Did you know that most brides spend an average of over 200 hours in researching, planning and attending their wedding. For destination weddings, the time spent can almost double that to a local wedding. Today, I want to introduce you to Christiana Halvorson - owner of Xie Creative. Xie Creative's goal is to make your engagement as stress-free and enjoyable as possible, acting as a wedding broker. I am so happy to sit down with Christiana today and learn a little bit more about what a wedding broker is and how her business can help you.
First of all, you are a wedding broker, not a wedding planner. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between the two.
A bridal broker is a little bit different from the typical wedding planner. A wedding planner is there from Day One until W-Day. Planners are integral to the decision making process and highly involved in all aspects of the wedding planning process. I saw a need in the destination wedding planning process that called for a position that allows brides to be alleviated of the research portion of wedding planning, but still have full control of their wedding. I've encountered many brides who need help finding vendors, but would prefer not to sign a wedding planner. Up until now there hasn't been any other option, but hopefully my services will fulfill that need for stress relief while still allowing brides to have complete control of their wedding process.
Do you replace a wedding planner or does a bride still need one?
The great part of my job is that since I am one step before the wedding planner, I can help brides research and find the right wedding planner too! If they don't want a wedding planner, than I can cover enough services for them to get by, including a day-of coordination service if they need it.
What made you decide to start your business?
I started off in the wedding industry at 16 doing wedding photography. I did that all through college, but after I graduated, I realized that I would rather help brides in a more hands-on way and really help promote the passions of my friends who also worked in this industry. Since I've worked for a bridal shop, florist, caterer, event planner and done photography and music, I felt I had a unique set of skills to really help me understand the wedding planning process as a whole, which really serves me well now!
How many clients do you usually work with in a year?
I didn't officially launch my business until this year, so unfortunately not as many as I'd like! But my goal is to be able to hire other passionate entrepreneurs to help as the work load increases, that way I never have to turn a bride away.
What types of services do you offer your clients?
I offer a variety of services for the convenience of my clients. The most prominent service is the Wedding Brokering, but I also offer a sub-service of Online Consultations in 30 and 60 minute increments for brides who need an expert's opinion or questions but don't have anyone to ask. It's a full half/hour of my undivided attention to help in whatever way I can over Facetime or Skype. In addition to these two services, I also offer Day-of Coordination as I mentioned before, as well as Bachelor/Bachelorette Party Broker services and Honeymoon Broker services. The additional broker services work in the same way as Wedding Brokering -- I take on the stress of researching these events and presenting the client with a complete list of the vendors and locations that can fit their needs and styles while still staying in their budget. From there they can choose who they prefer and sign the contracts and pay the vendors directly.
How long do you typically work with a bride?
It really depends on how many services she decides to use, but typically if she is just using the Wedding Broker services, we will be in contact for 4-6 weeks or until she is satisfied. That timeline can also be dependent on how much research she's already completed before she finds me, but I really try to have the research done and in her hands as quickly as possible so that she is able to get the down payments and reservations completed as soon as possible.
What trends do you see with the current brides?
The most obvious trend that I encounter is the DIY trend -- even when brides choose to hire a variety of vendors for their wedding, I think they all want a bit of personal touch in their wedding. The beauty of this trend is that it really does set apart each wedding so that guests don't feel it's generic. Another trend that I've seen (and adore!) is a return to simplicity. Sometimes that develops as a rustic atmosphere, and sometimes it's using greenery instead of flowers, or wearing a very simple dress, but however each brides interprets the "simple" approach, I love it -- mainly because I think her focus is able to be returned to what the wedding day is all about to begin with: the start of her marriage.
What is the most popular wedding color so far this season?
The most popular color I've encountered so far is Marsala, which happens to be the Pantone color of the year. Sometimes it's interpreted as more of a maroon or a deep red, but it's rich and timeless either way!
What times a year do you find are the busiest for this area?
Because Charleston has so many beautiful months each year, it has an almost 9-month wedding season! The most popular months for me for weddings are June and October and for engagements/brides reaching out is February. A lot of girls get engaged between Christmas and Valentines Day, so usually at the end of the month they start looking for someone to help plan their wedding.
What do you love most about helping brides in the area?
Most of the brides I work with are destination brides, so they live in another state or another country, and a lot of the time have only visited Charleston once if at all! I absolutely love it when I'm able to take a day to show them the city and help them fall in love with its intoxicating romanticism just like I have!
What is the best thing about having a wedding in Charleston, SC?
I love that Charleston brides have a variety of venues to choose from -- each as beautiful as the last. Whether they want a plantation wedding, beach wedding, historic house wedding, etc, they have their pick. The industry here is so well established and the vendors work so closely with each other, that no matter which venue fits a bride's taste, it will be unique to Charleston and incredibly beautiful.
If you could plan a dream wedding, what would it be?
Place, time, colors, etc… I think my dream wedding would be a bit unique -- I've always loved the idea of having a tiny ceremony with just immediate family and possibly some very, very close friends, and then having a huge reception at a later time when everyone can make it. I have a large family and a LOT of friends, so the reception is more about having everyone come celebrate with me. Ideally it would be right here in Charleston, but if not, I would definitely go for an elopement in Venice and the reception right here in my home city. I've always thought that cobalt blue would be a really unique and fun color to incorporate into the wedding, and I love the idea of dancing the night away, so the reception would be a little closer to sunset.
It’s always fun to learn a little about the people behind the business…
What do you like to do when you are not working on weddings?
I'm a really big traveler, and I have family (literally) all over the country and all over the world, so I like to plan my free weekends in advance to fit in as many visits as I can. Right now one of my sisters is living in Spain, so I'm already planning a trip there in March! The weekends I'm here in Charleston, you can find me sitting on my porch with a cup of coffee in the morning and wine in the evening reading a book, and probably paddleboarding Shem Creek or running the Ravenel Bridge in the afternoons.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
So far the best meal I've eaten has been at Hall's Chophouse, but Rue de Jean has been a close second and has never disappointed!
What are the five presets on your car radio/ipod?
Is it sad to admit that I just have two stations preset on my car radio and that's all I listen to? My mornings are filled with the Bert Show and 2 Girls and Guy. :)
If you weren’t a wedding planner, what would your dream job be?
When I was a little girl, I really wanted to spend my life being a photographer for National Geographic and going to weird places to take photos to show people. And then I wanted to retire with a bed-and-breakfast cottage on the ocean. :) Who knows, maybe that will still happen!
For a bride on a budget, what is the #1 thing a bride should not skimp on?
I always, always tell my brides that you CAN'T skimp on a photographer. They may seem expensive, but your photos are the ONLY thing that lasts after your wedding day. Ideally, I wouldn't want them to skimp on anything, because I think any good vendor is worth their pricing, but if there truly was just one thing that I could promote, it would be an excellent photographer.
If you could tell the brides one thing about your business, what would it be?
What I'm doing is very unique, and a little bit ahead of its time, so I don't think brides realize how valuable and needed my services are in the industry yet. I'd like them to know that I can truly take away the stress of planning a destination wedding so that they can focus on preparing for a marriage, not just a wedding day.
Thanks Christiana for sitting down with us today. If you would like to learn more about Xie Creative and how Christiana can help you with your wedding planning, be sure to check out her website and follow her on social media.