Francie Dorman and Britt Cole are the founders of 42 North; New England's full-service wedding planning firm. Francie and Britt work closely with clients to execute the most memorable of wedding days (or weekend-long celebrations), attending to every detail behind the scenes to manage and execute every plan, flawlessly. Francie and Britt are sharing some of their expertise working in the luxury wedding market and the importance of nurturing strong business partnerships amongst vendors.
Luxury can mean different things to different people. What does a luxury wedding mean to you?
While it’s easy to equate luxury with cost, we consider luxury to be more of a holistic experience. What feels luxurious to one of our clients may feel standard to another. Our clients come to us from a wide variety of lifestyles and part of our job is to provide a luxury service that aligns with their unique needs and expectations.
We attend to every detail, from big decisions to small, from the moment we are hired until all the post-wedding details have been wrapped up. Each customized, cohesively planned and designed event comes with a multitude of administrative details that we manage throughout the process. Setting up appointments, arranging transportation and accommodations for out of town guests and managing contract and payment details; taking responsibility for those tasks allows our clients to focus on the aspects of their marriage that are most important to them, and also on their regular life!
To us, a luxury wedding is simply one that provides a remarkable experience for our clients and their guests, from start to finish. We love that we can provide that to each client that we work with.
You specialize in non-traditional venues and private estate celebrations. Could you share examples of your favorite venues and celebrations?
Both of us get very excited about a challenge! We enjoy the blank slate and unique opportunities that a private estate or non-traditional venue offers us as planners, our clients and their guests. We walk onto a property and are able to visualize its unique layout, surroundings, and features to create an event that will be beautiful and logistically sound.
One of our all time favorite projects was at a private home in New Hampshire. Our client was a former Vogue editor, turned successful fashion businesses and a fashion design mogul. She and her soon-to-be husband wanted to celebrate on a family property that held special meaning to them, and they really wanted to feel like their guests were going “into the woods.”
Guests entered the property through a secret woodland path, lead by a bagpiper. We passed out espadrilles to ladies who were wearing heels, and guests were greeted with cocktails at the end of the path, which revealed a beautiful pond. Throughout the evening, we “unveiled” different parts of the property, and new delights at every turn. Cocktails and live jazz around the pond, dinner on a custom built, elevated platform, a field of luminaries that appeared at sunset, a surprise fireworks display, and a dance party in a hidden forest grove all kept guests engaged and entertained into the wee hours of the morning.
This wedding was truly amazing; it was an experience for the guests to enjoy the property in a unique way, and for us, it was one of the most logistically challenging projects to date. Which is exciting!
A few of our other favorite weddings include a seaside 1920s themed soiree on Nantucket at a private estate, an intimate ceremony at a historic plantation in upstate New York, and a tented reception at a summer home in Westport, MA.
People often do not realize how much work goes into planning an event. How do you coordinate everyone and everything?
That’s a great question! We are committed to continually improving our processes to be more efficient and to deliver the best possible client experience. Right now, we work with a project management software system that was built specifically for weddings. The software allows us to customize the experience specifically to our business and our clients.
Our current system allows us to keep every little detail of wedding planning organized between us internally, as well as with our clients. We are able to send vendor payment and appointment reminders, map out design ideas in an online studio, and show our clients “year to date” planning checklists. Technology has allowed us to provide a seamless planning experience for our clients, many of whom are young professionals and millennials who appreciate that their planning materials can be accessed, reviewed and used digitally.
Many managers attribute much of their success to building strong business partnerships. What role do business partnerships play in your weddings?
We put a lot of emphasis on our relationships with vendors and colleagues for so many reasons.
First, it’s very important to us to make all of the vendors we are working with on each project feel well taken care of. We carefully build vendor teams specifically for our client; it’s important each vendor is a fit in terms of budget, aesthetic and personality. We really take a lot of time to tailor this to each unique client to ensure their wedding team is working with a unified and committed vision.
On the flip side, we consider it our responsibility to set each vendor up for the greatest success during the job. This means making sure their deadlines are met, that they receive all of the information they require about the venue, timing, and set up, and that we are considering their unique needs during the process. It’s critical to manage the expectations between each vendor and the client, and vice versa.
When we are able to nurture and strengthen these business relationships, the vendors we work with become invested in the project. It’s not uncommon for the business owners we work with to go above and beyond for our clients, translating into a successful event and a stronger partnership for future collaborations.
In addition to prioritizing our business relationships, we have found it very important to cultivate our own community among other event professionals. We love making friends in our industry! It’s exciting to hear what others are working on, discuss challenges, and brainstorm how to make our services stronger.
What qualities do you look for in your business partners, and how do you develop the partnerships?
Trust is huge for us. We always want to be able to trust our vendor team to deliver their very best. We also want them to trust us in return, and to know that we will always advocate for them. We expect the vendors we work with are, in fact, experts at the service they provide. When each partner brings their best work to the table, and are encouraged to truly go above and beyond, we are able to provide the best experience for our clients (of course), but also for each other. Weddings can be a high-stress, high-emotion environment. Strong relationships with our vendor partnerships are crucial to our success.