Birthday; year twenty-four

Birthdays lead us to think about what has happened this last year, how we have transformed since we last blew out those candles. Today it’s twenty-four for me, and this last year has truly been a whirlwind of AWESOME; I can’t help to think about what I’ve experienced and who I’ve become.

Breanne Dodge in wedding attire, portrait
This is a decent representation of who I am right now, just in a veil – photo by Jelger and Tanja Photographers

As for where I was last June at my twenty-third birthday: I was working for someone else, I was engaged to my wonderful husband and I thought I was really happy – but it turns out I had no idea how much better everything could get! I had the opportunity to work two different weddings the summer of 2016, one for a sibling of a friend and the other for my now brother- and sister-in-law. The latter really fully reminded me of what I wanted to do with my life, where all these goals of mine were heading. I had tried once before to start a wedding planning company and it had failed miserably, primarily because I knew NOTHING about the event industry in Vancouver (I had lived in the city for literally two months!), so a little part of me feared trying again. If it wasn’t for the support of my amazing now-husband, I would not have taken the leap I did.

Growing up, working was vital to living – I may not have started with an actual job, but I took care of my brother and sister while my parents were at work, because they needed to get food on our table and pay rent. When I got older I started babysitting regularly, working in my dad’s kitchen when I could (as long as I didn’t have to do the dreaded dishes!), and spent a summer at a golf club bussing tables. From the age of eleven I had a work ethic because I knew that if I didn’t work, there would be no food or, once I started making my own money, no candy hidden away in my room.

(Confession: I am a sweets hoarder. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but if you come over and want a chocolate bar or some candy, I’m your girl.)

I worked through high school, and right after graduation I moved out and had a whole other reason to work – rent. My parents had always talked about rent, but it was a somewhat foreign concept until I had to actually pay it. I knew when I was younger that I loved to work but learned that work was firstly a need, not a love. This attitude towards work has carried on with me as I grew so the idea of going off and being self employed with no one paying me a regular paycheque scared the crap out of me. I have never thought that maybe it would be okay to let my future husband help take care of me financially, the only acceptable option in my brain was to take care of my fair share – 50% of rent, 50% of food, 50% of any shared expense because that’s what I thought was fair.

I am so fortunate to have found someone like James and to have him be such a big part of my life. He is really my largest support system and he’s the reason that I feel so driven to do half the things I pursue because I don’t care if I let myself down, let my parents down, or whomever else, but he is one person that I never ever want to disappoint – however I know that even if I feel I let him down, he won’t see it that way – he really is an amazing creature. When I had started ThistleBEA your wedding, it was a side thing, I wasn’t driven to make it too big. I was content with my 9-5 and I was doing well doing what I was doing… but then I started getting disenchanted with my work. As I started investing more time into ThistleBEA, I started disliking my job more and more. It was like they were on a scale that wouldn’t ever balance.

I expressed these sentiments to James and his response threw me; it was not something I would have ever thought to do, nor anything I could ever expect from anyone. He told me to quit. He said quit and pursue wedding planning because that’s where my passion is. I argued that we were getting married in seven months, we had a wedding to pay for, I wouldn’t be able to pay rent, we eat a lot of food (I love food), there’s all these expenses and I am not a freeloader. He didn’t miss a beat before he said that he would support me so that I could do what I loved.

This man, he’s given me so much! While you may not be able to buy happiness, you certainly can gift it.  

I had absolutely no business experience, SO what I’ve been doing is pulling some things out of thin air, being a part of SO MANY professional networks, learning everything I could without having to invest too much. I’ve doubted myself, my techniques, and everything I’m doing. I’ve questioned whether I needed a part time job or not. I have considered giving up because the pressure of knowing I could fail was huge. I’ve invested very little money – because I simply didn’t have it – and countless hours of my time to try to drive business, to achieve my meager goals.

I’ve learned a few things in this past year, I’ve grown as a person, as a contributing member of society, I’ve been adulting all this time guys, it’s crazy.

I’ve learned that if you are passionate about something, you will make it happen, because otherwise it’s not really a passion.

I’ve discovered that someone believing in you (who isn’t obligated to do so, aka, not my parents) is the single best thing in life.

I now know that while you think you’re doing things pretty insufficiently, other people might be looking at you and be blown away by what you’ve done.

I’ve revealed that my goal-setting sucks, because I’m afraid that I won’t make my goals, so I set them far too low. My goal for booking weddings for 2017 was ten day-of coordinations. As of this minute, I have booked sixteen weddings for 2017 and five for 2018, not including all the work I’m doing with other planners and the gigs I’ve gotten as a Wedding Catering Coordinator through a local Lebanese restaurant. All in all, I have twenty-three 2017 weddings. WHAT? I totally underestimated my abilities, my skills, my amazingness.

