My oh my May, where did you go?
It has been nearly three weeks since a Women of the Wedding Industry of the Week blog has been posted which means only one thing: my wedding season has kicked into full gear and with that, a shifting of priorities is necessary.
While I'd love to say that this blog, and the women I get to connect with are a top priority of mine, I know that creatively, my mind is just not geared towards reflection and writing in the summer as much as it was this past (very long winter) and spring in Northern Michigan.
The beauty of the ebb and flow in this seasonal industry I think is in how present it makes you when summer finally arrives. How alert, and attentive, and observant it forces you to be, even if those aren't your natural strengths and even if you start to feel exhaustion set in by July. There's an immediacy to planning events that requires you to be focused and "on" for such long and intense periods of time. And I'll admit, I like it. I like making quick decisions, and providing efficient answers. I like living in the minute by minute moments of executing a timeline and checking off tasks one by one. While I find it hard sometimes to be the one people come to when things go wrong, or be in the middle of a conflict that needs resolving, it is also stimulating in a way I can't quite explain.
People ask all the time if this industry stresses me out, and I say no more than anything else I've done for a career. I think back to if this year is different than last, when I was serving my first clients and while not necessarily faking it, hoping I looked and acted reliable, capable, and professional enough to not give away the fact that this was a new business for me entirely.
I won't say confidence happens overnight, or in 365 days necessarily, but there is something really nice about sitting here at the end of May, with our first wedding of the season only three days away and knowing that the role of a wedding planner isn't built on perfection, but a knack for celebration. It's not about blog worthy design and details, but genuine hospitality that can be felt by every guest who attends. It isn't about me proving myself, it's about being a part of a capable team and working to communicate well and sometimes be in a leadership role - two gifts I know I am endowed with even if I don't feel like I am.
Our wedding season isn't about perfection at all. It's about hard fought committed relationships that want to see marriage through. It's about messy and complicated families that add a bit of flavor, flair, and ultimately love to a weekend not to be had again sometimes until the next wedding. It's about holding an umbrella over a bride as she makes her way to the ceremony in an unexpected summer rainstorm. It's about being so caught up in the festivities that they fly by, but something reeling you in and causing you to stop and enjoy the moment; maybe the way your favorite wine tastes, or sneaking off alone to kiss behind a tree, or dancing with your grandma to her favorite song. I've seen this happen to so many couples, this moment of pure relaxing into a wedding scene and it's my favorite one that we get to be a part of.
While I've been hesitant to do interviews with women in the wedding industry I don't know very well because I was worried I might not be able to connect with them, I found that my curiosity and fangirldom couldn't be kept down for this last interview before I take a break for the season.
I may not know her very well, but Rhiannon Bosse is someone who I, and so many others in our Midwest creative industry hold on a pedestal of wedding planner perfection. And she's earned it. With nearly ten years in the wedding industry as a wedding planner and floral designer based in Grand Rapids, she has been at the helm of much of what we recognize as a modern, successful creative businesses. She maintains a versatile lifestyle and business blog, plans destination weddings abroad, is an award winning floral designer, founded a workshop, hosts private mentoring sessions, keeps a super limited client schedule, has a gorgeous home office, and did I mention she makes her own herbal soap? And raises two young boys full time?
If there's anything that small window into Rhi's world via her blog and writing and photos has shown me, it's that she doesn't take that pedestal lightly. She doesn't obsess over it. She doesn't polish it like a trophy kept on a shelf. Her pedestal is something softer, and more honest, and more vulnerable than most people with her level of success care to sometimes share with others.
Woven into her beautiful words and stories and photos are tales of someone who seemed to think perfect was necessary in this industry, and who realized quickly that perfect would always let you down. In it's place, Rhi seems to have found a lot of space for intention, and growth, and creativity, and balance in the business she manages. When I find myself reading her blog, whether it's something like her monthly goals, how she stays on top of laundry, the process behind how she created an editorial, or how she updated her yard, I feel drawn into a really comforting, and completely relatable perspective of someone who made business choices that would ultimately lead to a life well lived. The very old adage, work to live, rather than live to work.
