Holly Patton is the founder of the award-winning Perfectly Posh Events in Seattle, WA. Named Seattle Bride Magazine’s Best Wedding Planner for both 2014 and 2015, Holly and her team cater to the many eclectic needs of brides in the Pacific Northwest. On a recent visit to the Emerald City, we got a chance to sit down with Holly and get the inside scoop on Seattle weddings, partnering with the right planners, and the importance of getting help when you need it.
First we want to know about you! What was your path to becoming a wedding planner? Was it something you always were interested in?
I fell in love with the concept of event planning around the age of eleven. My dad owns a business in the event industry and he would let me tag along with him during the setup of events where I was able to witness a blank slate of a space being transformed into something magical. The setup part of an event or wedding, when everything comes together to create a vision, is by far my favorite part of planning.
I initially thought that I wanted to be a corporate or non-profit event planner but after dabbling in that arena after college I realized that the focus of those events is usually on the ROI whereas weddings are focused on happiness, love, relationship, and family —the things that are close to my heart. I love how weddings combine the logistical part of events, beautiful designs, and meaningful relationships.
You were recently named the 2015 “Best Wedding Planner” by Seattle Bride Magazine. That’s a big honor! What do you love about the Northwest and is there anything that makes planning weddings in the Seattle area special?
Having been born and raised in the Northwest I am a little biased but I definitely think that the greater Seattle area is one of the most beautiful places in the country! We are surrounded by gorgeous nature from lots of lush green plants to skyscraping mountains to deep blue water. As a result, often times our couples are inspired by the natural setting for their event design which results in terms like “organic,” “natural,” “free flowing,” and “gardeny” being used to describe how a couple wants their event to look and feel.
For the most part, Seattle is a casual and liberal city so there are a lot of wedding traditions that couples opt to not participate in and a lot of couples like to think outside the box in terms of how they celebrate their union. We also tend to be a little more environmentally conscious than other parts of the country and that definitely plays a role with the wedding planning for some of our couples.
Lastly, being in Seattle means that we always have to have a rain plan for outdoor weddings or photos. This sometimes means that we plan two completely different setups or we rent a tent but end up asking them to not set the tent up on the wedding day if it looks like the rain will stay away.
It doesn’t rain here nearly as much as people think (we try to keep that a secret!), and our weather can change really quickly with the convergent zone, but we do have a lot of days where there is a chance of rain. If rain is potentially in the forecast I usually ask my couples prior to the wedding “if it says 60% chance of rain but it’s not currently raining do you still want to go with Plan A?” and then use their answer to make the call on the wedding day so they don’t have to stress about making that decision in the moment – and more times than not they opt to go with Plan A rather than the rain plan unless it’s definitely looking like rain.
“Weddings are focused on happiness, love, relationship, and family – the things that are close to my heart.”
You’ve built a growing team at Perfectly Posh Events. What was it like going from a single planner to building a team? Do you have any advice for other planners trying to make that jump?
When I started Perfectly Posh Events I spent a considerable amount of time putting together a very thorough business plan which included a growth strategy, long term goals, and a succession plan. From the very beginning I planned on expanding to have a team of Associate Planners working with me. My goal was initially to start with one Associate Planner in the first five years of business but it turns out that I ended the first five years of business with three Associate Planners rather than just one!
My approach to adding planners to my team was to wait until the right person came along and then to create a position for them, something that fit with their aspirations as well as allowed for the company to grow and improve. Huoy was the first Associate Planner that I brought on board. I initially hired her because I wanted to be able to take a vacation but at the time I couldn’t fathom how my business would continue running while I was away. It was really scary leaving everything in her hands for those ten days when I was away, I kept saying that it felt like I was leaving my first born child with a babysitter for the first time!
As soon as I realized that Huoy was handling everything with perfection I was able to relax for the first time in the two years that I had my company and, oh boy, was it much needed! Since then I haven’t regretted one single vacation that I’ve been able to take. Thanks to my fabulous team for holding down the fort while I rest and recharge!
My number one piece of advice to planners looking to take the leap by adding Associate Planners to their company is to take it slow and wait for the perfect person and the right timing. Over the years I had several gals who I thought would make great Associate Planners but the timing wasn’t perfect so it didn’t pan out and I don’t stress about that. I really live by the motto of “if it’s meant to happen it will” and if not then I’m better off trying something else or waiting until the right moment.
What’s the biggest challenge of planning that keeps you up at night?
I definitely need my full eight hours of sleep a night or I’m cranky, so I try not to stay up at night stressing about planning. 😉 In all seriousness though, the biggest challenge that I face is keeping up with the never ending to-do list and managing my inbox. We’re booking weddings over a year in advance which means that basically as one wedding is wrapping up, another one is just starting. I thrive on staying busy so it’s definitely a good problem to have, but I don’t mind when it slows down a bit in the off-season and I’m able to recharge.
This year I strategically tried to block off weekends where I won’t take a wedding so I can recharge in the midst of wedding season and so far it’s been the best decision that I’ve made, next to bringing on my wonderful team members!
I understand you’ve been using Aisle Planner for quite a while. Can you tell me a little about how AP has been helpful for getting started?
Aisle Planner is a dream come true! It has helped us streamline EVERYTHING both on the client experience side as well as on our back end.
I particularly love that everything is hosted online and is accessible by all my team members regardless of if we are in the office together or not – two of my Associate Planners work from home rather than daily in the office with me so Aisle Planner has really helped to keep us all on the same page from a distance.
On the client experience side, I love how they have everything they need in one easily accessible place, from payment reminders, to checklists, to planning documents, to their guest list, to the timeline. It really has helped to eliminate the sorting through a bunch of emails which was something I was definitely doing a lot around this time last wedding season!
Can you compare using AP to how you planned weddings before?
Prior to using Aisle Planner we were using Basecamp to keep everything organized along with different documents and templates that I had created which were either shared with a couple on Google Drive or via email. Basically everyone had a different method of how they liked to share info and stuff was all over the place.
I could go on and on about how much I love that Aisle Planner organizes EVERYTHING for a wedding in one place that can be accessed from anywhere and by anyone that needs it. As Aisle Planner continues to develop new features (I love how Christina is so receptive to planner feedback!), I have found that my couples are using it more and are finding it to be very user friendly. Some of my favorite features and benefits for my clients are the checklist feature, budget tracking, and guest list management.
Are there other services Perfectly Posh Events is looking to expand into?
For the moment Perfectly Posh Events is just focused on our niche of wedding planning, design and coordination. We may expand into other events in the future, but I think it will need to be a passion of one my Associate Planners that really drives that expansion. I have not found that I am as passionate about other events as I am with weddings.
Aside from Aisle Planner, are there any other resources or tools that are vital for your planning process?
The other tool that I use regularly is Social Tables. I was using it as my floor plan software before I started using Aisle Planner and together they definitely are a dynamite duo! I love how basically all of my office is digital, accessible remotely, and available for my clients and I to be working in real-time together but from a distance.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could travel back in time and talk to a younger version of yourself?
I would have told myself to invest in Quickbooks from the beginning. I managed my accounting the first year simply using Excel, even though I had extensive experience with using Quickbooks – I should have known better.
I also would have hired a bookkeeper earlier instead of waiting until being in business for nearly 5 years. Since I have some knowledge & experience with bookkeeping from my previous career, I thought it would be better to save the money and do it myself, but honestly, I don’t enjoy bookkeeping and I would constantly put it off in order to focus my time on the projects I enjoy. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that it’s a good thing to outsource tasks that are not your priorities.
Thanks for the chat, Holly!
Check out more amazing weddings from Holly and her team at perfectlyposhevents.com