Meet new ILEA Chicago member - Audia of Audia Motion and Still


Meet Audia....

A photographer, an artist, an in-the-moment visionary, Audia knows how to find the signal through the visual noise for over 20 years. His focus on the details, nuances to seeing the light has benefited magazines, bridal gowns, celebrities from presidents to Vera Wang to anyone in front of his camera. Audia captures moments that aren’t just beautiful, but make you feel.

My mother continually told me as a child I was a big daydreamer. I dream big! I thought everyone did. Ideas roll out of my mind at the speed of light. Maybe not the speed of light but close to it. BTW, they tried clocking my big dream ideas on the Large Hadron Collider but it was broke that day. I eventually grew up, kind of, and went into radio for 6 years. That was fun and I thought I would become the next Mancow, Larry LuJack, Greaseman, etc. 

After harboring excitement about the first time I had a camera in my hand and took a photo, around 7 or 8 years old, I decided it was time to do something with my speedy HUGE, BIG and FAST dreams and a camera was the perfect conduit. I learned from the school of hard knocks, books (pre internet), and any photographer, famous or otherwise, that would put up with me asking a bazillion and a half questions. I photographed in crazy conditions. An underground coal mine, NY runways, babies, weddings, presidents, beer ads, (ok the beer ads were difficult but had loads of fun) and whatever I need to do to make those big, fast dreams work for me or for you. 

All of these challenges and experiences along with those who came before me, make up who I am and what I see at a magnificent moment in time. Sometimes it’s with a still camera seeing the beauty or smelling the changes in light and sometimes it’s seeing the ending of a video before most people imagine the beginning. Whatever it is, it was gifted to me and I try to embrace it, utilize it, and pass it on or be the conduit to those that can’t. 

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/ what inspired you to go into event photography?

I knew the moment my parents asked me to take a photo of them with the brownie, it was magic. It took me awhile to get here, but the road and experiences were worth the ride!
Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

2 beautiful children and 2 exceptionally beautiful grandchildren are a big part of my life. And my wife, too! And my wife and I used to skydive, a whole lot. And I traveled in the US and Europe for 2 months to photograph a book for the Pope. Seriously. It’s really cool and comes out in October but I can’t talk about it so you didn’t hear this from me.

What do you love the most about what you do?

It sounds corny but besides skydiving, I am so immersed in the moment and the wonder of people and life, I loose myself. 

Where did you grow up?

Fairmont, WV. Small town. Coal mines. Pepperoni rolls. Mary Lou Retton. But close enough to Pittsburgh.

What's your event / photoshoot gone wrong horror story?

When I moved to Chicago, one of the first gigs was shooting runway for the Merchandise Mart. I was shooting with a hasselblad and black and white film. The shoot was to be in W Magazine. The leaf shutter on the camera broke after the first 3 or 4 shots. I didn’t know it until the film was developed. Most of the images looked really cool, like a long exposure drag. However, that’s not what The Mart or W was expecting. I managed to get a few images to publication and found a way back into the hearts of The Mart that lasted over 10 years.

What made you interested in participating in ILEA? 

I was photographing Vicki Bowman for some new portrait/headshots and she talked so highly about the organization and how it might be a good fit, I was hooked! Thanks Vicki!

For more information on Audia or Audia Photography Motion, you can reach him at





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Meet Kathy Miller, ILEA Member and Owner of Total Event Resources


Every association has a member who has been a leader in not just your organization, but in your industry. Go to any events industry award ceremony and you'll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know Kathy Miller.  As a frequent speaker at events and long time ILEA Chicago member, we've asked Kathy to share a little about herself below and what she humbly doesn't share is that aside from a leader and business owner, Kathy was ILEA International President from 2012-2013.

Meet Kathy Miller....

I’ve been in the industry for what feels like a really long time…I literally started my career at 17 working for Hyatt Hotels.  It was a great introduction to the industry and an amazing company to be associated with, 10 years with Hyatt was my training ground for building my event agency over the past 23 years!  Total Event Resources has been producing innovative meetings and events all over the world with Fortune 100 Corporations, Major Trade Associations and Non-for Profit organizations and ILEA has provided the global supplier partnerships to do so.  When I started my business, I knew that I needed to market my business and remember joining ILEA to “win awards”, I was sure that would provide credibility to our company.  Little did I know that not only would we build credibility through the organization, but I would serve our industry on a global basis through the 8 years that I served on the International Board and we would create hundreds of supplier partnerships and long lasting friendships all across the globe!

