Jackie Rowell Events is a full-service event planning company based in Birmingham, Alabama. We travel nationwide whenever the opportunity arises, for weddings, corporate events, or conventions. Having been in the event industry for over 25 years, we have experienced the entire realm of planning and managing events, especially weddings. Our expertise lies in the details and organization of the event. We tell our clients: “Your event is also our event, and we want it to be as successful as you do.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
Each and every event I’m involved in has its own set of challenges, of course. But, I think the most challenging thing I’ve encountered was when my bride canceled her wedding the day before her wedding day. Everyone was trying to talk her down and change her mind, but after I had an opportunity to talk to her and heard her reasoning, I knew there was no changing her mind.
We got to work notifying vendors, and her family was contacting guests all day both days, but it was impossible to reach everyone. Some had even come from out of town. The venue coordinator was a big help by being onsite with me at the time the wedding was planned to let those who showed up know what had happened. We offered drinks and the planned appetizers to those who wanted to stay for a while.
I helped the bride’s mom return gifts as best I could and just held her hand for a couple of weeks afterward, but all worked out ok.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
1. I love that couples are making their weddings their own and don’t feel restricted by tradition or ceremonial requirements. We encourage them to add elements that will personalize their ceremony and/or reception, with good taste, of course. We don’t let things get out of hand as we plan. They don’t want to embarrass or humiliate anyone or themselves.
2. I like seeing all the suspended arrangements at events these days. This is a way that designers can get really creative. It doesn’t have to be a hanging chandelier; it can be a cage, a wagon wheel, a metal sculpture, or any sort of structure.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Vendors are our teammates. In order to have any type of successful event, there has to be a camaraderie among the team for it to work. As a planner, I see myself as the captain, not the dictator or president. There needs to be respect, familiarity, and professionalism. My job is to pull it all together. My vendor relationships are of utmost importance.
I cultivate these relationships by showing respect, most of all. I try to involve myself in as many professional organizations as possible in order to see these individuals on a regular basis and network with them. I like to have coffee or drinks with any new vendors I may meet just to get to know them and familiarize myself with their work. I don’t have a specific vendor group I use for my events, but because I know so many in the industry, I know immediately which ones are best for my particular client because of my relationships.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
Establish room in your budget for a professional event planner if you’ve never planned a fundraiser before. Don’t expect that event planner to work for free if he or she is an experienced planner. You might find someone who is new to the business willing to work for the exposure, but you still won’t be able to draw on the experience that a professional would be willing to offer.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
I was a corporate event planner for five years, and because of consolidation and changes within the organization, my position was going to change in a way that was not what I wanted. So, I decided to branch out on my own, using my experience and knowledge of marketing and event planning.
My first clients were some whom I assisted with their marketing communications, producing brochures, intra-office materials, and an occasional small event. I continued producing marketing materials, but events became my passion. I liked starting from the beginning, taking care of all the details, solving problems, and seeing it all come to fruition. Thus my focus on event planning.
With the help of a lot of friends, family, and industry relationships that I had maintained from the corporate world, my client base grew in about 1 1/2 years to a point where I felt a sense of stability and had a steady workflow.