Sometimes, although couples feel a wedding/event planner will cost them money, it is often a game changer in terms of keeping the budget low.

Shani Dion

Director

Location: Canada

Dion Events is an award-winning full-service event planning and management company. We specialize in planning and managing corporate events, social events and weddings. We provide personalized care and attention to every detail. As event specialists we can produce events from beginning to end, from corporate galas to elegant weddings, providing unique solutions for every budget.

From small intimate gatherings to large events, we will ensure our clients can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fun stuff so they can be a guest at their event.

Credentials:

  • WPICC (Wedding Planning Institute of Canada Certificate)
  • WPIC DWC (Wedding Planning Institute of Canada Destination Wedding Certificate)

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?

I’ve been very fortunate in having amazing clients, except one that was extremely challenging. This client needed help planning and came to Dion Events to help her plan her 40th Birthday party. We put together a plan and budget and started working on the project. Her mother was helping her pay for the event and decided part way through the planning that she wanted to take control of some elements of the party (without working with me). I was fine with it, as long as I knew what was going to happen etc.

As the planning continued, the client started to become a different person and became stressed out and started blaming me for things I didn’t do and changing elements of what we already planned. At one point I almost decided to drop this client as things were becoming too complicated and stressful for all and the client seemed very unhappy. I always want my clients to be happy! I sat down and had a calm and frank conversation with my client about what was going on and sat very patiently while she explained that her mother was taking over things at her end which she didn’t want…and using some vendors she knew for some things. We talked through the process and although I wasn’t in contact with her mother, we came up with a helpful solution and worked together to make things work in harmony with each other so her mom would still be able to make some decisions.

As things came down to the final stages and I developed the itinerary, things were flowing much better again. My team got to the venue on the day and put “almost” everything together. Despite some differences, the client was over the moon happy and so was her mom. It turned out to be an amazing, beautiful event. Both the client and her mom were so impressed that our team got quite a large tip after the event from the family which was completely unexpected!

What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?

I think creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget can be done by paying special care and attention to one or two details that you want to be the most memorable at the event (and what might be non-negotiable). Whether it is the food, entertainment, the décor or the venue. Concentrate and focus on those and what will make you and your guests happy….and then build out from there. Little details don’t have to cost a lot, you just need to know where to go and be resourceful to find the best prices.

There are many venues out there that allow you to bring in your own catering and resources that are budget friendly. Since venue and catering are what will consume most of the budget, selecting the right venue and catering solution is key as a first step.

Sometimes, although couples feel a wedding/event planner will cost them money, it is often a game changer in terms of keeping the budget low, as most planners have many contacts and resources at their fingertips to manage the budget and provide the most affordable and elegant solutions.

How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?

Having great relationships with vendors are truly a very important part of the wedding and events business! We contact vendors all the time for our clients – whether it be the DJ, florist, photographer, A/V company or a printer! I love meeting new vendors and understanding what they can do, and how we can work together. Every vendor is different and often have different price points, styles and ideas. The more you get to know a vendor the more they can provide and help brainstorm solutions with you. Vendors really become a close part of your team for each event. It is important to build good relationships with these people. I love recommending the excellent vendors I work with to my clients or even other planners, as building their business works hand in hand with building mine.

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 have always loved planning events…and I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. When my kids were little I used to plan these elaborate theme birthdays while other parents had parties at a local restaurant or play center (climbing facilities or trampoline’s etc.) I was asked to help with lots of parties lol. I got involved in planning events at the kids schools and with their sports teams for fundraisers etc. Event planning has always been a passion of mine.

I worked for over 20 years with a few different marketing and promotion companies planning in store and on pack promotions for CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) Companies and various events with those companies. Having this background has allowed me to assist many corporate clients with their marketing materials too! While I loved this job, I really felt I could be doing more.

I always wanted to own my own business and decided that I would get my wedding planning certificate since this was an area I felt I could use a little more expertise. Only about 6 months after I did that, the company I was working for wasn’t doing well and so ended work for all employees (with a few months heads up actually). The week the job was terminated, is the same week I decided I wanted to start up my own business to see where it went. I found out the following week that the Business Advisory Center in Durham was running a program on starting your own business – what luck! They were excellent in teaching me how to properly set up my business and were (and are still) very supportive.

My first client was a wedding client while I was still finishing the course. It was a recommendation from a caterer I had met and interviewed about the event industry! She had a client looking for a planner. It worked out so well and I will never forget that first opportunity to plan an event under my new business. From there although it was a little slow getting rolling, I did a lot of networking to get the word out and built my business from there with best practices, going above and beyond for my clients and getting recommendations accordingly.

What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?

The first event I personally ever planned was a surprise 25th anniversary party for my parents when I was still living at home and in university at the time. I have no idea what possessed me to do that and I had no experience planning a party (and my parents were not social people).

I asked my siblings to assist with some details and I developed a list of family and their friends and contacted and invited everyone by phone (so there wouldn’t be any invite for them to find and see). We cleaned the house, while another family member took my parents out shopping. We made food and ordered some, and some relatives helped with the food. It was so much fun to plan that event. Everyone had such a great time and my parents were actually quite surprised!

My first event for my own business was a wedding. It was day-of/month of planning which we started about 6 weeks prior to the wedding. I was very nervous but also felt like such a pro – I surprised myself at how well it went and how I was capable of coordinating everything and giving some great wedding advice to the couple. I felt like the education from having my wedding planning certification really paid off! The couple were so grateful and happy to have me there. Such a great feeling when everyone was happy!

What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?

There are a number of things I wish I knew, however, here are a couple:

1. Vendors are a great resource – I know this now, and work closely with my vendors, however, I didn’t feel comfortable going to vendors for advice previously. I know now that we work hand in hand with each other and, as a team, we can tackle solutions together.

2. Finding business in the corporate sector (as a small event management company) is difficult. I never thought it would be easy, but didn’t realize it would take me as long as it did to develop relationships trusting enough to recommend or use my services from a corporate event perspective. I had lots of corporate and event planning experience but there were other more established companies out there. It takes time to develop the right tactics and marketing techniques. I had found it much easier when I started the business to work on Weddings and Social Events….and it has only been through purposeful networking and really getting out of my comfort zone, developing my own personal confidence that the corporate side started to take off. The event business is VERY competitive but I still love it!

Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for you!

Being in the event planning industry is very rewarding. It is most satisfying to see happy clients and a successful event no matter what sector. It’s always amazing to see the client’s vision and all the hard work come together in the end. For me that is what it’s all about.

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