This week, we had the opportunity to chat with Fearon May DeWeese of Fearon May Events, a special event company in Northern California that specializes in Napa, Tahoe and Sacramento area weddings.We loved hearing how she got her start in the industry, how she makes planning with clients from a distance a breeze, and how her upcoming conference, Lav & Fab, combines vacation and education into an amazing four day experience for creatives.
How did you get started in the event industry and ultimately end up starting Fearon May Events?
I really started from the bottom. When I moved home from college I started working at a golf course that did a lot of weddings. I worked every position from server, bartender, even the beverage cart girl. I really got to see a lot. They then moved me over to their sister location where I managed the entire event facility and bar & grill. I had a staff of 30 and handled all the daily routines. I met my husband while bartending at the bar! We eventually moved to Sacramento where I got a job as an event planner at a very high pace country club. We had 3 ballrooms and 2 ceremony sites and I did over 1,000 wedding and events in 2 years. I then got promoted to their sales manager where I got to work with the couples from the beginning and handle vendor referrals and contracts.
I left in 2010 to start my own business because I really wanted to work with brides who were looking for something different and not the cookie cutter wedding. While starting my business I also worked for a prop and decor company, where I learned even more about decor and design, which I think really sets me apart. Let’s see I can bartend, put draping up, negotiate contracts and if I can handle 10 weddings in one weekend (the most I ever did at the country club on a 3 day weekend, yep!) then I know I can handle one wedding a weekend and give them all my expertise and knowledge.
There’s something to be said for having experienced weddings and events from various perspectives! How has this experience helped to define your planning process?
Having the background that I do allows me to see things differently. I know how to setup a bar and how many bartenders are needed and also how to bar tend should I ever have to jump behind there. I know the proper way to set a table from a sit down, buffet or family style meal. I know lots of different napkin folds. I also learned how difficult it is to be a server at a wedding and to always treat the banquet staff and caterers with respect. It also allows me to protect my client from vendors who aren’t doing things right and to make sure every element of the wedding is perfect. This definitely comes in handy with the backyard estate weddings that I specialize in. They need more of an event manager to oversee every element of setup and tear down.
What in your opinion makes a great wedding?
At the end of the day, if you’re married to your best friend then the wedding was successful. I also think a great wedding is when the couple really thinks about the guests attending and makes it enjoyable for them. Yes, it’s your day but the ultimate pay off is when guests leave saying that it was the best wedding ever.
“The ultimate pay off is when guests leave saying that it was the best wedding ever.”
You recently starting planning on Aisle Planner. What was it that made you want to make the switch from the system you were previously using?
I plan a lot of destination wedding in Napa and Lake Tahoe and most of my clients are not in the area. I was looking for a better way to visually communicate with them from a distance and I really enjoy the visual aspect of Aisle Planner. My clients love it too.
That’s great to hear! Would you share with us one way that Aisle Planner makes it easier to plan with couples that you aren’t able to meet with in person?
We created folders in the design studio for each venue my client was interested in booking. I was able to upload pictures of each property and communicate back and forth easily in the notes. It’s so simple versus trying to e-mail pictures or load them to Pinterest.
It’s helpful to have a system where everything is organized and in one place, especially when there are so many details that go into planning a wedding, and so many pieces of information that need to be shared with your clients.
Everything is well organized and communicated with my couples, and the full checklist and alerts are such a plus! Aisle Planner automatically sends an e-mail to them when something is due and keeps them on track for me.
You’ll be kicking off the first annual Lav & Fab Creative Conference this February in Napa. What was the inspiration behind creating this event?
I broke my foot last October and was out for 5 months. During that time I was really down and out and was in need of some creative inspiration and rejuvenation to turn my sour attitude around. I started researching and the conferences I wanted to go to already happened or were way to far away for me to try and get to. I live near Napa Valley and who wouldn’t want to come to a conference here. So I thought, I’m a planner, why don’t I plan my own conference. And so I did. I really wanted to create a conference that brought together industry leaders and professionals in all kinds of different creative fields.
How has your experience at other conferences shaped the program you’ve created for Lav & Fab?
