The Swellegant Seven: Real Wedding Advice from The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

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Chatting with another expert!  Michele Knutzson, Director of Weddings at The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, is a true pro. The the first thing that I notice about you every time I come to your property is that you truly love what you do.  You love weddings!     Thanks for sharing that you recently won an incredible award Chairman’s Circle for 2013 from The Ritz-Carlton.

Would you mind answering a few questions about your expertise in the industry?

What would be some of your personal tips for a newly engaged couple?

Keep an open mind and do your research and determine the top priorities for your wedding day.   I wish I would have had the internet when I planned my own wedding. Hiring professionals in the industry will make your wedding planning process more enjoyable.   Being flexible to have a wedding on a Friday or Sunday, Mid-Week or Short Term, especially for Destination Weddings, makes sense!

How did you start the business?

After I graduated I took a year off before continuing with my Masters’ Degree to plan my own wedding in 1995, and then decided that I wanted to continue in the Wedding World rather than pursuing a career in Marriage and Family Counseling! After all, it is somewhat related. I have been in the wedding industry for almost 18 years. I was able to land a Wedding Event Manager Position at Newport Beach Marriott and then moved to Wedding Sales in 1999 and have many fond memories within my 14 years there. I transitioned over to my dream venue The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in October 2010.

What inspires you? You are truly considered an expert, and clients and industry professionals turn to you for event advice.

I love Weddings, they are the ultimate expression of one’s life, and the personal stories that my clients share with me make each and every day unique.    When we receive the honor of being their location for their wedding ceremony and reception, it is a wonderful feeling.  I love working with wedding couples and their families.  I love the dynamics of this position there is a great balance of site visits and meeting with couples and vendors, computer and emails, phone calls and conversations and creative projects that make my days go faster than light!

Tell me more about your resort.  What do you love about The Ritz- Carlton, Laguna Niguel?

I love coming to work every day.  I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful company. We were the first luxury resort in Orange County and are celebrating our 30 year Pearl Anniversary.  The setting and incredible views still take my breath away.   The creativity in the Food and Beverage experience we provide is amazing.  Our ladies and gentlemen are like family and extremely dedicated and share the same goal and culture of The Ritz-Carlton. We have many team members who have been here since the opening of the resort in 1984.

 

What would be your advice to someone new in the wedding industry?

If you’re a new Wedding Coordinator, for example, try to coordinate as many weddings as possible and creating a partnership with a resort and vendors is important.  Networking at Wedding Industry events would be beneficial as well. Professionalism and being as efficient as possible, and being a great team player is essential.  Having the ultimate goal in mind of creating a dream wedding for the couple should be your main priority rather than just your personal contribution and will be beneficial in the long term.

You have an incredible preferred vendor list at your resort.  Could you please give me a couple of anecdotes of what it's like to work with experienced professionals?

The experience of having someone who has worked at our resort makes it a more seamless experience for our couples.    New vendor partners can also offer fresh and new perspectives, and we’re always open to meet new vendors who can bring fresh eyes to our weddings celebrations at our resort.

What do you like to do for fun?

I really enjoy coming to work as I feel like I am on vacation when I am here!  In my free time, I like dedicate every minute to spending time with my family and three kids, whether it’s volunteering at their schools and doing school projects, going to an amusement park, skiing,  going to the beach, soccer and softball games, traveling and enjoying a great meal and dessert, shopping and gardening.

If you could do any job in the wedding industry, what would it be?

I am very fortunate, I am doing my dream job at my dream venue. I couldn’t be happier.

 

A big thank you to Michael & Anna Costa for their photography, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for the venue, Square Root Designs for the floral arrangements, and Nisie's Enchanted Florist for their floral arrangements.

The Swellegant Seven: Real Wedding Advice from JJ | Visions Entertainment |

Jason Jass, Visions Entertainment, shared DJ advice about what it takes to create an amazing party.     I've known Jason for many years, and he always is a true professional.   His advice to engaged couples is spot on! How did you start in this industry and how did you know you could be great at what you do?

I learned from the best and started my own company in 2003. I knew I could be great at what I do when I would consistently receive "the look" from a bride and groom that said "You nailed it".

You're not a 9 to 5 guy  .. How do you keep things cool and fresh?

I'm one of the regular DJ's at Disney's Mad T Party...During the week I meet with potential clients, and on the weekends,   I get to party with amazing couples. My company typically DJ's for three to six other events per weekend including weddings, corporate events, and non-profit events.

What is the best piece of advice for a newly engaged couple when finding talent?

Make sure to sit down and enjoy the process.  Your DJ should take inspiration from YOU and what I love is creating a unique event through music who represents who they are.

What advice would you give to someone starting new in this business?

 Know your craft, understand your business well, and make friends with high integrity people in this business.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I receive my inspiration from my clients, the latest and greatest in music, and other event professionals.

How do you keep a balance in the business?

 You have to keep in top physical shape to handle the long hours and amount of physical work it takes.  Taking one day off per week is essential.

Why do you believe you are on the preferred vendor list at many venues?

 I consistently delver high quality service and represent and take care of all of the venues where I work.

What do you do for fun?

I go dancing with my wife and I actually consider work to be fun. Think about it- I am at a great party every night I work.

The Little Market + Swellegant Events = A Perfect Partnership for our Wedding Couples

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I'm a gift-giving gal.  Learned it from my Mom.   If you're a client of ours this year,  a fair treat is coming your way... One of my former brides, Hannah, is a partner in  The Little Market, a company that empowers women around the world.    This company connects  artisans with the world marketplace.    She and her partner, Lauren, help to employ women, providing  fair trade, fair wages, and a safe workplace.      Cheers!

Check out what The Little Market is doing around the world here!

The Swellegant Seven: Real Advice From Mike Steffans, Essence Entertainment Event Expert

Whenever Swellegant has a need for expert entertainment, one of the first people we turn to is Mike Steffans from Essence Entertainment.  He has been in the industry long enough to understand everything.  At the same time he stays fresh and on top of trends.  I always love learning from the best. Why is Essence Entertainment is so well respected in the industry?

"Essence Entertainment is a Talent Agency.  Some of the respect comes from the fact that we have been around since 1983.  We are on every major hotel vendor list.    I take personal pride in the performers and the service that we provide.  I let the talent know, that even though our client is important, our venues are also important.  One of the things that differentiates us from other companies is that our talent are all true professionals.  We do 60 events per month.  I represent Owner/ Operators who are very talented."

What would be your best piece of advice for someone new in the industry?

"Develop one on one relationships with people at venues who refer you.  You must develop a referral base."

What is the best piece of advice for a newly engaged couple when finding talent?

"Ask their Wedding Planner for their Preferred Vendor List.  Referrals matter."

What is the best piece of advice for a hotel when referring you?

"I love to deal directly with the client, and they all know that I will take care of them."

What keeps it fresh and inspirational?

"I love what I do.  I truly do enjoy finding entertainment for people’s events."

How do you keep a balance in the business?

"I constantly remind myself that, even though this may be my '1,000th'wedding, it is my clients’ first and only wedding!"

Why are you on the preferred vendor list?

"My clients and venues know that when they call me, they will be well taken care of."

What do you do for fun?

"I spend time with my daughter and wife."

 

Thank you so much to Mike Steffans at Essence Entertainment!