Today we’d like to introduce you to Joyce Lee.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My involvement in weddings started at age 12 when I served as the pianist at my Sunday school teacher’s church wedding back in my hometown in Malaysia.
Fast forward to my college years when I attended Georgia State University to pursue a degree in International Business, during which, I continued to serve as the pianist at weddings at my church. Back then, the church did not have any wedding coordinators to direct the professional and the pastor seldom provides instructions.
One time, a sister of the bride who “coordinated” the wedding decided to send the bride down the aisle before the groom even appeared at the altar. After that incident, I decided to take matters into my own hands and began giving instructions to the bridal party on when to go and where to stand at the altar, although I was just a pianist. At the same time, I frequently planned social events for my church fellowship.
It never crosses my mind that I would one day become a wedding planner until I was planning my own wedding. I wanted to incorporate Chinese traditions but at the same time did not want a typical wedding reception at a Chinese restaurant (which was the norm at that time among the Chinese community in Atlanta). That was when I decided to put my event planning experience to good use, and started down the road of planning a unique wedding – one that represents our personalities and identities.
Despite being a DIY wedding, my wedding was rather successful (of course it was not without mistakes). I realized then I have a gift in event planning and truly enjoy it. Around the same time, I noticed a gap in the marketplace – there was no bilingual (Mandarin Chinese and English) wedding planner in Atlanta who understands both Chinese and American cultures enough to plan a fusion wedding that “makes sense.”
In the beginning, I was serving mostly Chinese speaking clients because wedding planning is truly a personal matter and most of them prefer to speak to the planner in their native tongue. However, in recent years, I began to work on the Caribbean, Indian, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, and of course, American weddings!!
Has it been a smooth road?
Starting your own business is never easy.
I am really thankful to the people who trusted me to execute their weddings even when I was a newbie in the wedding planning business. I am also lucky to have a very supportive husband because wedding planning takes away lots of my weekend free time that we could have to spend together. In fact, his support went as far as becoming my assistant and he even started officiating wedding last year! I guess this gives us a chance to spend time together on weekends even if we are working at weddings!
It definitely takes time to establish yourself as a reputable business. I encourage women who are starting this journey to be persistent and believe in yourself. There are times, you would feel discouraged but nothing in life that is worth pursuing comes easy.
I am also humbled by the amazing vendors I have met in this industry. They work so hard for their clients and I try to learn from them as much as I can. I would say learning from people who are more experienced in the industry has helped me become a better wedding planner.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a bilingual Chinese/English wedding planner who understands how to plan an Asian/Western-style wedding in the US. Most of my clients want to incorporate elements of their culture into their western style weddings.
For example, I frequently conduct Chinese tea ceremonies for my Chinese clients. Sometimes, my clients are American Born Chinese and do not understand the significance of this tradition to their parents until I explained it to them.
On the other hand, some of my clients who were born overseas may not understand the wedding planning process in the US or understand the typical services the vendors/venues provide, thus having unrealistic expectations. It becomes my responsibility to guide and educate them.
Of course, I love all kinds of weddings. I have planned Indian weddings and frequently plan weddings that involve mixed cultural background. It truly excites me when a new client wants to incorporate diverse cultural elements into their wedding! I also try to learn as much about their stories and their personalities so that we can plan a wedding that reflects who they are. For example, we recently had a wedding where the newlywed couple and guests went bowling and played board games right after the reception ends. It was a major hit with the guests!
Lately, I also work with a lot of out of town clients who want to have their wedding in Atlanta. Some of them lived as far away as Beijing, Taipei, and Europe when they were planning the wedding and we worked across multiple time zones to get the planning done! I had a bride who has not set foot in the US until the week of her wedding. When I met her in person for the first time on the rehearsal day, it felt like we were longtime friends because we had worked together for months over phone calls/Facebook chats/emails.
However, wedding planning is not as glamorous as portrayed in TV shows and movies. I work with clients on the logistics of the day (in addition to making it pretty). We usually spend 8-10 hours on our feet on the wedding day, in all kinds of crazy weather, and work all kinds of hours (from sunrise to past midnight). In addition, I have to constantly keep calm in order to make sure things run smoothly on a highly emotional and potentially stressful day for my clients! Every wedding presents its own set of challenges so I am always on high alert to solve any issues as it arises on a wedding day.
Although it is not always easy, I think it is most satisfying when I see the glowing smiles on my clients’ faces at the end of the day and they thanked me for making it a special day for them! To me, that is the greatest satisfaction as a wedding planner: You are invited to walk with someone through months of their wedding planning journey and that resulted in one of the best days of their lives! It is such an honor and I treasure every single client who put their trust in me to plan and execute their wedding day vision.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
I think while it is good to have a stable full-time job, it is great to explore what you like to do outside of that, especially if you are still trying to decide what your passion in life is.
You may have to pursue different things before you will find something that is your passion.
When I was younger, I signed up to learn something new each year. For example, one year, I signed up to do rock climbing and I also took Tango lessons for 2 years. Along the way, I think you will discover what really drives you and what you are really good at. It may or may not be a business opportunity but it will help you grow.
- Full Wedding Planning (budget management, venues & vendors selection, planning guidance and coordination): $3500 & up
- Partial Wedding Planning (vendors selection, planning guidance and coordination): $2500 & up
- Coordination (normally booked 2 months prior to wedding day for clients who already did all their planning): $1500 & up
- Website: www.syseventplanning.com
- Phone: 4047541420
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/syseventplanning/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/syseventplanning/
Jamie Howell Photography, Tse Gallery, Christopher Helm Photography, Grapefruit Photo