Today we meet Esme Krahn, of BodaMaestra. Esme is a bilingual wedding planner, who often provides the benefit/essential service of catering to couples and families who speak Spanish. She has an authentic understanding of the distinctive qualities that define today's Latino wedding ceremonies and receptions. BodaMaestra, which translates to "wedding masterpiece," proudly serves couples of every nationality, faith, and background in mainly Northern Virginia and Washington DC areas. Esme and her team know that every couple is unique and believe each wedding should be a masterpiece. Creative wedding planning in the Latin tradition…with a modern twist.
Esme is a romantic at heart. She takes pride in helping couples plan, create, and deliver a memorable and culturally authentic wedding experience. Having lived south-of-the-border, she appreciates the unique and beautiful qualities of Hispanic culture. Relying on her hands-on experience throughout the entire planning process, her creative skills and imagination work together to help make couples' wedding day visions a reality. Viva el Amor!
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
I'm a romantic at heart with a passion for design, so being a part of the wedding industry has always felt like a natural fit for me. Similarly, my professional background - which is in corporate logistics - has given me an appreciation for what it takes to be a wedding planner, namely the importance of juggling details and managing timelines. This combination of personal passion and real-world experience, along with an entrepreneurial spirit, ultimately led me to start my own wedding-planning business.
It was 2004 when I co-founded BodaMaestra in Monterrey, Mexico. A couple of years later, I moved to Northern Virginia, rebranded, and took full operation and ownership of the business.
What inspired you to start BodaMaestra?
I started BodaMaestra because I love to plan and I love working with people! I see my weddings as a piece of art that's unique and unrepeatable, just like my couples and their wedding vision. Incidentally, BodaMaestra is a play on words that essentially translates into "Master Wedding," which is what I seek to create each time I work with a couple who is planning to get married.
What makes our studio different is that we specialize in Latin American weddings. Most of our clients have a Latin background, which means we typically incorporate a variety of cultural elements into their love celebration. We also offer wedding consultations in Spanish, which helps me connect with our clients (and their families) in our native tongue. Over the years, we've become experts at planning wedding fiestas of proud American-born Latinos - with a modern twist!
It’s Important for me to note that we work with Latino and non-Latino wedding vendors alike! The most important thing is that they each deliver the experience that our clients are looking for. Although we excel at planning authentic Latin-American weddings, about 30 percent of our clients are of non-Hispanic backgrounds. They hire us because they love our work and because we come highly recommended by our couples and colleagues!
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
The wedding industry is always evolving, which is one of the reasons I love being a part of It. I'm not sure there is a particular industry standard that I would change. I would use this opportunity, however, to advise couples that the wedding-planning business, like many industries, does have a range of service providers, including some companies that lack experience or are ill-equipped to handle the rigors of planning a full-scale event. I recommend that couples be wary of deep discounts and vendors who have little Internet presence and/or few real weddings featured. If you choose to go with someone who is just breaking into the industry, at the very least, I recommend that you check to be sure that they have a well-conceived contract and that they provide payment options, rather than cash only. Also, if your venue requires a license and insurance, they should be able to provide it.
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want to?
All of my clients have unique access to the AP portal and love it! I invite them to load their guest list, do seating arrangements, and upload their vendor contracts. AP works wonders for couples who are actively planning their wedding (whether it's for coordination, design, or full planning). The website allows 24/7 access and provides couples with tools to go over their curated wedding planning checklist and update RSVPs, to name a few. For full wedding planning service, AP becomes the hub where all the design inspiration lives - not to mention the clearinghouse for the entire wedding budget, which includes payment reminders. I don't think there's a solution out there that comes close to AP!
What is your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
The guest management feature is phenomenal! Once all guests are loaded and their RSVP status is updated, couples are able to do seating arrangements with ease. This tool is especially efficient for large weddings where you need to make sure you place everyone in the right spot, with the right group of guests. The drag and drop feature of AP is super simple to manage. This has saved so much time for all of my couples! I cannot stress enough how useful this feature is.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a wedding and event planner?
