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How Carla Bejan-Negru Blends Art & Structure in Event Planning

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

How Carla Bejan-Negru Blends Art & Structure in Event Planning

We had the privilege of delving into the mind of Carla Bejan-Negru, the owner and lead creative director at Elena’s Garden Events. With an artistic flair inherited from her flower-growing grandmother and a meticulous, structured approach, Carla has carved a unique niche in the realm of wedding planning and event design.

In this interview, she unveils the tapestry of her journey, the intricate processes behind crafting unforgettable events, and the delicate balance of creativity and pragmatism in this glamorous yet demanding industry. Read on to discover the secret sauce of Elena’s Garden Events and how they transform ordinary moments into extraordinary memories.

Inspiration Behind Elena’s Garden

SBS – What inspired you to start Elena’s Garden, and how did you identify your niche in wedding planning and event design?

Carla – I grew up around flowers because my grandmother (Elena) was a flower grower, and I’ve always been very creative but also very structured. This path is one of the few that merges an artistic expression with the Type A personality needed to plan and run events. I love merging the two and identified a need in the industry for a service that blends this seamlessly and, as a result, offers a great client experience.

Client Collaboration Process

SBS – Can you describe the process you go through with clients to understand and execute their vision for an event?

CarlaIt first starts with making sure we’re a good fit for the style, scope of the event, and the client’s personality. This is important because we sometimes work together for as long as a year. We start the process with a phone consultation, and we put together a very visual and detailed proposal. We tweak and build onto the original plan until they fall in love with it on paper. Throughout this process, the more involved we are in the planning process, the more we get to know them and are able to translate their story, personality, and style into the event we are designing — it’s a collaboration.

There are, of course, events where our involvement is more limited, and we have a short period to plan or produce the event, and in those cases, we lean on our years of experience and past events to draw inspiration and build a great design.

Staying Trendy Yet Timeless

SBS – How do you stay current with trends in event planning and design while maintaining your unique style?

CarlaWe find that inspiration is everywhere — in nature, in travel, in interior design, in fashion — but ultimately, we always want to create something unique and fresh. While we use elements that are “trending” or “in,” we try to stay away from fast-passing copy-and-paste ideas and lean more toward a personalized and timeless design.

Overcoming Business Challenges

SBS – What challenges have you faced in growing your business, and how have you overcome them?

CarlaOn the eve of COVID lockdowns, we signed a lease to our first studio space, a very exciting and scary step in growing our business. Thankfully, we were able to wait it out and adjust by taking on smaller events during that time while managing the new overhead and then being ready to grow and keep up with demand once events were back on and there was a high demand for our services.

Balancing Creativity and Practicality in Event Planning

SBS – How do you balance creativity with the practical aspects of event planning, such as budget and logistics?

CarlaMerging the two is our secret sauce! Because we’re able to have a global overview of the event, we are able to understand the goals and vision in a clear way and balance the wants and needs of an event. We bend over backwards to create magic even in hard situations, but we pride ourselves on transparency with our clients and have a good grasp on when and where we need to adjust expectations to make sure a design is not only dreamy but also achievable within the constraints we are given and within budget. It’s a constant juggling act. Also, our clients learn to trust us so when it’s time to adjust the plans, they’re fully on board and know we’ve considered all the options, it’s our job to dream big but also to think of all possible worst case scenarios.

Effective Marketing Strategies

SBS – What strategies do you use for marketing your services and building a client base?

CarlaWe’ve built a very loyal client base, and referrals are a huge source of our business. We are very aware that each guest at one of our events is a possible client or referral source. We also have very genuine and valuable relationships with other vendors who refer to us as a result of having worked with us. We also reach clients by advertising in wedding vendor databases like The Knot.

Memorable Events Showcase

SBS – Could you share a memorable event you planned and what made it special or challenging?

Carla – In addition to weddings, we also work with corporate clients,, and one of our favorite events each year is being part of Lolla Palooza, where we get to create designs for sponsors. This is so different from what we typically do for weddings. Creating designs that represent global brands and have to last a few days with high traffic on Chicago’s hot summer day is challenging but a fun adventure!

Measuring Event Success

SBS – How do you measure the success of an event?

CarlaWe offer our clients peace of mind that everything behind the scenes is handled, so when they’re able to have a great time and truly enjoy their event, it’s mission accomplished for us. Beyond that, when our clients refer their friends and family to us, that’s when we really know we’ve done our job well.

Fostering Seamless Experiences

SBS – How do you manage relationships with vendors and venues to ensure a seamless event experience for your clients?

CarlaThis is a very important component of each successful event, and the key is to have a team approach. We value our partners and view each event as a collaboration and team effort.

Advice for Aspiring Event Planners

SBS – What advice would you give to someone starting their own event planning business?

CarlaMake sure it’s what you want to do. This job is often glamorized, but there are so many components that are often overlooked. In order to make sure I really understood what it takes to even do the job, let alone take it on as a business, I worked for a planning company for two seasons, where I gave up most summer weekends, worked crazy hours, and learned the job behind the scenes. Everyone thinks of JLO in the Wedding Planner but ignores the 30k steps logged on the weekend under intense pressure.

Evolving Landscape of Event Planning

SBS – How has the event planning industry changed since you started, and where do you see it going in the future?

CarlaI think it’s often undervalued, but I think planners are starting to educate clients better about the value they provide.

Crisis Management in Event Planning

SBS – How do you handle unexpected situations or last-minute changes during an event?

CarlaIt sounds cliche, but you always have to expect the unexpected. It’s my job to think fast and come up with solutions under pressure because every event will have issues that are often out of my control. It’s almost a given. Being prepared to make quick decisions and come up with solutions is something that can’t really be taught, but some of us are wired to thrive under pressure. Experience is also important. A seasoned planner will have the tools to handle situations based on past situations, so surround yourself with a support system you can lean on while learning the ropes.

Essential Qualities for Success in Event Planning

SBS – What are the key qualities or skills you believe are essential for success in the event planning and design industry?

CarlaThick skin, confidence, and flexibility are all key. It’s a running joke among planners that we are part designers, part therapists, and part MacGyver.


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How Carla Bejan-Negru Blends Art & Structure in Event Planning