Kristina Slocum is the owner of The Purple Orchid Event Planning, a Portland, Maine event planning company that specializes in tented, outdoor weddings, and corporate events. Kristina and her team are passionate about what they do and offer creative and personalized guidance at every step. They work with some of the best caterers, rental companies, musicians, photographers, and artists to make sure every event meets and exceeds client expectations.
Joyce Brown: What made you decide to be an event planner?
Kristina Slocum: I’d been in the hospitality industry all my life, whether it was restaurants, catering, or event planning — it’s something I’m truly passionate about. I had a job at a Portland hotel as sales manager, but I was working a lot of hours. Plus, I had an hour commute each way every day. I was really missing my family. As an entrepreneur at heart, I decided to go for it and I formed a business plan. Over the years, I’d made some great connections so I knew who to contact to get started. In 2011, I started my own business. It's been a home run ever since.
Joyce: What are your top three essentials to stay organized?
Kristina: A calendar, a smartphone, and constant communication with everyone involved. I triple check everything. If I have 40 weddings and 10 corporate events in a year, I want to be sure that I'm going through my emails and checking my calendar several times a week to make sure nothing is missed.
It’s also important to hire the right vendors. We love Maine vendors, but we're pretty strict on who we use. If a vendor doesn’t get it right the first time, then we're not using them again.
Joyce: What are some of your favorite ways to create a beautiful event on a budget?
Kristina: Finding out what's most important to the client is key. As soon as I know what they’re looking for, then we can begin narrowing it down. For example, lighting is a great option for creating atmosphere. We can replace harsh white bulbs with softer ones, or add café lighting to tables at a relatively low cost to help set the mood.
Flowers are another area we can help trim expenses. We use a great florist who can create elegant looks by adding more greenery, leaves, or branches to arrangements. Every season comes with different, lovely choices.
Joyce: When things don't go as planned, how do you fix them?
Kristina: Every planner has to be fast on their feet and quickly think of alternatives for almost every situation. There’s always a Plan B. We also do a lot at the forefront, like rain plans. We know when vendors are arriving, and if they're not there at a certain time, we call them.
We make it clear to our clients that they have to trust what we're doing. If we've made a decision that wasn't what they originally wanted, it's not because we're not listening to their needs. We might be reacting to something that could have potentially been a problem.
There are times, though, when you just have to go with it. For example, one time a wedding cake leaned against the inside of the delivery box and messed up the smooth frosting, so we had to make it look like a textured cake instead. It wasn’t perfect, but sometimes you do the best with what you have.
Joyce: What's the best splurge item for weddings?
Kristina: It all depends on the client. A splurge for one client might be $500, where $5,000 is a splurge to another. We try to be realistic. It's one day, it's an important day, but we want to be smart about where we're spending money.
If we’re talking to a foodie or a beer geek — especially here in Portland — they might not care how much they spend on food and alcohol because that’s the splurge, that’s where they want to go big.
Joyce: When an event is over, how do you measure if it was successful?
Kristina: I measure it by the feeling I get from the client when I leave. Weddings, for example, can be stressful so it’s usually quite easy to tell if everyone was relaxed, happy, and able to enjoy themselves. I also know an event was successful if I’ve made a new friend. Former clients have sent me baby pictures, they’ve invited me to things, or I’ve see them at other client weddings because they’ve referred us.
Joyce: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to someone meeting with an event planner for the first time?
Kristina: Knowing your budget is the top priority. But keep in mind, you could be working with your planner for a while, so having a connection and making sure they share your aesthetic is just as important.
My clients don’t have to listen to all my suggestions, but they need to have confidence that I’m looking out for their best interest. The best working relationships are those where you share a common goal, have a few laughs, and make a new friend along the way.