After obtaining a BA from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), Montreal, Canada, she began her career as a teacher in Jamaica. She obtained a Diploma in Education at UWI, Mona and on her return to Trinidad entered the field of Human Resource Management. It was in her position as Manager of Training and Development, that her skills for planning, organizing and executing successful conferences, seminars, meetings and training programs, were honed.
Marilyn ventured into the general area of Event Planning after leaving the Corporate World. She began by owning and managing one of the first Party Rental companies in Trinidad and Tobago – P&S Rentals. She joined the International Special Events Society now known as the International Live Events Association so that she could keep abreast of state of the art offerings in the party rental industry. She has been recognized by that Organization as a founding member of the South Florida / Caribbean chapter.
She found her niche however in the Wedding market and is the founder, owner and Principal Consultant of TriniWeddings. She has earned the Certified Wedding Specialist designation from Weddings Beautiful Worldwide and since 1994 has been coordinating and producing many successful local weddings. TriniWeddings has catered to many high profile clients but the clientele is diverse because Marilyn believes that everyone deserves to have the “perfect stress free” wedding. This is achieved through her years of experience with getting it right and her association with many of the country’s more prominent service providers.
Marilyn plans a great many “destination” weddings here in Trinidad and other Caribbean countries for brides who reside abroad. She is a Certified Sandals Specialist as well as a Sandals Weddingmoons Specialist which means that your destination wedding and or honeymoon at the 5 star luxury included Sandals or Beaches resort in whichever Caribbean island you choose, is in capable hands.
In 2014, Marilyn became the licensee for Weddings Beautiful Caribbean which is an affiliate of Weddings Beautiful Worldwide; known in the industry for its excellent wedding planning courses. In this regard, she conducts courses and confers certification on wedding professionals throughout the Caribbean region.
She is also a part-time lecturer at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business in Trinidad and Tobago where she facilitates the Wedding Planning Module in the Event Management Certificate Program which is done in conjunction with the George Washington University in the United States.
The Luxury Travel Guide (LTG) awarded TriniWeddings Wedding Specialist of the Year in 2017 and Destination Wedding Specialist in 2019.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
I started off doing Corporate Events before Weddings. My biggest challenge was trying to plan an event for an Organization on a limited budget. I did an Event which reflected their budget and was certainly not the standard I wanted to be recognized for. I decided that Corporations had too much red tape, egos, and players influencing decision making and that my talents would be better served doing personal events. Although the emotional component is strong, I find that Weddings are a better fit for me.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
My answers are based on weddings specifically:
1. I am excited about micro weddings which I consider the new normal. Fewer guests are invited to the actual event which can be live streamed for the other guests. It allows couples to save money on the actual wedding, spend more time with the small group in attendance, does not put pressure on out-of-towners to attend in person, and allows the couple to have a fabulous honeymoon. I see so many couples who keep putting off their honeymoons (i.e. precious time alone in a fabulous setting) and never getting the time because the kids start arriving.
2. Destination wedding getaways are not necessarily new but are certainly gaining in popularity. This combines everything wedding into a weekend or longer trip. Couples can have the bachelor and bachelorette parties, spa treatments, welcome ceremony, wedding ceremony, wedding reception and honeymoon included in one trip. It is especially good for couples who live together. They get a chance to get away from their usual environment and celebrate new experiences with their guests.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Vendors can make or break you, and they are an extension of your business. As a Planner I know only too well that a client does not care that it was the cake maker who messed up, it always falls back on the planner so vendors are extremely important to my business reputation.
As a result of this I have my tried and tested vendors whom I know will be an asset to my brand. I do not haggle price with my vendors. I have a select cadre of vendors in the same category at different price points and skills sets so I know who to call for which type of service. Most importantly is the fact that I respect their contracts and always pay them on time.
I do not set time lines for my vendors, I tell them when it is needed and they decide when they would deliver within my parameters. For instance, my make up artists know how long they would take to make up a face and what time they can start so I work with their timing. In so doing they see that I respect their professionalism.
Another important point is that I credit vendors for services performed so mention must be made of their services on social media posts for instance.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
I love teaching and passing on knowledge.
In order for me to teach effectively I have to keep learning to make sure that I always keep abreast of the latest trends in the wedding industry. I love embracing new concepts and ideas. The pandemic has opened up many new ways of staging weddings and other events.
In this regard, I am anxious to add among other things, the use of technology and virtual platforms available to Event Creatives to the courses that I teach both at Weddings Beautiful Caribbean and the Event Management Program. I believe that even when the Pandemic is over these still have a place in the Wedding Industry.
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?
My mother owned a Party Rental Company and when I became disillusioned with trying to climb the Corporate ladder I decided to invest my exit pension earnings on opening a Branch of her Company. Many of the customers coming in to rent items were doing so for Weddings and were asking my advice.
During this period I had been invited to the most horribly planned wedding ever! In other words there had not been a plan. Guests were left hungry, uncomfortable and with the general feeling that their time would have been better spent elsewhere. This experience made me realize that Wedding Planning would have been a natural lucrative market and it was certainly more interesting for me than renting equipment etc. At that time in Trinidad and Tobago people were still fully immersed in planning their own weddings and the idea of hiring someone to plan their wedding was a very novel and unwelcome idea.
I am not the kind of person who felt comfortable getting my feet wet without the education to back me up so I decided to research the market and invest in Wedding Planning education. I also attended International conferences and joined International Organizations.
Although I was poised in a successful Party Rental company to attract the clientele, convincing them that they needed to hire a Wedding Planner was not an easy task. It was a conflict of customs and traditions. Little by little I began to attract clients who initially were mainly expatriates working in the energy sector and it took me about two years to start attracting the local market.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
The first wedding I remember planning brings a smile to my face. It was for a French Canadian groom and a Venezuelan bride. Neither of them was fluent in either English or each other’s language and it is amazing that they were able to connect to the point of marriage, but that is the wonder of love!
I was able to deliver what they wanted and they were happy with the execution of the event. However, I had hired one of my friends as the videographer without knowing much about how proficient he was. It turned out that he had been fascinated with the shape of the bride and had focused the camera too many times for comfort, on the rear part of her anatomy during the reception.
I was upset when I reviewed the video but was very grateful that the couple was migrating to Canada that very evening and would not have had time to look at it. It taught me very early to thoroughly screen vendors before hiring them. I would request that I attend events where they were hired or carefully examine their portfolios before hiring.