Today we meet Kaitlin Ford, owner, and founder of Pocketful of Plans. She has been professionally planning weddings and events for over 10 years and cares deeply about her clients' events. Kaitlin is not your average wedding planner; she shows up and gets the work done. She works to make sure every detail of her client's weddings fits their vision and plans for their day. She supports love in all its forms, for all people, all colors, and all genders. Read on to find out more about Kaitlin and the story behind Pocketful of Plans.
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
When I was in college I worked with a nonprofit to plan and host fundraising events. The year I was in charge of the big event we set the record for most money raised in the entire history of the non-profit. It was so much fun and so satisfying to see people having such a good time at an event I organized! I was officially hooked on managing events! I eventually found myself in Singapore studying for my master's degree in business and marketing and worked for a luxury hotel’s marketing department. There the marketing department was integral to all the really high-end events and experiential marketing events. We hosted all types of events: art and wine dinners, private events, corporate events; all with the goal of deepening brand relationships with the hotel. It was an incredible job and during this time I realized I was really good at organizing events and loved both the creative side and the logistics side of creating really incredible experiences. At the time, I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I wanted to make a career around planning and organizing events.
What inspired you to start Pocketful of Plans?
When I moved back my boyfriend proposed. He had moved from LA to Monterey while I was in Singapore and really loved Monterey. While I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in such a small town, I agreed to give it a try and eventually fell in love with the Monterey Peninsula. I started planning my own wedding in Monterey and quickly realized Monterey was a great market for weddings. At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into! Planning a wedding in Monterey was really difficult, but I loved every minute of it! My now-husband realized how much I loved planning my own wedding, so he really encouraged me to start my own business. I took the plunge and have never looked back!
I feel Monterey is a particularly challenging market for wedding planning because there is so much information that is not easily accessible to couples. You had to have insider knowledge for most things and generally, vendors were terrible at communicating. Also, planning a wedding is so hard! For most couples, planning a wedding can be very stressful and every decision can seem overwhelming and emotional. I don’t think it has to be this way. I started Pocketful of Plans to help couples actually cherish and enjoy their wedding planning experience, not dread it.
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
More pricing transparency. I hate that the industry as a whole is not more upfront about the cost of services. This helps spread all of the misinformation out there about the actual cost of weddings. As a planner, I really think that one of the best ways to serve clients would be to give them more information at the beginning of the process. Couples go into this process without any clue about the cost of a wedding. And why should they know—they've never done this before! The education side of the wedding industry spends so much time focused on “charging what you're worth,” which is great. But what we don’t focus on is the education of our clientele in two important areas: the value of what we do or the realistic costs involved in a wedding day. I honestly think that if we had more pricing transparency our clients would have a better idea of what to expect and be better at budgeting for it. I also think it would help all of us attract our ideal clients, making it that much easier to “charge what you're worth.”
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want?
I love Aisle Planner! The biggest thing that it has done for my business is to help me create a coherent process and workflow that keeps my clients on track. My clients and I use it collaboratively, saving them a lot of time and energy as the big day approaches. Everything we have worked on and done is in one place and organized!
What is your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
The ability to create templates like questionnaires and brochures on the back end. I have really been able to use these features to streamline my process and provide the information I need from clients in a format that I can always revisit. In terms of my favorite client-facing feature, it would be the timeline. I love the ability to create different timeline templates and then upload them early in the process. So many of my couples want a timeline at the very beginning of the process and this gives me the ability to do just that. This tool really helps iron out some of the big details much earlier in the process, and as things change I can go in and fill in more specific details.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a wedding and event planner?
Work or intern for someone first to see if you like it. When I tell people I am a wedding and event planner they instantly reply, “Oh what a super fun job,” and it is and I absolutely love what I do. However, this job is not about the glitz, glamour, or food and drink part of the celebration. In reality, it's 15 plus hour days, it's not taking a single break, being on your feet, dealing with all sorts of chaos, and making sure no one else knows about the chaos. It isn’t for everyone but it is an incredible job and I can’t imagine doing anything differently.
What do you think will change about the weddings and special events space over the next five years?
I think people are really moving away from traditional weddings and towards weddings that focus on giving guests unforgettable experiences. This means even middle-market weddings may see lower guest counts and focus on more personalized experiences and details that make weekend events more incredible.
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
Be a great communicator. Sometimes we move so fast and there is so much going on we don’t slow down to clearly communicate what and when things need to happen. Also, Be nice to people! Everyone working on a wedding day is super busy and has a lot of roles to play. Everyone has a much better day if you just slow down, be nice, and clearly communicate what you need and how you need it done.
What lights your creative fire?
Collaboration. I love the creative part of my job. I love bouncing ideas off my vendor partners and clients to create incredible and personalized events. I find that the best work really comes out when I get to work with other vendors in a collaborative nature.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about working on this year?
2020 was certainly an intense year, while I am not as busy with weddings and events I feel like I have been busier than ever. I am really looking forward to actually being at weddings again and seeing people face to face. And I really miss being able to hug my couples at the end of a wedding night and send them off on their next adventure together. I hope 2021 brings a lot of hugs!
Just for fun
What’s the most used tool in your emergency kit?
Mini Scissor and double-sided tape. They are constantly being used.
I’m dying to design a wedding or event in…
Panama. My husband is Panamanian and we would eventually like to retire there, but I am a workaholic and I don’t really think I can retire, so a good compromise is to plan weddings in Panama. That way he can retire there and I can keep doing what I love!
What’s one trend you think should be left in the past?
Doing what everyone else did. This goes for couples and vendors. I am so happy to see more and more creativity in weddings and events and it is really inspiring. I think the days of doing something because it is what your sibling or best friend did are long gone.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever created for a wedding or event?
In 2019 one of my couples had really, really different styles. The groom wanted to incorporate sailing/nautical items and the bride was super boho glam. To appease both styles I worked with a local woodworker and calligrapher to create an escort board and table numbers that were locally foraged driftwood made into sailboats that felt very boho and unique. The escort board sailboat ended up being seven feet tall. It was also a complete surprise to the couple. I asked them to trust me, it came out great and they loved it.
If a client gave you an infinite budget, what would you do differently?
Design every guest point to be really impactful. Because of my career and background in experiential marketing, I think the guest experience is the most important part of the event. I would love to design an event around a fully immersive weekend getaway for a couple and their most important guests. An event where all guests have to do is get on the flight to the destination and everything from there is really tailored and taken care of to the max.
Hero photo courtesy of De Joy Photography
Want to find out more about Kaitlin, or see more of her work? Visit her website: pocketfulofplans.com