Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Destination Wedding - Ghana by way of Paris - pt 1

I am super excited to post this recent interview I had with Kim Petyt, Owner, Wedding and Event Planner of Parisian Events in Paris. I have been waiting to connect with her. Kim loves weddings, she has lived in San Francisco and she is now living in my favorite city, Paris! But Kim's a busy lady, as it is the season for weddings.  I am very appreciative that she was willing to take some take out of her schedule to do this interview with me.

BTW- I was also searching for a wedding planner who specializes in a destination weddings in West Africa but so far have found none, however it just so happens that the gentleman in the photos below is from Ghana and relocated to Paris. 

Q. Where are you from and what made you decide to move to Paris?

Kim -  I'm from Chicago originally, and had always been in love with traveling. I knew that I wanted to live overseas or in Europe, or SOMEWHERE ever since I was a little girl. I met my husband while I was on vacation in Paris, we moved to San Francisco together, then he had the opportunity to be transferred here with his work, so we took them up on the offer! We've been here for 10 years now.

Q .How long have you lived in France and what made you decide to go into the wedding planning business? What other kinds of events do you plan?

Kim - I planned corporate and social events in the US.  When I started trying to plan my wedding in France from the US, I ran into a LOT of speed-bumps and miscommunication (I didn't speak French).  At the time, wedding planners were pretty much non-existent in France, and I thought that there had to be other people out there like me- people who saw the beauty of Paris and would love to get married there, but just didn't know how.  In the time between leaving the States and having my children, I really studied a lot on how to transfer my skills to wedding planning. I took online courses, joined industry groups, took seminars, etc., as well as volunteered my services whenever I could, in order to learn the ropes.
Q. As a successful business woman what are the biggest obstacles someone from the US might encounter in starting a business in Paris/especially different from starting a business here?

Kim - I've never owned my own business in the US, but one thing that I think is a HUGE difference is the American "can do" attitude. In France, they are very into credentials and diplomas. The fact that you have been successfully doing a job for 5 years doesn't really mean anything if you don't have a diploma in that particular field. Which also means that someone who HAS received a diploma, but may not be very good at a job will be taken more seriously than someone who has talent, drive, and determination but no diploma. As there is no "Doctorate of Wedding Planning", I found it really difficult in the beginning to validate what I do.  Especially since it was a new concept- I don't feel that people are as willing to take a gamble on new ideas  as they are in the US.

Q. Destination weddings seem to be a growing trend these days. How does the cost compare to having a wedding in your own town or big city?

Kim - A lot of couples will choose to have a Destination Wedding when they see their wedding budget start to spiral out of control. When you plan a wedding in your home town, you'e often compelled to invite friends, relatives or colleagues out of a sense of obligation or duty. With a destination wedding, many of these B- or C- listers aren't able to make the time or expense commitment, and so automatically, the couple has fewer guests (meaning lower dinner reception costs).  In the same vein, often the destination wedding ceremony itself is a lot more scaled down- which affects the over-all budget as well. I've seen quite a few clients end up spending the same amount of money on their destination wedding as a local wedding, though, by planning tons of extra activities around the wedding day itself.
Couples often feel like they "owe" their guests since they've come so far, and will arrange expensive welcome baskets, tours, wine tastings, Happy Hours, day-after brunches, etc etc. I like for them to know that destination guests are there to share in their wedding, their Big Day :), and don't expect all of those extras. I usually suggest they set up a wedding website early on, and help guide their guests with links to activities, sights, etc. But then let them plan their own activities and enjoy Paris in their own way before the wedding.

Q. I think a destination wedding in Paris would be very romantic but would not know the first thing about how to go about planning one. Would you explain your process ?

Kim - My agency can pretty much handle as much or as little as a client likes. Sometimes couples have been trying to plan their wedding on their own, but are having trouble finding certain vendors- we have a service that can help them choose the best vendors for their style and budget. We have some clients who have no idea where to begin. With these clients, the first thing we do is build a Style Profile for them- we schedule a call to talk about their vision, what they like about Paris, how they imagine their wedding. We also talk about what they want to offer their guests- a "Parisian experience", an "Insiders Peek", etc. We talk about personal style- their favorite designers, where they shop for home furnishings, their style icons, etc. All of this helps me to get an idea of ways to personalize their event. - I think this is one way that my agency stands out from a lot of the others: So many wedding planners offer different "packages" that are based on generic formulas that have worked with previous clients' weddings. I prefer to take the time to get to know my clients so that their Parisian wedding is 100% "them"

Q. How do you handle working with a bride that is in another country? Does she need to come to France to meet with you?

Kim - No, I usually only meet my Destination Wedding clients a week or so before the wedding! Until then, we email, phone, SKYPE.  The hardest is trying to communicate over time zones- especially with clients in California, for instance, where there is a 9 hour time difference. We work it out, though!

Come back tomorrow for part two - Destination Weddings

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