With a limited budget … Choose a location that speaks for itself in beauty, whether it’s a rooftop with stunning city views (and a built-in rain backup plan; tents aren’t cheap!), a countryside winery, a cabin with a mountain backdrop or an elegant restaurant on a beach.

Meggie Francisco

Wedding Planner and Designer

Location: Columbus, Ohio and Worldwide

I’m a full-service destination wedding planner and designer specializing in events with a sense of place.

I believe that every successful event must start with a solid foundation. That means beginning with high standards in the areas of client and vendor communication, timeline management, and budgeting.

With the essentials in place, I put my creative direction skills to work. As an experienced event designer, I care deeply about creating bespoke events for my couples. I start by learning all about their style and love story to source the perfect venue options. This establishes a grounded sense of place. From there, I ask even more thorough design questions and listen carefully to the responses. I adore my clients and want to know all about them! I then curate a customized design proposal, including a carefully selected color palette, botanical plan, and design details. Once we share a clear vision, I bring together a talented team of professional partners who help me bring it to life. The result is a wedding that will make my clients say, “This is so US!”

Above all, I value the personal connections that I develop during the planning process. I am honored to say that some of my vendor partners and past clients have become my very best friends. Some of my past couples call me “Aunt Meggie” to their children, and sometimes I pinch myself wondering how I got to become part of the lives of such lovely people. If you’re reading this and you’d like a strong team leader who will truly care about you and your family during the planning process, I’d love to be considered.

What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?

The best possible way to stretch your wedding budget is to trim the guest list. Each extra guest means additional hors d’oeuvres, entrees, beverages, china, chairs, centerpieces, invitations, escort cards, and more. The list goes on and on! Ask yourself honestly whether you will truly have a relationship with some of the people on your guest list in 10 years. If the answer isn’t a resounding, “Yes!” then reconsider their invitation.

Next, be very strategic about your venue selection. With a limited budget, there won’t be room to bring in lots of expensive decor. Choose a location that speaks for itself in beauty, whether it’s a rooftop with stunning city views (and a built-in rain backup plan; tents aren’t cheap!), a countryside winery, a cabin with a mountain backdrop or an elegant restaurant on a beach. If possible, choose a location that already includes pretty tables and chairs to avoid extra rental costs.

Once you’ve trimmed your guest list and identified the right venue, choose your 3 top priorities. In my professional opinion, you should book the best photography, catering, and entertainment you can afford within your budget. These are the core elements of an elegant event. A great photographer will capture everything in its best beauty, and talented entertainers will make it a true party. Great food is a must-have: making your guests suffer through a lackluster meal with an extravagant centerpiece on the table would be inhumane! If you keep the event intimate with a lovely sense of place and a focus on doing the basics well, your wedding will be just perfect.

How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?

Strong partnerships with vendors mean EVERYTHING to me. I see every wedding professional as an extension of my team, and I strive to create a group of partners that are strongly committed to everyone else’s success. When this happens, the energy of the event day is bright and positive, and we can accomplish anything together. It’s especially important to have a tight team for destination weddings because the crew is traveling together and sharing multiple days of hard work. Over the last 6 years, I’ve worked hard to curate a group of talented vendors who can’t wait to work together, push each other to new heights, and can nearly complete each others’ sentences. I care deeply about creating unique experiences for my clients with rich hospitality, and I could never do that without my talented partners.

What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

I have a 2020 wedding coming up at the Calistoga Ranch by Auberge in Napa Valley. I’ve been to many luxury properties around the world, but there’s something truly special about the way the Auberge collection delivers hospitality. They welcome you with sincerity and can accommodate almost any need at the drop of a hat. Their properties feel refined and upscale, but never stuffy – as though you’re in a dream where your home is perfectly decorated and comfortable, and you’re surrounded by people who honestly care about you. I can’t wait to team up with hospitality like this for a destination wedding.

What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea of setting up and starting to attract a client base?

I became an event planner in 2013 after a robust corporate career as a leader in hospitality training and organizational change management. While I enjoyed working in the corporate world, I wanted to do something more personal and meaningful. At that time, many of my friends were getting married and they entrusted me with their weddings! I quickly abandoned the corporate world with a dream of becoming a go-to event planner for couples who wanted the very best in service and design. It took about two years from launch to see consistent business, but I see my business as a living thing and I’m always helping it to grow in new ways.

What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?

When I was in college, I worked as a golf cart beverage attendant (this, by the way, is probably the best job in the world besides being a wedding planner). The clubhouse hosted a wedding on-site and didn’t have a coordinator, so I jumped right into the role.

It was – in one word – a mess. The couple was sweet and very young with a newborn child. To my dismay, both sets of parents insisted on coming to every planning meeting. We never got much done because all the parents were always arguing with each other. The poor couple just sat there looking uncomfortable; I didn’t exactly get the feeling that the marriage was their decision.

Come wedding day, the mom of the bride insisted on displaying the cake by a bright window (in Texas, in August) – and to make matters worse, provided me with a hefty Precious Moments ceramic topper that must have weighed at least five pounds. Within minutes of placing it on the cake, half of the top tier was sliding away in an avalanche. I nearly panicked but at least had enough sense to rush the cake into the walk-in cooler. I then ran to the nearest grocery store to buy pastry sugar flowers, which I stuck all over the damage to cover it. If the family ever actually never noticed the damage, they never said anything about it.

The party itself was quite awkward, with more arguing family members and a strange mix of dance songs including the Macarena, but the couple seemed happy enough! It would be intriguing to do it all over again knowing what I know now about client management.

What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?

I worked with a couple who shared their first date at the Texas State Fair. They came upon the petting zoo, only for the groom to find out that the bride was absolutely terrified of most animals! He quipped, “If you can’t make friends with that cute llama, I’ll never marry you.” The bride found a way to buddy up with the llama. During the planning process, I did a bit of investigation and found that there was a baby llama available for event appearances. With the bride’s permission, I hired in the llama and decorated him with a wreath of flowers and greenery. The llama surprised the couple during their first look, and the groom’s face was absolutely priceless! Guests got to take photos with the llama as they arrived for the ceremony.

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