The (vendors) that I have a really great and close relationship with give me peace of mind in knowing that if I were ever in a serious situation and needed them to come through, they would.

Master Plans Events & Designs is a premiere boutique full-service event and design company based in Southern California. We partner with each client to provide expert project management and personalized designs from start to finish. We specialize in giving each client impeccable attention to detail and turning ideas into reality.

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

A few years back one of my weddings had so many challenges leading up to the wedding and into even the morning of the wedding, I honestly wasn’t even sure myself this wedding should happen. If there was bad juju, this was it.

The groom’s uncle passed away suddenly 3 days before the wedding, which for the groom’s family, was a bad sign and therefore ended up not attending the wedding at all. All the immediate family, relatives, and groomsmen were no show. I ended up in a serious car accident en route to pick up items on behalf of the couple and had to rent a vehicle for the rest of the week and up to the wedding. Then the morning of rehearsal, I received a phone call from the bride that the groom slipped and fell down the stairs and broke a leg and arm and ended up in the ER.

Mind you, this wedding was taking place in Santa Barbara and we were all commuting from LA (est. drive time about 2-2.5 hrs). Our team ended up heading to the venue first to plan as if this event would still take place since half the guests were already on site. Then I received a call that the bride’s relatives were stuck and flight-delayed overseas coming to the wedding due to a typhoon. They eventually made it the day of the wedding, barely.

During this entire time, the couple asked that I not let the parents know as they didn’t want them to worry. By the time rehearsal dinner and rehearsal were to take place, the couple was still a no show. At this point, I had to factor a no wedding scenario. The couple finally showed up 5 hours after the scheduled rehearsal time, with the poor groom in a wheelchair and casts. We ran through a quick rehearsal since both of them were exhausted and the groom was medicated. The couple then pulls me aside and says they are considering canceling the wedding the next day but would keep me posted.

The best thing to do is to factor that this event will happen rather than not. Canceling an event is easier than to continue forth and anticipate situations. In the end, the wedding did take place. The bridesmaids’ all luckily had significant others that could stand in for the groom’s side (and somehow almost all matching in colors). The groom hobbled down the aisle without his wheelchair (we had a chair set and ready once he got to the front) and made it back down as Mr. & Mrs.

The wedding did take place, with a smaller guest count than originally planned, but both had a good time and we didn’t have to cancel any vendors.

The hardest part about all of this was keeping calm as each wave of bad news would come and jumping into plan a-z scenarios (inclusive of what-ifs). In the end, this was definitely a testament to juggling multiple parties of people, emotions, vendors, and setups.

What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?

– Bold designs and colors
– Full room production design

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

A lot of items can usually be found cheaper or substituted with other options that are similar to stay on track with cost. Do research and homework on cost comparisons to know what is the average cost and what’s normal.

Put your own personality and style into the event. Just because you want something to look glamorous doesn’t mean you have to spend a crazy amount.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?

A room covered in all black with white florals and accents.

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

Vendors make or break the industry we are in. Without them, the success of our (and ANY) event could not happen. I make sure to send thank-yous, gifts, and have meetups with our vendors that we work with. The ones that I have a really great and close relationship with give me peace of mind in knowing that if I were ever in a serious situation and needed them to come through, they would.

What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?

Make sure you have a committee/team committed and ready to work hard to make the event happen. Most times, fundraisers fail due to manpower and lack of time in preparing for the event (this coincides with budgeting and fundraising money without lead time).

What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

Growing my team so that we can do more events and teach individuals the mechanics of this industry. It’s really not as easy as it looks.

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 fell into this industry before it was popular and also publicized in universities and job descriptions. I started with nonprofit event work in high school, held positions that also related to events during college, and after graduating, went into marketing.

One of the jobs was to host events and promote clients. Eventually, I ended up leaving the corporate world and decided to go into production and design at which point decided to open up my own company.

The timing of my company wasn’t great. It was in 2009 when the recession hit pretty hard and no one was spending. On top of that, 10 years ago, the idea of hiring a planner, designer, etc wasn’t really common because people’s mindset was that it was a luxury.

By 2012 and 2013, my company was finally at a place where we could comfortably hire additional help and take on more events.

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

My very first event was a youth leadership conference when I was in college. It was extremely stressful and daunting. I remember at one point during the conference when the coach buses arrived to pick up the attendees to head to the ski slopes and the buses broke down before it could pick everyone up. All the kids were so disappointed.

In the end, I made the call to have all the chaperones shuttle all the kids in their own vehicles and at least give them a half-day to enjoy. While the kids were having a good time, I was at the main conference hall trying to figure out how to get them back after the day was over. I was lucky that a school bus heading down the mountain offered to give our group a drive back to our campgrounds.

While the kids were all showering and getting ready for dinner, I remember heading up to my own room and taking a hot shower crying my eyeballs out from relief that everyone made it back safely.

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

– Having reliable teammates working alongside you makes a huge difference. This job is physically and mentally demanding and being able to share the workload can make or break an event.

– Not everyone works at the same capacity as yourself. Not just because as an owner, we handle more, but expectations have to be curbed to ensure you have the right people.

– A lot of people will try out this industry and then leave because it’s harder than they thought.

Yingka Chou
Author: Yingka Chou

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