Weddings have become big business. Couples and their families spend tens of thousands of dollars for the big day, demanding perfection in every detail – from the venue and lighting to the food and music. To help pull off a flawless celebration, more brides and grooms in recent years are turning to wedding planners.
Louise Thomas, founder of Events Made Special, has seen an increase in wedding planners in the Tucson region since she started her business in the mid-1980s. She’s earned her reputation, in part, for being the creative force behind the high profile Angel Ball for Angel Charity for Children Inc. since its inception.
It all started with the tragic loss of Thomas’ nine-year-old son, Michael, to lymphoma. Her experience with the Ronald McDonald House led her to understand the importance of the facility, which houses families whose children are being treated at Tucson hospitals.
In 1982, she was asked to join the board of directors and develop a plan to pay off the property’s mortgage. Facing the challenge full throttle, she and co-founder/vice chair
Jane Loew Sharples started Angel Charity and organized the first Angel Ball. They raised the funds in one year, retiring the mortgage and adding additional space to the house.
Thomas stayed with Angel Charity as Guardian Angel Emeritus, regularly offering advice and volunteering for various projects, including work on many Angel Balls – the charity’s signature fundraising effort that benefits children’s organizations throughout Pima County.
In 1984, Thomas decided to put her gala-throwing skills to more widespread use and started her event and wedding planning service. She takes on corporate, social and non-profit events, but “60 percent to 70 percent of my business is weddings,” she said. “I’m known for weddings. We’ve been in magazines – Inside Weddings, Tucson Lifestyle bridal and Town & Country.”
Today’s technology allows Thomas to accept jobs all over the country. She uses websites for research and e-mail to stay in touch with long distance clients. Although she hasn’t been involved with out-of-country weddings due to red tape regulations, her dream wedding would be a beautiful site off the coast of Venice, Italy.
Whether the bride and groom are getting married close to home or far away, there are always family members traveling to the ceremony. Part of the planning includes selecting accommodations.
“We make it manageable for guests by finding hotels in two or three price levels so everyone feels a part of it,” she said.
Events Made Special has been known for putting on higher-end weddings, but Thomas is trying to alter that image. She said she can work within various budget ranges, having done weddings from $15,000 to $500,000. She knows where corners can be cut and where they shouldn’t.
“We’re cognizant of the economy and able to be flexible and creative to come up with the same level of tastefulness at any price point. We substitute many over-the-top ideas with maybe a few elements or find a location that isn’t as pricey,” she said. Country clubs are often less expensive than top resorts.”
The company’s showroom and warehouse contain samples of everything from linens and chairs to invitations and flowers. “Some others subcontract, but we do it all and we can custom design to a theme or the feel of a wedding,” Thomas said. This turnkey approach allows her to contract for better prices, which she can pass along to the client.
“I don’t send clients to anyone. We negotiate with vendors; we become the couple’s advocate,” she added.
Sometimes that goes as far as playing family counselor. “I’m a psychotherapist. I have to juggle personalities and play peacemaker,” Thomas said. “When doing a wedding, you’re asked to be part of the family and we often come out as friends.”
Advertising is done primarily by word-of-mouth. She’s earned a good name through longevity in the market and paying particular attention to such elements as table decorations.
“Our service, décor and details are the three main components where our reputation is,” she said.
Thomas’ advice to couples planning a wedding is to stay focused, but flexible. When hiring a professional, have faith in that person’s creativity and be open-minded about new ideas.
“Trust who you hire and hire the right person for you.” On the other hand, she noted, it’s important for the planner to listen intently to the bride and groom and what they want.
“I plan weddings to make them happy and to take care of them. It needs to be all about them.”
Biz Facts2100 N. Wilmot Road,
Events Made Special
Christy Krueger is a Tucson-based freelance writer.