Turning Your Wedding Dreams Into Reality: An Interview With Vanessa Young

How to make the engaged couple’s dream wedding become a reality?

When it comes to planning a wedding, there are a lot of things to think about. But one of the most important aspects is making sure that your client’s wedding reflects who they are as a couple. As any engaged couple knows, weddings take a lot of planning. From the venue to the menu to the guest list, there are a million details to juggle. This can be incredibly daunting for couples who have always dreamed of having a specific kind of wedding. 

Fortunately, some experienced professionals can help make those wedding dreams a reality. And that is when Vanessa Young of Little Black Book Events comes in.  She has helped countless couples turn their vision into reality.  

So in this episode, Vanessa Young shares her expert advice on how she helped a lot of couples turn their wedding dreams into reality!


Gillian de Souza: Hello there! Welcome to DC Weddings with Gillian. It’s so good to have you here again. Today, we have with us, Vanessa Young. She is with Little Black Book Events. And along with Vanessa, we did and created the Real Housewives of Potomac finale last season and another episode prior to that. So we have an expert in the field of doing really top notch events here to tell you how she does this and how she can do it for your event. So again, this is Vanessa Young, with Little Black Book Events.

Hello folks! Welcome to DC Weddings with Gillian once again. I have here to deal with me, Vanessa Young of Little Black Book Events and Caribbean caterers has worked with Vanessa. We know and love her business. And we want you to hear about all the wonderful things that she can do for your event. So welcome, welcome, Vanessa. It’s a pleasure to have you. 

Vanessa Young: Thank you, Gillian. I’m so excited to be here with you all. 

Gillian de Souza: Well, thank you so much for being here. I would start with the fact that we’ve worked with you. We’ve considered you for our own events. And just as an events professional, I personally appreciate that the attention to detail that you give to your customers and the experience that you put together with all sorts of vendors for your customer. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Vanessa Young: Yeah. So what I’ll say is that the details matter. We love the details, right? It’s what makes up the bigger picture. But what we do is for our clients is focus on the details so that they can be in the moment.

When we talk to our clients, when we’re building events, we talk about, “How do you wanna feel? What experiences do you want?” Right? So we don’t ask them — we do talk about color scheme, right? Very important. But nobody remembers the color of the cocktail napkins or those types of things. Right?

But we want to create an experience. We want to create a feeling. We wanna create space for memory. So, what we do is we take that bigger picture and then we create all the details to create that environment, that optimal environment for our customers to be able to experience all the emotions of their day.

Gillian de Souza: That is wonderful. From my vantage point — only because I’ve seen you do it countless times — it’s easy for us to see and say what you just said because we know all the hard work that goes into it. 

Vanessa Young: Right. 

Gillian de Souza: But when a client comes to us and says, “Oh, I want…” whatever it is they say that they want. How do you help them maybe translate?

And I have a view into the answer just in the name of your company, Little Black Book is like Vanessa knows everybody in town who could get something done. So how do you help them translate something that’s maybe something’s been on their mind for many years? Or maybe they’ve just beginning to think about or whatever might be the case. What techniques do you use to get them from a thought to actually experiencing this thing that they thought about?

Vanessa Young: So I think there’s some questions that are important for clients to think about themselves because sometimes — I know you’ve worked with clients where they may think they know what they want or they have something in their head and you gotta pull it out and help them make it reality.

Right? So, I always encourage my clients to think about, “What are three things that are very important to you?” So it’s the day after the wedding, we’re at breakfast drinking our cup of coffee, reminiscing. What do you wanna say about that event? Right? What are people talking about the next day?

So I think that’s important. The other thing is, “What’s not important to you?” That’s equally important to me as what’s not important to you, because then that helps me understand where to focus my attention and where not to focus my attention. Right? So if getting portrait photos of all of your extended family is not important to you, but there’s this one spot at the venue that when the light hits it a certain way, you’ve put those photos on your inspiration board. We’re short of time. I’m gonna prioritize that versus this. Right? That helps me understand how to move and how to support you on your day to reach your end goal. Right? So it’s understanding what’s important to you understanding what’s not important to you. And then to your point, it’s in our name, Little Black Book Events.

We have worked in this area for close to 10 years and valuable vendors like yourselves we’ve worked together to build out experience for our clients. And when I talk about vendors, it’s not just me. I look at vendors as it’s a team sport, right? So I’m never gonna walk into an event not having — has spoken to a vendor that’s working that event. Right? And our job — and I know our vendors, this is probably the reason why our vendors love us so much. Our job is to make sure that our vendors have everything they need to do their job. Right? You don’t want your photographer moving chairs or picking up trash, right? You want your photographer only taking photos.