Personally, I’m a wife, mother of two grown young men and a grandmother to one 3 year old boy, Hudson, who lives in Australia!  Who knew that my sons would watch me travel the world and decide to live in places like Africa and Australia, thank goodness I love to travel! 

For more information on Kathy Miller or Total Event Resources, you can reach her at



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A Message from Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago


Hello ILEA Chicago! 

I cannot believe how quickly two years has passed as your Chapter President.  It seems like the time has passed so quickly but when I think about everything that has happened to me – then it seems like so long ago.  I got engaged and married in the past two years, I have traveled to the Dominican Republic, Israel, Argentina and so many states in the United States. I have attended The Special Event in California, ILEA Live in Austin, Catersource both in New Orleans and Las Vegas and personally spoken at the Day of Education in Indianapolis.  I have switched jobs and am three months into a new position as Director of Sales at Entertaining Company.  I remember how nervous I was to take over as the ILEA Chicago Chapter President.  How do I live up to past leaders?  How do I move our Chapter forward while paying tribute to where we have been?  When I think about what ILEA Chicago has accomplished in the last two years – I am PROUD.  As a leader, there is no better feeling than being proud of what your team has accomplished. 

Let’s talk about a few things that ILEA Chicago has accomplished that make me proud.  Any group of individuals who make up a Board have different opinions and ways of doing things but for the last two years, the people on your ILEA Chicago Board have worked together with kindness and respect and always held the best interests of the Chapter as our priority.  This group of people have worked together to create a dynamic calendar of events full of education, networking, unique opportunities, fun and friendship.  Our MarCom team has created a content calendar of communication that is beyond my wildest dreams to ensure our members have the information needed to get the most out of your ILEA Chicago membership. We had an extremely ambitious goal of getting 50 NEW members this year and we are less than 10 away.  That alone is unbelievable. The work of our Membership Committee and the way they work together has been inspiring to watch.  The NICE Awards have had record setting attendance and surpassed all fundraising goals the last three years.  I was terrified of maintaining a budget during my tenure as President and I am so happy (and relieved) with the progress we have made to build our resources for future years.  And a huge goal that I have always had for ILEA Chicago is to win a Spirit of Excellence (SOE) Award and go for Chapter of the Year.  That means we are not just submitting one SOE – but four.  And we are going for Chapter of the Year this year!! A huge accomplishment just to go for it!  Wish us luck!

All of the above cannot be done without a lot of amazing people.  To the ILEA Chicago Board Members and Committee Members over the last two years – THANK YOU!  You have no idea how proud I am of all that we have accomplished.  Thank you for your time and dedication to this amazing event city and to our ILEA Chapter.  To Barb Harris, CSEP, DMCP and Nicole Zenner, CSEP for your amazing guidance and leadership as I navigated my way through being President.  I could not have done this without you.  My biggest goal during my tenure was to leave the Chapter in good hands and Chicago – we have some of the best event people in the business leading the charge.  Lastly– thank you to our members for trusting me to be your Chapter President! Thank you for your time, your generosity, your participation and your friendship.  Being the Chapter President for this amazing organization has been my sincere pleasure! As a former Kindergarten Teacher – our ILEA Chicago future is so bright, we have to wear shades!  No better time than now to become a member! Thanks for making me proud!!

Lisa Ware
ILEA President, 2016 - 2017 & 2017 - 2018

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ILEA Member Spotlight: Aaron Kaufman

Aaron Kaufman, CSEP Joined ILEA orginially in 2007 and works hard – with extreme passion! As the President of Fifth Element Group, a live experience firm with offices in Chicago & Toronto, it is safe to say that Aaron is an international influencer in a very competitive industry. With his finger on the pulse of business & creativity whether it’s new trends or developing strategic partnerships, Aaron always stays ahead of the game as a leader and trendsetter. 

With a long list of international award wins and nominations, including multiple Special Event Gala Awards, Fifth Element Group has been recognized for their creativity, originality and ability to push the envelope each and every time.  In addition to company accolades, Aaron is in demand as an international speaker and lecturer, has garnered attention in many industry "best of" lists and hold the prestigious industry position as the current Chairman of The SEARCH Foundation.

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/ what inspired you to go into event planning? 

           I honestly believe that there have been multiple influencers and my road has been paved with experiences that have helped to shape me in to the event professional I am today.  At each juncture of my career I feel that I have met the right people to help me learn about myself, new strategies & industry benchmarks that can be attained through hard work and dedication.  Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that networking and my current network have been integral in my success and ILEA has, and continues to, give me access to some of the best seasoned industry professionals and new industry innovators.   

Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

           My natural tendency is to prefer to spend time alone and quiet.  I credit ILEA with a lot of my confidence and have learned I want to ascend to become someone that leads the industry but when I can, I still find myself searching for quote space to catch up on sports news, watch documentaries or just spend time strategizing on future plans for myself. 

What do you love the most about what you do?

          Our industry is one of the only, worldwide, that impacts people on a daily basis.  Events, experiences, gatherings and parties all serve a purpose to create emotional reactions from guests and delegates.  What I love most about what I do is that through the experiences Fifth Element Group produces, we can make people feel things through live elements that no other job can.  When we design, we make a conscious effort to consider not only the production but the reactions to it and that moment when we watch live, the emotional impact we predicted around a board room table, is the greatest feeling of accomplishment for me.  Knowing that reaction helps foundations raise millions, associations raise awareness and corporations boost morale is the ultimate gauge of our success. 

Where did you grow up?

           I grew up in Toronto and am Canadian.  I have such a great appreciation of travel and have been lucky enough to visit most of North America and have grown fond of many cities....especially Chicago! I'm excited for my family and myself to spend more time in Chicago and enjoy the warmth of the people and the city!

What's your event gone wrong horror story?

           I always shudder when asked this because, to this date, I've been lucky to not have experienced anything out of the ordinary as far as unexpected incidents or horror stories.  I do take every opportunity to listen to others though and am always making note of things I should be prepared for! :-) 

What made you interested in participating in ILEA? 

           I believe that you get out of anything what you put in to it and if you aren't in something to be the best, find something else to do. I was a member long before I became involved and received a call one day which convinced me I should start using my growing stature towards bettering the industry and a board role was the way to do that.  Initially, and reluctantly, I became the MARCOM chair to two terms and moved from there to become a president and followed that with time on International committees...all which have helped me meet my mentors and many who I consider to be some of my most amazing friends across the world.  No one knows a great party until a group of ILEA friends meet up!

Thanks Aaron and Thank You For Sharing!

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ILEA Chicago Member Spotlight: Jennifer Seidler

Especially now, during our May Membership Drive, we're so very proud of the amazing event professionals in our chapter. Meet ILEA Hospitality & Tourism Management professional - Jennifer Seidler.

Jennifer Seidler believes she has always had a passion for the hospitality industry, for as long as she can remember. At first she didn’t know how to break out into the industry. After taking some time off to travel and really discover what she believed her passion was she decided to go back to school and enrolled in the Hospitality & Tourism Management Program at Roosevelt University. It was through that program that she discovered that my passion lies in the events world. It was during her time at Roosevelt that she discovered ILEA and she is grateful that she had that opportunity. Now that she has graduated and gained a few years of experience working within the industry she is thankful for the many opportunities that she has had and is ready to continue to grow her career in the hospitality industry alongside some of the many professionals that she has come to admire!

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/What inspired you to go into event planning?

I believe it was a combination of my love of traveling, growing up in a city that offers so much for the hospitality industry and being a people person that inspired me to be in the events world. It is a career that allows me to meet different people every day as well as allow my creativity to shine through. It’s also an inspiring career that requires hard work and dedication and ILEA members have made me even more inspired to continue to network and grow for years to come!

Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

I have a passion for traveling and learning about different cultures. There are an endless number of experiences and possibilities that can come from traveling and stepping outside of you’re comfort zone. When I travel to somewhere new I’m in awe of how one small experience can change my perspective and open my world to new and exciting things. 

What do you love the most about what you do?

I love the people, the learning experiences and the ability to be creative. I love working with people and creating moments for them. Working with clients brings me happiness and I love all the wonderful people I get to meet. I love the learning experiences and opportunities that come with working in the hospitality industry. The ability to be creative and showcase you’re talents makes the possibilities seem endless in the industry. It’s a great feeling and makes me excited for what’s to come in my career!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the south side of Chicago, about 10 miles away from the city.

What made you interested in participating in ILEA?

A couple years ago one of my professors spoke of the importance of networking and becoming involved in the hospitality industry. He encouraged my classmates and I to join at least one of the many organizations that the industry has to offer. That same week two members from ILEA, Nicole Zenner & Barb Harris, were guest speakers for that same class. Not only did their professional stories inspire me, but they also spoke of the organization ILEA. After learning about the organization I reached out to them and decided to attend an event. My first ILEA events were the Day of Education & Master’s Dinner and I felt fortunate to have been able to experience those two events. After those two events I was overwhelmed with how nice everyone was and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this organization. I joined that same week and I’m glad that I did. I’m excited to continue my journey of learning and growing within the industry and with ILEA!

