This is my first blog post in a very long time and I am super excited to welcome new readers and followers in this new year! A few months back, we reached 5000 followers on Instagram and since then, I have been brainstorming ideas of how I can give back to all of you and share a bit about myself to people who have recently begun following along for pretty imagery and inspiration. Our company is so much more than just that, and it has truly become my own little passion project, and I hope that I can convey some of that in this post. I apologize in advance for the length! If you are just here for the giveaway - feel free to scroll all the way down to everything in bold and skip my story! ;) For everyone else who wants to know a little more about me and the story behind my business - here we go!
To start this business, I left behind a PhD in cultural studies and a career in teaching, research and social activism. I know it sounds like such a jump, but at the end of the day the two career paths are really not that different. I truly loved what I was doing when I was an Instructor at universities ranging from UCLA, to Cal State Fullerton, to the Claremont Colleges. I had so much fun designing and teaching in departments ranging from Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Media Studies and American Studies - with courses like Race in Media, The Politics of Food, Asian American Women, American Popular Culture, Asian American Media, Art as a Social Movement... the list goes on and on. I made my own schedule (I loved teaching evening classes!) and cherished the fact that I was able to meet and inspire a new batch of students every semester! Creating new syllabi and curriculum, taking my students to hands on learning experiences like urban farming, spoken word nights, slam poetry sessions, volunteering with after school programs, etc. kept me on my toes and was so gratifying. I was never bored and always inspired. On warm days, you would find my classes (ranging from 10 to 200 students) outside on the university lawn, journaling and sketching; constructively debating important issues of politics, love and race; or partaking in exercises that encouraged them to find one's voice and be brave enough to use it. Several students credited my classes for changing their career choice from marketing/advertising to law or working in the non-profit sector. I felt blessed to be a part of such a pivotal point in my student's individual lives and found so much joy in making a difference in this way.
After 3 years of teaching and event planning for several non-profits, I became engaged to my high school best friend in 2007 and started this blog as a way to journal my own engagement journey and share any tips for wedding planning that I came across. I was all about building community (I still am!) and I wanted to share all I knew about event planning on a budget and designing an event/wedding with purpose and heart. I wanted to give back to others for all the help I was receiving with my own wedding planning, from family and friends.
The blog community back then was amazingly fresh and unassuming. Not many blogs had flashy or professionally designed logos. People were not trying to quit their day-jobs or appearing to come off as insta-perfect or insta-famous. People were just sharing what they could and building a community with others when they felt a connection with a story or a post.
Suddenly, I was "meeting" other bloggers who were also planning their weddings and some of them starting to ask me for advice, outside of the blog. Some even requested help in planning their actual wedding day! At first, it was just a fun and creative outlet and I thought, "Hey! I can totally help out this gal from NYC in planning her Cali wedding!" When people offered to pay me for my services, I never thought of it as a business. It was simply a reimbursement for the time and money I was spending in helping them and paying for my day-of assistant (who still works with our weddings today!). By the time I was married in 2009, I was working with 4 other brides in planning their weddings!
In 2010, our first official year in business, we had 18 weddings in our calendar. It quickly became clear that I needed to choose between teaching and wedding planning. Obviously, I chose the latter and here we are today. On a side note: California was experiencing some major budget cuts in education at that time and the academic landscape was heading in a direction that I was not comfortable with. Plus, I figured I could always go back to teaching if this whole wedding planning thing didn't work out. ;)
So Happi Together grew (between 2011-2013, we were booking an average of 25-30 weddings per year) and I became busier with marriage, the birth of two children and running an actual business with several employees. Over time, I sadly lost touch with this blog. Admittedly, I lost touch with a lot of things that personally brought me so much joy before. Not that my family and business don't bring me joy... but I felt like I didn't have time for things that were JUST for me. This blog used to be the heart of my business. Many of my early brides told me that they booked me based on the Nancy they "met" on my blog, through my personal posts. Rather than keeping this in mind, as my business matured, I strangely felt compelled to censor myself here. To come off more professional - not as personal. To share pretty weddings and inspiration, not so much the non-pretty that is usually the reality of life. For this reason, I think the passion was removed from my blogging and it became more of a chore or duty, rather than an outlet. When I say that this blog used to be the heart of this business, it's not to say that I lost my heart when I stopped blogging on the regular. It's more that I felt hesitant to just wear that heart on my sleeve, and in the process, maybe I lost my voice? Along with other personal passion projects in my life, I felt like I could no longer make time for blogging, because there were "more important" things to tend to.
Being a mom and entrepreneur is truly a difficult juggling act. Some of my readers know what I am talking about. It's easy to "lose yourself" and the things that once made you happy before the happiness of the business and the kids... Remember?! There were other things that gave you a different kind of happiness. Things that were just for YOU - with no ulterior motive of how it would or could benefit your business or even your children's future. Not that those things are bad endeavors! But I am realizing that they shouldn't completely trump the personal happiness you pursue just for yourself. You know, the things you did before... simply because you wanted to do it and it made you happy.
