The 10+ Year Club: First Coast Weddings and Events

We’re excited to be starting a new blog series! Over the next several weeks, we’ll be spotlighting local wedding companies that have been in business for 10 or more years. And naturally, we’ll start with ourselves! Here are the questions we’ll be asking other wedding professionals, and our answers as given by our owner, Heather Canada.

What year did you start your business? 2002

What was your motivation? I had worked in theme parks, country clubs, and hotels for several years after college. I knew in college I wanted to be an event planner, but I saw myself working for a corporation planning their shareholder events, training seminars, and trade shows. Working in catering, I began doing weddings and eventually fell in love with the variety and personalization that weddings offered. I wanted a chance to work more closely with my brides and grooms than I was able to in a club or hotel setting, so First Coast Weddings was born!

How has your business changed over the years? My initial vision was to do a mix of corporate events and weddings – but over the years, I have focused our marketing and attention solely on weddings. We’ll do the occasional corporate dinner or social event, but it’s usually a spin-off from someone who knows us from the wedding world! We have also grown in size – I started with one assistant coordinator, and now our team includes six planners/coordinators.

Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently? Of course, there are always decisions that you’d like to change – but overall, I’m very happy with where we are today!

What are you most proud of? I’m most proud of earning my Master Bridal Consultant designation in 2012, and I’m also proud to provide educational opportunities and apprenticeships to members of the Association of Bridal Consultants.

Why do you think your business has made it while so many other small businesses fail in the first five years? For wedding planners, there are really no barriers to entry to this industry. It’s easy for someone to have fun planning their own wedding, and think they can do it as a career. It’s much harder to take someone else’s vision and make it a reality – and then multiply that by 15 or 20 brides at once! I think that we provide excellent service to our clients, and we maintain close relationships with other wedding professionals. Referrals are always our number one source of new business! I also attend at least one continuing education conference each year to stay up on the latest trends and products.

What advice do you have for a business just starting out in your industry? Join ABC! I have created amazing friendships, opportunities, and connections over my 11 years as an ABC member. And I know that I have a network of other incredible planners around the world that I can count on when I need something. I also suggest interning or apprenticing with a seasoned planner before  jumping in. And be sure all of your financial and legal ducks are in a row before you hang out your shingle.

Do you have a most memorable wedding or funny story you’d like to share? I have so many wonderful memories! I think one of my favorites was from the photo below. It was after Kimberly and Victor’s wedding in 2008; I had spent over a year getting to know Kimberly and her family – both of her parents attended almost every meeting, and were part of every decision! They are a wonderful family full of love and caring. Usually at the end of the reception, we send the bride and groom off in a limo or Rolls Royce or horse and carriage… but Victor and Kimberly and her parents were there in the ballroom long after all the guests had left. Part of it was exhaustion, part of it was just enjoying reveling in the beauty and love of the day. I loved that they took a few minutes to relax and talk on the fuzzy pink lounge furniture before Kimberly and Victor went off to begin their life as husband and wife. So sweet!

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