Meet Tara Ybarra, Founder of Ybarra Events, and one half of the husband and wife duo that pride themselves on their customer service, creativity, and calming demeanor. Even in her youth, it was clear Tara was destined for event planning. At the age of 10, she was practicing her interior design skills by rearranging furniture, sewing her own clothes from repurposed hand-me-downs, and alphabetizing and rearranging every nook and cranny of her childhood home. From photographer's assistant, pastry chef, and florist, Tara came to the realization that with her combined passions for planning, organizing, and decorating, planning was her true calling! She went to school for event planning, and with the support and encouragement of her husband, Tara and James opened Ybarra Events for business in 2013!
What inspired you to enter the wedding industry?
I'm not sure if I found weddings, or if weddings found me. As a child, we had a darkroom in the garage. My parents owned a photography company that took aerial photos of the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma, then drove door-to-door selling their art. I became entranced with the beauty of Northern California. I started out as a second-shooter photographing weddings. When photos shifted to digital, I decided to switch vocations, longing to not be editing on computer screens. I was taken under the wing of a local baker making wedding cakes, among other baked goods. I absolutely loved It, but the hours were long and hard. I arrived at work at 4 am and sometimes didn't finish until 9 or 10 pm. And, if you didn't already know, delivering cakes is incredibly stressful. Driving over the winding mountains of rural Northern California with a three-tiered wedding cake in the back, not to mention carrying them through uneven ground or up steps, is no small feat! After witnessing a co-worker drop a wedding cake and having to replicate it in record time, I thought I should find something I love that doesn't stress me out. (Yes, commence laughing at me. Wedding Planner is listed in the top 10 most stressful jobs along with Police and Firefighter, but oddly it isn't stressful for me.) Before I found planning, I was a florist. I was still working with perishables, but they're much easier to deliver than cakes! After a while, I missed being present throughout the entire wedding day. As a photographer, you're privy to so many special pockets of time, full of love. For cakes and flowers, you often drop off your delivery before guests arrive and you may not even see the couple. Weddings bring out the warm and fuzzies and contributing to making incredible weddings and memories; that's definitely what I want to do. I thought over all my interests and skills and realized, I've always loved to create and bring beauty out of everything. Additionally, I love to organize and categorize things. Wedding planning is the perfect job for me! So, I went to school for event planning at the New York Institute of Art and Design and started Ybarra Events with my husband, James.
What inspired you to start Ybarra Events?
Once I finished up schooling, I thought about whether I wanted to work for an established business, or if I wanted to start my own company. Even though it's the riskier and more difficult path, ultimately, I chose to start from the ground up. I wanted to create a brand I could be proud of and something I could hand down to my children. Creating this business meant starting a legacy of excellence to uphold. I wanted a brand that, when other vendors in the wedding industry heard the name, they knew their clients would be taken care of, as well as themselves. I had worked within the wedding industry as multiple other vendors, and the planners usually get a "bad rap," labeled as demanding and rude. As a wedding planner, I take care of the other vendors as much as I do the clients. Everyone should feel they are important, appreciated, and a priority. If you think back to the jobs you work the hardest for, they were often the ones you enjoyed the most. Other vendors are our co-workers and creating an enjoyable environment of trust makes for a successful wedding day. If the other vendors respect me and I respect them, we're more likely to work well together and do a better job. In turn, that creates a perfect wedding day for our couples as well.
If you could change one thing about the weddings and special events industry, what would it be?
I wish all couples could afford whatever their hearts desired. I work with clients with all budgets, ranging from $25,000 (or less if we include intimate weddings and elopements) to wedding budgets of $200,000 or more. Every client I've worked with has an image in their minds of their perfect day. I love helping them create the guest experience they want, but sometimes we have to make adjustments to fit within their budget. It'd be lovely if I could create everything we imagine together.
How does using Aisle Planner help you deliver the client experience you want to?
