You started out as a fashion designer, what made you move into events? Does your background in fashion help you in any way?
As a very young girl, I dreamed of being a costume designer in movies. I started sewing at the early age of 10 and studied fashion design in school which lead to a merchant buying position in an exclusive high-end store for 15 years. I do believe my fashion experience led me to follow my dream of opening my own couture design studio specializing in wedding and evening wear. It also helped me to better understand the clients I have today. At the time, event planning was not my career, but since my brides expressed a great need for it, I incorporated it into my business model.
Valley Wedding Pages is such a unique magazine, what inspired you to launch it?
I was an advertiser in the first Valley Wedding Pages directory 12 years ago. Unfortunately, the first publication went under after only two years, leaving those of us in the industry with nowhere to promote our services. I decided to re-launch the yearly “Valley Wedding Pages Planning Guide” along with a website for brides to visit. In 2008, I started a quarterly “Valley Wedding Social & Events Magazine”. I can’t believe that we have grown so much in 10 years time.
You own your own events business and a wedding magazine, how do you walk the fine line between vendor and editor?
I recently started turning over my event planning business to all the new and upcoming planners, but when I did I encouraged the brides to view our VWP Website and look at the VWP Planning Guide to choose their vendors. I believe this was beneficial to them as they now had somewhere to go and guide them in their planning process, and of course it benefitted my vendors as well.
We always hear that everything is “bigger” in Texas, does that translate into the event industry there?
I believe the industry has gotten bigger everywhere. You, yourself are a prime example of this. Events have now become elaborate productions that require a planner with a team to translate their dreams and wishes. That said, those of us in the South Texas Region do love a good party!
Are there different trends in different areas in Texas? What specifically is trending for events in McAllen, TX?
There are trends specific to the state itself, and those specific to region. We are 10 miles from the border of Mexico, so many of the old traditions are combined with the ones customary to America. For example, being a heavily Hispanic populated area, the Catholic ceremony is of great significance to many of our clients. The cultural traditions are important and are often followed by a cocktail hour and a large reception that includes the traditional dinner and dancing. The reception itself usually lasts 4-5 hours. The Tornaboda, an after-party consisting of a new menu and entertainment lasting into the wee hours is also very popular. I don’t see this ever changing. We also live 50 miles from the beautiful coast line of South Padre Island. Many couples choose this as a local destination for their event which usually follows an island theme. Destination weddings are very popular here as they are around the rest of the country and brides often incorporate vendors into the planning process. Lastly, Quinceaneras, the traditional “coming of age party” for fifteen year-old girls is also significant in this region. Parents start to plan these spectacular events up to two years in advance. The events are often over-the-top. The young woman wear bright and colorful dresses, fly as far as Paris for photo shoots, hire entertainment, serve elaborate cakes and food, and it is not unusual for a young lady to receive the keys to a new car that evening in an oversized gift box.
Congratulations are in order, by the way. I was just told that you, yourself, are a new bride! Tell us a little about your own personal love story!
My love story? Oh, dear! My husband, Henry, and I met in 1977 at South Padre Island, TX. I was a young 17-year old dining with two girlfriends. He approached us and asked if he could join us. An hour later, he walked me to my car, and asked for my home address. He kissed me on the cheek and said goodbye and I never saw him again. 30 Years later, in the fall of 2009, he came across my picture on the Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. He reached out, but I did not want to meet him. I was a single parent of three children conducting my very busy business and did not have time to date, but that did not stop him. He wanted to find out if I was the “same Leticia” he had met 30 years ago. I accepted his friend request and after three weeks of no messaging and no verbal conversations, we decided to meet. I was taken by how many similarities we had! Our first date was short, at a sushi bar, but that turned into a second date the following night. It is important that I mention that I had no idea that we had met before at this point. On our second date, he presented me a letter that was old and faded and he said, “I wrote you this 30 years ago, but never mailed it to you.” Much to my amazement it was the most beautiful and tender letter written by a young 19 year-old about the day he met me. Of course, I melted! A year into our relationship, I was told that I might have cancer which scared Henry to pieces. He had decided to ask my mother for my hand in marriage, and planned a surprise family gathering where he proposed to me with them present. A week later, I was cleared of my cancer scare, but a month later, he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer. Once the shock settled, we postponed our wedding plans and Henry went into surgery. Three months later, he was cancer-free, and our original wedding date of October 9th was back on. We now feel extraordinarily fortunate to have found each other at this time in our lives.
What a gorgeous story! Having just been married, I learned firsthand why people hire professionals to design and plan their wedding. What did your wedding teach you?
Oh, Preston! I planned my Wedding in six short weeks! Henry became my handsome “Groomszilla”. I was given a budget and somehow he forgot I was in the business! I chose a venue in San Antonio, TX, and as per his request, invited only close family and friends. Being in the business, this was my biggest challenge. What I quickly learned in the process was to relinquish the fact that I am in the industry and allow my chosen vendors to do what they do best. This gave me the opportunity to truly enjoy what has now become one of the most important days of my life.
Tell us a little about your next venture!
I am looking forward to working closely with The Wedding Planning Institute, teaching the courses at our local university, The University of Texas Pan American in the Fall of 2013. I am always looking forward to continuing to learn and expand our wedding industry in the valley through our publications.
My dream, that’s another story. I will always be an artist first, and someday I plan to pursue those dreams as a designer.