ABC Florida State Conference Recap #BeBoldABC


This week, I had the pleasure of working with my dear friends and fellow Master Wedding Planners Carmen Mesa of Carmen Mesa Events and Tammy Waterman of Special Moments Event Planning to produce a fabulous conference for wedding professionals. The Association of Bridal Consultants' Florida State Conference is always a labor of love, but hearing each and every attendee walk away saying how much they had learned makes it all worth it! Here's a little recap: Saturday night, we treated our amazing speakers to a fun evening at Sweet Pete's and The Candy Apple Cafe and Cocktails.


Sunday morning kicked off with brunch, where I got to tell everyone some interesting facts about Jacksonville. (#ILoveJax)

brunch collage(thanks to Rose of Sharon European Florist for the centerpieces, Beachview Event Rentals for the chairs, and PRI Productions for the super cool Jacksonville backdrop)

general session

After brunch, we went into our general session room for lots of great educational content:

And then it was on to the poolside cocktail reception! The weather could not have been more amazing. As event planners, we always worry about the weather when planning outdoor events - especially in August in Florida! But there was not a drop of rain that day, and the breeze made the rooftop deck quite comfortable.

Omni hotel Jacksonville poolside reception

Day 2 of the conference started with a casual breakfast. How cool are these centerpieces from Rose of Sharon European Florist?

breakfast centerpieces

And the Omni Hotel Jacksonville staff created the letters "ABC" out of the parfaits!


For Tuesday's lunch, each speaker was assigned a table. Lauren from Ten23 Designs created these adorable signs with their names! She also made tons of other cute decor pieces that were used throughout the conference.

lunch table

Monday's educational sessions were just as amazing as Sunday's:

  • Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting - Attaining Expert Status: How to Become on Expert Industry Leader
  • Susan Southerland, Just Marry! - Selling to Couples at Every Planning Phase
  • Charlene Shirk, C. Shirk Productions - Pitch Perfect: How to Deliver A Great Media Interview
  • Bryan Glynn, BGPictures - Critical Website & Internet Tips for Your Business and Making $$ with YouTube
  • Donnie Brown & Steve Kemble - Social Media As Your PR Consultant (Round Table)

Sadly, it was time to say good bye to all of our friends, new and old. These little snack packs had water, chips, and sweets for the drive/flight home.

take home snack boxes

heather canada donnie brown steve kemble

It was an amazing (and exhausting!) three days, and I am so thankful for everyone that attended. Want to see more photos? Check out the ABC Florida Facebook page.

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2014 Planner of the Year - National Association for Catering and Events


NACE Experience! 2015 ConferenceI've just returned from the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) conference - known as Experience! 2015 - in Scottsdale, AZ. I love going to conferences, and I think continuing education is crucial in our industry. Even though I have been doing weddings for 16 years, and I have owned my own company for 13 years, I learn something new at every single session I go to. While I anticipated coming home with lots of great new knowledge, I didn't anticipate coming home with this amazing award: 2014 Planner of the Year. Wow. I'm still in shock. Especially since I didn't even know I was nominated!

Our NACE Northeast Florida Chapter President, Belinda Cottrell from the Marriott Sawgrass, secretly entered me into this category. I have no idea how much time she put into this process, but I'm sure it was many, many, many hours of digging. 2014 Planner of the Year National Association for Catering and EventsHaving submitted awards entries for our chapter, I know how detailed and arduous the process is! So my eternal gratitude goes to Belinda and everyone else that helped her gather the information she needed.

So what is Planner of the Year? According to the pretty glass plaque (which I can't get a decent close-up photo of), this award is given "for outstanding achievement in the overall planning and production of events, as well as contributions which have made significant impact on the catering and events industry." Wow, again.  That's pretty heavy. And a lot to live up to! It amazes me that my industry colleagues think that description fits me. I am beyond humbled! It still hasn't sunk in that the beautiful glass plaque with those words etched on it also contains my name.