Planning a wedding is a huge responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. You get to be part of someone's most special day, which is a true honor. As a planner, your job is to ensure that your couple's dream wedding becomes a reality. Every detail must be executed as promised and any unexpected contingencies should be managed with grace and behind the scenes so as to not disturb your clients. A great planner is organized, has tools to make his/her life easier, and also creates a brand that portrays his/her promise. Attending networking events, visiting venues, and shadowing experienced planners are great ways to get started, as are finding educational opportunities to give you credentials and confidence. There's no one way to plan, but whatever you make your winning formula, write it down and perfect it. Lastly, remember to take time to meet other Industry professionals, know their craft and value. The best ones make you look great and you shouldn't take that for granted, so be appreciative of their teamwork and professionalism. They are your network and will become essential for your success!
What do you think will change about the weddings and special events space over the next five years?
As of this writing, weddings continue to be more challenging than ever due to COVID-19-related restrictions. I'm hopeful that special events may be able to return to normal in the not-too-distant-future. In the meantime, venues will be continuously adapting to accommodate smaller-sized weddings, as well as working to ensure that larger-sized weddings are safe. I also anticipate that more couples will rely on the expertise of wedding planners due to the extra stress of planning a wedding during a public health crisis. As a wedding professional, if you haven't tailored your packages for micro weddings, it's time to get that done.
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
Create your own business processes and adjust accordingly. This means that you should have a system in place that's always improving as you learn lessons. Planners don't have the answers to every problem, but we're creative and we lean on our networks to come up with solutions to challenges. Also, I think that even though you ARE the brand of your business, clients are at the front and center of it. The more you define who you’re excited to serve, the happier you'll be working as a wedding planner. Finally, I think it's essential to keep stress under control and to be kind to yourself and every vendor you work with.
What lights your creative fire?
My clients' personalities and stories! I enjoy getting to know my couples and hearing about their wedding vision. When they walk into their wedding venue, I want that room to scream who they are and I want for the emotions that they conveyed to me during our wedding-design process to come to life.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about working on this year?
Yes! I'm currently working on a sunset-inspired wedding.
Just for fun
What’s the most used tool in your emergency kit?
My sewing kit, tissues, hand sanitizer, and high-heel protectors for grass.
I’m dying to design a wedding or event in…
Playa del Carmen, Mexico! Playa has a special place in my heart, as my family and I have visited the area the last few years. The turquoise waters and white sand are an amazing backdrop to incorporate a romantic and elegant beach-wedding design. Also, the type of flowers available and the design trends in Mexico are a bit different from what we typically see in the U.S.
Your favorite shoes to wear on event day?
During set up, I wear Fitflops Sneakersloafers. I love their thick soles! As the event progresses, I change into my metallic leather sneakers, also by Fitflops. I also highly recommend compression socks. They have changed my life. Long gone are the days of sore feet and legs of the "wedding-planner hangover."
If you could plan any celebrity’s wedding, who would it be?
I'd love to plan Julieta Venegas's wedding. She's a Mexican singer and songwriter who's super talented and a true artist. She loves bold colors and is proud of her Mexican heritage. Her vibe is very organic and bohemian. To plan an event for Julieta would be very different from anything I've created so far, which would make it an incredibly fun project!
During your time as a wedding and event professional, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how did you recover from it?
It was probably, saying "yes" to everything for the sake of pleasing my clients. I remember a client having DIY flower centerpieces, which were supposed to be "super easy" to arrange. Unfortunately, on the day of the wedding, the actual set-up was incredibly challenging and time-consuming. This story has a happy ending, however, as I was able to receive help from a floral designer and an amazing friend who came to help with the set-up. We finished the task on time, but it was stressful and way more than I envisioned it to be.
The takeaway? I've learned to ask the right questions for DIY clients! This helps me to plan my time and labor so that I deliver without feeling overwhelmed. I also changed my contract and charge for DIY projects that the client is unable to complete.
Hero image courtesy of Rudney Novaes Photography
Want to find out more about Esme and BodaMaestra? Check out her website here: www.bodamaestra.com