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Meet Trailblazer Nena Gilmore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nena Gilmore.

Nena, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I had been searching for a way to be able to write for a living. It is what I love to do and always brings me great joy. For years (18 to be exact), I kept speaking in terms of “one day”.

“One day, I’ll leave the medical field and work on that novel that is rolling around inside of me”, or

“One day, I am going to be more consistent with my blog.”

But everything was just some dream in a far-off, imagined future that I envisioned for myself. Truth be told, I was a little too embarrassed to tell people that I just had no idea how to get started, much less did I have any idea what it was that I really wanted to do. So, I continued along my path, staying in the medical field and wondering why I was so good at my job when I really didn’t love it at all. The only times that I felt like I was doing something that I could enjoy were the times that I was working to write procedure manuals for a clinical laboratory or when I was teaching sessions to the national sales force as a part of their training. In hindsight, I guess that it is easier for me to see that I felt most energized by writing and speaking/performing in front of groups of people. But at the time, I wasn’t making the connection.

Then one summer day, after a trip to the Aquarium with my entire family, my brother and his fiance told me that they had something important to ask me. They wanted to know if I would officiate their wedding, scheduled for about five months later. My enthusiastic, “YES!” surprised me every bit as much as it surprised them.

I didn’t wait very long before I began working on writing a wedding ceremony that would be special and personal for both of them. I wanted it to be perfect and spent countless hours writing and re-writing sections of it, studying other officiants and their styles as well as HOW to make sure that the ceremony is done in the proper order. I didn’t want to leave anything out. I can’t tell you how many hours it took before I finally finished it. But what I DID take note of at the time was that I enjoyed every single minute of it.

The big day came and I delivered the ceremony. I hoped that they would love it and that it would be memorable for them. I was not, however, prepared for the actual reaction. When I started getting asked for my card by other vendors, I was floored. My family kept telling me how great it was… but they are family and have to love me, right? But other guests kept commenting on how much they loved the service. It all seemed so surreal.

By the time I left that day, I knew that I wanted to continue to do this again and again. I wanted to be able to craft ceremonies that made people laugh and cry and THINK. I wanted to be able to give every single couple the same kind of personalized, custom service that they would remember forever. I started plotting what I needed to do… but before I could even think of a name for this business, my new sister-in-law was referring a potential client to me. Within less than a month of my first wedding, I had booked two more.

It has kept going from there and now I have a full menu of services to cater to any couple with any budget. It has seemed like a whirlwind, but I am enjoying every minute of the ride!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not necessarily been a smooth road, but I have welcomed all of the challenges with open arms because I have found that every obstacle I am able to overcome just makes me that much better at what I do. I don’t like to speak for all women or all officiants, but I can say that, for me, it has been eye-opening to be a woman in a business that was once primarily handled by men. Most couples don’t seem to think twice about it, but every now and then, I have had couples make snarky remarks about my abilities to complete the job professionally, or even question if I am “legally able” to sign their license. It threw me for a loop the first couple of times, but I have definitely moved past it. I am now able to tell the difference between a couple that is legitimately interested in my services and someone who just feels the need to insult me. And for those people, I just smile and tell them that I am sure that they will be able to find an officiant that meets their distinct requirements and wish them a blessed day.

Any young woman who may be just starting out should enter knowing that they cannot take anything personally. You will work for HOURS on one little section of a ceremony, trying to get it just right, only to have the couple red-line the entire paragraph. Just remember that it isn’t YOUR wedding, it is your couple’s wedding and all about what they want. Keep your chin and your confidence up, because that is how you continue getting better and better!

We’d love to hear more about At the End of the Aisle.
My goal in deciding what kind of services that I would offer was to come up with something that would be useful for every single couple wanting to get married, regardless of their budget. I wanted to be able to cater to everyone, which is how I ended up centering my business around three services: officiating, ceremony writing, and consulting.

As an Officiant, I offer everything from a “Drive-by” services (also called a “quick signing”) to fully custom, personalized ceremonies written specifically for each couple and centered around their story together. There are options for elopements and standard services as well as semi-custom options that provide the opportunity to add personal touches, giving each ceremony its own “flavor”. I also attend any rehearsals, perform the ceremony, and submit the necessary paperwork to make sure that each marriage is perfectly legal.

One of the things that I quickly started to notice was the number of people that wanted to have a friend or family member officiate their weddings but didn’t know how to get started with writing an actual full script for the ceremony. There was also some apprehension based on the numbers of videos that exist of weddings being completely butchered by an unprofessional Officiant. That is when I started offering writing and consulting services. I personally write the ceremony and guide the chosen Officiant through the process of getting ordained, running a rehearsal, performing a ceremony, and submitting the license properly to ensure that everything is completely legal. Because I do not have to be available for the actual ceremony date, the services are less expensive and provide the couple with all the benefits of a professional and all the sentiment of having a loved one standing with them at the altar!

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I honestly believe that one of the biggest barriers for women today is ourselves. I have noticed that a lot of women downplay their own strengths and abilities, believing that they are not “good enough”, I have been guilty of it in the past as well. In the beginning, I found myself intimidated by requests for someone to officiate a very large, posh, high-budget wedding. My self-talk was so defeatist that I hesitated before putting my name in the running. That hesitation cost me, but I learned a big lesson. It took a lot of working on my self-confidence to get to the point where I am now. I don’t hesitate. I realize that what I have to offer is amazing… whether it is for four people, or 400!

A large part of my confidence was obtained by surrounding myself with other women in the industry and in my personal life that were also champions for other women. When women are lifting up and empowering one another, there is no limit to what we can do, but when we attack and criticize one another, the damage has the potential to be massive.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Willow + Co Photography
Ivory + Grace Photography
Love & Story

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