When I earned my Master Bridal Consultant designation in 2011, I was so honored that a panel of my peers thought that I deserved to be in this amazing group of professionals. And now, to be selected for one of the top honors in our industry, I can't believe that I get to do what I love every day and that people think I'm THIS good at it. Mind. Blown.

I have lots and lots of cool information to share that I learned at the conference, so stay tuned for more blog posts in the coming weeks. Cheers!

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Steampunk Themed Photo Shoot


Last summer, I had the honor of working with Ann at Premier Bride Magazine to create a steampunk-themed photo shoot for their Winter/Spring 2015 issue. The magazine is out now, so we are finally able to share the photos with you! Not only did we get to shoot at my alma mater, Flagler College, our photographer is a fellow alum too. It was amazing working with such a talented team of wedding pros on this shoot: zach•thomas•photography, Jade Violet Wedding & Event Floral Boutique, Beautiful Faces by Erin, Jill Stonier, Professional Makeup Artist, Bridals & More, Take One ProductionsFlagler College, Brooch the Possibilities, LLC St Augustine FL, The Panama Hat Company of St Augustine, Men's Wearhouse, Southern Charm Events, First Frost Designs and Simply Delicious Cakes.

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

Premier Bride Magazine - Zach Thomas Photography

And here is a great behind-the-scenes video to show how it all came together! It was so fun to think outside the box a bit for this shoot.

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Introducing Our New Custom Stationery Line


Simply Personal Wedding Invitations We are excited to present a new stationery line to our clients! We have decided to partner with Simply Personal because we love the level of customization they offer. We can also provide chair signs, seating charts, favor tags and more! Schedule an appointment to view the collection at our office.

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Congratulations, Ashleigh and Charles!


ashleigh-charles1 This weekend, we'll be celebrating the wedding of one of our own! It's time for Ashleigh and Charles to tie the knot, and we couldn't be happier for them. Ashleigh has written some blog posts during her wedding planning journey, and I'm sure that after some down time she'll share with us what she learned along the way!

I have gotten to witness three of our team members say "I do" - Emma, Melanie, and Lauren - and I'm so excited to add Ashleigh to that list. Best wishes to the happy couple!

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Spring 2015 Internship


heather-cake-cutting-lauren-caleb Does this look like fun?

We are currently seeking smart, professional and outgoing students to apply for our Spring 2015 internship! Interns must be enrolled in a Bachelor's/Master's program at an accredited college or university and provide documentation from their school stating they are able to receive academic credit for this internship. This unpaid internship will run from January through April or May, depending on your school's calendar and/or requirements.

Intern Office Duties:

  • Assist with daily office operations
  • Email information to prospective clients
  • Follow up on inquiries and book appointments
  • Create blog entries
  • Work on marketing campaigns
  • Answer phones in a professional manner
  • Respond to emails in a timely manner
  • Work with the First Coast Weddings team to create new procedures, promotions, etc.
  • Use proper grammar and spelling at all times
  • Maintain a clean and organized work area
  • Other duties as needed

Internship Requirements:

  • Minimum of 12 hours in the office each week, and availability on weekends.
  • Dress in business casual attire while at the office, black suit on wedding days. Remember, first impressions are everything in this business!
  • Represent First Coast Weddings in a professional and courteous manner at all times.
  • Be pro-active and look for tasks to assist with when your assignments are complete
  • Willingness to sign a agreement stating that all paperwork, files, vendor information or client data is proprietary and confidential
  • Act as a team player
  • Failure to report for a scheduled shift without notice (no-show) will result in termination of the internship. If you cannot work your scheduled shift, you must notify the lead coordinator at least three hours prior to your scheduled start time.


To be considered for an internship, please complete the application by clicking here.

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It's Our 12th Anniversary!


Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversary for First Coast Weddings and Events, so we thought we'd share some ideas for 12th anniversary gifts! The traditional gifts are silk and linen. What a great chance to do a little redecorating?

silk drapes Pottery Barn

Beautiful dupioni silk drapes from Pottery Barn

monogrammed tablecloth Pottery Barn

Monogrammed linen tablecloth, also from Pottery Barn

The modern gift for a 12th anniversary is the pearl. A Southern favorite! What girl wouldn't love a new pearl necklace or pair of earrings?

