"...celebrating marriage and love, and bringing family and friends together. That is the heart behind my brand and the reason why I love connecting with others. It takes a lot of hard work owning your own business, but the why behind what I do really motivates me to do it, and do it well..."
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Stephanie, and I am originally from Charlotte, NC. I attended UNC - Chapel Hill and worked in Washington, D.C. for 6 years before moving back down South. I am a wedding planner, designer, and stylist in Raleigh, NC. I own my own wedding planning and styling business called Stephanie Scholl Events.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day is so different, and it is one of the reasons why I love it so much. Some days I am involved in the details and logistics of wedding planning - answering hundreds of emails, contacting vendors, creating timelines, and creating tons of Google docs. Other days, I am meeting with brides and clients over coffee, deciding on decor at rental companies, or picking out wedding dresses and engagement rings at retail stores for a styled shoot.
Overall, I spend most of my time one-on-one, in person, collaborating with others in the community. I do a lot of work on my laptop at coffee shops, and I meet with others for coffee dates, whether they are clients, vendors, or women with whom I mentor. I meet with my brides and chat with them over the phone often to stay on the same page as far as planning for their big day. Sometimes we will meet in coffee shops and sometimes we will meet at rental companies. When I am not meeting with others, I can be found at retails stores like Anthropologie and World Market picking up tableware, dresses, and decor for weddings and styled shoots.
The really fun days, of course, are when everything comes to life. I love when a wedding is happening because that is what my job comes down to - pulling off a wedding for my brides and grooms. I make sure their dream day is as beautiful and stress-free as possible. These days are usually my longest, upwards of 16 hours, and they are a lot of hard work. It definitely takes some ‘getting down and dirty’, but they are the most rewarding work days. Another favorite ‘typical’ day is when I am on set of a styled shoot. Shoot days are typically around 8 hours, but this is the day when everything comes to fruition and all of the hard work has paid off.
Tell us more about how you design a styled shoot.
I have made a significant number of connections within the wedding industry through styled shoots. Styled shoots are so much fun because the end result looks like a mini wedding. I am finally bringing a vision to life, and because I am the planner, designer, and stylist, I get to interact with all vendors participating in the shoot. I pick and choose which ones I want to work with and which ones would fit the aesthetics best. With every shoot there are probably around 15 - 20 vendors, both locally and nationally known. I will work with photographers, florists, models, hair and makeup artists, bakers, retail store owners, venue managers, and many other small business owners.
We bring all these vendors and small business owners together to create something beautiful and inspiring. From that, we hope that the shoot is published and featured online or in print. A feature in a wedding magazine or website serves as a portfolio for soon-to-be brides in the community because it is a display of my aesthetic and design. As the stylist and planner, I have the creative freedom to go in the direction that I want it to go, and it displays the work that I can, and want to do. Brides can find me through social media as well. It is a huge compliment that when they get engaged, they want to work with me because they love my style. Collaboration stems so organically from styled shoots, and it has been significant in bringing brides to my growing business.
How do you get all of the vendors on board for a styled shoot?
I have probably worked with around 100 small business owners. Collaboration is one of my favorite parts of the job! I love connecting with others and building community; it is something that comes naturally for me. Being friendly and authentic with people and asking them how you can help their business is how it’s done. I am really not in it for any other reason other than the fact that I just really admire the work that they do. I reach out to them and tell them that I want to meet them, I would love to get to know them, and I want to serve their clients as well. The idea is to work together to create something beautiful and inspiring!
Photography by Amber Hatley
When did you know that you wanted to be a wedding planner?
I figured I would go back to school to earn my master’s degree in social work and possibly pivot into counseling in my late 20s. A few years ago, I was in a season of life where I was attending a ton of weddings, bridal showers, and engagement parties. I realized that I really loved weddings and I was never overwhelmed or burdened by attending or being a part of any of it. A few months after being behind the scenes of my own sister’s wedding, friends who were about to be engaged or who were recently engaged, asked me to plan their weddings. Although I had little experience in planning an entire wedding, they were extremely supportive and insisted on hiring me. I thought that because the design and organization came so naturally for me that it must be easy for everyone. It really took the encouragement from my friends and family to push me to make it into a business and not something I was doing for friends as a favor. I was working a full time job and planning on the side, as well as doing life with friends, investing in a bible study, and volunteering. I would get home around 9 or 10 and then plan for weddings until 2 am. I was so encouraged by it and so excited to plan, that it did not feel like more work. I knew that wasn’t sustainable but I knew it was the right path and I felt reassured that this was what the Lord wanted me to do.
Southern Weddings Magazine also played a significant role in leading me towards my new career. I loved the company for years and was always a huge fan. That company in particular really shaped what I thought about weddings. Weddings are less about superfluous details and pretty days, and more about finding meaning in celebrating marriage, love, family and friends. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you are married and surrounded by your loved ones. I think that gave wedding planning more worth in my eyes, I realized the meaning and heart behind weddings and why I wanted to get in this business.
When did you decide to take the leap and start your own business?