Aisle Planner has been such a wonderful tool in escalating the planning experience for me, my clients, and other vendors. I use Aisle Planner to organize my brain, share information, collaborate, and design. It helped take my business to the next professional step. Aisle Planner has allowed my business to go green and embrace working digitally with clients. I love the platform! It's easy to use and always bettering itself, even after I think it couldn't get better!
What's your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
That's a really hard question to answer! I think my favorite Aisle Planner feature is probably the timeline… or the checklist… or the budgeting tool… Ah, I can't pick! Okay, the checklist. I love that you can divide and assign duties as well as set up notifications to alert you when tasks need to be completed. It helps keep me, clients, and other vendors on track.
What would you tell someone who's thinking about becoming a wedding and event planner?
I'd tell them to get certified. It provides so much information and tools to become successful. Then they need to get Aisle Planner to implement those tools they learned! It really helps with branding and presenting yourself as a professional.
What do you think will change about the weddings and special events space over the next five years?
Over the next five years, I'm interested to see how we navigate the social distancing regulations. There are a lot of ideas being passed around on how we can get wedding receptions back and running. As for what I see changing in the next five years outside of current events, I think couples are becoming more focused on the guest experience and less on making sure they're the center of attention. Wedding couples are wanting to treat their family and friends to a weekend of fond memories to enjoy for a lifetime. I love coming up with engaging ideas for couples to really create a unique experience. This is an opportunity to represent yourselves to your "community" as a couple for the first time. You should always weave a bit of yourselves in the day in little ways. There are no rules to what traditions you need to uphold, or what those traditions look like coming from you as a couple. It's more fun if we play with the traditions and tailor them to the couples!
What’s your personal philosophy on becoming a great wedding and event planner?
It's as simple as customer service. We extend our excellent customer service to our wedding couples, their family members, and friends, as well as to the other wedding vendors. If we work hard to never leave anyone hanging and show our appreciation of their hard work, the vendors will be more inclined to reciprocate. If we're as responsive as possible for the couples, helping them with contacting vendors, or with design ideas, budgeting, etc., they'll be less stressed and have a more successful event.
What lights your creative fire?
Oh my goodness, the couples! I love love love the different ideas, styles, preferences, fusions, all of It! Bring me your quirky and out-of-the-box, your timeless and classic! Every planning experience is such a pleasure, learning about couples, and creating their special representation of themselves through their wedding. I could do this job forever!
Is there anything you're particularly excited about working on this year?
I'm working on an out-of-the-box wedding that I'm really excited about. It's been postponed to 2021, but we're suspending the cake so it's displayed hanging, rather than on a table or wine barrel. We're also creating a champagne and appetizer wall. There will be champagne hanging from a hedge as well as spoons with appetizer bites sticking out of the hedge for wedding guests to enjoy.
Just for fun
What’s the most used tool in your emergency kit?
My sewing kit, band-aids, or Tylenol/Advil.
I’m dying to design a wedding or event in…
The snow! I generally plan events during the spring, summer, and fall. Occasionally, I book a winter wedding, but it usually doesn’t embrace the cold. I'd love to plan a wedding with snow and the ceremony and dinner outside. A snowy forest could be so incredibly magical. Think Narnia—what a lovely treat that would be!
What’s one trend you hope to see more of?
There are too many to count! Here are a few of my favorites: Cutting the guest list down to be able to spend more lavishly on your guests, unique and whimsical lighting, large flowers, and going eco-friendly!
Your favorite shoes to wear on event day?
I actually usually wear my Rothy's or Toms to event days with Dr. Scholl's inserts. I love them!
If you could plan any celebrity’s wedding, who would it be?
There are multiple celebrities I'd love to plan for, but if I could only pick one person, I'd choose Emma Waston. I hold her in the highest respect. I know she's not currently in a public relationship, but when and if she was ready to jump into marital bliss, I'd be happy to help.
If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you would change about your wedding?
The temperature! It was in excess of 100 degrees. I was melting!
Want to see more from Tara? Check out her website ybarraevents.com!