You want your caterer focused on serving your guests and making sure that the food is quality and out on time. Right? You don’t let them focus on anything but that. Right? So what we do is make sure that all the other pieces are taken care of so that your vendors can shine and do what they’ve come there to do.

Those are just some of the things that we think about as we help folks figure out how to execute on their vision for their day. 

Gillian de Souza: Well, that is wonderful. And I could tell you viewers that works. I have seen Vanessa work within that and everything that she says are things that we employ as caterers, just in our little piece of catering. But you have all the other vendors to do the same thing for each and every one of them. And to keep it all straight and to get it all done and make sure everybody’s happy and that they can get their job done and of course make sure our client is having that experience. There’s a lot that’s going on all at the same time and you make it look like a breeze.

Vanessa Young: It’s the duck with the feet underwater. Right? Just keep moving. 

Gillian de Souza: Yes, indeed. Nice and calm but lots of stuff going on behind it. 

Vanessa Young: Exactly. 

Gillian de Souza: Talking about you knowing everybody in town so that you can match your vendors right to your specific events and so on. I am going to bring out an elephant that I don’t even think people know is in the room. We did a couple of Real Housewives of Potomac episodes together at the end. I guess, last season and the one right before that down on the waterfront. And you did a splash.

Talk about how a client that is very particular needs a specific thing, right? I mean, I think you had the ultimate with those ladies in terms of meeting their need, especially for a series finale, which is usually the crème de la crème. 

Vanessa Young: Right. 

Gillian de Souza: So tell us a little bit about that and how you came to that and how you came to us for that event? 

Vanessa Young: Yeah. So I’ve been working with the Real Housewives of Potomac for a couple of years now. And they approached me about two episodes and helping with decor and catering for those events. And so for me, when I get to select a vendor, I always talk about with wedding clients in particular. I try to understand once again, what the vision is for the event? What they’re trying to go for?

I never make blind recommendations. So I always try to do things customize. But when I get to pick especially for events like this because what I’ve found in working with them is that things can literally change on a dime and they almost always do. I need a partner that I know is gonna be able to be in the trenches with me and be able to pivot and work through it.

And Caribbean Caters has done that flawlessly with me multiple times. So I knew that I wanted to work with them and bring you guys in for the two events that they approached me about. But with lots of events, right? A lot of times you do have multiple people that you’re catering towards. So for a wedding, for instance, it could be the couple, but then it could also be the parents in addition to that.

Right? And so you’re trying to navigate the different perspectives and there’s a little bit of family counseling sometimes that goes into that. So with the TV world, it’s the end user, but then it’s also the lighting. Right? And the camera. So we set things up and lighting had to add in their pieces to it.

And so we had to rearrange certain things because they wanted to be able to get certain shots. Or at the last one, when we were down on the waterfront, once again, we’re dealing — just stepped up. We were supposed to serve at a certain time. And our ladies were not ready to go. And I think we got pushed back about an hour.

We were losing the light and then all of a sudden the crews were like, “We gotta go. We gotta go right now.” And we had to go. Even though we had requested, “Hey, we need 15 minutes to get this out when you guys are ready.” That of course did not happen. But we were able to make it happen.

Right? And we made it work. And so once again, that’s why it’s so important to choose a vendor team. People that are going to work together because there are instances where you do have to pitch in and it is a group effort to pull things off. And so, Gillian in particular has been such a great partner with me in other events. Like I said, when I got asked to do these events, I knew if they were free, I wanted her there with me on site. 

Gillian de Souza: Well, thank you for that. Because being in the trenches, you really need a partner like you because — I remember that event vividly when you said, we were late and of course we didn’t get that prep time that we needed to get these crabs.

Guys, this was a crab feast. And we were around on the waterfront at dusk. You can’t have that thing sitting out there because we wanna eat it on set. So no little flies, no little bugs should be buzzing on this thing when the camera rolls. And so you could set it out and wait. And so now they’re rushing.

We didn’t even have a chance even to do our usual audit of getting things on the table to make sure everything was there because everybody was moving with crabs — the chef, the porter, the waiters, me, one of your ladies, everybody was just getting bushels of crab and dumping on table. That’s what we have to do.

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter. You know, there are certain things that you have to — standards that you have to meet. And one of the things I always say to my team is all these crazy stuff can happen in the back, just don’t let it. As long as the client doesn’t get touched by the crazy stuff, but we could fix all of that.

You have to think quick on your feet. Change things really fast. Know how to be a good project manager and get people moving to get it done and anticipate anything that could happen and you are the queen of that. 

Vanessa Young: Thank you. I think they had like a recipe change at the last minute. And once again Gillian, you were able to make me look good. Honestly. And get all of those changes handled very quickly. So I appreciate your partnership. 

