Oh my stars -- how could I almost forget?! Today is a very, very special day in the history of Kelly Dellinger Events. One year ago, at the strike of midnight, Kelly Dellinger Events came to life. I kissed my husband, tossed back some Prosecco, clicked "Publish" on the KDE Facebook page, took away the privacy protection hiding this beauty of a website, and opened for business.
I got five or six inquiries the very first week I opened shop. I got over 200 Facebook "likes" by January 2. I met with brides, I set up a bridal show booth, and designed advertisements. Of course, the initial steam that arose simmered down by that second or third month, leaving me to feel disheartened and confused. Why would God call me to open a business that doesn't have any BUSINESS?! By April, I had still only booked the two weddings I'd secured in 2012 for my 2013 season. Every inquiry was a dud.
But then in May we needed money for a personal endeavor, something I'd also felt called to do. I needed at least $2500 to fund it. I'd been praying for God's timing and His provision. It seemed like the timing was right, so all we needed was the provision.
And the inquiries started pouring in. I met with brides. Somehow, miraculously, they wanted to BOOK me! It happened again. And again. And again. Until, once again miraculously, the booking deposits matched my $2500 perfectly.
There is no question in my mind about God's involvement in this business. He is all over it. He planted the seed that made it become something, He has brought every dollar of business in, and He has implemented His will over and over again. I can guarantee you that I am not in control of Kelly Dellinger Events. (Nor would I want to be!) I may be Kelly Dellinger, I may hold the bank account and business license and operate all of the functions in it, but I am not in control.
This is my ministry. To honor and celebrate Godly marriages. To shift brides' and grooms' focus from the party to the covenant. To eliminate unnecessary stress so that what matters can be the central focus. To showcase good old Southern hospitality and community through the events I plan and direct. To create a party as beautiful as the relationships it honors.
I won't lie to you -- I thought that owning my own business, especially having God's blessing, was going to be easy. I thought everything would be handed to me. Because I'm smart. Because I'm capable. Because I'm experienced. I'd put in my time! I worked for free for nine months before I even started getting paid a small amount to assist with weddings, and I'd been in this industry for over three years. I'd planned weddings on my own. I had raving reviews! I had been successful working under the table for three years. I'd worked with every wedding vendor imaginable. How could I NOT just blow up overnight?
But that wasn't God's plan. Every small business owner I talked to had warned me that it's hard at first. I thought I was different. While I may be different in a lot of ways, the road to success is not paved. It's not a straight shot. It does take all of those things I had, I have. But I wasn't done. It's not that simple.
There were many, many times this past year that I questioned why the HELL I was even bothering. I asked God, "Are you SURE you want me to keep doing this? Because I'm more than happy to throw in the towel -- just say the word!" over and over again. That was my prayer. Tell me when to quit. Tell me if this isn't what you want for me. Tell me what I should be doing. I applied for other jobs, interviewed for other jobs. Explored the whole market. Refreshed my resume, learned how to write a cover letter. Offered to move across the South without my husband (don't worry -- just for a little bit; he would move there, too).
But doors closed. And closed. And closed. And doors for this business opened. And opened. And opened.
It is January 1st, and I have doubled my weddings for next year. I've quadrupled the amount of weddings I had booked at this time last year, for the year ahead. At this time last year, I'd only ever done two styled shoots, and both were with and for the wedding studio I had been working for, with only limited input on the design choices. In 2013, I designed and executed 5 styled editorial shoots. As the sole stylist. I sewed a capelet! I baked a cake! I modeled bridesmaid dresses and lugged essentially a tiny full-scale wedding three hours down the road in my little red car. Three times. I almost single-handedly consumed an entire 8" strawberry and European butter cake. (It was damn good. Thanks, Juanita!)
As far as my weddings were concerned, I planned and executed weddings for complete strangers. I made friends. I crisis-managed. I consoled. I cheered brides on. I helped clients deal with family dilemmas. I managed a staff. I hired an intern. I learned how to do and how NOT to do an internship, from the management side. I laughed and I cried with mothers and fathers of the bride. I was moved by string trio arrangements and powerful wedding vows. I climbed so many stairs at the Schermerhorn I wanted to cut my feet off. I nursed blisters. I slept in after long wedding nights. I drove back late at night, sometimes for hours. I packed cake truffles in glassine bags. I decorated a hotel room for a sweet groom who wanted to surprise his new bride. I met one of my wedding planner idols. I made really good friends with wedding planner colleagues here, and became pen pals with a planner in Birmingham.
This has been a BIG year.
2014's going to be bigger.
Happy one-year anniversary of Kelly Dellinger Events, y'all! Thank you for reading, for cheering me on, for encouraging me and giving good advice, for employing me and entrusting to me the biggest celebration of your life. Thank you to past and present KDE brides and grooms, to Nashville wedding vendors, to Birmingham wedding vendors (gah, I love you all so!), to all of the friends and family that have been my biggest cheerleaders, to my darling parents, and to my darling Drew.
When that clock strikes midnight tonight, I'm going to kiss that gorgeous man and toast a glass to one helluva 2014. CHEERS!