I have been to a lot of wedding conferences and wedding mixers and I really wanted to be inspired by others outside this industry, so I created a true “Creative Conference” for all creative individuals including bloggers, graphic designers, fashion designers, writers and business owners. Creative people think similarly, no matter what career we have so why not all come together for inspiration and high-end networking?
“I really wanted to create a conference that brought together industry leaders and professionals in all kinds of different creative fields.”
That’s so true! As creative women, we all face similar challenges in our endeavors, and it’s not often that we have the opportunity to come together in an inspirational environment that spans beyond our specific industry. We especially appreciate that Lav & Fab is moving beyond the basics to tackle some of bigger roadblocks that we face as creatives.
I didn’t want to be stuck in a classroom all day and I didn’t want topics about things that wouldn’t be relevant to me like “how to setup a Facebook page.” We’ve all been to those conferences before. This is as much about rejuvenation and inspiration as it is about meeting creative people that you can get inspired by and build lasting relationships with. I also know I’m busy and if I’m going to take time off for a conference, I also want it to feel like a vacation. We call it and EduVacation (Education + Vacation)!
EduVacation? We love it! That’s a great way to look at it, especially since so many of us as event professionals don’t make it a point to take much needed time to take a break and rejuvenate! There are so many conferences that are all amazing in their own right, especially in the wedding industry. What makes your conference unique?
I have been to giant conferences where it’s just a crowd of people and the speakers are on stage, and if you’re lucky, you grab a quick selfie. Our conference is small and intimate and only has 100 seats available. Imagine sitting at a dinner table with The Bachelorette Desiree Hartsock, or The Party Goddess Marley Majcher? What would your conversations be like and what would that value be to build those kinds of connections? With a small group like this, you will leave the conference well connected. It’s also at Solage Calistoga, HELLO!!! One of the most gorgeous venues in Napa! You will also get to know everyone at this property and experience everything they have to offer for a wedding or event. No boring windowless hotel room at this conference. We also have lots of great wine—isn’t that reason enough?
Rubbing elbows with industry thought leaders, great opportunity for learning and networking, not to mention great wine in an amazing location. Sounds like this will be a great event. Speaking of industry thought leaders, you have quite an impressive line up of speakers!
I had posted this quote as my #FMEquoteoftheweek a while back while planning this conference: “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!” (Maya Angelou)
It inspired me to reach for the stars and to plan something bigger than my comfort zone.
I happened to be lying in bed with my broken foot and next to me sat the InTouch magazine with Desiree Hartsock’s wedding picture on the front. I thought to myself “she would be the perfect person for my conference. She just got married, she runs a successful blog, she’s a fashion designer and she seems like a sweetheart.” I went to her website and found the info@ and emailed to see if she would want to be a part of my conference.
We can only imagine how nerve-racking it must have been waiting for a response!
I think I even wrote the email like I was expecting to get an assistant and talked about her in the third person. Lol. Sure enough, Desiree emailed me right back and said this looks amazing and yes I would love to be a part of it. She answers her own email and is actually a human being!
You must have been surprised, and relieved! We can only imagine how this fueled your fire for planning this conference.
I knew then that anything was possible and designed my dream conference with the people that inspire me.
What are some of the topics that your speakers will cover at the conference?
We choose topics that would apply to all types of business and includes education on Time Management, Video Marketing, Personal Branding and so much more.
How can our readers learn more about the Lav & Fab Creative Conference?
They can go to www.LavandFab.com or follow us @lavandfab on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Wow this conference sounds awesome,” then I would love to personally invite you attend.
What advice would you give to anyone who has a great idea to do something amazing, but is still sitting on the fence?
Reach for the stars and follow your heart! There will always be “Yeah, buts” standing in the way, but unless you are committed to uncovering the origins of those “Yea, but’s,” that’s where your story will end. If you have a great idea, get those “Yeah, but’s” out of the way so you can follow your dreams. On a side note, we’re excited to have Shannon Presson speaking on this very topic at the Lav & Fab Conference!
Thanks for the chat, Fearon!
See more weddings and events by Fearon May at fearonmayevents.com