Gillian de Souza: That’s the name of the game. And that’s what we do for you guys for your events. When you have a team of people that know whether we’ve worked together or not before, but you know and you understand that it is a partnership, as you said, it’s a team sport that we have 12, 13, sometimes 20 vendors coming together to put an event on. That it is vitally important that there is that coordinator, planner, that’s pulling things together. And at the same time, minding your vision. At the same time, having that view of what is this, like you said the day after, what are you gonna say about it? What are your guests gonna say about it? What’s that memory that you’re going to take away?

How did you feel? And so this is great. A lot of people sort of miss that and go straight to the rudimentary portions. Well, I did a flow plan and I did a timeline and no, those things have to be done as well. But they’re necessary byproduct of the main point.

And that’s what we really appreciate about Little Black Book Events. And so thank you so much for giving us so much insight about how you work and how you work with your clients. Tell me about one thing. Maybe a tip that you would give the listeners about working with you or that they should know before they work with you or anything that you want to say to them at this point. 

Vanessa Young: Yeah. So I would say that if you go on and look on our social media on our website, you won’t see a theme, right? We really work on understanding what’s important to you. And I know I said this earlier, but that’s really what we focus on. What’s important to you? What’s gonna reflect you as a couple? Right?

If tradition is important to you, then great. But I’m never gonna say, “Well, traditionally, you should do things this way.” It’s your party. We want it to reflect you. Another kind of plug for Gillian and we planned a wedding at the airport pre COVID and they wanted to bring in flags from their different cultures to add to the appetizers and do specialized drinks.

That reflects them as a couple. People are gonna come in and say, “This feels like them.” Right? So we want your event to feel like you. There are trends, there are always gonna be trends and things that are popular and all of that, but really try to focus on what’s gonna reflect well for you all, and what’s gonna be important to you and what you care about.

That’s what helps us. That’s what helps clients really the next day say, “This is exactly what I wanted.” Right? 

Gillian de Souza: Fantastic. And isn’t that what we live for?

Vanessa Young: It is what we live for.

Gillian de Souza: Isn’t that what we put to work? Just to hear that, oh my gosh, this was perfect and exactly what I wanted. These are just couple of few words that literally five seconds is why we work so hard for so many months to get to that point for our clients. Well, Vanessa, this was wonderful. It is great to let our audience know and understand not just who Little Black Book Events is but how you work and how you work for them and how you make their day, not only all that they intended to be, but all that time working towards that it is not stressful. That you make it so that they can smoothly get there without the stress. I dunno why brides and grooms get so stressed? Can you tell me why?

Vanessa Young: Spending thousands of dollars and so much anticipation. Yeah. Nothing to worry about. We got you covered. 

Gillian de Souza: However, I have not worked with a client with you that has been stressed before. At least I didn’t see it. So that’s good. 

Vanessa Young: That is our goal. And when I say this, I really mean it. For our wedding couples, the only thing we want you to do is be able to show up and get married. That’s it? Right? So we work really hard to achieve that for our clients and there’s trust. Right? They have to trust us to be able to release that and turn it over to us. So we work really hard for that. 

Gillian de Souza: Correct. And that trust aspect, I believe — especially when you have such a big part of the event as we do in terms of the food and beverage. And as a big part of event as a wedding planner would have in terms of pulling the whole thing together. Trust is a major factor.

I always tell my brides and grooms when you are walking down the aisle, getting married to this person, you should not be thinking and worrying about what’s happening at your reception. You should know — as a matter of fact that should have happened two weeks prior where you know “Okay. Caribbeans got it. Little Black Books got it. We are done. We are good. Just a few more little last strokes and we are happy.” We once had a bride and groom that did a pre-wedding — what do they call it? A pre-wedding moon. They did their honeymoon, but they actually go on a week vacation before the wedding, like two weeks before the wedding and that’s because they have competent people on the job that they could just relax and enjoy their last few moments before they get married and just kind of sail smoothly into that and not be pressed. And that is fantastic and you allow them to do that. wonderful. 

Vanessa Young: The goal standard. Goal standard.

Gillian de Souza: Indeed. Indeed. We should start doing travel packages as well with our services.

Vanessa Young: I had a couple, a few weeks at an early August wedding and they did a pre-wedding moon as well too. They’re able to show up and they’re relaxed and really able to enjoy. So I like that we should start a trend there.

Gillian de Souza: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s do it. Well, Vanessa, once again, I am sure that our audience has enjoyed listening to you. And I know that they should be in touch with you to hear more about your services and to meet you in person. So we look forward to that and seeing you on many more events here in the DC market.

So thank you for coming. Thank you so much for your time. 

Vanessa Young: Thank you, Gillian! I appreciate.

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