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Enjoy this Vlog post by VP Membership, Jeff Durocher


VP Membership Jeff V. Durocher shared the following message today.

Jeff's May Membership Video

For information on ILEA membership types and pricing, go to ILEA - International Live Events Association.


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Member Spotlight: Claire Bracco

Claire Bracco's career in hospitality began the summer of 2012 when she joined the team at The Plaza Park Grill restaurant. It was such a fun job and she loved interacting with all of the guests and being able to answer questions about Chicago. She was lucky enough to return the following summer. It was then that she realized her love for the city, and that working in the hospitality and events world was something she needed to pursue. So she transferred from a school in Ohio to DePaul University and started to take business and hospitality classes. She choose to major in Hospitality leadership with a concentration in event management at first because of how everyone kept talking about the super fun and exciting classes. But, it also helped that the program is a very unique one and provided her with the incredible opportunity to visit different venues around the city almost every week and to meet so many people in the Chicago event and hospitality world, but she never imaged wanting to make a career out of it. That is until she got my first internship as a part of an event team.

DePaul requires all business students to have at least one internship before graduating and she was fortunate enough to be connected to the development team at After School Matters and get the position of Events Intern. From day one she was hooked and hasn't looked back since. It has been two and half years and she is still with After School Matters but now as the Events and Special Projects Coordinator. Their team is quite small, in fact there are only two of them. That being said, Claire very fortunate and thankful to have this opportunity as it has allowed her to flourish as a young events professional and the opportunities that she has been given in her time here has done nothing but help validate that working in events and all of the long hours and hard work that comes with this career path is truly her passion.

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/ what inspired you to go into event planning?

My mom played a huge role in my decision to go into event planning. I originally went to school with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher but changed paths after about a year and came back to the city to explore other career paths. I grew up going to events with my mom and always had a blast and loved watching her plan and execute such incredible experiences and when I discovered that DePaul has a Hospitality Program it just seemed like a natural fit and path for me to take!

Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

I am a city girl through and through, but I would absolutely love to own a small farm one day. When I am much older and ready to retire, I would love to be able to move to the country and have a small little farm with all kinds of animals, especially goats and chickens. 

What do you love the most about what you do?

As an event planner in general, I love to create experiences and memories for people. In my current position as a part of the events team for After School Matters, a Chicago based non-profit that provides out of school time programming for Chicago Teens, I love being able to work collaboratively with many different groups of people. From our staff, to our board of directors, and the teens that we provide opportunities for, planning and executing events for After School Matters allows me the chance to advocate for the future of Chicago, our teens. The teens that we work with everyday are a huge inspiration to me as well. They are all so incredibly talented and I love being able to create opportunities for our guests and supporters to see what they are working on and to learn more about After School Matters.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Oak Park, one of the western suburbs.

What made you interested in participating in ILEA? 

My supervisor at After School Matters encouraged me to join a professional organization because it is a great way to network with other people in the industry and develop my skills as a young event professional. She used to be a member of ILEA and after hearing her stories of the connections that she made and still keeps to this day, it really encouraged me to get more involved in the Chicago Event world. As a young professional, especially in Events and Hospitality I think it is so important to do things that push you to get outside of your comfort zone and build a network of people with similar interests and goals, and ILEA is one of the ways that I can do that.

Welcome Claire!

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Straight from a CSEP: Gwendolyn McNutt, CSEP


Originally posted on Experience ILEA on Thursday, May 10, 2018

A CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) designation reflects the caliber and skills of industry experts worldwide. The program was developed to not only elevate industry standards, but also to advance the careers of practitioners in a competitive events landscape. As part of our Straight from a CSEP series, we started asking current CSEPs about the long-term career benefits of their designations. Keep reading to find out how ILEA member Gwendolyn McNutt has taken advantage of her CSEP as an events professional.

ILEA: What are your specific roles and responsibilities as regional external affairs manager at Comcast?

Gwendolyn McNutt (GM): As regional external affairs manager, I help to lead community impact programs and events for the greater Chicago region, which includes Illinois, Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. I manage a number of events each year; however, two key events include our annual volunteer day of service (Comcast Cares Day) featuring more than 6,500 volunteers and 75 project locations, and our annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Luncheon, honoring graduating high school seniors for their academic, community service and leadership achievements with a one-time $1,000 scholarship. The 2018 luncheon will be held in June and honor 175 scholarship recipients. In addition, I also participate in sponsorship planning and negotiation, program marketing, partnership and relationship management, and budget management.