My husband always encourages and challenges me to make the time for these things that used to bring me so much personal joy. For me, it was dance/ballet, writing/journaling (i.e. blogging), reading and scrapbooking. My husband reminds me about them all the time and asks why I don't do them anymore.
"Who has the time?!" I ask him.
This brings us to 2015. It was a rough year for me, personally. As a business, I could not have asked for more. We booked out our calendar with great weddings for amazing couples and worked with some stellar vendors that I am proud to call friends. However, I was stretched in ways that I could have never imagined.
I have always envisioned Eddie and myself having a large family with at least 3 children to cherish and call our own. This past year, we lost 2 sweet babies in miscarriages that were unexpected, complicated, and have left me despondent and even a bit scared to try for another. I may be able to share more specifics, as time creates more distance between myself and pain of these moments... but suffice it to say, I have realized that as a planner, I don't have the control to plan every aspect of my life. I am giving it to God and trusting that His plan is so much better than my own. And in the meantime, I plan to make the time that my husband keeps talking about...
In 2016, I want to spend more time in prayer, more time with my family, more time with myself, and more time on this blog. I plan to blog more, not for the good of my business, but for the good of my soul. I want to spend more time on each of my individual weddings by cutting down the overall number that we take on. We are going to max out our calendar at 12 weddings for 2016. We are 2 weddings away from this goal, with 3 inquiries in my inbox as I write this post. Even if we don't book any more weddings for this year, I am SO happy with the ones that we already have in store. My couples really are the best people on this planet and I am honored to share in such a special time in their lives together. Really. I have the best job in the world.
As I was soul searching and coming to these decisions, my husband asked me if I am still happy doing what I do. Without hesitation, I answered, YES! Cutting back on the number of weddings we produce doesn't mean that I don't value each one that I work on. It actually exemplifies how much I cherish each wedding and the work that I am allowed to do. Every wedding I design and plan is unique and different and keeps me inspired and on my toes. I have seen a lot of sadness and experienced heartache, knowing that we don't always have a choice in what life brings our way. But in the midst of all that, I get to work with couples who make a conscious decision, every day, to make a commitment to a person that they have chosen to love and honor and spend their life with. How beautiful is that? In a world that can seem pretty yucky at times, I get to work with people who celebrate life, love and a union of families. Pretty darn incredible, right? If you envy my job - you have every right! And with that... I finally get to how I want to give back for all that this industry and my couples have given me.
This GIVEAWAY is 2-part. As I look through my followers and commenters on Instagram, I find that they are largely in 2 camps (aside from fellow wedding industry friends). I am grateful to those of you who don't personally know me or work with me, but still follow our journey! Since most of you are brides-to-be or young/aspiring planners-to-be, I have something for each of you!
1. Bride-to-be Giveaway
This giveaway is limited to California brides only because I honestly feel like I can be of most help to these brides. Although I provide destination wedding planning packages, when limited to just 1 meeting, I feel that my expertise will be of most use to Southern California brides. If you feel differently, please feel free to comment about it and perhaps I can reconsider for a future giveaway!
2. Planner Giveaway
I'll buy you lunch or dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the LA or OC area and chat with you about how I handle inquiries, consultations, bookings, couples, employees, wedding day scenarios, etc. I will share with you my packages, my contracts, my budget spreadsheet, wedding planning checklist and wedding day timeline . I will answer any and all questions you may have about me, my business and anything else that I may have an opinion about. :) I really am an open book and just hope that I don't scare you with my hugs and loud laughter. (I really have no volume control)
This giveaway is open to just about anyone. If you aren't local to Southern California, we can always meet via Skype or Facetime! Sadly, I won't be able to buy you lunch or dinner, but I will send you a care package instead! :)
If you have managed to stick it out and read through all of this... Thank you!
If you feel like something from my own story resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you! The hope of giving back is how I started this blog and I realized that is how I want to continue. Not to gain followers, or see how many comments I can get, or even be a marketing tool. But simply because it makes me happy. This is my passion project.
SO! In order to enter, please leave a comment here or on my Instagram post telling me what is YOUR passion. Meaning - what would you do if you had all the time in the world to split between your family, your work and yourself? If you didn't have to worry about income? What brings you happiness? And how will you try to pursue it this year?
*** IMPORTANT: Please begin your comment with the word "BRIDE" or "PLANNER" so that I know which giveaway you are entering.***
You don't have to follow me to win - but if you DO win, you can be sure that I will be following you and hoping to continue our friendship beyond this one giveaway. :)
Entries for both giveaways will be accepted until 12pm PST on Wednesday 1/20/16. Winners will be announced on Thursday 1/21/16.
Have a happi Monday! Thanks for stopping by! And because every post is better with some pictures!
(our wedding photography, now friend and family photographer!)