Pearl diamond earrings

Pearl and diamond earrings from Jared

Pearl necklace Jared

Pearl and diamond necklace, also from Jared

What would you like to receive on your anniversary?

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ABC Florida Shine Conference 2014


I had such an amazing weekend last week! Not only did I get to attend the Association of Bridal Consultants' Florida State Conference - shine - but I also got to speak at the event. Here are a few images from Day 1 of the conference, taken by fabulous photographer Claire Pacelli. If you've wondered what happens when a group of wedding planners get together for continuing education, here's a little peek:

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My fellow speakers, along with the conference co-chairs: Sharon Baragona, A Chair Affair; Kelly McWilliams, Weddings By Socialites; oh hey, that's me!; Mark Kingsdorf, ABC Florida State Manager; Coach Jenn Lee; Brian Joyce and Richard Streitler, Flourish Floral Productions; Elisa Delgardio, A Flair For Affairs

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Oh, and did I mention, another fellow speaker: celebrity wedding planner Donnie Brown?

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There are so many more fabulous photos, but this one I think is my favorite:


"The Speaker Selfie." This beauty was captured by Kelly McWilliams (and posted to Instagram) after we posed for a more formal group photo. Love it!

If you work in this industry, and you aren't attending conferences like this, you are missing out! And if you are a bride or groom, as your wedding professionals what they do for continuing education. It makes a huge difference!

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ABC Business of Brides 2013


Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Bridal Consultants' annual conference, Business of Brides. It's one of the highlights of my year to see friends from around the world, and learn and grow with them. Association of Bridal Consultants Business of Brides Conference

I got to spend time with wedding planners from Latin America, Canada, Japan, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the list goes on and on. But even better was getting to spend four days with my direct competition. You read right, there were four wedding planners from Jacksonville attending the conference. And not only did I share a hotel room with one, I spent a total of eight hours in the car round trip with them.

I'm very proud that our town has such a great wedding community. While we are competitors, I see these wonderful ladies as allies. In fact, one of them, Tanya Hendricks of Southern Charm Events, and I did a presentation together. It was called "Playing Nice: Cultivating Alliances Not Animosity," and focused on building relationships while focusing on your own business instead of worrying what everyone else is doing. It was a huge hit, and I met some terrific ladies that came up to share stories after the session.

I also got to spend time with Monica Bernhardt of To-Doers Event Planning, and my fellow Master Bridal Consultant Lisa Burnett of Elegant Weddings By Lisa. While we see each other at local networking events, we don't often get to spend that much time together, and it's always great getting to know these ladies a little bit better.

The conference theme, Palm Beach Chic, was inspired by Lilly Pulitzer, so lots of bright colors greeted us at each breakfast, lunch, and break. With the exception of one - The White Party, a welcome reception where everyone donned their white resort casual wear for a great cocktail party. The bar from Just Bars was an amazing focal point - I can wait to use one of these at an upcoming event!

just bars

And the speakers - wow! Matthew Robbins of Matthew Robbins Design was our design speaker. As a contributing editor for Martha Stewart Weddings, he had lots of great insight on finding inspiration for an event theme. Plus he shared photos from his own wedding!

We also heard from Susan Southerland, who we are happy to have as a top-notch Florida wedding planner - she owns Just Marry! in Orlando. She is a phenomenal speaker, and all-around great person.

And lastly, we were reminded of our brilliance (his word, not mine) by Simon T. Bailey. If you haven't read his books, go buy them now. I'll wait. I think that all of us in that room have made changes (some significant) that will affect our lives forever. If you ever have the chance to hear Simon speak, don't hesitate.

But in addition to these fabulous keynote addresses, there were over 25 amazing breakout sessions. I attended "Modern Jewish Weddings," and "Are You Ready for the Storm? Disaster Preparedness for Wedding Professionals," both of which gave me great information to bring back to our team.

