Jenn Dunbar’s favorite part of planning weddings is exactly what makes her stand out in the industry: she really gets to know a couple on a personal level—and even stays in touch after the wedding. “You establish these relationships, and you become really involved with a lot of their family too,” says Jenn. “That’s one of the things that I absolutely love the most.”
That’s also one of the things that bring a wedding to life in a way that is perfectly unique to the couple and what they’re all about. When a planner takes the time to ask, to listen, and to get to know who her clients really are, the resulting event doesn’t just reflect the details ordered; it reflects the hearts, loves, and personalities of those we come together to celebrate.
The Personal Side of Wedding Planning
“We joke here that a wedding coordinator is really like a therapist,” says Jenn. Just about all day, every day, Jenn is committed to taking client calls and emails. She’s open to questions and requests directly related to events—as well as concerns and anxieties or even personal crises that clients feel welcome and comfortable bringing to her. One special client connection that Jenn remembers came about because a local Bay Area bride had just lost her mother-in-law, and so had Jenn.
It was a very hard time and devastating for both parties, but it was something the bride and I could really connect on. We became close and really talked a lot outside of the wedding planning, and when the wedding arrived, her family treated me like one of their own. It was so heartfelt and wonderful to feel included. We worked together to find wonderful ways to include memories of his mother in the ceremony, and to this day, we still stay in touch.
Therapist, friend, planner, day-of coordinator, and department supervisor—Jenn has a hand in just about every element here at Kennolyn as the Events Manager. She started with us in 2008—after a few years of private event planning and catering work throughout the Bay Area. She spent about five years as the wedding and events coordinator here, overseeing all events at both of our venues, and then in 2015, she was promoted to Events Manager and has embraced not just our clients, but also our entire staff with enthusiasm and compassion.
An Unexpected Calling
She didn’t set out to be an event planner. The job called on her because she’s great at it. While she was a stay-at-home mom, Jenn did some casual party planning for friends and family, spurred by her interest in themed events. “A good family friend recognized my work and said, ‘Hey, would you ever want to come work with us?’” Jenn reflects, “It just sort of fell into my lap, and I’m so happy it did because it’s something I really, really love doing. When I was young, I didn’t even think this was an option.” But the truth is that Jenn has been hosting guests and events in the Santa Cruz Mountains ever since she was just out of college. She was the youngest person hired at Loch Lomond, a recreation spot where people can go picnicking, hiking, fishing, and boating near the reservoir. Born and raised in the Santa Cruz mountains, she went down to the University of San Francisco for college, but came back up to raise a family and, ultimately, to help us grow our family here at Kennolyn.
Our clients love her, too. “One of my favorite memories—that came as a surprise to me,” Jenn remembers, “was when a bride and groom were giving their thank you toast at the end of dinner and surprised me by calling me out to the floor and said a big thank you in front of everyone.” What it shows is that she knows how to be in touch with the individual needs of each of her clients.
On the day of, although the couples lean on me for complete support, I try really hard to stay in the background and let them enjoy their day without me being 100% right in their faces. When they took the time out of their speech to mention me, I felt so honored. Of course, I have many other favorite moments, but that toast was definitely one of the most meaningful!
What does Jenn say about how often clients can contact her with questions, concerns, or anything at all? “We have no boundaries on that. Our clients can contact us every day, and we will literally respond to them every day.” In fact, that is one of the things Jenn believes is a really big key to success: great communication that keeps everyone on the same page, that keeps up the pace of planning so that everything stays on track, and that opens up channels to creating an all-around unforgettable wedding journey.
Staying Grounded with Family Time and Self-care
As committed as she is to every event’s perfection, Jenn jumps on any chance she can get to be with her family and create their own journeys and adventures. Jenn, her husband Casey, and their three boys all love to go camping, especially when they can also take their ski boat out for wakeboarding or just to enjoy some of California’s mountain lakes. Though they’re all into sports and the great outdoors, Jenn says, laughing, “Because I’m the only female in my house, I love having me time. Sometimes I just need girly time to go shopping and pamper myself.”
Jenn’s ability to focus on her own self-care leads her to put a lot of intention into encouraging brides and grooms to do the same. Here’s some advice she has for couples who are just starting out on their wedding planning journey:
- Start identifying your priorities early, and then pace yourself—rather than procrastinating or trying to do everything right at the start.
- Try to tackle one thing at a time, and be consistent with that. If you can try to work on two goals each month for the wedding, it’s going to save you so much time and so much stress.
- When it comes to decor, I always say, simple is better. Start with less, and we can always add stuff on.
- Have great communication with us—as much as you feel comfortable with! Our lines are always open here.
- Give yourself permission to listen to new ideas and be open to your coordinator’s advice. This is their passion, and you can trust that they’re experienced and knowledgeable.
All of these strategies will go a long way to preventing stress and ensuring that your wedding turns out exactly the way you want it. Zoom ahead to the day of: “My most favorite moment, every single wedding, is when everything is set up and gorgeous, and all the guests are behind these closed doors. Then we open it all up for the big reveal, for everyone to take their seats…and all the candles are lit, and everything looks so beautiful.” Rest assured that Jenn already has that special moment in mind for you and your guests.
If you’re interested in close, personal attention from your planner during your wedding journey, give us a call. Let’s explore how Kennolyn can bring your wedding dreams to life.