ILEA: How do you use your CSEP designation in your current role at Comcast?

GM: I’m very confident that I use my CSEP designation in some way each day in my current role. Because the designation requires me to stay abreast of industry trends and maintain my professional development through continuous education, I am constantly learning new skills and knowledge to take back to my job and demonstrate what I’ve learned to my employer. In addition, I am able to create new protocol or processes and implement them into my events. It is also demonstrated by the professional network I have developed through my CSEP contacts and vendors that support my current event schedule.

ILEA: Can you give a specific example of how your CSEP designation has advanced your career?

GM: I absolutely believe that the CSEP designation makes you more marketable as an event professional. It helps to increase and validate your skills and competency, as well as brings you into a broader network of like-minded professionals.

Earning my CSEP has helped me demonstrate to others that I have a commitment to the events industry. The CSEP helped me to significantly boost my industry knowledge, and I was able to put those skills to use immediately. After taking the CSEP exam, I was able to continually demonstrate to my employer and colleagues that I have a broad understanding of the events industry. In addition, it has also provided me with access to new professional colleagues and more tools, resources and educational opportunities.

ILEA: What factors motivated you to apply for your CSEP?

GM: When I decided to join a professional association, I looked for one that could not only offer networking, but also provide professional development opportunities. Since I knew at some point I wanted to obtain a certification, I also researched which exam would be the most appropriate one for me to pursue. My motivation to sit for the exam was a combination of professional development, advancing my industry knowledge and continuing education. I have continued to maintain my certification because it not only adds legitimacy to our field, but it also encourages me to stay abreast of industry trends.

ILEA: For those professionals who are considering applying, please talk about the doors that this designation can open/opportunities it can create.

GM: By taking the CSEP exam, you are joining a select group of individuals who have demonstrated that they are competent and skilled event professionals, with a broad understanding of the industry as a whole. It has provided me with an additional professional edge, connected me with industry resources and opened doors to better employment opportunities. Earning my CSEP has also helped me to stay on top of industry trends and maintain my professional development through constant review and education.

ILEA: What is the one piece of advice you would suggest to someone who is pursuing this designation?

GM: The best piece of advice that I could offer to someone pursuing the CSEP is to stop stalling and take the exam! And don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from getting your CSEP designation. Sitting for the CSEP exam was one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding and gratifying things I’ve ever done. It also gave me the opportunity to expand my professional network and meet some wonderful event industry professionals, with whom I have been able to build and maintain lasting relationships. Certification not only advances the industry, but it also encourages and recognizes your professional achievement.

Gwendolyn McNutt, is a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) with over 25 years of experience. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, and her experience includes successful meeting and event planning of events for up to 7,000 attendees in both corporate and nonprofit sectors. In addition, she has served in several capacities for the ILEA, including the Greater Chicago Board of Directors, international board committees and as ILEA International Conference Education Committee Chair in 2007. She is currently serving as a director on the ILEA International Board of Governors.

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ILEA Chicago Memberships - Here's What You Get...

ILEA Memberships educate you and help you build your career, promote you as an event professional, bring you together in networking events with other professionals and so much more.   If your not a member yet, or if you know event professionals that would benefit from joining our group, here are some great highlights of membership.  
Here’s just a few of the benefits of joining ILEA:
  • Get access to the wisdom of a broad member collective who plan and execute over 1 million special events each year –the brightest, most accomplished creative event professionals in the industry who execute some of the world’s most recognized live events.

  • Experience stimulating ideas and knowledge sharing with other creative event professionals from around the world at the annual ILEA Live conference.

  • Receive up-to-date deadline information for the Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) designation—keep updated on all of the information needed to gain your CSEP designation and show potential employers or clients that you are committed to the craft.

  • Use the ILEA Member Directory to find and connect with fellow creative events professionals around the world for advice and support.

  • Find resources, toolkits and tip sheets to grow your new client pipeline, increase revenue and manage the day-to-day tasks of running a business - available only to ILEA members in the Member Community

  • Take your job or candidate search in the right direction by exploring the ILEA Career Center.

Not yet a member, watch for our Membership Drive in May and be sure to take advantage of our $50 discount May 7 - 17! #MyILEA

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Summer Wedding Season: Are You Prepared?