I can't say enough about how great it is to be in a room of 300+ wedding professionals from around the world. Every year, I come back energized and renewed, and ready to tackle the year ahead. If you are a wedding planner and aren't an ABC member, or you are a member that doesn't attend conference - call me! I'd love to share more about the experience.


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Happy Birthday To Us!



On November 8, 2002, I filed the official paperwork creating First Coast Weddings and Events. Whew. I actually had to call the IRS and talk to a real person to get a taxpayer ID number, because they didn't have a way to do it online back then. My, how things have changed!

And talk about changes... sometimes I look back at a file that has my original logo on it. What was I thinking?! And my first website - you don't even want to know what that looked like! It had a marble background, very corporatey looking. Not me at all! I'm so thankful that I learned early on that I needed to be myself, and that I would attract clients that are like me. I am still amazed that I managed to book any clients with that original website - but I did.

As I was typing this, I decided to actually show you that hideous old logo. And it took quite a while to find!

original FCWE logo

It wasn't on the two external hard drives I normally use for backup/old files. It wasn't on any flash drives. Guess what I finally had to dig out to find it? Yep, one of these bad boys:


The Iomega Zip 100mb. The precursor to flash drives. Now 90% of my files live in the cloud, not even on a physical drive. Mind. Blown.

Well, enough of this stroll down memory lane. I'm happy to announce that our current logo got a little tweak. Not a huge change, but I hope you like it!

First Coast Weddings and Events logo

I changed the pineapple a little bit and updated the font on the bottom line. I've wrestled with this for a long time - I even hired a designer to create a completely new logo last year. But I could never bring myself to start using it, even though I loved it. So I've been playing around with it for about a year now, and I think I'm finally happy! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

And here's some other cool stuff that's happened this year - Lauren got married, moved back to Jacksonville, and rejoined our team! Emma give birth to her second child, a sweet little girl that we all adore! And just last weekend, Kari got engaged! So it's been a pretty spectacular year for our team. We can't wait to see what the next year holds.

First Coast Weddings 2013 Year In Review

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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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Premier Wedding Expo Bridal Show - This Sunday!


Premier Wedding Expo Bridal Show Jacksonville FL Show PosterLooking for a great way to meet lots of wedding professionals in one place? Stop by the Premier Wedding Expo this Sunday! We have been proud to help produce these great events for many years, and they keep getting better.

  • Over 100 exhibitors
  • Great discounts and prizes will be available for brides planning their weddings
  • Each bride gets a bridal bag when entering the show

The event runs from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the UNF University Center (12000 Alumni Drive). Tickets are $10 at the door, but if  you purchase the online in advance they are only $7! Be sure to visit the show's website,, to learn more.

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Flagler College Weddings | St. Augustine, Florida


A fairy tale setting, right here in North Florida. Actually, four fairy tale settings. I'm pleased to announce that First Coast Weddings and Events has been approved to coordinate and plan weddings at Flagler College in St. Augustine. As a Flagler alum, I'm super excited because this magical place was literally my home. And I can't wait to share it with brides and grooms.

Flagler College Weddings

Flagler College has opened four of their facilities to the public for use during the summer months, when school is not in session. The venues include:

  • The Ponce de Leon Ballroom, which is part of the original Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1888. The Ponce celebrates it's 125th anniversary this year! The ballroom is surrounded by original Tiffany stained glass windows, ornate wood carvings, and murals by George W. Maynard.
  • The Solarium, also in the Ponce, was just added to the venue list this month. This amazing space on the top floor of the building overlooks the St. Augustine skyline. The Solarium was just renovated after sitting vacant since 1971. (Read about the renovations here)
  • Markland House has the feel of a Southern estate. In fact, it was originally built in an orange grove! The large trees and historic furnishings add to the ambiance.
  • The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum features tiled floors, wood beam cathedral ceilings and an outdoor garden. This space can be a blank slate during July and August, since there are not exhibits on display during these months.

Since three of these four venues are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Ponce is a National Historic Landmark, there are lots of regulations in place to protect the facilities. All the rental costs, guidelines and more photos are on the Flagler College website. Or, you can contact us for additional information about how we can help you plan your wedding at these amazing new (old) venues.

