KPW Productions is comprised of a wonderfully talented and experienced team. Today, I speak with Christina Hadlow, one of our incredible wedding planners. Christina joined KPW in 2010, shortly after she moved to Philadelphia. As part of her interview process, she was invited to be on the team that executed the opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History. In this elaborate installation, she was tested in real-time to see if she was up for the task and to see how she would work with the other talented designers and producers on the team. She was phenomenal! Christina was hired shortly after and began to further develop the wedding planning division of our firm while designing event environments through our established in-house floral studio.
Christina shares with us when she knew she wanted to be a wedding designer, how COVID-19 is changing the special event industry, and her advice for couples in the planning process!
Kathy: Tell us how you got into designing and planning events and share a bit about your experience in the special event industry before you joined the KPW Productions team!
Christina: I was in 6th grade when I made the decision to devote myself to the wedding world! I wanted to be both a bridal fashion designer and wedding planner/producer. Ambitious, yes, but I felt I had a calling to be part of weddings in as many ways as I could. After a lot of hard work, I was accepted into the world-renowned Fashion Institute of Technology fashion design program in NYC, and during my four years at FIT, I worked at multiple internships to confirm that the bridal world was where I felt most fulfilled and passionate.
I loved the intricate details and the collaboration between designer and client during the live fittings at Isaac Mizrahi Couture, the hustle and bustle of producing fashion shows in Bryant Park, and launching the official uniforms for the U.S. team for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing while at Ralph Lauren. Upon graduation, I found a position at an exclusive, full-service destination planning firm in Park City, UT that also housed a luxury designer bridal boutique. My 6th-grade self was ecstatic that her dream had come to life! The experiences I gained and the connections I made in the fashion world allowed our boutique to house exceptional bridal designers like Amsale, Badgley Mischka, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Reem Acra, Rivini, and Simone Carvalli. I personally collaborated with these design houses and our Brides-to-be to create gorgeous and one-of-a-kind designer gowns.
Our planning clients were sophisticated couples from major metropolitan cities who had grown up enjoying Park City’s ski slopes on annual family vacations, or who were lucky enough to have holiday homes in the area. Being busy professionals, they needed our firm to strategically organize the experience so the details could be decided from afar and they would only need to make one or two visits to Park City prior to their big day. We acted as design directors, interior architects, menu developers, travel agents, and tour guides to ensure their guests had a magical and memorable three or four days to see, taste, and drink the best of our beautiful mountains. I was able to gain intimate experience in every aspect and detail that goes into planning a destination wedding.
K: Since then, you’ve become an invaluable member of KPW! During your time in the industry and with your extensive experience in each design facet, I’m sure you’ve seen quite a bit and COVID-19 is no exception. It’s been an upheaval for us all. In what ways have you seen this pandemic affect the special event industry?
C: Our task has always been to meticulously plan and predict every detail of the event experience to ensure that we could give guests a slice of heaven, a place to escape and truly celebrate without a care in the world. COVID-19 brought a lot of uncertainty to our world and work, so we originally shifted our focus to safety, safety, safety. We were presented with the challenge and opportunity of ensuring a safe environment for our couples and their most cherished guests so they could still escape this reality and fall into the romance of the moment. After working on this goal with our couples for over four months, we realized that now, 2020, isn’t the time to continue with contingency plans but to postpone. We’ve lost our entire season in the fight. I’m heartbroken over this but know that it’s exactly the right thing to do for our clients and their guests.
K: Postponing a wedding is such a difficult and personal decision and now with life looking so different, we can expect changes when it comes time to host those events. Based on your knowledge and expertise, what do you see for the future of event planning and design?
C: If living through this has taught us anything, it’s how much we value each other. This sentiment will guide us and our couples during their planning and design experience. We’ll focus on crafting quality time together with meaningful touches to show how appreciative they are of their guests. Wedding weekends will be structured to allow for much more one-on-one time to reconnect with friends and family and celebrate life.
Bespoke plated dining experiences will be more important than ever. We’ve all missed the formality of dining out and will want to express that through a thoughtful meal that highlights local, small business farms and artisans.
Couples will want to spend time together with their guests celebrating the fact that they can actually celebrate. I envision us designing “Laid Back Lounges” to take place after the “After Party.” This dedicated chill space will offer a comfortable place where friends can continue to gather, sip, reconnect, and listen to low-key lounge music into the early morning hours.
K: That sounds refreshing and incredibly heartfelt. It’s a lot to take on the overhaul of an industry, to anticipate how the world will respond and recover, and to provide guidance and support to clients and colleagues alike. How are you coping with all the quick and unexpected changes in the last few months?
C: Step by step, and with a lot of empathy.
I believe in having open and honest conversions with our couples about their fears and priorities so that we can regain some sense of strategy. I encourage partners to write down their wedding priorities and note where they will want to draw the line and choose to postpone. Of course, no one wants to have these conversations, and the differences in each other’s comfort level and priorities among their inner circle may vary, which can complicate these chats. At any time should their fears become reality or should their priorities be unobtainable, we come together to make the hard decision of postponement. Until then, we use these priorities to plan their celebration so that it’s not diluted or stripped by COVID-19, but remains focused on what makes their wedding and union so special.
I’ve also learned that the choice to postpone or to “wait and see” is subjective. We don’t have a Magic 8 Ball; no one knows what next month or even next year will look like. So I ask, “Does waiting to see how the next few months come together to leave you more anxious than if you decided to change your date? Does moving the date give you doubt instead of relief?” Only the client can make these emotional decisions, but we are here to ensure that, whatever the decision, they won’t be alone.
K: It’s evident how much you care about the experience of your couples during each step of their wedding journey. Share one piece of advice for a person or couple currently going through the planning stages of an event.
C: Take a breath and don’t lose sight.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither should your event plans. Taking a breath so that you don’t rush through this once-in-a-lifetime experience will allow you to not only enjoy each step in its own time but keep you from feeling overwhelmed so you can put your individual mark on each decision and craft your own unique celebration.
Many clients have moments with their families or soon-to-be families where tensions feel high, people’s feet are firmly planted, and emotions seem to be taking the wheel. Your mother-in-law strongly insists you have a vanilla-on-vanilla wedding cake (because that’s what she had) while you really had your heart set on a donut cake with an ice cream cart. Your mom wants your second cousin (who you’ve not seen since you were six years old) and his girlfriend to be invited. Whatever it may be, I ask my couple, “Is it worth having hurt feelings or hostilities with this person over the next five, ten, or even twenty years? How many family get-togethers will be affected by not considering or accommodating this request?”
Yes, this is a very important day; it is a day that will live in your memory forever. But don’t forget that the whole goal of a wedding is to spend happily-ever-after together. And that includes happily-ever-after with each other’s families.
K: Such great advice! Last but not least, for you, what’s the best part about being an event designer and planner?
C: The End. That’s probably not what you expected, but it’s in hearing from our couple the morning after their celebration and how they are still in disbelief of how incredible their wedding was, for both them and their guests. They replay the whole day and recount the many meaningful moments that only I could have guided them through. The moments that were totally worth the countless hours of detailed attention and planning. Their honest words of appreciation and exuberance wash over me and I feel re-energized and honored to have been a part of their day and their story. Luckily for me, “the end” isn’t the end of the relationship, as I keep in touch with many of my Brides!
K: Thank you, Christina, for taking the time to answer these questions and share your thoughts, experience, and knowledge!
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