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House of Coco talked taking risks, never sitting still and the faith needed for a total rebrand with Lisa Johnson of Carmela Weddings. . . HOC: So Lisa, we’ve timed


House of Coco talked taking risks, never sitting still and the faith needed for a total rebrand with Lisa Johnson of Carmela Weddings...HOC: So Lisa, we’ve timed this interview for the launch of your new brand, which is stunning! Tell us about that and we’ll work backwards from there?..LJ: We’ve been working on the rebrand since November and I’m so excited that it’s time to show everyone! The hardest bit of it all, and the bit I’m most proud of, is that we’re changing the brand completely. We had to really think about our ideal client and zero in on who they are. Once we did that it meant we were cutting out 95% of clients! What we’re left with is this tiny percentage of brides but that small percentage of brides should hopefully just come to us. There’s nobody else doing what we do!..HOC: So tell us the vision for the new Carmela Weddings?..LJ: Our target is the couples that want really stylish, design led, much cooler than usual, luxury weddings. Instead of the Dorchester-style, very traditional and luxury event we’re still doing luxury but we’re not touching grand hotels, bunting or village halls. It’s the Shoreditch loft kind of warehouse brides. that we work with. We keep getting people asking for something different. They want a warehouse wedding, they have the money and they are usually super creative. They are my kind of people! My brides probably won’t be wearing the big dress, they’ll probably wear bridal separates. They will probably look like Solange Knowles did in a jumpsuit. They are my kind of brides...HOC: You mentioned this was a total brand change. How did you come to this?..LJ: I’ve been running this business, with my husband Sam for 3 years. Last year I was getting a bit disillusioned with the kinds of weddings I was doing and always being budgeted down! We didn’t really enjoy doing the more ‘traditional weddings’ but the few different weddings we did were really enjoyable. We had thought that, while this style of wedding is what we like, that not many brides would like it. But we did our market research and it turns out that there are people out there who want this! We decided we can still do what we love and run a successful business. While there are planners out there who do the odd really cool city wedding, there’s no-one who specialises in it that you can look up if that’s what you wanted. Our couples are just like us, we like nice hotels but Mondrian not Claridges, Street Art over fine art. I think we’re the only husband and wife wedding planning team in the UK!..HOC: For those of us who have not planned a wedding, or planned a wedding without professionals, can you tell us how you work?..LJ: There are three stages that we tend to start working with couples in:.1. Right at the beginning; This tends to be with couples who know what they want but also know that they are too busy to create their special day. We’ll give them full wedding planning services..2. We work with a number of couples who have organised their wedding but then realise how much is involved half way through!.3. Then we get the people right at the end who realise, especially if its in a marquee or a warehouse, how much there is to sort out on the day and that they can’t do it!.It used to be just big weddings that a wedding planner would work on but we do weddings for thirty people. It’s more people with a good budget but without the time to organise it. You don’t always need a huge budget, a wedding planner can help you maximise your budget as we know the right people and also the pitfalls of planning a wedding!..HOC: So, if you’ve been running this business for 3 years what were you up to before that?..LJ: Hah! That’s a long, long story! My path to wedding planning has been a rollercoaster. I come from a background where nobody really went to university so when I was 28 I decided it was time to get a degree and I completed both a degree in law and then an Masters in HR, through distance learning, while working full-time! Before that I was acting and doing TV presenting and I also worked in investment banking! I was a complete party animal and out with the rest of the team in Central London until late and then straight back to work at the bank the next day!.I then had my twins, who are now 4. I didn’t know much about children (sometimes I think I still don’t!) and I initially thought that I’d just go back to work in Canary Wharf! No chance. In fact, I went back to work as an Events Manager and Exec assistant as a contractor doing a strictly 9-5 job when they were 5 months old. However, I’m one of these people who always has to be doing something and this wasn’t enough so I started this business on the side and it’s taken off! I’m still a contractor