Next up for our team Q&As is Jamie-lee! Beyond creating stunning weddings with us over the last couple of seasons, she brings so much radiant energy to our team. There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not grateful to have her — and her impeccable logistical and design skills — on our team!

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I grew up in Richmond. We had tons of animals growing up — from birds and fish to dogs and horses — so my sister and I were always outdoors playing. If we weren’t outside playing, we were at the horse races with our parents (my dad has a small business  training race horses) or doing various sports. This love for animals and the outdoors is something that I cherish to this day, and it shapes how I spend a lot of my personal time away from work.

Since Richmond is an airport city with a strong hospitality and tourism industry, there are several hotels. With my mother working with a well-known brand, naturally I gravitated into this field. Which turned out to be the best introduction to the world of events. 

I thrived in the hospitality environment. Meeting lots of people in transit sparking a love for travel, food and new experiences.  It is also where I started working in banquet events and got a taste for curating memorable experiences.

I recall the first event I assisted with. It was during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and we hosted the speed skater lounge where the athletes would come after their training or competitive events. The lounge offered entertainment, food, and drinks, giving the athletes a place to decompress and have fun. I had so much fun helping to bring that to life, and it sparked my interest in potentially pursuing events as a career path. 

This led me to the Art Institute, where I got my Event Management Diploma, and that opened my eyes to a world of different event types and opportunities. Initially, I thought I would work in the musical performance space, designing stage sets, coordinating crowd control logistics and tour travel schedules. However, I pursued the hospitality industry when learning convention management allowed you to assist in creating a wide range of events. Having a strong background in food and beverage has actually really set me up for success in planning events, so I’m really grateful that I took that route. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When the weather is nice, I love to be outside. You can catch me gardening or out walking or hiking with my husband and dog, Riggs. On the weekends I’m not working at a wedding, I’m also likely to be at the horse racing track, helping my parents. I also like to hit up a good farmer’s market. 

I love to cook as well, and always find an excuse to host family gatherings centered around food. And in the fall, my husband and I usually take a trip somewhere new. Next on the list is South America!

What made you choose wedding planning as a career?  

Being in hotels for most of my career, I had already dabbled in hosting weddings. At the time, I thought that they were beautiful events, but it wasn’t until I got married myself in 2019 that it fully clicked for me. Going through the process myself gave me more of an emotional attachment to the experience and made me realize all the different components that go into making a wedding a successful event. 

It taught me that I had all the skills to help couples bring their own milestone events to life, and I was really drawn to the idea of connecting with clients on a more meaningful level. Actively guiding them through event dynamics and design creation, or suggesting ways to make it exceptional to them — these are things I find very rewarding. Weddings offered me a chance to tap back into my creative side and hone my planning skills at the same time.

In terms of when I joined Alicia Keats Weddings & Events, I had been working at the JW Marriott Parq and the DOUGLAS Hotel and had seen Alicia in action a couple times. Our team loved working with her and she was highly renowned in the industry. So when she shared a job posting for a lead planner, I was all over it.

Now that I have worked alongside her for a few years, I have to say that I couldn’t have found anyone better to guide me into doing weddings full time. Alicia is so kind, knowledgeable, giving, and she leads with her heart. I’m so thankful that everything aligned for us to work together. 

What do you love about wedding planning?

What I love most about weddings is getting to know my couples. I love learning about their hobbies, passions, inside jokes, and the things that make them unique. As a planner, I get to know them on a very personal level, and I handle that information with care. From there, we dream up ideas, we refine, and I show them what’s possible.

What I love most about this process is when I show them things that are even better or more exciting than what they themselves had thought of. Seeing a couple’s faces light up when I suggest something that feels entirely true to them fills my heart. 

Another thing I really enjoy about my work is the design aspect. I have 12 years of planning experience, largely on the corporate side of things, so designing weddings almost feels like I’m playing. It’s a creative outlet that I’ve really enjoyed nurturing, and it’s even better when it hits the mark for our couples. 

Lastly, the actual wedding day, where we get to execute all the ideas, is also something I love. The hustle and bustle, the energy, the logistics, working with all our vendors and partners, and the sheer magic that happens on the day — these are all things that are just thrilling and fulfilling to me. 

How would you describe your planning style?

When it comes to my planning style, I bring in a lot of what I’ve learned from corporate planning. I love a good schedule, appreciate multiple calendar invites, make sure to set up timely communications, and don’t go anywhere without my digital notepad. I find that my couples always appreciate the structure that I provide, as it takes a lot of pressure off of them.

I definitely don’t think my methods are foolproof, however. I’m always looking for ways to improve my system, whether that’s by better leveraging our project management tools or asking for tips from the other planners. I think it’s important to share processes that work, so if you have tips, I am all ears!

Where do you find inspiration?

The truth is, I get a lot of my inspiration from my couples. Like I mentioned above, I get so much joy out of creating events that are tailored to their personalities and interests. 

Beyond that, I love the format of a traditional wedding and highlighting the ceremony, so I like to find ways to highlight that in new ways, whether that’s by evoking a certain mood with lighting, colour theory, different patterns or textures, culinary experiences, and more. I also keep my eye on the corporate event side of things as I find that that segment of the industry is more open to trying new trends with lighting, different colours, and more. From there, I pick and choose what I think will translate in a more traditional wedding setting and see what resonates with my couples.

I also love checking in with what’s happening in the US and Australia, because I find those wedding markets are currently executing modern designs that I am interested in. I also follow photographers worldwide as they explore unique spaces, and there is always a chance we could replicate something here. 

What are your top 5 favourite Vancouver wedding venues?

I don’t like to play favourites, but I will share some of the things that help me rank a venue when I’m looking at options for my couples.

I prefer to work with venue teams that are really collaborative and that are fully invested in creating a unique experience for the couple. Modern couples have their own unique stories and styles they want embedded in their day. Our ability to do this is part of the draw of the luxury market. I value partners who share the same passion as I do to make this happen for our couples.

I love venues that are guest focused. I come from a customer service, operational background, so guest-focused venues take up a good place in my heart. Any venue that’s being creative in their food and beverage — whether they’re doing things more sustainably or staying on top of food trends — can quickly become a top venue for me. 

What are your top 5 planning tips?

It was hard to narrow this down to just five! Here goes: 

  1. – Prioritize what’s important to you: whether that’s family traditions, inside jokes, how your relationship started, or food vs. flowers. 
  2.  
  3. – Trust the process. You’ve hired a great vendor and planning team, trust their expertise and get comfortable with letting go a little bit.
  4.  
  5. – Teamwork is important. As a couple, you’re a team. The wedding is just the start of your marriage, so try not to let wedding planning conversations become points of friction. Take the time to find common ground so that you can create a wedding that suits you both. 
  6.  
  7. – Keep moving forward. It’s easy to get lost in the details or options, or get hung up on a specific vision, but you’ll be much happier if you stay adaptable and keep things moving forward. At the end of the day, you’re still getting married to your person.
  8.  
  9. – Do all of the things that come along with wedding planning. You’ll have so much fun going through each of the parts of the wedding celebration. 
  • Bonus: enjoy the experience. Planning is a long journey, so make sure you enjoy the process. This is your chance to be creative and use your wedding to tell the story of your relationship. 

You can find more of our team features on the blog!