With the royal wedding and summer wedding season fast approaching (19 May is right around the corner!), wedding planning is top of mind. As one of the most anticipated live events of 2018, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is sure to generate some new wedding trends and inspiration. To prepare for the upcoming season, we talked with ILEA board member Morgan Doan, CSEP, PWC, San Francisco-based wedding planner and owner of Morgan Events. Morgan has over 17 years of experience planning weddings, and today shares with us her insights for planning beautiful, personalized weddings.

wedding photography-arrowwood

Picture Credit (cover image and above): Arrowwood Photography

ILEA: What are you most looking forward to about the royal wedding from a live events standpoint?

Morgan Doan (MD): What I’m looking forward to most is seeing how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will make their wedding their own. They have already made a statement with the couple’s decision to wed on a Saturday, which goes against tradition, as royal weddings usually take place on a weekday. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wed on a Friday, and the Queen on a Thursday. It will also be exciting to see how the other elements of their wedding come together to reflect their personality, but most importantly is the experience and the atmosphere of this special day that not only friends and family will share, but also members of the public.

ILEA: What are some wedding trends you foresee coming to light in the next year?

MD: Some wedding trends to look out for in next year are:

  • Unique texture: Texture will continue to be a big element of future celebrations (e.g., laser-cut linens, mixture of metals, wood, etc.).
  • Unexpected uses (and types!) of florals: Expect to see lush dogwood arrangements, living botanical bars and potted plants on ceremony aisles and everywhere at receptions.
  • Bright hues: Color is back in a big way. Moody and richly pigmented flowers and colorful candle centerpieces will be the table décor of choice. And if you were on the fence about having an outdoor wedding, go with your instinct. Every couple is different, whether you decide to select an indoor venue (e.g. industrial lofts, museums and rooftops) and or an outdoor venue (e.g. vineyards, gardens, beaches, etc.), at the end of the day it’s about where you feel most excited, meaningful and that it reflects who you are as a couple.

ILEA: Can you describe a few successful elements that you have incorporated into weddings in the past?

MD: We believe in seamless events, collaborating with incredible industry partners and creating unforgettable and unique moments. Although we love fabulous design, personal touches and seamless execution, at the end of the day, what truly makes a wedding are a couple’s energy, love and joy that they share with their friends and family. If we can capture this and reflect it into our clients’ celebration, then we have exceeded their expectations.

wedding photography-larissa-cleveland-ilea

Picture Credit: Larissa Cleveland Photography

ILEA: How does your CSEP designation help you plan weddings and advance your career?

MD: The CSEP designation is designed to elevate industry practices and professional event standards. It adds credibility with other professionals in the industry. Additionally, it denotes membership to an elite international group, which shows clients and colleagues that you can be trusted and practice the highest event industry standards. Personally, I was surprised when a bride hearing about the CSEP approached me. She was thrilled to know that I had this designation. We had a wonderful conversation and laughs in discussing her wedding and, to say the least, at the end of the meeting, she ended up hiring me. I would like to think it’s my personality, but my CSEP has definitely given me a competitive advantage.

ILEA: What attracted you to the wedding industry?

MD: I wanted to bring happiness in every event and celebration that my team and I produced. Although we produce other events (social, corporate, nonprofit, and more), we always have a soft spot in our hearts for weddings because it’s personal, and we love love. It may sound cliché, but you have to love what you do. We absolutely love the connections that we make with our couples and continuing to exceed our clients’ expectations.

ILEA: What advice would you give to other live events professionals planning weddings?

MD: First and foremost, listen to what your clients are looking for, and then know how to guide them if an idea isn't realistic.

ILEA: How can you make each and every wedding special?

MD: How we make each and every wedding special is getting to know our clients so well that their personality, style and taste are reflected in their wedding. It’s the personal detail and touches that makes our client’s wedding unforgettable, unique and special. Creating weddings by approaching the design and production process with a unique perspective, distinct ideas and a discerning eye, we are the core that connects all of the elements together.

Thanks to EXPERIENCE ILEA for this great article.  

With over 17 years of experience in the industry, producing special events from luxury weddings to successful nonprofit fundraisers, Morgan Doan is one of today’s most sought-after designers and event planners in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a degree in business and Marketing, Morgan draws on her corporate experience to ensure that each event is produced with the highest standards. Morgan is a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP), a Professional Wedding Consultant (PWC) and a past president of the International Live Events Association of Northern California (ILEA-NCC). She is currently serving on the ILEA International Board of Governors. In 2017, Morgan received an ILEA Esprit Award in the category of Best Wedding Over $150K for “Magic by the Bay.”

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