Today’s planner interview is with Megan Estrada of North Shore Weddings and Events based in Chicago, IL! Enjoy:

Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.

North Shore Weddings and Events is a Full Service Wedding Planning company servicing the Chicagoland area and Midwest.  I created the company and started servicing events about 4 years ago.  I had always wanted to move, from the catering and venue side of the event planning business, to the client side.  Wedding Planning is the PERFECT job for my skill set and I love working with my clients to see their wedding dreams actualized.

Every event is unique, just like the people planning it. The wedding planning process therefore has to be tailored to each client. I provide structure and guidance to keep organized, stay within a budget and attain the wedding or event beyond the client’s initial expectations.  Unique events require extra creativity, not necessarily expenditures.  The goal is to produce the most creative and individual event within the conditions designated by the client.

Read the full interview after the cut!

Photo Credit: Candice C Cusic Photography

How did you get into wedding planning?

I started planning events 18 years ago in college when I was shooting live music photography for the music industry. My friends planned and hosted special events for a living (concerts, festivals, club nights, fashion shows) and I was involved in the planning process and production. These events sparked an interest in the event planning industry. I saw how the event production required creativity and management skills that I excelled in.

After college, I took a catering position with a hotel and began booking and planning social events. Over the years I helped plan hundreds of weddings from the catering/venue side for luxury hotels. That is when I developed a passion for flawless weddings and strong client relationships. I love a well planned wedding!

Photo Credit: Deonna Caruso Photography

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Events are a really intangible part of life.  It’s an experience.  I love figuring out what kind of experience my clients are looking for and bring that into the event and process.  I feel like I really get to know the bride and groom, so when the big day arrives it’s a personal achievement to see them happy and excited about the wedding events.  Life’s about the journey, not the destination and it’s amazing to be a part of so many people’s wedding journey.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding planners just getting started?

I spent many years learning about the wedding industry, prior to becoming a wedding planner.  I worked in different catering venues, in the music industry, as a photographer and artist.  I learned how to manage many different personalities and gained a great understanding of how each area of the industry works.  My professional experiences have made me more competent and confident in my position. I was fully prepared when I decided to start my own company.   I would suggest to anyone interested in becoming a wedding or event planner to develop their professional experience from various areas of the industry and learn from others.  A class in wedding planning cannot give you the skills to be successful.

Photo Credit: Erin Drewitz Photography

What are your hobbies or non-work-related activities?

I have two kids and a full time business, so there isn’t a lot of free time in my life.  When I do get some personal time away from work or managing a household, I love to practice yoga, try new recipes or restaurants, shop for antiques.  I really love to entertain in my home, but with a busy weekend schedule, my personal parties are less common.

Any great stories from working with a client?

For a year, I had been planning this lovely tent wedding with a client. So many details were decided with such scrutiny from the violin show during dinner to the Grapevine Chandelier and Café Lights to light the tent.  We brought in generator power for the band and lighting. Everything had been triple checked to be working smoothly. About 10 minutes before the ceremony was about to start, I received a call at the church from one of my assistants.  The generator for the band was blown.  I called my back up plan electrician to reroute the power off the house and went to gather the groomsmen and groom.

The Groom asked me “How’s everything going?” and I casually said, “Ahh, a generator is blown so we have to reroute the power from the house, but everything will be fine.  I have an electrician meeting me there after the ceremony.”  I wish the photographer had been there at that moment to catch all their faces.  The groom then asked me “So we basically don’t have any power for the reception?”  I responded, “Yep, but it’s going to be fine.  I have a back up plan.” It was fine.  We rerouted the power for the entire event off the client and neighbor’s house (who was attending the event) and the party went on until the early morning under the beautiful café string lights and a grapevine chandelier.  The client claimed it was the “Event of the Century”. Just a little stressful though!

Photo Credit: Kristin la Voie Photography

What is your current favorite color combination?

Last year was all about mixed metals; Silver, Bronze, Gold, Copper.  My favorite color combination for 2015 is Citrus Tones with Gold, Black and White.  I have one wedding this year using this suggestion and I am SO excited to see it come together.

Are there any trends that you absolutely love or would love to see brides leave behind?

I love square and rectangular tables.  For years, everyone used round tables, because that is what is typically available at venues, but they really aren’t great for designing a room and for guest’s conversation.  Most of my weddings in 2015 will have a mix of table sizes and shapes.  It makes the room look so much more interesting and is better for layout in tight spaces.

Photo Credit: Kristin la Voie Photography

What tips or advice can you give to couples who are in the midst of planning?

1)  Treat the process as a creative business endeavor. This is a big event and large financial responsibility. There are so many emotions and costs with a wedding that everyone really needs to approach the planning process with the same respect they would to purchasing a home or making a huge transition in their life.

2) Don’t be afraid of consulting a wedding planner. Consult a few and find the right one for your personality and budget. Many people think that wedding planners are too expensive or won’t allow them to have control over their event. A wedding planner should keep you on budget and provide you the best wedding and reception possible.  We save you time and money and provide a more targeted event than working without one. Would you buy a house without a real estate agent?  Wedding Planners are your advocate and can really help manage everyone’s expectations and time throughout the planning process.

Thanks Megan! For more information about North Shore Weddings and Events, please visit their WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to their website.

Do you have any question or comments for Megan? Add them to the comments below!

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