Leave The Planning To The Pro At Shelly Fortune Event Design

With nine years of experience in event planning, a husband and two kids, Shelly Fortune is well-versed in making big days run smoothly. Through Shelly Fortune Event Design, she strives to make your wedding day perfect, and believes in leaving the hard work to the pros. Kentucky Bride sat down with Shelly to learn more about how she runs her business and plans her events. Happy planning!

Kentucky Bride Magazine: How did you get your start as a wedding planner?

Shelly Fortune: I started in 2005 training under Thomas Bui in San Diego. I worked under him for a year and a half and then started taking on events on my own. I worked with him until 2008 when I moved to Newport, Rhode Island.

KBM: What kinds of things was he teaching you, and how did you learn the ropes?

SF: I really just dove in and started working at weddings, learning how the set up goes, all the little details of what needs to be done. Then I started doing the background work after that--the planning, the meetings, things like that.

KBM: When you're planning a wedding, do you have a system or process that you follow from start to finish?

SF: Well yes, the very first thing I do is just take time to really get to know the client--what is their picture for the wedding, how they want it to look, what "feeling" they want the day to portray. We also start with the budget because I think a lot of people don't talk about it or don't know what their budget really is, but it is the driving factor behind the wedding. From there we just get rolling with booking vendors and venues. I think it's nice to interview two to three vendors per category. It gives the clients an idea of personalities and style, and helps them find someone that's compatible.

KBM: Do you have a typical set of vendors that you advise your clients to use?

SF: No, I actually really love to work with different people all the time. Because no two brides are the same, no vendor is really going to fill the requirement for each bride every time. I have vendors that I love, but I think it's a shame if you're not constantly branching out and meeting new vendors because everyone brings something new to the table. There's always fresh talent to work with.

KBM: When do you usually like to have a bride contact you to start working with you and planning the wedding?

SF: I think nine months to a year is kind of the golden window. Honestly, a lot of brides spend a long time planning their wedding and I think it can be overkill. Sometimes, the more time you have, the more things start taking on a life of their own. Sometimes the focus of why you're getting married can get lost if you plan for too long. The real focus is that they're marrying the person they're in love with.

KBM: So what's your favorite part about planning weddings?

SF: The relationships with the people I work with. I pretty much become good friends with all of my clients. We keep it fairly professional along the way, but once we're done ... dinner and wine! And I love meeting their families. I work with a bride's mother as much as I do the bride, and I love that! But I do think it's important to stay professional along the way. You want your advice to be taken professionally.

KBM: What should a bride expect when she hires you as her wedding planner?

SF: Well the first thing we do is just spend time getting to know each other. I love to see all the photos they've collected--every bride has collected photos. And I like to meet the groom because often they don't play a huge role, but they have opinions. Sometimes I ask them to bring their mothers along. So I just like to have big meetings where everyone's getting to know each other to make sure everyone's on the same page and the expectations are clear. The client isn't necessarily just one person anymore--on the day of the wedding, it's really like you're in service to the family. So it's important to have developed a relationship with them along the way.

KBM: From start to finish, what's your mentality as you're planning a wedding and working with the families and brides?

SF: I try to keep the focus on the important things. The fact that two people are getting married is the most important thing. If nothing else happens, or if everything else goes wrong, the most important thing is that these two people are getting married. The next big focus is planning the best wedding we can with the budget we have and being realistic about the budget. I'm always very honest in the planning process. I think as long as you do that, you come out with a great product.

KBM: On your website, your "manifesto" says a wedding should reflect the couple, not a trend. How are you still modern in style, but not just like all the popular Pinterest trends?

SF: That's a great question. Kentucky tends to be a couple years behind where everybody else is. Since I worked in San Diego and D.C., I may feel that something is "done," but it's still about what's really important to the bride, but maybe trying to give her a fresh perspective. You don't want things to look dated, but I also believe in things looking classic. When you open your wedding album in 10 years, we want this to look just as good now as it did then.

KBM: What other kinds of events to you plan?

SF: I've planned anniversary parties, a lot of birthday parties, and some fundraising events. I don't need to have a reason to have a great party and spend time with your friends.

KBM: What's the most interesting wedding you've ever planned?

SF: I think it's the wedding I did in eight weeks. Hands down. You just had to make decisions and move on. That's kind of what was nice--it didn't take on a life of its own, it was very focused. It was in San Diego, and we could not secure a beach location, so we just walked onto the beach, set up quickly, did the wedding, tore down and left. It was really fun.

KBM: I noticed on your website that you have your own blog as well. What kind of ideas do you share on it that can help brides plan their weddings?

SF: I tend to write just informational wedding planning pieces, like pros and cons of having children at a wedding, or things to think about before asking bridesmaids to be in your wedding. I like to get into the smaller details that have a big impact on the wedding planning process. But I also like to keep it on the lighter side, like fashion and fun wedding-related things. It's fun to have a nice balance between information and fun topics.

KBM: At Kentucky Bride, we like to educate and inspire brides. What's some advice that you would give a bride that would educate and inspire?

SF: I would tell a bride right from the get go of her planning process to sit down with the parties involved, whoever that might be, and develop a realistic budget. I think money conversations are very hard for people to have because they're awkward, and often people don't know where to start. But I think it's really important to have that budget conversation from the get go and then once you've developed it, stick with it.

KBM: Did you have anything else you wanted to add about your event planning?

SF: I think it's really important when you're interviewing a wedding planner that you meet with three people and find out who you're comfortable with and who you can get along with, because you're going to be spending a lot of time with this person. And you should have a good rapport and working relationship. I would also recommend that you invest in photography. It's essentially the only tangible take-away from your wedding and kind of your first family heirloom. I definitely urge my clients to make the most of their wedding photography.

Shelly Fortune Events was a part of the #AskKentuckyBride video series, which you can view on the Kentucky Bride YouTube channel!

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