The best part about these weddings are the couples and the diversity. I’ve booked all sorts of different weddings, people from all sorts of different cultures and backgrounds. There isn’t one wedding this year where I’m dreading working because of the people who hired me – I have some amazing AF couples!!

Beyond starting my business, there have been so many other things that have changed me since the last birthday. I married my wonderful husband (see above) and had a crazy awesome LEGO wedding.

Vases filled with suspended LEGO on a guest table
That’s right, LEGO wedding – these were our centre pieces. Photo by Jelger and Tanja Photographers

I had a special relationship with this wedding, obviously, because it’s my own, and it really is something I’ve been planning all my life, just a little more in-depth than some other girls and boys. But once we got to the day, I was a little disappointed that it was over. I loved planning it so much and now all this time that I had used throughout my life to plan my wedding day, I’m all of the sudden DONE. Because of this, I’ve already begun planning my future children’s weddings. There’s this personal aspect with planning and designing your own wedding (or that of a close loved one) that’s so much different than planning someone else’s. And if they don’t get married, then they will have to live with the zillions of amazing birthday parties they’ll have growing up!

Not going to lie, after the week of the wedding happened, I was glad that part was done. There’s nothing like going through what your clients go through to REALLY understand your own career. I always understood why having a planner was a fantastic idea but I never really KNEW. I do now. I bow down to the couples who plan their whole wedding by themselves and who don’t hire even a day-of coordinator, because that is a stress I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You’re being pulled a thousand different ways as the bride or groom: all the out of town relatives who haven’t seen you in so long, immediate family, close friends, and everyone wants your attention because you are the couple of the week.

I stayed true to my brand of DIY weddings for my own wedding and it became evident the other things I needed to start offering for my own business. The reason I love DIY weddings is because of all the extra love, time, effort, skill, and energy that go into making a couple’s perfect day. If you’re set on doing a DIY wedding it speaks to who you are as a person and the kind of things that you might be bringing to your relationship.

My wedding day was perfection, even with the things that went wrong, like my shoes breaking RIGHT before I walked down the aisle,

Bride and groom, knees down. Bride in shoes covered with blue and white LEGOS, groom's shoes royal blue, matching bride's
But how amazing are these shoes, BEFORE they broke? – photo by Jelger and Tanja Photographers

and the rain on April 22nd made the day better than I could have imagined. Look at this photo –

Wedding planner Breanne Dodge with husband James Dodge on wedding day in rain
Photo credit: Jelger & Tanja Photographers

–   isn’t this photo just so beautiful?! It certainly doesn’t hurt that we had a couple like Jelger and Tanja Photographers capture our day; I have nothing but amazing things to say about this husband and wife duo.

The last part of my year that REALLY stood out was realizing a few dreams. One was, of course, my dream career came true, another my wedding, and the last two are all about travel. For our honeymoon James and I wanted an adventure, not to just sit on our butts and relax at some resort (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that). We took a month off work and we went to South America, after a quick stop in California for a wedding and Disneyland.

I can’t lie, when we drove into Anaheim, I may have cried a little seeing  the Disney sign. Disneyland really is the place where dreams come true.

Breanne and James Dodge in front of castle in California Disneyland
James and I HAD to take a picture in front of the castle

James is a sucker for jungles – he went to Madagascar for a few months and lived in the jungle because, well, jungle, so number one requirement for our honeymoon after the adventure was Amazon. We stayed in the Napo region of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest and I don’t think we’ll ever experience anything as truly magical as this place. All the greenery, the majesticness of the skies (and their power for a downpour), and the wildlife. We did some agricultural tourism while we were there too and the farms are so cool! Just ugh words don’t even start to describe it.

Napo Region of Ecuador - indescribable Amazon Rain Forest
Napo Region of Ecuador – indescribable Amazon Rain Forest

After Ecuador we did Peru and I got the thing I wanted since I was eight – going up to Machu Pichu – again, I may have cried a little. I wish I could describe what it felt like to be there, but I just can’t even comprehend my feelings about it (picture me here furling my eyebrows and trying to compose even the right thoughts in my brain to think of the tangle of astounding I felt).

Breanne Dodge of ThistleBEA your wedding at Machu Pichu
this is one shot of WAY up Machu Pichu in Peru, realizing a dream of mine

And the best part about this whole year, year twenty-three, was having a man like James at my side. This year was about he and I and who we could be together – and together, we are phenomenal. While I don’t need him to live, I want him so I can live better. For as long as we both shall choose.

Wedding planner Breanne Dodge with husband James Dodge on wedding day
photo by Jelger & Tanja photographers
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