I suppose you could call this a Vendor Viewpoint blog. Except, the vendor is…..Sea to Sky Celebrations itself!
It’s no secret that Sea to Sky Celebrations has blossomed from humble beginnings into a massively popular, premier wedding planner in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor. They are ‘the little company that could’.
And the question on my mind was, how on earth does a successful wedding planner on this level, keep things to a human scale and avoid the pitfalls of becoming a ‘big business’? How do they run a tight ship, a highly professional and expert operation while also maintaining the human face so essential in such an intensely people-oriented business?
I managed to catch Sea to Sky founder and owner Rachael Lythe in between client and vendor meetings, phone and skype calls, email wrangling, parenting her two busy teens and managing her other role of school district trustee, and asked her that very question, ‘how do you keep Sea to Sky Celebrations so efficient yet personal and human’? We were joined in the conversation by Rachael’s business partner Kerry Thompson.
Here is what they had to say, paraphrased.
- THINKING BIG. KEEPING IT SMALL. Since Rachael first spied a need for a full-service wedding and event planner in Whistler, way back in 2006, she never dreamed that her ‘little company that could’ would morph into the uber-successful company it is today. The old Spice Girls song has been a constant refrain in her mind….’stop right now, thank you very much, we need somebody with a human touch’. From those first early days, this has been the cornerstone of the Sea to Sky Celebrations approach – providing clients with all the extensive resources that only a major league company can supply, while retaining the human and personal touch that is so important when masterminding the most important day in someone’s life. Rachael and Kerry are especially proud of Sea to Sky’s reputation for responding to clients’ stated desires by supplying unique and innovative services. Sea to Sky Celebration’s convenient all-inclusive ‘packages’ in both services and decor are totally unique in the industry. (See the Sea to Sky services menu here)
- YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR – INCLUDING TEAMWORK. Many planners cut down on costs by flying solo as much as possible. ‘Buyer beware’ says Rachael, this can be a dangerous false economy for couples hoping for a seamless flow of events on their big day. ‘We don’t fool ourselves’ she says’ we make sure we have sufficient staff on-site to cover all eventualities and cover every single detail.’ This can apply to even the smallest, most intimate wedding with couples who opt for the simplest day-of coordination service (see the Sea to Sky ‘Small is Beautiful’ service here) Naturally, the more staff on-site, the higher the cost, but Rachael says she has learned (partly from some hard lessons in those early days) that teamwork is the key to a glitch-free wedding. With this in mind, she and Kerry have through the years assembled a hand-picked team of experienced associate planners, thinkers, doers and ‘go-fers’ who work harmoniously and smoothly together in a well-oiled machine operating diligently behind the scenes. Prerequisites for being a member of the Sea to Sky Celebrations team is the ability to work very hard while having tons of fun! (see #3).
- WE LOVE TO LAUGH. Weddings are a serious business. This is the biggest, most important day in someone’s life, and Rachael and Kerry say this is front-of-mind for their team at all times; the goal is always to pull off a fabulous event where the couple are totally unaware of all the hard work behind the scenes. But a huge part of that, is the ability to laugh and have fun. ‘We balance creativity with practicality, and we like thinkers who are also doers’ says Rachael. ‘We really like each other’, chimes in Kerry, ‘and we have so much fun together even when we are exhausted!’ At a Sea to Sky Celebrations wedding it seems that the Fun-O-Meter is never far away, and the team throw themselves wholeheartedly into the emotion of the day. Sea to Sky Celebrations staff will gleefully snap themselves in the photo booth and include a loving and funny message for the couple, they will laugh at the MOH’s funny anecdotes in her speech, they’ll cheer on and reassure the nervous best man, they’ll get all teary eyed at the father/daughter dance. Every time.
- WE LOVE WEDDINGS. Seems like a no-brainer, but…..’the day we no longer get excited on the dawn of a wedding day’ say both firmly, ‘is the day we quit’. At Sea to Sky, every wedding is unique to itself, every wedding is a blank canvas, fresh and new and filled with anticipation. (See their Gallery of some Sea to Sky Celebrations weddings here) ‘Our team never get jaded’ says Rachael, ‘we love all those magic moments over and over again as if they never happened before’. The First Look, the sight of the bride in her gown, the vows, the pop of the cork for the champagne toast, the cake cutting, the bouquet toss – ‘we love it all’ says Kerry, ‘I guess you could call us hopeless romantics’.
- COSTS ARE TRANSPARENT. One of Rachael’s bugbears when researching wedding planning in the early days, was that many wedding planner websites gave only vague details on what was included and how much services cost. ‘I insisted with my web designer that we put details and costs right up there, attached to our packages and services’ says Rachael, ‘our website is clear on this’. Of course there must be some room for discretion as couples often want to mix ‘n match, and requests for substitutions can happen, but Rachael says she works hard to ensure the Sea to Sky website is as clear as absolutely possible when it comes to the bottom line. Another bugbear were false promises. ‘We never, ever, promise what we know cannot be delivered on your budget’ says Rachael. ‘If you have champagne dreams and a beer budget, that’s totally fine, but we will explain the financial and practical realities, and make suggestions for realistic compromises where necessary’.
- OUR VENDORS ARE PART OF OUR TEAM. ‘We love our vendors’, Rachael laughs, ‘especially when they are as professional and yet as wacky and as whimsical as we are!’ Luckily, Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor are blessed with an astonishing variety of vendors; venues, officiants, photographers, florists, caterers, musical talent, hair and make-up professionals, videographers, retail suppliers…..you name it. ‘We get to know them all and we only recommend the best’ say Rachael and Kerry, ‘we consider them part of our team’. 7. WE LOVE CATS. ‘Haha, just kidding’ says Rachael. ‘Kind of’.
With Rachael’s and Kerry’s help I assembled a Gallery of fun images to give a peek into the wonderful, funny, magical, sometimes-a-little-crazy world of Sea to Sky Celebrations. Please enjoy.