I was waiting next to Antique Taco in Wicker Park and enjoying the drizzling rain when Jenna walked up, - "Sorry I'm a minute late, I haven't spent much time in this area and I was wandering around looking at how beautiful everything is."
I could totally relate.
Jenna is the wife in the husband & wife duo behind He & She Wedding Curators - basically the people who make your intimate wedding even cuter and significantly less stressful. She's the kind of woman that's a genuine, joyful and interested dreamer - who spends her Thursday mornings roaming around places she's never been and enjoying the view, or meeting up with creatives like me to make new connections. Not to mention, her dark and moody style is so my thing, so you can bet that we had a hell of a good time creating photographs together in the rain.
Thanks to you Jenna for spending your day in Chicago with me, exploring new places, and letting me get to hear your story. :)
Q. What's your title? Small business owner, author, designer, etc.
It’s still so weird to say the word “entrepreneur”, but I guess that’s what we are now. Together, my husband, Collin, and I are the designers behind our wedding curator business, He & She. Curators, stylists, designers, planners, business partners, husband and wife…we wear all the hats.
Q. Was this always where you intended to being your career, or were there alternative career paths you considered?
I was actually just reflecting the other day of how literally insane it is that He & She exists. I never wanted this life or even dreamt of making a living this way- like, this dream is only 7 months old! I still kind of whisper the word “entrepreneur” as if someone will overhear me and call me out for being a fraud.
My path has been a winding one. I transferred my major five different times to three different colleges, in three different states. So by the time I graduated college, it had taken me seven years to settle on a Bachelors in Christian Education. And just about as soon as I graduated, I came to realize the passion for teaching just wasn’t in me. There was a lot of guilt associated with that, especially with the amount of student loans I’d racked up in the process, but Collin was so supportive and encouraged me that in whatever I wanted to do, I needed to just GO FOR IT.
So, as a 25-year old, recent college graduate with no career, I looked around and realized there were a lot of interests that I’d never allowed myself to explore. I picked a job as a counter girl at a local garden center, which led to an eventual desire for floral design. I then accepted a part-time position as a floral assistant with Pollen & Pastry (a mentor whom I absolutely adore and still love working with today), but branching out resulted in my getting fired from my garden job. Fired! This was definitely my low point, but looking back, it was the single most pivotal moment in the birth of He & She. (So thank you, not-nice boss.)
Around this same time, friends started asking for help decorating their own weddings and I remember telling Collin that I wished I could just plan weddings as my job. His response was a cut and dry, “Well, you can.” A few days later, he came home from work to me running business names by him. And that was that.
Q. Why did you choose to do wedding curation in Chicago?
We currently live in downtown Bloomington, but we are working hard to expand our market to surrounding larger cities, as well as really anywhere, in or outside the U.S. The more exposure we have, the greater chance that we will be seen by couples who are looking for exactly what we have to offer. Our particular style isn’t shared by everyone and that is okay. We also aren’t trying to appeal to all couples- we want to curate weddings for those who share our values of being nontraditional, uniquely creative, and who dare to be a tad bit different.
Also, we both just love to travel together and are always looking for any excuse to explore new places!
Q. Do you feel like you're connected to a creative community, and if so, how has it affected you and your work?
Oh, absolutely! Being an entrepreneur (that is still so weird to say) is surprisingly very lonely. Not everyone understands what we’re doing and not everyone is supportive. On the flip side, we have been so warmly welcomed in by the creative community. There is this level of respect and a sense that everyone is rooting for one another, even in such a competitive industry. It’s really refreshing to be surrounded by people who are doing the same thing you are and understand the amount of courage it takes just to put yourself out there and allow your work to be chosen or rejected. There is this constant hardship of doubting and comparing yourself to others in your field, yet at the same time, that same competitor will turn around and encourage and build you up. It’s actually really amazing and inspiring in and of itself.
Q. What's your favorite part about running your own business?
Something I’ve learned about myself in this process is that I actually love change. In fact, I kind of thrive on it for inspiration. Collin comes home to a new living room arrangement, probably once a month! I feel a little panicky thinking about doing the same thing, every day, for the rest of my life. But, being my own boss means I can sit on my couch in my pj’s and answer emails. I can physically meet with clients or vendors in different cities and states and create together over lunch or drinks. I can set my own hours and make my own boundaries for a healthy work environment. And I get to sleep with my boss :)
But honestly, we really want to live intentionally and with purpose. The goal a few years down the road is to be able to do this full time together and have the freedom to choose how and with whom we spend our time.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Driving. I’m actually a terrible driver, and part of that is probably due to the fact that I am always looking out the windows at old buildings, new buildings, colors, textures, etc. My inspiration usually stems from seeing a space and then curating a vision on how to fill it.
The challenge is fun. But my google searches can get pretty weird.
Q. What does it mean to be a wedding curator instead of a planner?
We are essentially full-service wedding “planners” but we identify ourselves as curators because of our heavy focus on styling and design. Our philosophy as a business (and as humans) is to curate intimate gatherings through unconventional means by incorporating authentic details. That means we are fully invested in our couples and in each vision, so we don’t actually offer packages to our clients. What you see is what you get, and we’re committed to giving everything we have to bring a vision to life.
Q. What role does a styled shoot play in your business?
We like to describe styled shoots with this quote from Jessica Day (New Girl), “I’ll get a ragtag group of kids together: A lost soul, an orphan, a Jewish kid with a keyboard, a little slut who can dance, and one fatso. I’ll choreograph some dances and make a show.”
These shoots are a LOT of fun, but a TON of work goes into the background of each edited photo you see. We spend a lot of time carefully selecting the style and personality of each vendor that make up each detail of the shoot. It’s basically a mock wedding, without guests and without pay, so our vendors are also really invested as well. Styled shoots are an incredibly effective and valuable marketing technique for us, though, because they allow us to branch out and showcase our style and present nontraditional approaches, in hopes of drawing in our ideal clients.
Again, let us mention the community aspect. We truly feel like we’ve become friends with the vendors we’ve been blessed to work with. When you create and labor together, you just connect in such a unique way. It’s actually kind of intimate – and maybe that’s because creativity requires being vulnerable and sharing visions and ideas. You’re giving all you have to give to a project, and in the end, it actually comes to life. It takes a village in this industry, too.
Q. Tell me about the name He & She Weddings.
From the moment I knew I wanted to actually give this thing a shot, I knew I was going to need Collin to be all in with me. We planned our own wedding together, every step of the way, just a little over a year ago. Our strengths and weaknesses balance the other well and we just make a really great team. My husband has an incredible eye for style, the ability to stay cool in all of those “my-worst-nightmare” type situations, and is my source of reason.
So I really wanted our name to represent who we were and to also somehow describe our business. We decided on He & She because our story sets us apart from other planners on the market and also because our goal is to come alongside our own couples and empower them to be present together throughout the whole curating process. It just seemed to fit really well.
Q. Final thoughts?
We are big believers in celebrating the small victories. So it may take us 1 year or 10 years to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves. And that’ll be okay. Because we’re having fun, we’re growing as people, and we’re doing it together. This is truly an adventure that has changed our lives for the better. So who cares. :)