Wedding consultant Mattie Stevenson, 44, comes from the corporate side of event planning. Born and raised in the city’s Jefferson Avenue area, Stevenson attended Kensington High School, Erie Community College and Buffalo State College before graduating from Empire State College in 2012.
For years, Stevenson enjoyed a successful career as an office manager. She didn’t discover her full event-planning potential until her 40th birthday celebration, a formal affair that featured a Tiffany-blue frosted cake and feathered table centerpieces. This year, she said, her friends can expect a masquerade ball.
Not surprisingly, Stevenson has launched her own company, Above & Beyond Marketing and Event Management. Her focus? Wedding planning and Diva Bridal Squad management.
People Talk: What is the Diva Bridal Squad?
Mattie Stevenson: The bridesmaids. We need to bring them into the 21st century with a new attitude and a new way to look at things. Let’s help the bride out. Let’s make her life a little easier. The bridesmaids need to know their responsibilities.
PT: Why are good bridesmaids so hard to find?
MS: They’re not so much hard to find. They just need to be reined in. The wedding is not all about them. They need to know not to cross that boundary. Their time will come.
PT: How do today’s bridesmaids differ from those in the past?
MS: Some girls are no longer financially able to purchase a dress, shoes. They can’t afford to go on trips to Las Vegas, or wherever the bachelorette party will be. So when the bride picks her bridal party, she wants to make sure to choose the ones who can afford it. The bride also wants to make sure her bridesmaids are in the right frame of mind. She may love to have her best friend in her wedding, but what is that friend going through in her personal life? She may have an issue with relationships. The bride needs to talk to her about that. There’s no need to sugarcoat anything. Cut to the chase, but do not trample on feelings.
PT: How do you rein in a Bridezilla?
MS: Oh my goodness. You let her rant and rave, and then you say: “Are you done? I have a solution to that problem.” Mostly it’s about their bridesmaids. That’s one of the reasons I started the Diva Bridal Squad. Bridesmaids don’t have a clue what they need to do. Sometimes they are nasty.
PT: What are some of the things the maid of honor should be doing?
MS: Attend bridal shows and take notes. Make sure she has a handkerchief or tissue. This is so important, because somebody is going to start crying. Make sure she gets the bride to the church on time. Hold the bride’s bouquet and the groom’s ring at the altar, and make the toast after.
PT: What does the average wedding cost?
MS: $24,000 to $27,000.
PT: How do people afford it? Do they take out loans?
MS: No, they go to their parents, or they work a lot of overtime.
PT: Tell me about your wedding.
MS: I’m divorced now, but I got married at home. We used to be college sweethearts, and we met up again in August 2005. Four months later we were married – in front of the fireplace, very intimate. There was a light snow; very romantic. Candles lit all over. We pushed back the couches, moved the dining-room table and had folding chairs all over.
PT: So you can turn any place into a wedding venue.
MS: Yes. One couple on a budget was married in a gymnasium. The ceremony was performed on the stage, and they had the reception all in one spot. The kitchen was right there, so they brought in food from Wegmans. It came to $873. It worked.
PT: Knowing what you do now about weddings, what would you have changed about your own?
MS: Not the fact that I got married at home, because I loved it. It’s that I wanted to wear a wedding dress and I did not.
PT: How often do people planning to marry get cold feet?
MS: It’s so normal. People worry about giving up their apartment – or girls’ night out. As an event planner, I have to counsel sometimes, but I tell them to see their minister. I can give suggestions, but they really need to be prepared mentally for being married. You can’t do the same things anymore. If you get into an argument, you can’t run home, because you are home. You have to stay and work it out.
PT: Is there anything else about this job that you did not count on?
MS: The down times, when there’s no business coming in at all. That’s when you have to work extra hard. I have no other choice; I was raised that way. My mom, she only has a ninth-grade education. My father only had a fifth-grade education. They wanted more for me, so it was instilled in me from a kid on up to be the best at whatever I do. Don’t give up. That stuck with me. It’s in my blood.
PT: The market seems to be flooded by wedding planners. Why is that?
MS: Reality TV. There are so many wedding shows on TLC and Bravo and the Style Network. It is very competitive.
PT: What can not be left out of a reception?
MS: The cake, or cupcake tower.
PT: Do brides really not eat for days?
MS: Yes, and it’s wrong. They go on these crash diets, liquid diets, thinking that they need to lose an extra 10 pounds. Then they get to the wedding day and they faint from dehydration. It happens.
PT: Are you prepared for emergencies?
MS: We have an emergency bag. It has deodorant, toothbrushes, panty hose, flip-flops, super glue, razors and shaving cream, a reinforced bra, a body magic that sucks you in 3 inches.
PT: What is the latest wrinkle at weddings?
MS: People are now starting to add their pets. I’ve seen a dog in a little wagon as a ring bearer. Think about it.
PT: What has wedding planning taught you about people?
MS: People are strange creatures.