I had the pleasure of meeting Rhi once this past spring, at a wedding show in Grand Rapids. I mentioned how much I liked her homemade soap, and she thoughtfully brought me a bar the next day, in my favorite scent of mint. I love that my interaction with her didn't involve getting into the nitty gritty of wedding planning. I love that it didn't involve a sense of inferiority or competition - for her there is none and I think that's beautiful. I love that it involved soap. A passion hobby that Rhi has delved into this past year alongside her business. When I looked at that soap and took it home, it reminded me that we are so much more than our job title. So much more than our brand. More than our website and our credentials and our accomplishments. We are soap makers, moms, friends, lovers of long walks in the forests, tea drinkers, early risers, good kissers, hearty laughers, travelers, women, girls, friends, humans. Living out imperfect moments or phases of life perfectly, if we give ourselves the freedom to do so.
Rhiannon Bosse of Rhiannon Bosse Celebrations
In her yard with garden peonies! Photo by Samantha James Photography.
I first learned of you through my friend Nicole of Compose Events, who had participated in one of your one-on-one mentorships. How does making space for mentoring fit into your overall vision for yourself and for your business, and who was one of YOUR early mentors?
I had such a pleasant experience with Nicole! And the world is never as big as we think! Mentoring, or rather, educating others on the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned in business, centers so closely on the core of my business - serving others and serving others heartfully and intentionally. When I think about mentoring other women I always imagine the ripple effect that sharing can cause and how this is beneficial for not only me (a revenue to my business / personal fulfillment), or the client like Nicole (not only for her to gain more practical business knowledge but for her confidence and a sense of camaraderie too) but how the wedding industry as a whole benefits too. Our industry becomes stronger and more well-versed allowing clients to experience better service and receive stronger product. What a cool domino effect this can have, right? In the early days of my business I was very inspired by people like Joy Thigpen and other design-centric artists who were creating things that were pretty uncommon. A lot of my current approach with wedding design is inspired by these artists. As for some of my favorite professionals that have inspired and loved me well through business in recent years: Erin from Floret, Amber Housley, my life coach Diana Kerr, and while we don't know one another on a personal level, Lynn of Easton Events, who to me, is the epitome of wedding production perfection and always so inspiring.
Your weddings and couples have taken you all over the world and you truly have a globally inspired style. Does West Michigan provide you with an equal sense of inspiration, or has travel been a way to get out of your comfort zone, try new things, and truly cultivate your creative style?
Thank you for the kind words! I tend to view my approach to wedding design as one that's highly influenced by my own personal style. And this makes me laugh just a little because I'm in a season of rocking oversized Target clothes that best compliment my two-babies-in-three-years body and the rainbow-colored-toys-everywhere battle is one I try to fight (and lose) daily in our normally tidy home. But on a serious note, my professional style and version of what looks loveliest is so parallel to the style of my work. Meaning, if you were to say, hold up the portfolio page on my website, to the aesthetic of our living room, or me dressed up to enjoy an evening out, there's a specific type of consistency that feels (at least I hope) very natural and so effortless. I also have a style that is on the feminine, romantic, and soft side so those are themes noticeable in my work as far back to when I started. Obviously when it comes to weddings I have client desires and styles to honor and infuse into the details but part of my mission so far in business, has been to attract people that ultimately have the same style as I do; which as a result has made the design process especially, much more fluid for me.
Soft, organic, and feminine style details, photographed by Samantha James Photography.
You are a champion of balance in the wedding industry it seems. A small dedicated client list, a strong and dedicated taste, and a work from home office. Has balance been a saving grace, or are there daily/weekly moments where you feel like you miss out on something because you chose to make balance a business priority?
Again, you're so kind! I promise you what looks like balance is simply me being really great at saying 'no' a lot. And being realistic about the big picture. Like the home office situation. It's not as frequent of a thought these days because two kids has firmly planted me at home but up until Ev was born I would remark to Andrew at least twice a week that it was time to find an outside-the-home studio. I would whine to my husband and tell him a move would make me much more credible and professional, allow for more of the opportunities I want like hosting bigger workshops and pop up shops, and I could sell my soaps there too! And on and on and on I went. But, while we're on the topic of seasons, I'm in a season right now where simplicity trumps opportunity and an outside studio means more of the things I can't spare right now (time, transit back and forth, pressure to make more for expenses, and so on). I love my home studio but like anything sometimes the seemingly greener grass on the other side can be really enticing right?
Rhi's home office serves as a floral studio, workshop, and mentoring space. Photo by Samantha James Photography.
