Yes, it’s true, I was a wedding planner for a few years. A sort of accidental wedding planner. Not a word you’d normally want associated with the planning of a wedding, but let me explain. We are fortunate, in my little village of a few hundred, to have a church that dates from 1868. In California, that’s OLD. It’s a designated historic site, and a dozen years ago, it was in desperate need of repair.

PESCADERO CHURCH

Pescadero Community Church
Watercolor by Karen Olsen | Facebook: Karen Olsen Fine Art

 

 

The story begins not long after we’d moved to Pescadero, and I had made a few new pals, all of whom were involved with this little Congregational church in some way. I let it be known that while I thought it was wonderful that they had a sweet little church that they loved, I cannot sing a note and would not be joining them in the choir, nor did I ever intend to participate in any kind of church worship service ever, ever again, ever, thank you very much.

“But we’re doing Jesus Christ Superstar! It’s Easter! You have to come! “ went the new pals, as I waved my hands in front of my face like you might if someone were passing a plate of pickled fish heads with eyes still staring at you. I did really like the new pals, and when it turned out that one would be singing the Mary Magdalene part, I weakened.

That’s how I found myself in the very last pew on that Easter Sunday, a few quick steps from the front exit, as invisible as I know how to be, which is not very. Then the show — or service, I guess — started. Turned out my new pal sang like the most angelic possible fallen woman, in a beautiful, rich contralto voice. Jesus Christ was a brilliant, obviously well-trained baritone, from Germany. In the front pew, all the pre-school kids had instruments they were playing when it seemed appropriate, and also provided a kind of junior Greek chorus, as they asked their parents what was next, or if that was Jesus who was singing.

Ten minutes into the performance, tears were running down my not-at-all invisible face: not dainty little dewdrops, either. The kind that take your mascara and your dignity right down your face and onto your shirt. I snuffled and blew, happy for the noisy cover. Having never experienced anything like this home-grown, heartfelt little affair in a country church, I was a goner.

The rest of the performance/service gave me time to look upward, and see the plaster hanging from the ceiling. The lights were in the wrong place, ugly and in bad repair. There was red shag carpet on the floor. Pictures of Jesus, calendars, flags and trinkets hung haphazardly from the walls. I could go on, but you get the picture. I was looking at a sanctuary that had been scotch-taped together for decades. The roof had been repaired, some basic things taken care of, but that was about it. What had once been the simple but elegant pride of an involved congregation was in really poor shape.

I must have said something to that effect to my pals, along with high praise for the musical event, because in a matter of days, I was asked if I might help write the grant that was being prepared to get funding from the State of California to repair the interior of the church. I said yes, which was the beginning of a four-year-long process which I’m happy to say resulted in the complete renovation of the interior of the church, along with the social hall behind it, which dated from the 1940s.

Out came the red shag carpeting (“But it’s still good!” protested Martin, then in his early 90s) and layers of other floor covering, to reveal beautiful old locally milled fir floors. Off came all the detritus that had collected on the walls. New plaster, new paint, new light fixtures, new finish on the old floors. The building felt whole and alive again.

But how would this all be maintained? How could this little, shrinking country congregation pay for touchups, for gas in the lovely new heaters, for cleaning?

“Weddings!” I must have said, with the confidence peculiar to the uninformed and uninitiated, thinking that after wrestling the State of California and the entire congregation of the church, including its crabbiest, most opinionated members, into submission, a few brides and grooms would be a cakewalk.

Which is how I became the Accidental Wedding Planner. Somehow, I found out where a class was being given in “How to Build a Successful Wedding Planning Business,” and showed up for the day-long seminar. An hour or two into the class, I realized I was the oldest person there, and one of very few with any business –especially marketing — experience. Heck, I’d given a bazillion parties, planned events, managed graphic design projects — this was entirely do-able!

Jennifer & Scott8GBcard_16cc

In a matter of weeks, the letterpress stationery and cards were ordered, the website went up and the shingle was hung. Badaboom. By then, word was out, and a couple of calls came in.

