Vow-wow-wow is very pleased to present one of our own, our Co-Founder and President, Celia Milton, in a very engaging interview reposted from Sage Wedding Pros ….
Insider to Insider: Celia Milton, Wedding Officiant
What do I like best about Celia Milton? She is REALLY funny. And, given
that she is a wedding officiant, I think that is the best trait. I can only
imagine how comedic, warm and personable her wedding ceremonies must be! So
much emphasis is put on the wedding reception in our industry. But, I am still
a firm believer that the ceremony is the most important part. This is where the
magic happens: a couple makes the simple promise to love each other forever.
And, how lucky to be able to guide a couple through this pivotal point in their
lives! Celia, you really do have the best job in the world!
North Haledon, NJ
Why did you start your business?
I owned an upscale, catering company for almost 18 years (OUCH! THAT HURT!) , and as much as I loved it, I began to doubt my ongoing enthusiasm for digging guacamole out of the delivery van’s dashboard for the rest of my professional life. I needed to figure out what to do next. Having been a business owner and entrepreneur for that long, I was completely unemployable as an underling of any type.
So, I went to seminary in NYC, graduated with my Masters’, but soon realized that I wasn’t really cut out to be a parish minister with an unruly ’flock’, never ending administrative tasks and the politics inherent in any corporate situation.
I took a long hard look at my limited array of saleable skills; I love to write; I love to talk, I love to make people laugh in situations that are not typically thought of as funny. What else would I do except become a wedding officiant? It’s the perfect job, and I get to wear black, which is very slimming.
All kidding aside, I felt that ‘non-traditional” couples (gay and lesbian couples, couples with mixed religious traditions or no spiritual traditions) had no one to turn to for ceremonies that were important, joyous, and welcoming. The public declaration of a union is always a significant cultural, social and often political act, and should be treated with great care and creativity. Every
wedding should be a gift from the couple to each other, but also to their larger community. And I get to wear black, which is very slimming….I believe I mentioned that.
What book (business or soul-searching) do you recommend to new business owners? Why?
Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside, both by Seth Godin, who is a marketing genius. (Actually, anything by Seth.) He suggests audacity, authenticity and uniqueness as the biggest factors for business success. To paraphrase his philosophy ; don’t offer something for everyone; offer the ultimate “everything” to someone. Stand out. Be different. Be unique; your potential clients are
craving a singular experience that validates their style, taste, and personality. They will pay for that experience. We’re not all driving Kia’s are we? Nope…some of us are driving Jaguars.
I also love Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard; same basic philosophy…..our potential clients are so used to getting mediocre service from lackluster vendors that it is almost embarrassingly easy to stand out. All it takes is a singular commitment to impeccable, startling, and sometimes wacky customer service.
The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, which isn’t exactly what you might think, but a great read with some totally inspiring messages for anyone looking to become an entrepreneur. One of his exercises involves literally writing down every expense you have in a month. Add it up. Get rid of the stuff you really don’t need, (like 100.00 ,monthly cable bill to watch
reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Die Hard II). When you really see what it costs you to live, (which is less than you think, in most cases…) your entrepreneurial dreams won’t seem so impossible to fulfill.
Soul searching? Hmmm……Frankly, I think we are compelled to search our souls by inspirations we might never expect, though Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, Plan B, Grace Eventually ) is a pretty reliable source of inspiration, both spiritually and for the craft of writing.
Do you have any cool goal-setting tips to share with us?
You know, I’m really not a fastidious goal setter; I think that sometimes, being too focused on what number, how many dollars, what measurable progress we’ve made can stifle our openness to the next big surprise the universe has in
store for us. This is not to say that we should set the bar comfortably low for ourselves; “To Do” lists that include “Get Up” , “Take Shower”, “Feed Sparky”… those list probably won’t get us anywhere except fully dressed with a happy dog. But, at the risk of being very, very corny; life IS about the journey, not just the destination. And every interesting person, every successful professional I
know has walked a crooked path full of delightful detours.
Okay, a tip. Do something everyday. Do something that will get you closer to where you want to be, even if it’s a really little something. And do the ugliest something first, before you answer your email, go to the gym, any of the things
you do to procrastinate. Make the unpleasant phone call or the cold call; do the icky task. Call the people who you think will tell you ‘no’ ; then that anxiety is over….the worst that can happen, the saying of “no” has happened: you can move on to the person who will say ‘yes‘.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge as a business owner?
HA HA HA…. That would be actually “being a business owner”! Almost every single wedding pro I know got into the “wedding business” (an unfortunate and vaguely mercenary term), because they love doing makeup, they love baking
cupcakes, they love making balloon animals, whatever. The problem is that someone has to be the adult and send out the invoices, return the calls, pay the phone bill, or we don’t have the opportunity to do what we love. My solution to that is to make all the ‘business’ stuff as fun as possible, from the little stuff , (like colored staples and confetti printed email stationery) to the big
stuff. (My contract is the funniest contract that my couples will sign in the process of planning their wedding. The details are highly confidential, but I do have a “Dunk Tank” clause. It’s a wedding, not a memorial service. It should be fun all along the way.)
If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?
Not a thing, honestly. I think we’d all like to have more capitol and more clients from day one, but running lean is a good thing. It teaches us what we really need; it makes us depend on our creativity, and it keeps us from getting lazy.