Meet Julie Atwood
Therapist, negotiator, financial analyst, wedding planner
Photo courtesy of Julie Atwood Events.
Wedding planner Julie Atwood tells her clients their wedding is the one day they get to be truly selfish. “This day,” she assures them, “it’s all about you.”
And then she has to make sure that dream day is perfect.
So how do you do that? When someone’s finest fantasy, the dream they’ve nurtured since childhood, is resting squarely on your shoulders, if you’re Julie Atwood, what do you do?
Well, she says, it’s not all about cake, canapés and calla lilies—that’s the easy part.
The hard part, and the part she maybe does best, is being the therapist, the family negotiator, the financial analyst and the Kleenex distributor.
What’s the secret? “You only get one chance to do it right. And it’s so much more than just a party.”
An accomplished event planner pulls off an uneventful event, which means no one knows that the 3-year-old ring bearer temporarily lost the diamond-encrusted band, that the groomsman’s ripped linen jacket has duct tape inside holding it together, or that the father of the bride was missing until the delegation she sent to find him whisked him in minutes before walking his daughter down the aisle.
Describing herself as a detail-oriented adrenaline junkie, Julie says not only does she always have a Plan B, she has a Plan C.
“You are only as good your resources,” she laughs, recalling the time she slipped a bride a pair of flip-flops because her wedding shoes were so uncomfortable her feet were bleeding. She then danced the night away and no one even noticed.
Then there’s the bridesmaid who leaves her dress at home—in Manhattan—who’s convinced a similar dress will be fine, and the many, many men in wedding parties who forget ties, vests, cummerbunds and belts. “Thank God for Eraldi’s,” Julie says, of the Plaza men’s store that stocks and rents wedding attire. One bride broke her heirloom pearls, worn by four generations on their wedding days, that Julie was able to get restrung and knotted—pronto. And she always has a hair dryer handy for brides whose veils take a dip in the commode, which happens more often than anyone would ever imagine.
Julie doesn’t come cheap and she specializes in high-end events with a minimum budget of $60,000 to $70,000 for 100 guests.
It helps to have her own venue. Many clients get married at her Atwood Ranch, where the Mayacamas are a stunning backdrop to a charming barn and acres of cabernet. Her contract includes a “right to farm” clause, which mentions the potential possibility of harvest activities and insects. (Julie says everyone in Wine Country knows a little fruit fly in your champagne is merely a touch of protein.)
She also has access to select estates that can be rented, and sometimes she arranges to hold weddings in exceptional private homes. She does around 14 weddings a year, about 25 percent for local clients and the rest for lovers literally from around the world. Right now she has wedding clients from Peru, Texas, China, North Carolina and India.
twood Events does intimate affairs for as few as 25 and up to more than 200, but Julie feels strongly that the perfect number of guests is between 100 and 150, with 125 being the absolute ideal.
“You shouldn’t have more people than the bride and groom have time to personally interact with during the reception,” she says.
Julie has been doing weddings for 10 years and sees no downturn in business or extravagance despite the current economy.
“Romance is everywhere, and I think people want to celebrate that now more than ever.”
From the Summer 2009 issue of SONOMA