The truly odd thing about all of it is that while I felt completely qualified to do this work, I hadn’t stopped to think about a couple of horrendous flaws in the business model.

Flaw One, there’s pretty much no repeat business. Every couple comes to you as an uneducated, inexperienced client, which is to say, the worst kind of client. And then after you’ve educated them and they gain experience, they get married and never need you again.

Flaw Two, I’m cheap. I think it’s crazy to spend tons of money you don’t have on a wedding. If you have plenty, great, but most marrying couples would be better served using that $15,000 or $30,000 or $100,000 as a down payment on a home or to pay their debts off. So I’m troubled to be suggesting boutonnieres to them that cost a month’s rent.

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One of the most fabulous weddings ever: Lisa and Mauro spent something like $50, as I recall, on new clothes from the Pescadero Thrift Shop. Everything else — food, cake, flowers — came from neighbors and friends. Yes, those are cowgirl boots she’s wearing. Recognize the Best Man?

Flaw Three, I have no desire WHATSOEVER to stay up all night making little theme nametags or tying tiny silk bags of Jordan Almonds up in exactly the right way, which I realize is what may have motivated a lot of wedding planners to enter the business. They like that stuff.

But good sense had never prevented me from stepping into the fray before, and it wasn’t going to stop me then.

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Did I love the work? At times it was as much fun as anything I’ve ever done. What I didn’t understand at the beginning was that I would become a midwife to these marriages, seeing them from “Yes, let’s do this!” all the way through “Omigod, we’re actually doing this!” and everything that entails. Crazy families, inappropriate locations, great and awful decisions, love and hate, all mixed in. I’m not a trained counselor, not a minister, not even a Certified Event Planner, but there I was, the one who happened to be in the taxi when the new marriage was being born. Which is quite thrilling at times, truly awful at other times.

The awful times were when the photographer and I seemed to be the only ones who could see that this newborn marriage was not going to survive. TO BE CONTINUED.

– L


41 Comments

  1. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    i just love, love, and adore this little church. every time you post about it i fall in love with it more. it reminds me of the kind of churches you see in movies and i just love it. (ok, can i possibly use the word love anymore??) if ever i make it to Pescadero, that church is definitely on my list of must-see places! along with the lighthouse 🙂
    and i laughed out loud at “invisible as I know how to be, which is not very.” hahaha!

  2. I feel the same way Haley!!! I’m in love with that church and need to see it someday!!! Oh and the lighthouse! I love lighthouses!!! 🙂

  3. Destiny Zestiny Elmore via Facebook says:

    Beautiful post, Lynneylou. I totally pictured the vid of you crying the first time Rose sang for you as I read of your first experience in that darling little church. <3

  4. Heather Tucker Shaffer via Facebook says:

    Love this! I thoroughly enjoy reading all of your post about this little church. It’s beautiful and like Haley, I can’t wait to visit one day. Do you have any pictures of the weddings you’ve planned?

  5. Claudia Orieux via Facebook says:

    Thanks Lynne …. I was wondering. Love it so far xo

  6. Destiny Zestiny Elmore via Facebook says:

    Wha? There’s more!? Holding…

  7. Ellie Ellie via Facebook says:

    Thanks Lynne! I think we saw those tears again when Rose Thomas was singing in Orlando. Can’t wait for Chapter 2… or the part about the wedding planning!

  8. Claudia Orieux via Facebook says:

    Haley, I’ve only seen the outside of the church….but it’s so much more in person, especially knowing the history.

  9. Destiny Zestiny Elmore via Facebook says:

    I think it’s up now!:)

  10. Ellie Ellie via Facebook says:

    Whoops just saw your post. Standing by!

  11. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    Everything about it makes me feel so warm and cozy. Like I just wanna walk in there and throw out some High Fives for Jesus!!!

