Is work-life balance possible for wedding planners who are also parents? I spoke to Beth Long to find out how she does it.
The “new normal” is a phrase that’s probably never been bandied about as much as it has in these past months. Everyone – not just those who work in the world of event planning – has had to adapt to major changes in their careers and personal lives. It also seems like juggling these two worlds – that of work and that of personal time – can be a massive task in and of itself.
And yet I know some inspiring event planners who aren’t just surviving but thriving during this time. And all of them stress just how important it is to have a good work-life balance. I wanted to dive into this topic even more.
So I sat down with Beth Long, owner of Events by Beth Long, a Kansas City-based wedding planning company. As a successful business owner and event planner, and a busy wife and homeschooling mother, I couldn’t wait to hear about how she handles everything. Especially in times of added stress.
From A Hobby To A Career: Discovering Joy In Work
Beth told me that she first got into wedding planning relatively young – at 18-years-old, in fact, which is the age she was when she got married.
“I started by planning my own wedding. I was going through cosmetology school, but I realized that college was just not my thing. I’m a very creative person, and I needed a more creative outlet.”
After planning her own wedding in 2010, a mere three months after she’d planned her sister’s wedding, Beth knew that wedding planning was something was very good at.
“Even though I didn’t really know much about the industry, I realized I had a huge passion for it. But ten years ago, there weren’t many glimpses into the world of wedding planning, other than shows like Say Yes to the Dress. Social media was also not what it is now. So I started looking at anything I could get my hands on, like bridal magazines, just to get better acquainted with the industry,” she recalls. “I also didn’t realize that people actually paid others to plan their weddings, other than celebrities. It wasn’t even on my radar to do it as a business, it was just something fun that I enjoyed. It was my hobby at that point.”
Taking The First Steps To A Wedding Planning Business
Around that time, when she was averaging about six weddings from June to January, Beth’s family moved back to their hometown after her husband joined the Marine Corps. With two kids and another on the way, Beth began to think hard about her future.
“My husband asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I had no idea. I was just trying to survive as a mom. I had no clue. So he pushed me to think about that, about what I wanted,” Beth recalls. “In the meantime, I was doing events, working for a non-profit, and planning huge conferences for up to 800 people, making minimum wage. It was just something that was part of my thing, putting these conferences together. I really didn’t think about event planning again.”
Finally, Beth’s husband suggested she start charging people for her services – an idea that took her a while to get used to.
“I was doing all these events on the side, bridal showers, weddings of friends and friends of friends, not even realizing people pay for this. And finally, my husband suggested that I start charging people for it.”
After the gentle nudging from her husband, Beth says she started looking into certificate courses but quickly realized that it wasn’t for her.
“It reminded me that I hate school. I knew that I wasn’t going to finish a course if I started it. So instead, I started listening to podcasts and doing free design webinars or whatever I could get my hands on as far as getting a feel for event planning.”
Work-Life Balance: Make It Worth Your Time
After that, she started looking at other wedding planners in the area, at what they charged, and the services they offered.
“My mind was literally blown how much these people were making, doing what I was doing for free. It was crazy to me how much I was doing, and I really realized that I was putting my heart and soul into these events,” Beth explains. “I realized that these people were making a ton of money, and so I started with just getting an average of what the industry was, knowing that I was a beginner, and some of these people had been in the wedding industry for 20 years.
I knew I couldn’t charge what they were charging. And it also helped me scale back what I was doing and realize I didn’t need to do everything for these people unless they were willing to pay me a certain amount of money. And that’s when I came up with my tiered services.”
After becoming educated and inspired, Beth took the step of creating her LLC in late 2017, and she says it completely blew up from there. Now, she works with clients whose price ranges vary between $30,000 and $90,000. She describes them as a little bougie but practical and minimalist.
Work-Life Balance: The Importance of Boundaries
Beth quickly realized that to run a successful business and have a happy, healthy family of five, she needed to do everything she could to ensure she had a good work-life balance.
“Work time is work time, and family time is family time. Does that mean I’m never going to answer a text or an email? No, it happens. But I try to be present when I’m home. I tell my clients that when I’m at home, I’ll return their emails once the kids are in bed. I have to make that boundary firm. Most of my clients are happy to abide by that, and they’re just in awe that that’s even a possibility. Most of them can’t believe I have four kids,” she explains.
Keeping her boundaries flexible helps Beth adapt to life as both an event planner and a mother.
Work-Life Balance: Be Flexible Sometimes
“I have to be flexible because as a creative, I don’t like to work in the confines of my own rules. I put rules in place, and then I find myself wanting to break them all the time; it’s just part of my personality. But at the same time, I need rules and boundaries to be creative, so it’s a bit of a weird conundrum.”
Beth, a self-proclaimed night owl, works on wedding things from 8:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, she gets a babysitter for her two youngest children. It’s a system that she says is working really well for her business and her family.
“I don’t work well in the morning. Waking up early is not feasible for me. That’s just not how my brain works. It takes me a good three cups of coffee before I’m alive, which is normally around 11 to noon. I just had to find what works best for me, and the evenings are just kind of my thing. But again, I’m flexible with that.”
Make The Most Of Time-Off
All in all, Beth says she plans about 15 weddings per year from June to November. It takes up quite a lot of her weekends. So when she has a weekend off, she makes sure to really make the most of it.
