DOOR COUNTY EVENT PLANNERS HAVE HELPED TIE THE KNOT 700 TIMES
Directing chaos into a day of beauty, love and fun is Carrie Baldwin Smith’s specialty. As the wedding planner in Door County and owner of Door County Event Planners, Baldwin Smith not only helps couples plan and celebrate their union, she provides a service that brings a significant source of income to Door County.
“My job as a planner is to prevent (unexpected) things from happening, and to plan for everything,” Baldwin Smith said.
She has no set-in-stone job description. On any given wedding day, Baldwin Smith can be found pushing extra hairpins into bridesmaids’ hair, busing plates off dinner reception tables, assuag- ing commitment fears of anxious wedding couples, running interference among family members or sweeping rainwater off the floor of a ceremony venue.
She’s part marching band director, part psychologist, part general contractor … and she loves it.
Baldwin Smith moved to Door County after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a degree in hospitality and tour- ism management and a focus in event planning. She worked for a few Door County businesses and helped plan a friend’s wedding before realizing there was a niche-need for wedding planners in Door County.
“I wanted a fast-paced job, not something that would have me sit- ting behind a desk,” she said. “I went around to a number of the busi- nesses in the county and told them about my business idea. I knew the locals would support me if I treated the local businesses well. I don’t keep kickbacks from businesses. If I do get discounts, I pass those savings onto my clients.”
In an average year, Door County Event Planners plan and execute 45 to 60 weddings. Baldwin Smith’s lifetime total is now more than 700 weddings.
When meeting with clients to plan their event, Baldwin Smith and her wedding-planning partner of five years, Chandra Johnson, tell their clients that they are welcome to bring in vendors from anywhere, but they gently remind the brides that there are florists, chefs, and stylists, among others, based in Door County.
“I like to think that Door County weddings are a reasonable cost and fairly priced,” Baldwin Smith said. “Door County Event Planners doesn’t include the extra charges that you find for events in a city. For flowers, are you going to pay more in shipping them up here? Sure. There are limited options to what a bride can find in Door County. But there are also really quality options in Door County, such as some amazing bakers, chefs, photographers and musicians.”
As she’s grown her business, Baldwin Smith has worked tirelessly to cultivate loyal and quality vendors, who in turn do their best to ensure Baldwin Smith keeps them on her ‘Favorites’ list.
“The vendors we work with regularly take extra steps to please our wedding clients,” Johnson said. “Our clients are amazed at the quality of services available in Door County. Local vendors know the spaces here; Door County photographers know where and when to get the best natural light. If a florist runs into an issue at a venue, they know the owners, the space and how to work with both. Or that local florist can quickly connect with someone they know to fix something. “
People come to Door County to have their wedding because they
want to be surrounded by nature, they want Door County to be part of the wedding, Baldwin Smith said of her typical client.
One such prime location is Gordon Lodge, flanked by North Bay and Lake Michigan, Baileys Harbor with facilities to handle up to 300 guests. “Carrie and her staff are the best to work with! Because she has over 18 years of experience she has so many great connections for our brides and grooms and her weddings run so flawless,” said Amy Gorham, catering and events manager at the lodge. “When Carrie has a wedding here you know every single last planning detail is covered. Her weddings all tend to have special unique aspects to them .... like having the Wisconsin Marching Band and Bucky the Badger show up for cocktail hour!”
“The less cement, the better,” Baldwin Smith. “However, outdoor weddings and barn weddings are really only for people who know and understand that they cannot control the weather. I always have a back- up plan … If the bride wants an outside ceremony, I have a back-up location that’s indoors.”
Baldwin Smith marks 19 years in the Door County wedding plan- ning business in 2017. During those years, trends in weddings have changed, and so has the level of involvement with the wedding party. “When I started, brides would show up with their dress, guestbook, place cards and table numbers, and that was it,” Baldwin Smith said. “Now they’re showing up with trailers full of Pinterest projects with the goal of their wedding being featured in a magazine.”
Many brides want to create a wedding that is “Pinterest-worthy.” The hours brides are spending being crafty makes decorating fun, Baldwin Smith said. Guests really notice personalized touches.
“Something like homemade jam as a wedding favor is noticed and appreciated by guests way more than something like a beer koozie,” said Baldwin Smith.
Expressions of creative freedom are priority No. 1 in the weddings Baldwin Smith and Johnson are planning for the next few years. Barns, tents and outdoor spaces provide brides with an empty slate to create their own space, their own vision for their special day. From a wedding planner perspective, the creativity is wonderful, but the logistics of an unconventional event space provide some challenges.
“There’s a lot more to planning a barn or field wedding than a tra- ditional resort-based event,” Baldwin Smith explained. “The caterers not only have to bring plates and chairs, but also a prep tent, teaspoons and measuring cups, the grill for cooking and often jugs of water for filling guest glasses."
Oh, the tales of bridezillas Baldwin Smith could tell! But as a profes- sional, she doesn’t share those stories for print. The second most memorable stories have to do with weather, and in Door County there’s plenty of the unexpected from Mother Nature.
“One autumn, there was a three-day power outage in northern Door County,” Baldwin Smith said. “We had a wedding planned at Horseshoe Bay Country Club, and needed to move it … across the peninsula, to Mr. G’s Banquet Hall in Jacksonport. The community really came together for that one. We had all the food in a truck and everything was set up at Horseshoe Bay in case the power miraculously returned. The bride had no idea we would be moving the reception until she was dropped off at Mr. G’s after photos were complete.”
All this while Carrie was 9 months pregnant with her fi rst daughter.
“Carrie is one of the hardest working women I know in Door County,” Johnson said. “She is every day. She has thick skin, too. We could write a book about the things brides, vendors and staff do and say! It’s in both of our hearts for everybody to fall in love with Door County while they’re here.
“One of the most rewarding things I love about my wedding planning job,” Johnson continued, “is what it does for Door County. Weddings bring so much business to the peninsula. The average wedding we plan costs $25,000. Most hotels have a two-night minimum for wedding reservation blocks. Many of those guests stay longer, make a vacation out of it. They want to go to a fi sh boil when they get in on Friday night, not necessarily a rehearsal dinner. They will go to brunch on Sunday, check out the lighthouses or wineries and shop for stuff to take home.”
Networking resources together in lightning speed is one of Baldwin Smith’s strengths and is part of what has made her so successful in Door County.
“One of my grooms couldn’t tie his bow tie,” Baldwin Smith said. “And that’s not one of my talents. I knew that one of my past grooms was on the driving range at Horseshoe Bay Golf Club. So the groom and I jumped into the golf cart and zoomed up to the driving range and got his tie tied.”
Baldwin Smith may just be a wedding whisperer.
“I’ve been told I’m like Cesar Millan for weddings,” she said. “I go in and create good environments for brides to experience their special day.”