Also, on the topic of balance: I try not to aim for balance in my life because if we break down the very definition of balance (keeping different elements in equal proportions), that I cannot get behind. Balance feels very much like perfection. You can come close but you'll always fall short. For example, when I'm with my two kids, I am not working towards a new design approach. When I'm with a client, I am not playing trucks with my son. When I'm feeding my baby, I'm not enjoying a heart to heart with my husband. When I'm with a girlfriend enjoying a nice evening out, I'm not writing a blog post. That feels VERY out of balance for me. And sure, we can multitask to the best of our very abilities but never do I feel like all the facets of my life are in equal proportions which means achieving 'balance' feels impossible. So instead, I try to look at my commitments and responsibilities as my selected priorities, and I try to do those things as well as I can. And the things I can't or won't make time for just don't make the cut. I really hate not being able to do it all so instead I try to look at the things I CAN and DO say yes to as being enough.
Like many business owners in today's world, your company is in it's second iteration (or maybe more), after growth, new direction, and a rebrand. What was your business like in those early days of just starting out, and when did you realize that you were headed down a path of wild success? At what moment did you sit back and realize that you had created something wonderful, and give yourself a moment to soak it in and celebrate?
I'd agree! My company, and me too if we're being honest, feels like it's on it's 5th renewed version of itself. When I look back at the early version of this whole journey, I feel like there are a lot of circumstantial differences; I was 22 and didn't have eye wrinkles yet, I wasn't married, I didn't have kids (I hadn't even changed a diaper, LOL), I was fresh out of college and retired from my nearly 18 year high-level gymnastics career. We lived in Chicago in a rented apartment and I was still pursuing my dream job in the journalism field. My blog at the time was actually focused on baking, of all things! And now, 10 years later life is so different; I'm 33, married to the best guy for me, I have two sweet little boys underfoot, there's diaper changes around the clock, I haven't slept in over a year, and we live in a place I always swore I wouldn't live (in my next life I'll live in a New York brownstone). I work with flowers for a living and operate my own business from my home, I get to make my own rules and help celebrate milestones in people's lives. Everything is really different but somehow it doesn't feel like it. And I believe this is because my central core, my values, have only become stronger versions of themselves. It's like the foundation of who I am, my missions and values, has been rock solid and everything on top has simply been renovated for the better.
And your question really gave me the encouragement, and permission, to sit back and reflect on the journey so far. It's hard to celebrate the successes when I still feel like there's so many things to achieve but what a shame it would be to get to the end of my life and realize I worked without any appreciation for my efforts. Thanks for that.
Rhiannon at a wedding she designed, planned, and coordinated in Italy. Photo by D'Arcy Benincosa.
You have such an incredible and brave way of weaving your role as a mother into your work as a wedding industry creative that I really admire. Often summing up the roles you take on in weekly snippets so we can get a feel for all you juggle. I say brave because I think (and have observed) that the wedding industry doesn't seem to know what to do with creative mamas. It's as if announcing to the world that you have conceived, had a baby, or are raising children puts you at odds with being an energetic business person, an on-the go creative, and attentive to your clients. How did you decide to keep your role as a mother at the forefront of your business? And do you find the support you need within the industry and among your clients to encourage you in that choice?
I so appreciate you asking this important question! I talk so candidly about motherhood because 1) I'm quite proud of this role and it's the one I love most in my life, and 2) it's not really something I can or would want to try and hide. But more importantly 3) I hope my tiny contribution of sharing my experiences in motherhood to the world, will break the stigma that women cannot be good mothers AND be professionally present and successful. There is an awful perception that mothers cannot be as hard of workers, or talented of professionals as those without kids. And on the flip side, that women who do not talk about their kids or those who are not parents, are too bossy, stoic, or rigid. Why can't we be both? And why can't we respect and appreciate the women who choose to stick firmly to one end of the spectrum, without judging the facts we don't know?
I also would love to share that years ago when my business was in its early stages, I tried to be very proactive about building the business future Rhi would want. So that way my efforts and decisions then, would be to the best of my ability, ones to set myself up for where I want to be in what is the present day. And while nothing is perfect and I'm always making mistakes, I feel like I created a business and have attracted client that allow me to be the mom and business owner I've always dreamed of. If someone has a problem with the way I live my life and the things I share chances are they aren't the right person for me, whether it's a potential client or a personal friend.
