As she places menus next to each table setting, hundreds of thoughts are swimming through Tara Consolati's head. Should the napkins be on the bread plate, or on the side of the plate? Does the groom need help tying his bowtie? How is the bride's hair and make-up coming along? And where is she going to find a tuxedo to fit a Shih Tzu for an upcoming wedding in August?
Calm and composed, Consolati smiles, knowing she can find a solution to whatever comes her way, and if she can't, she knows there is someone in her network who can. Consolati is a wedding planner and designer located in Otis, who has been planning and designing upscale weddings and events for years.
As a wedding planner and designer, Consolati goes beyond the logistics of helping couples secure a venue, delving deeper into the design element and bringing inspiration to life.
How it all began
Consolati has had a passion for design for as long as she can remember. When she was little, she begged her parents to let her redecorate her bedroom. When she was finished, her parents were so impressed they were begging her to redecorate another room in the house for them, she said.
Years later, with a home and family of her own, she planned parties for her family and friends.
"My husband would invite some friends over for football on Sunday and I would design invitations and have a menu prepared and everything," she said. She always enjoyed adding little details to make the events extra special, such as upgrading standard hot chocolate marshmallows to gourmet ones.
Consolati has been a part of the wedding and event planning industry unofficially since 2010, planning a handful of weddings here and there, but never considered making a career out of it.
"People had seen my designs and they liked my style and asked if I would design their weddings for them, but I'd never done this before," she said. Often, Consolati would help her friends locate a florist or suggest venues, but she would decline job offers. "People were saying, `Tara, why are you referring all this work to other people, why aren't you doing it?' I think they saw it before I did. And that's when I finally went all in."
Since making that decision in 2015, Consolati has become known as one of the most well-connected wedding and event planners in the area. The key to her success, she says, is networking.
"I met people from our area, from Boston, New York and all over the U.S.," she said. "My network continued to grow and grow, and I learned things from going to big parties in New York that happened at bridal fashion week. It was just constant networking, although it never felt like networking."
Consolati's career has led her to meet all kinds of people, such as Mark Ingram of Mark Ingram Atelier, a bridal salon for upscale and sophisticated brides located in New York City, to local businesswoman Katherine "Kat" Lockridge, board member of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, co-owner of Classical Tents and Party Goods and the founder of the Lenox Wedding Tour.
After attending the tours, Consolati was inspired to found the Berkshire Wedding Collective in 2014 as a resource for couples getting married in the Berkshires. Each of the vendors listed are associates she has worked with and knows couples will "get excellent service and end product."
Along with weddings, Consolati also plans and designs corporate retreats, milestone birthday parties, galas and anniversaries, but she says weddings are the biggest events she works on.
Although there are certification programs available, Consolati says it's not necessary to have certifications or be a part of associations to become a professional wedding planner. She has taken a few courses related to business management and budgeting, but the best experience, she says, is gained by doing the work first-hand.
"The pros in the industry don't care if I have certifications or not," she said. "It's all about your style and what they see. It's an instinctual thing."
Consolati is proud to say that although she has planned and designed numerous weddings over the years, no two of her weddings or events have looked alike.
"It makes sense, because no two personalities, couples or events are the same, and every single event should look different."
On the job
Being a luxury wedding planner and designer is a passion for Consolati, but the job can be quite stressful. It's more than looking at flower arrangements and tasting cake. More often, the days are filled with spreadsheets, phone calls and emails.
"People always tell me what I do must be so exciting, but it's really not," she said. "But I love it. I get to work from home, and sit at my desk with cell phone and Keurig close by. The excitement comes during events, and when we get images back and see how beautiful everything is when we're not stressed."
Leading up to the day of the event, it's up to Consolati to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
"You never know what's going to happen," she said.
When dealing with overwhelmed brides and parents, Consolati says, "You have to go into every wedding knowing you'll find different personalities, and it's up to you to be the cool, calm and collected one. You have to be stern and remind them that they hired me to do my job. I remind them that I have an extensive network where I'll find the answer. No matter what, it's important to be empathetic and sensitive to what they have going on in their lives."
Consolati works on the primary design of the wedding, and then based on location of the event she will call upon her team to work with her on a wedding-by-wedding basis. Depending on the type of event and venue, the amount of people it takes to pull off, a successful event can vary from 10 primary roles to more than 100 team members, Consolati says.
At a recent bridal photo shoot at the Blantyre in Lenox, Consolati, the mastermind behind the vision for the day, hand-picked a team of artists to bring their talent and skills to create a wedding-style photo shoot.
Teams of wedding vendors work on photo shoots like this, Consolati explains, because it's easier to get the kind of photos they want in a controlled environment. You can best showcase a designer, venue, florist or breath-taking cake without having to worry about lighting, or a stray guest ruining the shot.
The venue, florists, photographer, design stylists, makeup and hair artists all donated their time and resources to recreating the look and feel of a real wedding for this shoot.
The idea was inspired by the wedding gown.
"I loved the designer and I picked the dress. It's from the spring 2017 line," Consolati said. From there, Consolati said she had always wanted to shoot at the Blantye and had an availability in early April, which meant light spring colors.Piece by piece, it all came together.
After the day is photographed, the images are submitted to high-end wedding magazines and blogs, which will showcase the team's skills, from cake design to flower arrangements, to suggested styles or jewelry and dresses to venue locations and table setting ideas.
"This is a chance for us to showcase our skills, put out there what they want to try things out and to let them do their thing," she said. "What inspires them? We're all creative and we all have investments in this."