your capabilities. You simply cannot know if the next couple walking through your door has the potential to be your biggest career high or the cause of your downfall. Only one thing which you can do is to take preventive measures in order to prevent the drastic and depressive situation from ever happening.
And most importantly you cannot stop living this creative life. Money can be lost and money can be made… but bringing beauty into the world is a worthy calling, if not a privilege. And if you ever find yourself in a dreary situation, just remember it this is ONE event that didn’t end as a fairy tale, so learn from it, grow and carry on creating! Let your experience drive you to get stronger, get even and then go on and become even better than ever before!