Rachel Peniche started Plan It San Diego, an event planning and coordination company specializing in weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs and other corporate, political and charity events in 2000. The social aspect and working with people and getting to be a part of people’s life experience is what drew her to the profession. She began working in the special event industry when she coordinated the celebrity and VIP arrangements for the Governor Gray Davis Committee at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
So what class do you teach?
I teach the Wedding Social Event class.
What do students learn in this class?
I cover time management: how to manage your time, how to put together a schedule and budget, and other things like how to deal with people when they are emotional because it’s their special day. A big portion of the class covers cultural and religious differences, and aspects that planners need to know when planning these types of events. Also we discuss logistics with risk management, how to problem-solve, and how to work together as a team. We cover collaboration, working with other vendors and learning to build those relationships.
Are there any group activities?
We don’t have time since we cover so much in the six hours. I give students lots of stories and scenarios. I start off the class with the question, “Imagine a perfect day, a beautiful bride, and think about what could go wrong?” And then I unfold what could go wrong and what would you do about those issues: the pros and cons, good and bad. I do a lot of role playing and storytelling.
What do you think is the highlight of the class?
I think the highlight of the class is just hearing about a few of the 400 plus wedding, and 600 events that I have planned. Students usually say that the highlight of the class is listening to my professional experiences and what I’ve learned from them. They get to go to the place that they would have never thought of, so getting there is really fun.
What do students need to know about this industry?
It’s hard work. It’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s a lot of long hours. It’s a lot of nights and weekends. When your friends are all going out to do something social, it’s probably when you’re working. There are sacrifices that I think people don’t think about. If you have a New Year’s Eve wedding, you’re not ringing in the New Year with your boyfriend or your family. You’re going to miss your nephew’s birthday party or your mother’s birthday, these kinds of things. The other thing is that you’re scheduling your life a year or a year and a half out, so you have to be committed. I have to commit to somebody else’s wedding sometimes two years out. People are relying on you and you have a contract with them.
Is there anything that you think that potential students need to know that I didn’t ask about your class or the profession?
I think it’s a really wonderful industry to be in. I think you’ll meet the most amazing and creative people and it is very fun. I think you’ll get out of it what you put into it. So, if you put in hard work and are organized, dedicated and committed, you’re going to get all those things. You will be successful.
How has the industry changed in the 11 years you have been planning events?
Access to technology has changed the industry. There are so many resources on the Internet – the Web allows clients to get information that they used to rely on planners for. Also, there are more people in the industry. I didn’t grow up thinking that was going be a wedding planner. It wasn’t an industry when I grew up. I think now people say, “This is a field I like and I’m going to learn about it.” I also see the change in the number of events. People are always looking for more reasons to celebrate – even when the economy is bad, I think there are still a lot of events.
What kind of personality do you think you need to have to be successful?
I think you have to be a people person. If you’re a shy and introverted person, it may be difficult for you because it’s such a people orientated business. A planner deals with a lot of different personalities, so you have to be pretty patient and cooperative. I also think you need to be organized. You must be able to plan time well. You must be able to multitask and have a lot of those capabilities. You need to be flexible, because no matter how well you plan, things will come up that you need to deal with. I think those are the personality traits that you have to possess to be successful.