Northland Special Events began out of the back of a mini-van at a popular North Shore resort in 2010 by Mariah McKechnie. As owner, Mariah and her mom Sharron pulled together the finishing touches for sister Kaitlyn's wedding, they knew it couldn't and wouldn't be their last Northland wedding! Ten years later and thousands of successful weddings and events, Northland Special Events is the region's premiere vendor for wedding and event management. Learn more about Mariah's journey to planning in Minnesota and how Aisle Planner helps the Northland Special Events team deliver an exciting and professional client experience!
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
Plain and simple—my own wedding! I hired a wedding coordinator to help me pull my details together about two months before my Washington, D.C. wedding and it was the best investment I could've possibly made. She saved the day so many times and my family couldn't stop talking about her and what a godsend she was to the wedding. I'd loved planning my wedding and I could see myself in her shoes, so I joined her team as an associate planner and eventually moved to Minnesota and started my own company. Almost 15 years later, I'm still in love with the industry and the role I play in a couple's wedding day!
Why did you start Northland Special Events?
I started Northland Special Events to bring my unique set of skills to a region that had yet to fully embrace the role of a wedding planner. I always envisioned growing a team of wedding professionals and services that would make the wedding planning experience easier and bring more peace of mind to the clients both during the engagement and on the wedding day. There's nothing more satisfying than knowing that your unique ability to stay calm in the storm of event planning and production is key to thousands of couple's best day ever!
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
I'd love more weekday and winter weddings! It's not easy raising a family and working every weekend, especially with summer's being so short lived in our region. It'd be wonderful to spread out the work load throughout the year—but c'est la vie, it's the nature of the beast!
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want to?
Aisle Planner is everything to us and our client experience. From the moment I found it, I knew it would be a game changer. The quality of the interface immediately presented the professionalism I needed and the tools continue to make the work easier and provide better avenues for communication and collaboration with clients. I love having ONE place where I can both work with clients and run the back end of my business. It's genius.
What's your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
It's hard to pick just one favorite feature! It used to be the Design Studio, but now I'm so in love with the Layout & Seating feature that it's at the top of the list. I love being able to help my clients visualize their wedding on several levels—from photos to layouts. It brings them such peace of mind and gets them excited for the event in a whole new way.
If you weren't the Owner of Northland Special Events, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
This is a tough question! I'd love to be an author, possibly publish a book based on my wedding planning experiences. I'd definitely spend more time with my kids and dog, and probably try not to work on weekends!
What are three things you never show up without on event day?
1. My fanny pack. It gives me quick access to things I need, such as my phone, but keeps my hands free. I'm grateful they're coming back around in popularity, but my kids still think it's totally lame.
2. Zip ties. I've used them for the craziest things and my favorite use is fixing wedding dress bustles and/or zippers.
3. Snacks. You can't expect to have time to eat on a wedding day, so I try to have easy snacks to keep me going, something like a Lara bar can really save me in a pinch.
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
My personal philosophy in both the events world and in life is trust the universe. I truly believe that if you approach planning with joy, ease, and trust in the experience, whatever's meant to be will happen—often in ways you'd never expect and often for the better. I love the opportunities that arise when clients relax, listen to their intuition, and lead with love and joy in planning. It sounds woo woo, but it works!
What’s your trademark in the client or event experience?
My trademark would probably be progression—designing a flow through an event day that progresses guests from one moment to the next with a building level of intensity and emotion. I also love planting surprises around every corner that keep the guests on their toes!
Is there anything you're particularly excited about working on this year?
My podcast! I'm hoping to launch it in the beginning of April. It'll be titled "Lake Superior is for Lovers" and feature conversations with past and present couples, local vendors, and experts on all things LOVE. 2020 is my year of letting love guide me in my business and life and I'm excited to share this journey with a podcast audience.
Just for fun
Three things you wouldn't board a plane without?
Headphones, a Cozy Sweater, and Mario Badescu Cucumber & Green Tea Facial Spray.
I’m dying to take a trip to…
Costa Rica. I love tropical getaways and I'm dying to do a jungle/beach adventure in Latin America.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs! I used to be a cat person, but now I'm obsessed with my dog.
If you owned a restaurant, what food would it serve?
Breakfast tapas—my new obsession.
What skill would you like to master?
Making all of the different kinds of frosting they talk about on The Great British Baking Show—French buttercream, Italian buttercream, Swiss buttercream, etc.
Favorite book of all time?
A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving
On my days off you can find me…
At T.J. Maxx and Home Goods. I love hunting for treasure!
If you catch me out and about I’m always wearing…
Pink! I try to work my favorite color into my wardrobe as much as possible.
Want to see more from Mariah? Check out her website northlandspecialevents.com!