Suzanne Halaska is the founder of Couture Events, a Chicago-based event planning company specializing in highly personalized events at any budget. Not only do her clients rave about her services, but she has also been featured in industry-trusted sources such as The Knot, boasting five-star reviews across the board from happy customers. We are thrilled to share her perspective, both as a top-notch wedding professional and also as a member of the Timeline Genius community. Read on for details behind the success of Couture Events, and the role that Timeline Genius plays in Suzanne’s wedding planning process today!
Tell us about your journey to become a wedding professional. What led you to work in the wedding industry?
I lived in Texas for 20 years prior to moving back to Chicago. While I was there, I joined a country club and just jumped in to all the events they were having there. Long story short, I became very involved in their social committee and eventually started heading up several of their events… and that got me thinking about event planning as a true career opportunity.
I’ve always been a huge party planner – I love every aspect of hosting an event, even if it’s just at my home. So, I moved back to Chicago in 2010 and decided to jump into event planning. I started working for a florist, and she introduced me to several large venues around the city. After about a year of working with her, I realized that I wanted to officially move into the wedding space. Shortly after that, I got certified as a wedding planner. Around the same time, I was actually planning my own son’s wedding, and that’s when I said, ‘This is my calling.’ I just enjoyed every aspect of planning my son’s special day.
What inspired you to start Couture Events?
After getting certified, I launched my own business: Couture Events. I started off working with family members and friends – really anybody who needed a planner – just to get my name out there. I was fortunate because I did have some contacts at various venues around the city from back when I was working in the florist business. Between that and being featured on The Knot, the next thing you know, my company took off. I started out with five weddings the first year, which became ten weddings the next year…and we’ve been growing ever since. This past year was our best yet, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
I love a wedding that specializes in personalization. You see so many great weddings out there, but they all start to look alike after a while. When I started Couture Events, I wanted to be the planner that customized your wedding. I wanted to add in special elements of the bride and groom that made the event stand out, rather than just planning a cookie-cutter wedding. Can I organize? Can I create a timeline for you? Of course. But what I really wanted to do with Couture Events was to make wedding planning personal and affordable for every kind of bride out there.
How is Couture Events different than the other wedding planning services out there?
With Couture Events, it really is all about this crucial element of personalization. It’s my mission that each wedding I plan be a true reflection of the personality of that particular couple. But it also needs to be affordable. Whether you’re hosting your big day at a local park or at the Drake Hotel in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, I want couples to know that at any given budget, they can personalize their wedding. At the end of the day, it should all be about them.
What does the typical planning process look like at Couture Events?
I get very involved. By the time my couples get married, I feel like I’m their friend. I really make an effort to get to know them so I can add in those personal touches to their wedding. The first thing I do is meet my clients in person and ask them say, twenty questions about their wedding and what they want to see happen. From there, we get going with vendors and venues, and then we get into actually personalizing their wedding. Throughout the process we email, we chat, and I have certain checklists that I send over to keep them on track during the planning process.
For me, it’s the personal, one-on-one interactions that are key during planning. The truth is, a lot of couples know what they want, they just don’t know how to put it all together. They’re typically young and they’ve never planned a wedding before. This is probably one of the largest parties that they’ll ever throw in their life…so they want every aspect to be special and perfect – and so do I. One-on-one interactions help me to zero in on what those special details should be.
How has using Timeline Genius improved your planning experience?
Before Timeline Genius launched, I used Excel and Word for timelines. When I met Eddie, the CEO of Timeline Genius, he was like a godsend. Timeline Genius fits perfectly with my business in the sense that it’s custom and personalized. That’s my specialty, so I was immediately drawn to it. There are so many great elements to this tool – it’s a time-saver for sure, but I want others to know that it’s so much more than that. Having been in the business now for five years, there will be times when I will have worked on a wedding four years ago and loved a particular florist. She might not have been a well-known florist, but she was amazing. And now let’s say I have a new client and that florist would be perfect for her wedding. Am I going to go back through 500 emails to find that florist’s contact information? Luckily, I don’t have to anymore. With Timeline Genius, I can just go to my timeline archives and find the florist listed there. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone back to look up vendors, venues, and other contacts for reference.
In general, I start creating my timelines about 8-12 weeks out from the wedding. Once it’s created, any element that I want to add is already formatted correctly. I can edit my timelines so easily… For example, if we initially start with the cake-cutting at seven and want to move it to eight, making bulk changes with the time-shifting feature (instead of redoing the whole timeline line by line like I used to do) is a total game-changer.
So many vendors have also reached out to me and said, ‘I love how you didn’t send me the whole timeline, but just the timeline items that pertain to me.’ That way, the DJ doesn’t have to see what the catering company is doing, or go through the full timeline to figure out what pertains to them. In addition to all these features, Eddie’s customer service is so amazing. I love that he’s constantly sending videos and emails when he launches a new feature on Timeline Genius. In my opinion, he has thought of everything. He is so open to feedback and constantly makes an effort to get input from wedding planners to make our experience even better.
If you could give one piece of advice to wedding professionals just getting started in the industry, what would you say?
The time that you’re going to save buying Timeline Genius is hands-down probably the best investment that you’ll make as a planner. It means looking professional and having the ability to customize and personalize timelines for your clients…that’s invaluable to me. The sheer time that you’re going to save pays for the price of a Timeline Genius subscription ten times over. I currently have the unlimited plan, and I’m going to have it for the rest of my career.
Timeline Genius just fits so well with Couture Events because it’s all about customization. When I can make things personal, then my clients feel special. You know your timeline is good when the couple you’re working with wants to share it with their family and bridal party – because it makes them look good too. It takes a ton of work to plan a wedding, and with Timeline Genius I can really showcase that in a professional and polished way.
Thank you Suzanne for sharing your journey with Timeline Genius community!
Start your free trial of Timeline Genius today, so you can create amazing wedding day timelines in a fraction of the time. We’ll help you eliminate hours of tedious work, so you can spend more time growing your business and doing the work you love!