OFF THE BEATEN CAREER PATH

The Marital Bliss Business: It's Not All Rose Petals

Wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton, right, readies a reception with caterer Anne Portel.
Wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton, right, readies a reception with caterer Anne Portel. (Courtesy Exquisite Expressions And Events)

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Although most of wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton's events come off beautifully, some could come from a wedding-wrecker reality show.

Take the wedding with more than a dozen children running around. One pulled the fire alarm, and a firefighter wanted to evacuate the hall during dinner. Tuck-Horton talked him out of it. During the bride and groom's first dance, a child pulled the circuit breaker -- and the lights and music went out.

"We don't promise perfection," she said. "There's too many variables."

Yet Tuck-Horton has built a successful business, Exquisite Expressions and Events in Prince George's County, and will work with 28 couples this year. "I translate their dreams into their wedding reality," she said.

During the busy season, she may work 12-hour days, six or seven days a week. She's paid a flat fee, and notes that an established planner could make $80,000 a year.

She was a management analyst for federal agencies when a friend asked for help with her wedding. She started "doing weddings part time" in 1985 and full time in 1991.

Planners need to be problem solvers, calm under pressure, with excellent time-management skills. Drawbacks, she said, are a "tired back and tired feet," plus an occasional belligerent bride whose dreams are crushed by rain or the wrong flowers.

-- Vickie Elmer


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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