and work for another company as well...HOC: Wow, it’s great to meet GirlBosses who have tried their hand at a lot of things on their journeys. Do you feel that your experiences have prepared you for Carmela Weddings? ..LJ: Everything I’ve ever done has been academic, I love exams! But I’ve got this weird creative side that comes out. For instance, I love writing and I’ve written for a few magazines before as one-offs. I’ve dabbled in pretty much everything creative but when this came along all the things that I’m good at came together! I use the Law constantly with contracts for brides and everything they need me to look over. I use everything, even the exec assistant experience as it has really helped me project manage anything now. I’m a trained celebrant as well and that’s the acting coming out...HOC: That’s amazing! Do you feel that couples, especially brides get pressured into a lot of things on their wedding days? ..LJ: I really believe that there needs to be no formula or rules for weddings. Brides come to me and say ‘I really don’t want to do a first dance’ and ‘I don’t want a top table, but I have to’. You don’t have to do anything! Most weddings end up being the same and that’s almost expected. You could buy 6 different magazines in a 3 year period and they would all have the same information in them!.I wish we were more like the US as they are really on trend and I want their stuff to come over here, they are so out there and it’s how it should be be. People say that they don’t want an ‘alternative’ wedding because in their heads they think of the obvious alt bride tattooed look, but you don’t have to go down that route! You can have an alternative wedding that’s just you. It’s just another genre that people feel they have to fit into...HOC: We imagine that your wedding was pretty ‘alternative’? ..LJ: We had a 1950s style wedding, we did it in a way that it was a bit different. It was cool and retro, not everything matched! In fact, Sam planned all of our wedding as I has 12 other weddings in that year to plan. He was amazing, even spending 5 hours on our wedding day setting up the vineyard with his best man! We got married in Malta and, for Malta it was a wedding unlike any other! We didn’t have a first dance, we had a dance to Mr Brightside with everyone up and dancing. We didn’t throw the bouquet, we gave it to the couple who had been married the longest. My bridesmaids were Sam’s friends because all of my husband’s best friends are girls and mine are men so we just mixed it around a bit!..HOC: Sounds amazing, you also arrange weddings in Malta don’t you?..LJ: Yes, I’m maltese so I often organise destination weddings for UK brides there. It really helps to have someone in the UK who can speak to them face to face and make it all happen. You can get some amazing value for money in Malta, some of our weddings that would have cost £60k here but only cost £20k there!..HOC: We’re really interested in how you market your business?..LJ: To celebrate our new branding I’m just about to send all the bloggers and magazines a little gift! I’ve defined an advertising budget and where I’m going to use it this year. In terms of marketing I’ve also worked hard on my SEO to get it up from page 52 for ‘Surrey Wedding Planner’ and now I’m on page 1! I think it’s also important to blog a lot!.I’m also planning to work on instagram. That’s where I think my brides are; they are really visual.We have a business instagram (@carmelaweddings ) and Sam’s instagram (@stanleyjohnno) and the content of both is generally just a curated diary of where we go as we hope our couples relate to that. They are us, in a way!..HOC: How do you and Sam find working together? ..LJ: We love it! He has another job as well and it’s great when we work together as we get to spend time together too. We complement each other so well. It’s quite fun working together, any time we do something together we just end up having a laugh...HOC: Do you have any dream weddings you’d like plan? ..LJ: I’d love to do a wedding at MC Motors. That would be my ideal wedding! Maybe someone who wants a Scandi look, giant edison bulbs, something different that I can really use my imagination on!..HOC: Finally, do you have any advice for any of our wannabe girl bosses out there? ..LJ: Life is really short and you need to make the most of it. I believe that you can achieve anything you aim to do. Don’t ever not do something out of fear or out of worry of failure. It might fail, my business might fail! You can never know for sure that there are enough brides out there to drive your business, for instance. But you give it the best shot you can!


.HOC: On that inspiring note we wrapped up with Lisa and immediately got lost in the styled shoots on the Carmela Weddings website. If you are looking for an awesome venue for your big day or another fun event, check out their brand new Top 10 Urban Venues ebook.