Whitney Carillon, the owner and lead planner of Très Chic Southern Weddings & Events has a couple of tricks up her sleeve. The Orlando-based planner originally hails from Atlanta, Georgia where she grew up dancing ballet and getting early exposure to performing for a captivated crowd. Couple that with her time working at Tiffany & Co. (i.e. a leader in luxury customer service) and her innate Southern charm and you’ve got one pretty awesome event planner on your hands! We sat down with Whitney to pick her brain on the magic behind her events (spoiler alert: Mickey Mouse is a friend of hers) and why guest experience should always be top of mind. Read on to find out more…
Nuage Designs: First and foremost, let’s get this one out of the way, how do you get your hair to be so long and beautifully shiny?
Tres Chic Southern Weddings & Events: Well I would say, my hair has definitely become a bit of a trademark of mine. Honestly I just don’t use a lot of product. I have always had longer hair for as long as I can remember but it has been Rapunzel like over the past couple of years and it has just kind of stuck!
ND: Now that we have that covered, tell us about your story. We know you have a dance background, how did you go from that to event planning?
TCSWE: I began dancing at the age of two and had many incredible opportunities and experiences through dance over the years. I performed in many stage productions at beautiful theatres surrounded by incredible sets and costumes. I danced with the Atlanta Ballet and trained over the summers with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. Every event I produce, I think of as a stage production and no matter what happens, the show must go on.
ND: How does your time working at Tiffany & Co. inform how you work with your clients at TCSWE?
TCSWE: Tiffany & Co. is a true leader in customer service and creating an experience for their clients. From my time in leadership at Tiffany, I am inspired to always create a luxury experience for my clients and their guests. Tiffany & Co is built on brand recognition, quality, strength in originality and lasting excellence; I strive to do the same in my business but with the events I create.
ND: Originally from Atlanta, you certainly have a built-in Southern Hospitality. How does that play into your client experience?
TCSWE: Yes, I am definitely a City Southern girl. I grew up learning the finest ways of treating one another and how to not only present yourself with grace, but also how to put on one heck of a dinner party! True Southern Hospitality is being very welcoming, kind and gracious. I try to emulate this with my events, especially throughout the weekend festivities. We want our couples to create a warm and welcoming environment for their guests, which can start with a personalized note and gift in their hotel room at check in. We can carry this through all the way to the end with a send-off gift at the Sunday brunch. Even a wedding with more than 300 guests can feel more intimate when you bring in small personalized touches along the way.
ND: “Southern” is also in your company’s name – what was the impetus behind including that?
TCSWE: Growing up my parents had multiple businesses that included the word “Southern” in the name. I lost both of my parents in my 20s and as I was forming my business I decided as a way to honor their memory and their successes, I would also include “Southern” in my business name. I changed things around a bit by adding “Très Chic” to represent my then new French family for my husband’s side.
ND: Your designs are always so dreamy, where does your inspiration come from?
TCSWE: I am inspired by both current and past styles. I like to design modern styles in a timeless manner. I am inspired by everything around me honestly, from nature to theatrical sets, galleries, movies, interior designs and more. I feel that inspiration is all around us if we just open our eyes.
ND: How does (or doesn’t) Orlando and Disney World play into inspiration for your events?
TCSWE: For our events in and around Orlando, we find that many of the guests are coming from out of town so we bring a little fun and whimsy into the welcome bags at times. We also do many events at The Four Seasons Resort Orlando, which happens to be on Disney property, so we are able to bring special guests from Walt Disney World to our weddings sometimes. It can be really fun to have a black tie, super fashionable wedding and all of a sudden Mickey and Minnie come in and dance with your guests and are there to cut your cake. It’s something you just can’t do anywhere else, and we are able to bring some magic and pixie dust to our luxury weddings.
ND: How is the collaboration process with your clients? Where does the basis for their wedding begin?
TCSWE: Typically, my clients will have some general colors in mind that they like for their wedding. From there we talk about overall styles they like and then we create a mood board for them with linen choices, floral options, inspiration design. We also talk about how the music and the menu will be intertwined to create a cohesive environment. My performing background looks at every event as a stage production.
