Relaxed couples. Dream weddings. Beautiful memories.
This is where it started…
Once upon a time in the beautiful city by the bay, a little girl was born to plan things. She planned tea parties in the sandbox and dances at school. All the while, she dreamed of helping people make beautiful memories.
I am that little girl. My name is Gwen Semenero Helbush and this is my story.
I’ve been involved in planning celebrations for as long as I can remember. My parent’s house was the gathering place for friends and family and preparing for celebrations was a huge part of my childhood. Growing up, I planned various school functions and later my career took me into corporate events planning.
When it came time to plan my wedding, however, I quickly realized just how difficult and stressful the experience can be. I decided to transform my experience into a way to serve others. I began researching wedding planning, reading everything I could get my hands on. I took classes and volunteered to assist established wedding planners.
Where to Start launched in 1991. Gwen’s corporate world experience taught her the management skills she needed to work with multiple vendors and get the best for her clients. Her broadcasting and theater studies in college helped frame how she sees weddings, playing an important and unique role in event production.
Gwen loves getting to know her clients. Her clients’ unique stories mean so much to her, and she’s genuinely interested in learning what makes her couples and their guests truly happy. She believes that knowing what you love about life and about each other is the most important aspect of creating a meaningful wedding. As you share your dreams and unique story with Gwen, she gathers the knowledge she needs to help you refine your ideas and create the wedding celebration you and your guests will truly love.
Gwen’s story is simple. Gwen meets engaged couples. Gwen helps make the couple’s dream wedding a reality. And everyone lives happily ever after.
“Thank you for the privilege of helping you to create your dream wedding.”
~Gwen Semenero Helbush, CWC
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
Planning a wedding in less than 24 hours. The details can be found by following this link.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
I’m not a big fan of trends as a rule. I strongly believe clients should find what is important, meaningful, and unique to them and then put it into their events, rather than follow a trend.
However, I think we will see a trend towards small intimate events, for safety and cost reasons for some time to come. Small does not need to mean less important. I’m excited to see how small events can be personalized in ways larger events can’t.
Another “trend” I see coming is permitting, expanded insurance, and contract revisions. Event Planners and clients alike are going to need to pay very close attention to city, county, and state requirements for events, changes in the types of insurances needed and ensuring all contracts are clear and protect everyone.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
1. Don’t set your heart on a date, be flexible. You can save money having an event on a day other than Saturday, being open to other possibilities like getting married on the anniversary of your first date, which might be Wednesday this year.
2. Survey skills of your family and friends. If you have talented people in your life ask them to participate in your event as a gift. You save some money and you get to share something wonderful with the people in your life.
3. Lighting cans change any room. Spending a little on good professional lighting can make even the simplest room have the WOW factor.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
My dream client is a couple with open hearts and minds; who would allow me to take a blank canvas (i.e. an open field, an empty warehouse, or parking lot) and transform it into a wedding that fits them perfectly. A day that gives them and their guests meaningful experiences to share and memories to cherish.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
My relationship with my colleagues is one of the most important things I can do for my clients. Having strong, trusting relationships with my fellow event professionals allows me to give my clients confidence that their event is in good hands.
I do my best to reach out to my colleagues at least once a month, either by phone, email, or a handwritten note. I ask how they are and if there is anything I can do to help them. I make sure I credit everyone on each event team on social media and anywhere else I can. I listen to find out their favorite drink or sweet so I can bring them a treat when I see them.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
Know your goal. Why are you planning the event? Fundraising is hard work if you don’t have a firm goal and a well thought out reason for the event. Think twice
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
I’m looking forward to finding new ways to help couples have beautiful, meaningful weddings. Things are changing and, yes, even a little scary but I’m happy to have the opportunity to think outside the box and stretch my creativity in new ways.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
After spending several years planning corporate events and meetings for a large national department store chain, I planned my wedding and quickly realized just how difficult and stressful the experience can be for anxious couples. Determined to be of service, I began researching wedding planning, reading everything I could find, taking classes, and volunteering to assist established planners and others to learn everything I could.
After about two years of learning and working, I founded Where to Start in 1991.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
I planned dances at school but the first event I planned alone was my parents’ 25th-anniversary party. My parents eloped on New Years Eve. I planned a surprise New Years Eve party and I had a friend invite them to a New Years Eve event.
They arrived to find all our family and friends dressed up to celebrate them. It was a great night!
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your business?
I wish I had taken more time to learn about marketing before I started my business. I find it the most difficult thing I have to do as a business owner.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
I once had to get two elephants for a wedding. I found them but the permitting was a nightmare.