  12. Tina Funez via Facebook says:

    Love this…I got to see this little church in person. In love with it…Just so beautiful. <3

    • Kaleigh says:

      Graham mate, we shouldn’t be shocked by anything Amanda gets up to …but I agree, Amanda in my opinion was being restricted more on BB’s than she ever was on BS, so I think now we will see Amanda reaching her full potential, and rising to the mega heights that she deserves &#08;0;…………ࢶ…&#82383. Tony MrT

  13. Ellie Ellie via Facebook says:

    Just read the second half! Interesting! That’s a good point that there’s not repeat business, but I’d guess that it’s one of the most referral-based types of businesses out there. Like, if one person uses you and likes you, and their best friend gets engaged that year, there you go.

  14. It should work that way, Ellie Ellie, but each client is still a newbie! And definitely, some planners get established in an area, and become “the planner” to call if you can afford it.

  15. Claudia Orieux via Facebook says:

    No repeats I think would also keep it interesting? Loving the story so far…looking forward to more! xo

  16. Tina Funez via Facebook says:

    Looking forward to part 2 ! ❤ 🙂

  17. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    Ha – You ended that on a real cliffhanger! Does the marriage survive or doesn’t it?! I GOTTA KNOW!!! 🙂
    I went through a very brief moment where i thought maybe i wanted to be a wedding planner… then i remembered that i’m NOT Jennifer Lopez, and will probably NOT find my Matthew McConaughey by being a wedding planner!

  18. Jennifer Lopez isn’t Jennifer Lopez, either. You made a good choice, Hales.

  19. When I had my palm reading, Catherine said that I could have a future career as an event planner….I thought hmmmmm…possibly….but then I get so stressed out just planning my 3 year olds Ninja Turtle party and figured it might not be the career field for me lol.

  20. Confessions of a former wedding planner sounds like a Lifetime movie. Everybody is so modern these days. Establish a more elegant setting for a wedding and there you go. Lynne Bowman, the new wedding planner.

  21. I love when you throw yourself into things that you don’t necessarily want to do, and it turns into something wonderful. And I love little country churches like that. Beautiful.

  22. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    Soooo will you come out of retirement to help me plan my wedding… one day… a million years from now i’m sure?!

  23. You find the groom, I’ll do the plan.

  24. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    Deal!!!

  25. Destiny Zestiny Elmore via Facebook says:

    Finished reading this finally! $50 wedding?! Love that! Then $1500 for a flight to Paris, right?!;)

  26. Looking forward to reading after work xx

  27. amandahawking says:

    You have such a way with words Lynney Pops! Loved the little journey you always take us on.. I can totes see you bawling… Aww! Looking forward to seeing the church and your gorgeous town soon. I did notice Pirate pants in the photo :))) xoxo

  28. Am I the only one who still comments on the actual blog?? Lol !!!

  29. Haley Clark via Facebook says:

    Haha I do too sometimes, Amandapants, but no one ever seems to chat there so I didn’t this time lol

  30. I know…. I don’t think anyone sees the comments anyway lol.. FB comments it is x

  31. Shannon Kattengell Wegener via Facebook says:

    I loved this post. No matter how you came to be a wedding planner, those weddings were everything those couples wanted. You have an eye for details and the church is nice. I love small churches.

  32. Kara Betke via Facebook says:

    Loved reading all of this. Thanks for sharing, L! That sweet church is amazing..on so many levels. Great read! XO

  33. Chanda Camese via Facebook says:

    So interesting, I wondered what made you decide to get into wedding planning.

  34. Dee Marie via Facebook says:

    Loved reading your story. ❤

  35. Blakley Huntley via Facebook says:

    “Good sense had never stopped me from stepping into the fray before.” I need that bumper sticker. Awesome post. Catching up.

  36. Kelley Marie says:

    Adorable church! I really enjoy your blog posts Lynne. You really do have a way with words. I admire your ability to be a wedding planner. I would fail at this job. I think the whole huge wedding hoopla is a bunch of poo! I had to engage in that hoopla for mine and still get cranky about that. It totally was not my wedding, more like my mom and mother-in-laws. I just kept saying to them that I wasn’t getting married to throw this huge fabulous party. Apparently, I was speaking a language they could not understand. In the end, it was a beautiful wedding but I think my marriage is much more beautiful 🙂

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