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"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and last you create what you will." George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Law-school grad becomes wedding planner

Northeast Chronicle

By Amanda Nalley
Imagine Inc.
What: Wedding and event planning
Who: Kenya Washington
Cost: $500 and up
Call: 591-3010

Is your fairy-tale wedding missing an action plan? Imagine Inc. might be able to help. The event- and wedding-planning company, operated out of the Killearn Lakes home of Kenya Washington, offers creative ways to prepare for your special day, including services for those who are limited on time and planning for couples who need extra attention. "You imagine it, we plan it," is the company's slogan, and planning is exactly what Washington does. She maps out weddings on storyboards, offers clients 24/7 availability and uses her previous experience as a lawyer to identify and solve potential wedding fiascoes, such as what to do when mom wants linen napkins and the bride will only allow paper. "In law, you help people end things," Washington said. "and with wedding planning, you are helping them begin things." She's also good at smoothing out details when things go haywire, such as the time the bride's choice of facility sprung a leaky roof, and Washington spent hours figuring out how to dress up galvanized pails to catch rain water. Led by her faith, she seeks to smooth the transition of two people becoming a unit. "I believe that marriages are the creations of new unions, and the law believes you've formed a new unit, too," she said. "I help them to remember to focus on what's best for them as a unit."

Her background
Washington, who wanted to be a lawyer since age 13, received her undergraduate degree from Tulane University in 1996 and her law degree from Columbia University in 2000.
At first, she was averse to the idea of running her own business.
"My parents asked me if they were to give us (her and her ex-husband) money to start a business, what would it be?" she said. "I thought I really had no interest in being an entrepreneur." A "textbook extrovert," she had an interest in wedding planning at a young age after helping plan family events and high-school social activities. Her father, who was a mechanical engineer by trade, always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, and urged his daughter to start her own business. At 30, Washington had a crisis. She realized it was the first time she was fiscally on her own. She decided her life needed a change in direction and that it was time to create a 10-year plan. She also decided she didn't want to wait until retirement to be a wedding planner. "I guess I was just thinking it was something that I would want to do. Each time I thought about it, it started taking shape," she said. "I'd see partners and a process. I could imagine the business having multiple divisions." She didn't dislike law, but she realized she liked things about it that she could do in planning, too. "I enjoyed the law, but I loved the planning part of it - the coordination and logistics of it. The regular legal stuff was fun, but what I excelled at was the logistics. I love and enjoy the law - it is just that I am more passionate about this. It was a question of who do I want to be when I grow up."

Imagine Inc.
Washington received her business license and began Imagine Inc. in January of this year.
Consultations begin with a meeting to test compatibility. To Washington, choosing the right planner is akin to choosing the right church or therapist. "It's important that we like each other," she said. "My job is not to force people to use my services." After that, the couple will meet with Washington at least three times to figure out what is and is not wanted at the wedding. Couples fill out a two-page questionnaire that helps Washington figure out the couples' personality and other important information, such as who makes the decisions and who pays for the event.

Couples then pick from the following services:
Directing: Washington will manage/conduct the rehearsal, ceremony and reception; provide schedules to members of the wedding party; be on hand as long as she is needed for the day of the wedding; and make sure the wedding runs smoothly (for example, the cake gets cut on time and everyone gets home safely).
Customized planning: In addition to directing, Washington will help formulate and crystallize the feel and design of the wedding day and help pick vendors (caterer, photographer, etc.).
Ask an expert: Brides have a prepaid amount of minutes and can call Washington at any time to ask questions.
Panic package: For couples who have anywhere from two months to two weeks before the big day, there are four packages geared toward the urgency and what is left to be done.
Education: Washington offers classes on planning a wedding for yourself.
Radio: Imagine Inc. has partnered with Wave 94.1 FM. and will launch "She Said Yes," a radio segment allowing couples to tell their relationship stories from first date to engagement. Couples receive a recording of their segment.
"Planning for life": Washington also offers party planning for life, a program that is 90 percent wedding planning and 10 percent event planning. She will plan a couple's future anniversaries, birthday parties and other gatherings and events.

A member of the Association of Bridal Consultants, Washington said she knows comfort is the most important thing when picking a planner. "It's about finding the bride who feels comfortable with me," she said. "I really love what I do, and I'm doing it more because I love it than because I need to earn a living from it."
Contact reporter Amanda Nalley at (850) 599-2299 or abnalley@tallahassee.com.1012.chron.wedding
Kenya Washington owns Imagine Inc., a wedding- and event-planning company.

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