Today we meet Heather St. Clair of St. Clair Events. Heather got her start in the events industry by way of her campus radio station when she attended Ohio University. She planned concerts and promotional events on campus and then after college extended her love for music promotion by working at the Rosewood Cafe in Morgantown, West Virginia. There she booked and promoted acts such as Old Crow Medicine Show, Joseph Arthur, and Leo Kottke. She has since worked for The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA), Chef’s Expressions, The Cloisters, Sascha's Catering, and many private clients. Heather has experience planning large-scale social events and weddings alike.
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
Event planning has been my full career since graduating college in 2004—and was a hobby even before then. I’ve planned live concerts and public events, and I've worked for an event venue and caterers in the wedding industry specifically before starting Heather St. Clair Events. I love being part of weddings because I am amazed by the energy and magic that happens when people gather together, put aside their day-to-day lives for a few hours, and are truly present with one another. It's so fun to be working behind the scenes, planning and managing an event that has great flow, with everything working together effortlessly.
Why did you start Heather St. Clair Events?
I've always had an entrepreneurial side, and during all the time I spent working for other companies, in the back of my mind knew that I would work for myself someday. When my first son was born, I knew I had to make a change to achieve a better work-life balance. At the same time, I was planning large public events, and they began to feel impersonal. Even though I had the satisfaction of pulling off huge projects, I wasn’t able to see the impact I was having on the people who were participating in the events. I craved closer interaction with attendees, clients, and vendors while being able to work on my own schedule—so I started Heather St. Clair Events to focus on weddings and other social events.
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
I'd love to see less emphasis on decor and design, and more focus on the experience of celebrating with your fiance and your guests. While design can contribute to the overall feel of a wedding, it sometimes can get in the way while wedding planning and on the wedding day. I love it when I see my couples being truly in the moment on their wedding day—enjoying the beautiful surroundings we created, but most of all connecting with their loved ones.
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want to?
Aisle Planner is essential for streamlining the planning process because it keeps everything together in one place. It also allows us to be fully transparent with our clients about the tasks to be completed, vendor costs, etc., which helps to build and maintain trust. With our full planning clients, we can lead them step-by-step through the planning process with the Aisle Planner tools. For our partial planning or wedding management clients, we have all of their information handy when it’s time for the next check-in and for when it's time for us to step in and take things off their plate the month before the wedding.
What is your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
It's so hard to choose! Being able to create and use templates has been such a huge time saver for creating new projects and onboarding clients. We also love the checklist for keeping both us and our clients on track, and we wouldn’t be able to function on event days without our massive timelines!
If you weren't the Owner, Designer, and Lead Planner of Heather St. Clair Events what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
I would probably be an event planner for a university or cultural institution—but I wouldn’t be having as much fun!
As a business owner, what are some of the challenges you’ve overcome and benefits you’ve experienced?
The people I have gotten to know, both vendors (really, friend-ors) and clients, have been the absolute best part of my job. I am blessed to work with kind, creative, professional people every day! The biggest challenge of running my business has been trying to achieve that all-elusive work-life balance. I’ve finally realized that balance can’t happen every day—but over a week or a month or a season, you can achieve some type of balance between work and family, and feel proud of what you have accomplished!
What are three things you never show up without on event day?
One (or more) of my amazing team members. I realized early on that managing a wedding or event is never a solo activity. With so many moving pieces, things would absolutely slip between the cracks without a strong team.
My event kits, which I have organized into two Caboodles (shout out to my fellow 80's kids!). One is a personal care emergency kit with anything the bride or groom might need on the wedding day, and the other is a setup kit with all of the essentials for whatever might come up while we’re getting ready for the wedding.
A calm attitude. We take lots of deep breaths throughout the day, and any issues that come up are dealt with behind the scenes. When our team is calm and confident, so are our couples!
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
Get as much experience as possible before you start your business, and keep learning from fellow event pros! I would not be as successful and comfortable in my business if I hadn’t had so much first-hand experience in the industry. Since I’ve been in business, I’ve maintained my knowledge by frequent check-ins with my vendor network, learning what new projects they are working on or challenges they have overcome.
What’s your trademark in the client or event experience?
My team and I are calm, cool, and collected on event days. Even though we are dealing with a million little details, we don’t let stress take over, and always deal with our clients, their guests, and vendor teams with kindness and respect.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about working on this year?
One of our largest projects each year is Flower Mart at Mount Vernon Place. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are dreaming up new ideas for this festival, so that Baltimore can celebrate the beginning of spring weather. We’re hoping that some of these ideas—both for this event and others—can last beyond the current crisis, pushing our events into new and exciting places!
Just for fun
What’s the most used tool in your emergency kit?
Boutonniere pins. We make sure that those bouts stay put for the whole wedding day! I have a tried-and-true boutonniere pinning technique—contact me and I’d be happy to share my secret.
I’m dying to design a wedding or event in…
A historic warehouse that's currently being used as a parking garage. It has so many interesting architectural details, with the added interest of decay over time. I'd love to see it activated with beautiful decor, music, and guests enjoying the space!
What’s one trend you think should be left in the past?
The garter toss. I see fewer and fewer couples choosing to do it as gender equality becomes more important for our modern couples. I would love to see the garter toss go away for good!
What’s one trend you hope to see more of?
Micro-weddings. In this time of social distancing and gathering restrictions, I love that couples are choosing to get married anyway, with their very closest friends and family in attendance. Micro-weddings are so intimate and special that I’m hoping that more couples will choose them even when it is safe to gather in large groups again.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever created for a wedding or event?
One of my favorite creative solutions is to take all of the guests outside for a group photo to create space and time for the vendor team to flip a ceremony location to cocktail hour. The guests don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, and the couple gets a keepsake photo with all of their wedding guests in it!
Hero photo courtesy of Living Radiant Photography
To find out more about Heather and check out the gorgeous events she plans visit her website: www.heatherstclairevents.com