With her two boys, Everette and Lachlan on a recent family trip to Seaside, Florida. Photo by Lily & Sparrow.
I listened to a Jenna Kutcher podcast recently, and one of the quotes her guest said that stuck with me was: "You'll overestimate what you can do in a year, and underestimate what you can do in ten". What has been your greatest overestimation this past year, and what has been your greatest underestimation of your career?
Jenna's podcast is such a helpful resource for many, many different people. I'm so glad you gave it a listen! I was a guest on her show two summers ago and was at such a low point in my life during the recording. I was also just coming off of a terrible viral illness so I SOUND like the mess I was at the time! Reflecting back on my time with her and comparing that to where I am now is refreshing because it ties in so perfectly with the sentiment about our perception of time and what we can accomplish. I can often get paralyzed by my big ideas and the fear that I just won't be able to get it all done because 'life is too short', so I can avoid taking that first step all together. But as an avid goal-setter, and with the help of many accountability partners and like-minded friends, I've learned the beauty of the little by little effect; where every bit adds up. It doesn't matter how you go as long as you go right? So while I might not get where I want to go at the desired TIME, I know I'll eventually get there if I keep moving ahead.
It also reminds me of the phrase I hear in the parenting realm often: the days are long but the years are short. Between yes, very long days that turn into short years (funny how that happens), and the urging of everyone to just 'soak it up!' being a parent can feel like a giant emotional race against the clock, and a race you'll certainly never win. And I don't have time or emotional capacity for that so I strive to be present as much as possible and understand that my time is simply a gift. I should use it as such.
My greatest overestimation this past year? How important I thought the opinions of others would be once I had my second baby. I've become much more unapologetic.
My greatest underestimation in business? My perseverance and stamina. In all of the valleys of business and obstacles in my life when it would have been so easy to give up and just quit, I kept going and always, always stayed true to my vision and myself. Also, at times when I felt I wasn't worthy of exciting opportunities, I learned to convince myself I was because sometimes I had to be the one who believed in me the most. I also underestimated how much I would love being a mother. Everyone talks about how hard and messy and challenging parenting is (and it is!) but there's a lot of really good and joyful stuff in there too and I live for those experiences in our little family.
If you were a flower, you'd be a...?
A short-stem, peachy toned sweet pea. Take that however you'd like!
You have a beautiful name I've always wanted to give to a daughter because Stevie Nicks is my life. Is it a good name? How has it changed as you've changed?
Hilarious! I never loved my name growing up because it was always pronounced incorrectly. I also had a hyphenated last name AND a middle name so being Rhiannon Nicole Banda-Scott was a MOUTHFUL of a mess. Classroom roll call was full of anxiety for me, and as early as first grade too. However, as I've gotten older and grown into a lot of the odd or different things that make me ME, I've learned to appreciate the name and how unique it is. I still get butterflies when I hear 'my' song on the radio.
In the next month, I am going to interview planners, another reason why you were this perfect transitional creative to learn more about in May. How has your role as a planner influenced your work with floral, and how has your understanding of floral influenced you as a planner?
I'm confident my role as a multifaceted planner has been one of the strongest ways I stand apart from others and the best way I've streamlined my client experience. I actually have a really hard time imagining what my creative process would look like as a stand alone planner (with the design / floral being handed off to someone else) or as a florist only (where the logistics were handled by someone different). My design and floral skills wouldn't be as well-rounded without my planning experience, and without planning involved, my design and floral offerings would fall flat and lack detail. It took time, trial, and effort to have the model I do now but I can't imagine it any other way.
As I consider my next business move and where I can serve others best, I feel pulled away from working with clients getting married and towards the educational part of our industry where I can hopefully be a voice for and to the next generation of planners looking to offer many different services under one roof like I do. I'd love to be the resource and person that 22-year-old Rhi (the one with no wrinkles) would have loved to know when she was charging only $500 for 'day of' coordination (big LOL there). I don't want to get into too many specifics but I hope that when the time is right, should the opportunity present itself, I can be a bevy of resources while also serving as an example of industry kindness and camaraderie.
Rhiannon Bosse is a Midwest based writer and content creator at rhiannonbosse.com and owner and creative at rhiannonbossecelebrations.com, serving destinations in Michigan, the Southeast, and abroad. You can follow along with her life, mamahood, business, and floral adventures at @rhiannonbosse.