Name: Janice Fitzhugh, 55
Position: Wedding coordinator, Covenant Weddings & Occasions
What she does
Janice Fitzhugh’s job is to give couples the best day of their lives. No pressure, right? Just execute — to perfection — the day they’ve been dreaming about and planning for since one of them said yes.
“We keep everything organized for our clients, from day one when they hire us until the event is over,” says Fitzhugh, a wedding coordinator with Covenant Weddings & Occasions, which is based in National Harbor. “It’s an attempt to keep them from stressing out about all the details of the wedding, and allowing them to put their confidence in us to make their vision for their wedding come true.”
Covenant Weddings & Occasions offers a number of packages, and couples can enlist Fitzhugh’s services either well in advance — sometimes two years ahead of the big day — or opt for day-of services only. If she’s planning the entire wedding, the process kicks off with an initial consultation designed to get to know the couple and what they want. A budget is also set during this meeting, so Fitzhugh can recommend and contact appropriate vendors, like florists and caterers. She remains the liaison throughout the entire process. “We advocate on behalf of our clients and try to get the best deal for them,” she says. “If the bride says they want to have all lilies for their wedding, we make sure that vision comes to fruition.”
One of Fitzhugh’s first steps is to craft a timeline that accounts for each month leading up to wedding day. She holds weekly conference calls with the couple during the planning process, checking off tasks that range from larger, such as securing a venue, to smaller, like addressing invitations. (Not that invitations are easy: There are rules to the etiquette, she cautions. You’re not getting married on “June 4,” for example — the date needs to be spelled out.)
When the day of matrimony arrives, Fitzhugh is on the scene early. She checks on the couple to see how they’re feeling and provide any last-minute reassurance, then monitors the vendors. Have the photographer and videographer arrived, and do they know where to position themselves so they’re not interrupting guests? Are the bridesmaids holding their non-wilting bouquets? Once the bride makes it down the aisle, Fitzhugh heads to the reception to oversee setup. “We make sure all the vendors are on time, that the DJ understands what music is playing when — like for the entrance of the couple and when they cut the cake,” says Fitzhugh, who used Covenant Weddings when she got married 18 months ago. “It’s every minute detail, down to place settings and the types of glasses on the table.”
How she got the job
Fitzhugh first planned a wedding more than 25 years ago, when her brother’s fiancee enlisted her help. “I’ve always been a creative person,” she says. “I didn’t have a wedding for my first marriage, and I always wanted to, so I think my love for it came out of that.” She began offering her services to friends, family and church members who were getting married, but it wasn’t a full-time endeavor. Seven years ago, she searched online for wedding planners who might be hiring and happened upon Covenant Weddings. She got in touch, hit it off with owner and senior consultant Diane George and was hired as a wedding-day assistant before transitioning to a coordinator role.
Who would want this job
If you’re cynical about romance, this is not the job for you. More practically, you need to be hyper-organized (you’ll be managing 12 to 24 months of important tasks, and meeting each deadline is crucial). “You also need to be creative and have a really good personality,” Fitzhugh says. “You need an ability to lift people’s moods and refocus their attention — especially brides, when something doesn’t go right. You need to be able to calm them down.”
How you can get the job
Studying event planning could be helpful, but formal training isn’t required. Nor is certification, though some organizations — like the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners — offer it, and it can help you stand out to prospective clients. But Fitzhugh is adamant that hands-on experience is best. She recommends seeking out a successful wedding planner and asking to intern or even volunteer. “Especially on wedding day, because it’s a long day,” she says. “You need to really understand what it’s like to see if it’s the right thing for you.”
And if you do say yes to wedding planning, Fitzhugh says, expect a fulfilling union. “Just seeing everything come to life and the excitement and joy in our clients’ faces, knowing we’ve done exactly what they asked us to do — that’s the cherry on the cake,” she says.
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