In March 2015, I decided to leave my nonprofit job in Washington, D.C. and take my business full time. I called my parents one day and told them that my business was at a point where I either couldn’t take on any more weddings, or I needed to make it a full time job. While I was sitting at my desk at work one day, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do it! I am going to make my business full-time and continue to say yes to the wedding requests coming in.’ At the time I made my decision, I was working in elementary schools in the inner city and I wanted to finish out the school year, make a thorough business plan, and prepare for the change financially. In July, I put in my 2 weeks notice, announced I was taking my business full time, and moved to Raleigh. Anybody who knew me knew it was planned for many months.
I moved back down south, to North Carolina, to be a little closer to family, and because the wedding industry is vibrant and thriving in the triangle area. It is also where Southern Weddings Magazine is located, and I think they have a lot to do with why it is so big down here. During the transition, friends and family members continued to ask me to plan their weddings, and I never had to do any marketing because everything happened so naturally through referrals.
I really feel like this is the work that I should be doing, and every day I absolutely love it. The opportunities that have come my way have been astonishing. Things happened that I never dreamt would have ever happened, let alone within the first month. It is a lot of hard work and not every day is easy and not everything happens just because you want it to, but it is the most rewarding - owning my own business, working with my clients, celebrating love, and building community.
HOw has your business changed since the launch?
When I took my business full time, my role as a wedding planner slowly evolved. I have gotten to know more people in the industry and different opportunities have presented themselves. The styling side of my business has taken off. I am still a planner first and foremost, but product and brand styling has come about so naturally.
Aside from wedding planning and styling, I spend time in coaching sessions with small business owners, and potential small business owners going over best practices, how I got where I am, giving direction on styling/designing, and social media coaching. Some days I am meeting with other small business owners, students seeking jobs after college, women who are trying to get a small business off the ground, or others that want to rebrand their business. There are many sides of my business, and my roles have grown and expanded.
What aspects of your job do you like/dislike?
The thing I like the most is that I am my own boss, and I can set my own schedule. After working in the corporate/non-profit world for 6 years, I love having flexibility and control over my schedule and what I do everyday. I am more invested in my work and I think I work harder than I ever have. Although I work more than ever owning my own business, it really doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes it is hard to turn off because I love it so much!
For me, accounting is not my strong point. So making sure the business side is in good shape and where it should be is just as important. Luckily, I have financially and business-minded family members who are there to help. I have learned it is probably best to outsource. I have an accountant for that, and I know my business is profitable and operating like it should be. I learned pretty quickly that I needed a really awesome accountant to do it for me!
What is the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
From the outsider, especially through social media, it looks like a very glamorous job. People assume that wedding planners are always playing with flowers and picking out wedding dresses. And those are things that I do some of the time, but often times I am doing not so glamourous things. Although, I absolutely LOVE every part of it.
Another possible misconception is the ‘why” behind what I do. I am making things pretty, yes, but we all have stories to share and things that inspire us. My work is about finding meaning in the details and celebrating a couple’s love story, or bringing a brand to life. I focus on how I can authentically tell their story that is visually appealing, cohesive, and speaks to their ideal clients. Weddings are about finding meaning in celebrating marriage and love, and bringing family and friends together. That is the heart behind my brand and the reason why I love connecting with others. It takes a lot of hard work to own your own business, but why I do what I do really motivates me to do it, and do it well.
What would you tell someone who wanted to pursue your career?
How can you start now? How can you take steps now to get in the direction you want go? Reach out to others in the industry or to other business owners and figure out how to begin now, wherever you are in life. Whether it's starting a blog, helping for free at a wedding, shadowing people, or asking questions, you can start now.
It takes a lot of time, so find people who can cheer you on and encourage you along the way. Someone to mentor you is really a big part of that. Your plans don’t always work out in the way you think, but take the initiative, because why not?! Even if you fail, it is better than not trying. It took me a while to figure that out, but I started to ask people to collaborate and to ask for big things to happen. Even if someone says no, that is ok. There are other people out there to work with, and maybe they simply did not have the time and will say yes at another time. You never know where it may lead, so just ask.
You mentor and coach young women and other business owners. What other advice do you have?
When I was in college I had no idea what I wanted to do, and my life is not perfect. Every person fails and struggles with something, but don’t let that stand in your way. Find gratitude where you are and know that you ARE capable of doing what you want to do.
Real community in a business is powerful, encouraging, and uplifting. I am invested in two different business groups for women. It is powerful and transformative to have women who are doing similar work meet with you and share in the joys, struggles, and successes of your business. They are there to give advice and answer questions. I cannot stress enough that finding community with people who are from the same cloth, like owning a business, are there to cheer you on. The outside world doesn’t need to know every detail through social media. Having people understand what it is like to own your own business and be there to offer advice and feedback is life changing.
What are your long term goals for your career and business?
It is hard to say! I love the relationship I have with my clients. I love knowing that when brides book me, they can be sure that I will be the one meeting with them and being the one behind the planning. At the same time, my business is growing and there is a lot of work to be done. I am a yes person, but I can’t physically say yes to every request.
It seems like the natural next step to expand my team or have a summer intern on board, but I am figuring it out as I go and trusting in the Lord. My business has evolved so naturally and I am just so excited to see what lies ahead. I know there will be a lot of planning, branding, mentoring, and coaching. Hopefully, I will continue to inspire others in build community in the Triangle area!