Heather Miller is the owner of Hitched by Heather, a full-service wedding boutique and wedding planning service based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.
Heather loves love stories and has wanted to work in weddings since visiting her great-grandmother’s wedding boutique as a little girl. She is dedicated to helping couples take the stress out of planning their dream wedding. Here is her story of how she left her career as a defense contractor to pursue her childhood dream:
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: Tell us about your journey towards your fulfilling career as a wedding planner.
HEATHER: In hindsight, I guess it didn’t take me long to find the one job that truly fulfills me to my core.I knew I wanted to be involved in weddings since I was a little girl in my great-grandmother’s wedding boutique. It just took a while to prepare myself for success.
At 18, I realized that “wedding planning” was an actual career and one I would be perfect for. My main goal was to soak up every ounce of knowledge on how to run a successful business. I knew I couldn’t be a successful entrepreneur with zero experience in the business world. I started working for the government, hating my job and going to school full time at night. I had already planned my first wedding and continued to plan about 4-8 weddings a year. I followed the money, and at age 21, I started working for a government contractor, doubling my income. It was the hardest 5 years of my working career, but I learned more from my boss (who constantly pushed me to be great) than I ever could have learned in a classroom.
At age 26, it was time for me to set off on my own, and I struggled a lot about that scary decision. One day, it just felt right. I wasn’t apprehensive or scared, which is exactly the opposite of what I thought it would feel like. I submitted my letter of resignation then started the journey I had dreamed about since I was 5.
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: Tell us about some of the challenges you faced on your journey.
HEATHER: Starting a business that is not common in the everyday work world has many challenges. Add to that a small startup budget and the most emotional clients possible. Advertising is an expensive necessity. To save money, I built my own website, had a family member design my logo and only advertised on one website for $250 a year. I had to depend on word of mouth to get on my feet, which I soon realized had a bigger return than any other advertising avenue. I was also going up against several established wedding planners who had been in the business for years.
It was a challenge in the beginning to set myself apart and find the bride that was right for me. After my first year of taking any and all weddings, I found out quickly that I did in fact have a particular client I liked to work with and never settled for anything less. I went from 8 weddings my first year, to 17 weddings my second year and I am now planning over 20 a year. I just recently added two more planners to my staff and am hoping to reach my 40 weddings a year goal.
Some challenges on some events have been: A cake falling on the floor 10 minutes before the bride and groom walked into the reception, all of the toilets in the building breaking at one time, a bride ripping her dress before walking down the aisle, a limo breaking down on the way to the ceremony and a groom showing up 2 hours late. I have an extremely stressful but very rewarding job.
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: What does fulfillment mean to you?
HEATHER: Fulfillment is so many different things to me right now. It is finding your passion and WORKING for it, then keeping it. It is knowing who you are and being true to yourself, no matter the outcome. It is bringing joy and love to other people. It is finding and trusting in Jesus Christ as my savior. It is soaking up every ounce of this world by travelling and gaining a true perspective on life.
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: Any advice to the work fulfillment seeker?
– WORK HARD. Don’t ever stop. People who do what they love never give up. That’s the biggest difference between them and the people who settle.
– Always take an opportunity to learn.
– Don’t ever think you are too good for small work.
– Don’t expect things to be handed to you. It is hard to appreciate opportunities when they are given to you.
– If you want people to take you seriously, always be on your “A” game.
– It is OK to fail. Dust yourself off, write down your lessons learn and get back out there.
– Don’t do it for the money. You will need to prove yourself before the money comes.
– If you are doing what you love, it will shine through and the rest will follow.
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: Tell us about your work week.
HEATHER: My work week varies on the event for the weekend, but on a regular basis, I have about 3-7 client meetings a week that vary throughout the day. I spend about 30 hours in the office working on social media, answering emails, prepping for the next wedding, designing style shoots, and FILING, FILING, FILING. I spend about 10 hours on my phone weekly doing additional work outside of the office. Playing on Pinterest may be a hobby for most, but it is my actual job!
I work from anywhere and everywhere, and have even moved my office to the Philippines and Italy. When you streamline your business so others can finish projects and your clients can reach you internationally, the options for your office zip code are endless.
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: What are you working on right now?
HEATHER: I am currently working on the biggest projects of my career. I have a couple who will be getting married in Hawaii in October where I am designing and coordinating 3 days of events. I have 2 new planners who joined my team and will start taking their own weddings starting this October. I am opening an online wedding boutique where you can purchase everything from gifts, belts, veils and jewelry. I am also working on a super-secret project that may or may not include a television crew!
THE IMPERFECTIONIST: What are you reading right now?
HEATHER: Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Great Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup, and Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource by Jeffrey Gitomer.
Learn more about Heather at Hitched by Heather where can find out how Heather can help you plan your big day! She has a beautiful portfolio and a blog with her advice and reflections on weddings and beyond. Hitched by Heather is a Little Black Book Member on Style Me Pretty and Couples’ Choice Award Winner on Wedding Wire. She has been featured on Style Me Pretty, Bayside Bride, and many more. She has been a guest on WJLA on “Clever Ways to Trim Your Wedding Budget” and “How to Keep Your Guests Warm at Your Winter Wedding”.
Portrais of Fulfillment is a series that brings you stories of people who have found fulfilling work that they love. Don’t know where to start? Read this article on “How to Find Fulfilling Work.” Have a job you love? Contact us. We’d love to feature you!