The photo above is from the Flagler College website and was taken by our friends (and fellow Flagler alums!) at Life and Love Studio.

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We'll Be Back - Honest!


You may have noticed, we haven't been blogging lately. In almost 3 months, actually. Oops! :)

Hopefully you can forgive our absence. But we will be back, starting next week - and we'll continue featuring real weddings, tips to help with your planning, and vendor spotlights to showcase the great people we work with.

Do you have a topic you'd like help with? Ask us at

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We Won! 2013 Wedding Industry Expert Awards

winnerThe results are in for the 2013 Wedding Industry Expert Awards. We're honored to be selected among the top wedding planners in the country again this year! Winner: Best Wedding Planner - Jacksonville Winner: Top 5 Best Wedding Planner - Jacksonville Winner: Top 10 Best Wedding Planner - Jacksonville Finalist: Best Wedding Planner - Florida - Ranking: 3 of 3 Finalist: Top 5 Best Wedding Planner - Florida - Ranking: 3 of 5

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Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour


We had a great time last Sunday participating in the first Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour, hosted by our friends at The Wedding Loft. The premise is that brides and grooms visit four venues, all set up as they would be for a wedding, and they get to enjoy food and entertainment while meeting great wedding professionals. It's like a bridal show on wheels!

We were at The Carling, which is an interesting historic venue in Downtown Jacksonville. The building was formerly the Carling Hotel/Hotel Roosevelt, built in 1925; now it's home to gorgeous apartments! Restored architectural features include Palladian windows, terrazo floors, and a beautiful marble staircase to the private event space.

Thanks to J'Adore Studios for the fun photos! To see more photos from the tour, check out Liz's blog post.

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

The Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour attendees on the bus!

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

At the entrance to The Carling

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

Design and florals by Blush 129

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

Cake and cupcakes by Choux Bakery

Jacksonville Wedding Venue Tour

Food by D'Vine Cuisine

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Celebrating 10 Years

In November, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of First Coast Weddings and Events. I put together a small dinner party for our team, and I'm excited to finally share the photos with you! There were so many gorgeous images from Kris Graham Photography that I had a hard time narrowing it down!

Thanks to Rose of Sharon European Florist, D'Vine Cuisine, Kirby Rentals, and Classic Cakes for making it all happen. And of course, to Emma, Melanie, Kari and Ashleigh for being such an amazing team!

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Happy Holidays!


team photo nov 2012 happy holidays

2012 is almost over - can you believe it?! We've celebrated our 10th anniversary, we've added two amazing ladies to our team, we've moved to a new office, and we've celebrated the weddings of some spectacular clients! We wanted to take a moment to thank you for your friendship and love this year, and we look forward to many more joyous celebrations in 2013.

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November In A Nutshell


So... I haven't been blogging very much this month. Sorry! But here's what has been going on this month. First, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. We had an amazing company dinner at a beautiful riverfront home at sunset. I don't have the professional pics yet, but here's a little sneak preview:

Huge thank-yous to D'Vine Cusine, Rose of Sharon European Florist, Kris Graham Photography, Classic Cakes, D'Land Productions, and Kirby Rentals for making it all happen.

A day later, I left for Colorado to speak at the Association of Bridal Consultants' Business of Brides conference. I always love getting to see my fellow wedding planners and friends at the annual conference. We got to hear great ideas from industry leaders Donnie Brown and Rebecca Grinnals, see new products and trends, and learn about all sorts of topics. I met a wonderful woman, Yehudit Steinberg, from the Jewish Interfaith Wedding Network, who specializes in creating custom interfaith ceremonies for brides and grooms. Plus, I attended a session called, "Special Needs Weddings for Visually, Hearing, and Mobility Impaired."

To make it an even better trip, I got to spend a few extra days in Colorado, enjoying Estes Park and Vail.

Before I knew it, Thanksgiving was here, and now it's already November 30th! This month has really flown by - I hope yours was as great as mine was.

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