Christina Carter always knew that she had a heart for serving others. It is a part of her family’s legacy and who they were called to be. In 2016 when she knew her path of service would be in hospitality, she became certified as a professional Wedding and Event Planner. Christina is honored to have the pleasure of serving her clients during one of the most momentous occasions in their lives. A James Madison University alum, Christina had the privilege of marrying her college sweetheart, Justin, after seven years of dating. Located in Fairfax, VA she stays at home with her son, Jayden, and serves couples by planning weddings that are authentic, meaningful and put the value of true relationships at the center to celebrate their unique love stories. She believes that it is the smallest details that make the biggest impact and wedding day experiences should be a reflection of the couple and the legacy they are working to build.
Christina and her friend Aishah are women with true hearts for service, who dreamed of making space, setting the table, and getting to walk with couples as they intentionally built an authentic marriage experience. Happily Hitched is the manifestation of that dream.
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
We never intended to end up in the wedding industry! We were just two friends who had met in college and had the opportunity to assist our sorority sisters on their wedding days. We fell in love with the feeling that came from seeing the stress and overwhelm we could take away from a couple and their family on such an important day. We loved bringing a sense of ease to their experience. We have hearts for service and realized that the combination of our organizational skills and focus on hospitality could provide couples with the relaxing wedding day they all desired.
What inspired you to start Happily Hitched?
We take a marriage-focused approach to wedding planning. As Christians, we both experienced pre-marital counseling with the pastors who would be marrying us. It was such an important time during our engagement to really focus on our relationship and future marriage. Unless a couple receives counseling through their religious institution or seeks out a third-party counselor, we felt like there was a gap in the industry that needed to be filled where couples could not only get the support they needed to create a beautiful, personalized, and meaningful wedding day, but also have the tools and resources they needed to build a solid foundation for all the days after "I do" that would hopefully lead them to create a long and lasting marriage. We believe in giving all couples the time and space to reflect on the life changes that come with engagement and marriage, and through our dual approach to the engagement experience as a certified wedding planner and relationship coach, couples receive a holistic wedding planning experience that honors their sacred beliefs, strengthens their relationship and allows them to enjoy their engagement with ease. It is our mission to create space that inspires couples to intentionally build an authentic marriage experience.
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
More focus on the marriage throughout the process! The wedding day is a kick-off to the rest of a couple's lives together. Vendors can help a couple keep that perspective by reminding them to keep their relationship at the heart of all they do and remember why they're even planning this wedding in the first place!
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want to?
Our couples are very busy! There’s a certain hustle and bustle that comes with living in the Washington DC area, and we have to find ways to do more with less time. Aisle Planner allows us to have a streamlined process in place that saves us and our clients so much time! The ability to create templates for almost anything saves us so many hours of work. We’re able to collaborate using a centralized location to house all of their wedding details so both our couples and us as their planner remain in the loop about all the details and moving parts that go into creating a wedding day. Getting automatic reminders for upcoming deadlines and payments gives us the peace of mind to know nothing is going to fall through the cracks. It’s super user-friendly, which is a must for the busy professionals we work with!
What is your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
Is it even possible to pick just one?! We’d probably have to say the checklist feature, both within client projects but also being able to add checklists to any leads so we can track where we are in our pre-booking workflow with all prospective clients that reach out! Not only can you customize checklists and create templates, but we also love that we can assign who will be completing the task, add a deadline for the task (and set when you want to receive reminders about it!), and add comments so we can communicate about a particular task all within Aisle Planner!
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a wedding and event planner?
For anyone thinking about becoming a wedding and event planner, I’d definitely say get your feet wet by assisting another planner for a bit if you can! We fiercely believe in community over competition, and welcome the opportunity to assist new planners when we can. It’s a great way for them to make sure this is the right path for them without the pressure of taking on a client’s wedding day all on their own just yet, and see the work involved in pulling together a seamless wedding day from start to finish (plus learning the right shoes to wear!). Spend time building relationships with vendors and venues in your local area – we’re all real people with home lives outside of planning weddings, so it’s always good to get to know people on just a personal level too!
What do you think will change about the weddings and special events space over the next five years?
I hope to see even more collaboration among vendors in the industry and between wedding planners specifically. We’ve been fortunate to connect with many wedding planners in our area that we can connect with about business, life, go to for help or advice, pass along leads when we’re already booked, and call on trusted professionals to step in and help us in an emergency if we need it. I think couples will think more about the specific guests they invite for their special day and really consider the value of having those people there. It may mean there’s a shorter guest list, but it also opens the door to invest in even more personal touches and designing a more meaningful guest experience. The possibilities are endless!
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
It’s all about service. This is the hospitality industry and we want our couples to know we’re doing everything we can to make this an enjoyable experience for them and anticipate their needs. That means you always have a great attitude despite having a bad day (a couple goes through enough during their engagement, they don’t need the added stress of your bad mood!), being a team player and treating all venues and vendors with respect, going above and beyond to make sure everyone is taken care of on the wedding day, even our fellow vendors! We have the great fortune of being able to experience wedding days over and over, but for our couples, it’s usually their one and only day and they will remember it – the good and the bad – for the rest of their lives. We only want to be part of the good and making it the best day we can for them!
What lights your creative fire?
There’s nothing more inspiring than a couple’s own story. You don’t have to look very far for inspiration because each love story is so different and unique! We love figuring out how we can weave their story into all different aspects of their wedding day, whether it be in a big way by creating a beautiful and bold ceremony backdrop for the bride that loves flowers, or in subtle ways like incorporating a couple’s favorite snack in the welcome bag for their guests.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about working on this year?
Given the impact of COVID-19, we’re just excited to even have some weddings still on the books for 2020! It’s been such a difficult year and after facing so many postponements, we can’t wait to help a few special couples safely celebrate their big day given all that 2020 has thrown at engaged couples and our industry. Love doesn’t stop!
Just for fun
What’s the most used tool in your emergency kit?
Boutonniere pins! Sometimes not enough are included with the boutonniere, they get all bent up or lost or extra pins are needed to help make a boutonniere more secure. Having these on hand has proven really helpful!
What’s one trend you hope to see more of?
Personalization and color! We love when couples aren’t afraid to use bright and bold colors in their design!
Your favorite shoes to wear on event day?
Definitely Rothy’s! We’ve been using them for a few years now and have them in all different colors. Don’t think we could make it through a wedding day without them!
If you could plan any celebrity’s wedding, who would it be?
Chip and Joanna Gaines may already be married, but if they ever wanted a vow renewal, sign us up! So in love with their style and would be honored to assist them with another celebration.
If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you would change about your wedding?
Probably fewer guests so there was more time to interact with everyone and put the savings towards other places in the budget, like more florals!
Hero photo courtesy of Franzi Lee Photography
Want to find out more about Christina and Aishah? Visit their website www. happilyhitched.com