“As long as I don’t have a wedding, we set aside Friday nights for family time. We really just try to be very present with each other during that time. We’re not Jewish, but a lot of our friends consider that like the Sabbath, which is essentially what we’ve adopted, as well. We try to put our phones away and just be there. And then on Saturday mornings, while the kids are still sleeping or watching cartoons, I sometimes sneak away for a quick morning coffee with a bride because that still leaves the rest of the day for family time.”
Work-Life Balance Needs Systems To Make Things Efficient
Along with firm but flexible boundaries, Beth says that there are other ways an event planner can stay sane and successful.
“With event planning, there are so many details. Having different systems to make those details a little bit easier or keep track of event details is super important for me not to get stressed out and overwhelmed and bogged down. It also helps me to keep those boundaries in place. So having a really great CRM, having a really day-of timeline company, those are important things.”
“Eventually, I want to have a portal on my website for clients to come in and see all these details instead of just having to go back through email threads. There has to be something easier available to the clients and myself to have everything in one place. I think that’s number one.”
Work-Life Balance Means Asking For Help Without The Guilt
Another thing Beth recommends event planners to do is to delegate and not be ashamed of asking for help.
“If some aspect of event planning is not your strong suit, get somebody to help you. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. That took me so long to realize that I saw not doing everything for myself as a failure or a weakness. And that’s simply not true; that’s just how my brain sometimes processes things. So I had to get comfortable delegating some things to other people. I realized by delegating I was still taking care of it. But now it was someone else’s responsibility to get it done.”
Beth says she practices delegating by having a cleaner come into her home, using a babysitter, and paying contract workers to do things like organizing supplies and inputting data.
Getting Help From The Right People
“All my assistants are actually my friends, and I’ve known them for 10 plus years. But two of them, particularly, I have known since we were in elementary school together. They know how my brain works; it’s not a guessing game. When you bring someone on that’s new, they have to learn your style. I think it’s super important, especially in a stressful environment like wedding planning, to have people that know what you need before you need it,” Beth affirms.
“That’s what I’ve found with the group of girls I have. But even above and beyond that, I’ve had brides that really loved how we functioned so well. After their weddings, they actually offered up their own services as assistants – I get that all the time. I don’t really have to look for help. I have about seven people I can pick from to call on.”
Work-Life Balance While Homeschooling
Beth has been homeschooling her children since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. She says before that she never thought she’d be a homeschooling parent. Not only did she not think she would be skilled at it, she doubted whether she could enjoy it.
“I’m very social; I don’t like to be stuck at home. And also, I’m running a business. I didn’t think I’d have time to school two children, take care of two younger children, and run a business successfully. But COVID hit. And with one in Kindergarten and one in first grade, they were learning online, but it really fell to the parents,” Beth remembers. “I felt a bit like I’d failed them because I wasn’t all in. And then this fall, we were presented with a really unique opportunity – send them to school with all these restrictions and rules, or we could look into Homeschooling.”
In the end, Beth says she and her husband decided that Homeschooling was the way to go and ended up finding a curriculum that really suited all of them.
“It involves a lot of nature, and it sends the kids outside to do stuff. It sends you on field trips. That kind of gave me the assurance that I wouldn’t be stuck at home, that we’d be out, that we could still be social. And that’s how we became a homeschooling family,” Beth notes.
“Homeschooling actually gives me a lot more freedom than I had before. If you had told me that, I wouldn’t have believed you, but somehow it has.”
Work-Life Balance Advice for Event Professional Parents
I asked Beth if she had any advice for other parents who also run their own event planning businesses or find themselves working from home. Her number one rule? Don’t be sorry.
“I had to stop apologizing to everybody when my kids kept coming in. And apologizing if they could hear my kids in the background. If you’re not in the event industry and you’re at home on Zoom calls, it’s very apparent that the majority of people have kids in their life, whether or not it’s their own kids,” Beth explains. “It’s becoming a little bit more of an accepted part of society now, whereas before it was almost like we were trying to hide the fact that we had kids. Even when I got pregnant with my fourth child, I never posted it on my social media because I didn’t want a potential client to look at it and think that I wouldn’t be available.”
And in the end, Beth says it’s important to keep sight of what matters most.
“I love my business, but my children and my family will always be my first priority. And as long as they’re growing and thriving, and my business is growing and thriving, then we’re good to go. But as soon as one starts to suffer, we’ve got to look at changing something. Something’s got to give, or we need a new system in place.”
Work-Life Balance Wisdom for Wedding Planners
Beth also had some work-life balance advice for wedding planners and others in the event planning industry.
“I don’t think any planner should ever be by themselves at a wedding. There’s strength in numbers. There’s safety in numbers. But there should also always be one of you with your client, with your guest of honor, and then someone else making sure the operation runs smoothly. That was something I implemented from the beginning. There’s never just me, and I built that into my price, so I didn’t have to worry about it. Anytime you ask for help in whatever area, you need to raise your prices. Because when you hire someone else, you’re of even more value to your client than before.”
Strength In Numbers
Strength in numbers seems to be a theme that has served Beth well in her life. Whether she’s homeschooling her children with the help of her husband, babysitter, and family, or planning a wedding with her trusted team, Beth shows that you can be a team player and leave your creative mark on things. And when it comes to finding your work-life balance, perhaps that’s the best advice of all.