ND: We know you always put the “experience” at top of mind. How do you keep that the focus of the event in every detail?
TCSWE: We look at the experience of the event in the eyes of every guest in attendance. We look at what they will see from the moment they first get the invitation in the mail to set the overall tone of the event. Some people don’t view the invitations as being as important, but they truly are and set the expectation for your wedding! The next point of contact is in the welcome they receive at the hotel whether in the form of an itinerary or custom gift. The food we choose on the menu and the music at each stage of the night should go with the style of the event. We love bringing unexpected surprises in as well when appropriate. Every single detail is thoroughly thought out so your guests walk away thinking it was an incredible party and they had the time of their lives!
ND: Do you ever find it difficult to push clients away from “trends” and towards a more unique design?
TCSWE: In the past few years we have had many clients who wanted either an all-white wedding or the blush, gold and ivory wedding. Both of these are beautiful and elegant, but they are also very popular. We like to work with our clients to create a unique take on these styles to make them more them rather than just the same wedding you have seen done a million times.
ND: What is your advice to couples that do come to you with a “trendy” design in mind?
TCSWE: My best advice is to remember that this is your wedding and you want to always be able to look back on your pictures in 10, 20, 30 plus years and think how special the day was. You don’t want to look back and say “What was I thinking?” I always try to find ways to personalize a wedding by bringing in details that represent the couple whether it is something with where they are from, favorite foods, flowers, colors…you name it!
ND: What are some of TCSWE’s trademark styles?
TCSWE: I would have to say some of our trademark styles are an elegant and sophisticated glam. We also love to do a mix of table types with long kings tables and round tables and always encourage lounge furniture around the dance floor so those who may not be dancing fools still have a place close to the excitement!
ND: If you could plan/design a party for anyone in the world, who would that be?
TCSWE: I love my clients so it’s an honor to be a part of all of their events! But, I would have to say I would love to plan a party for the Royal family….there may be another wedding coming up in the near future with Harry and Meghan.
ND: What is your favorite thing about designing weddings?
TCSWE: I love being a part of one of the most important days in a couple’s life and helping them start their happily ever after. It is such a joy and honor to get to share in the moments leading up to the wedding and to create a personalized event for them to share with their guests! To get to see the excitement and love shared by all of their close friends and family as they see the ceremony unfold and onto the revealing of the reception is pure magic!
ND: We hear you’re a Graduate Gemologist…what’s your absolute favorite gemstone and why?
TCSWE: Oh it is so hard to pick just one! I of course love my Diamonds, but for colored gemstones a beautiful Tanzanite that is a royal blue with just a hint of violet is definitely one of my favorites! Tanzanite is only found in Tanzania and I secretly would love to go on an adventure to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and possibly find a beautiful rough Tanzanite just waiting to be discovered. Tiffany & Co is actually responsible for naming Tanzanite.
ND: Last one, because we have to pick your brain while we have you, what trends do you see for the spring wedding season? Any color palettes or themes that you’re dying to use?
TCSWE: I am seeing some color come back, but definitely still staying with the trend of greenery and white weddings. I would love to play with more colors as we go through the year. We have some weddings coming up where our brides are excited to use rich deep colors or some bright. So I think we are about to see a change for sure! We have some events coming up this year that have some personalized details and color that we are super excited for! Very Town and Country style design.
ND: Any other thoughts that you’d like to share with us?
TCSWE: This year we are continuing to expand on more Destination Weddings and going to more amazing locations with our couples. We are also doing some fun social events at the Four Seasons Orlando and are looking to expand this segment throughout the year to other locations!
Photography Leah Langley Photography, Still 55 Photography, Victoria Angela Photography, Concept Photography, Disney Fine Art Studio, Donna VonBruening, Bumby Photography, K & K Photography | Rentals A Chair Affair, AFR Furniture Rentals, FH Weddings, Nuage Designs | Stationery Très Chic Southern, Ceci New York | Florals FH Weddings, Raining Roses, Très Chic, Occassions by Shangri La | Dance Floor Let’s Dance on It | Venues Four Seasons Orlando, Vinoy Renaissance Hotel, Bella Collina | Planning and Design Très Chic Southern