Now that it has been 15+ years in business as a Wedding Planner, it happens to me more and more often that people I meet along the way take it for granted that my weddings have always been very high target, or even millionaire, or that they are under the impression that we only do such events. That they tell me “of course, it’s easy for you, you have THOSE clients“… without reflecting on the fact that, like everyone else, my story was a Start-up that started from nothing in 2008, from an original intuition, and that those clients did not fall from the sky but were desired, sought and finally found thanks to a dream, yes, but also thanks to risks that I took over the years.
One, in particular, has marked my path.
It was 2013, and it is a story that, however intimate, I love to tell my students during my EMEX Academy because I believe that any of us, in life, face moments in which we find ourselves at a crossroads. It is a not-so-short story, which I tell you in a dedicated post here, but it comes at a moment when-after stopping, looking inside, and risking everything by “putting my face on it”- I decided to transform Elisa Wedding Dream into Elisa Mocci Events.
No one (apart from my father, who supported me with his wise advice at that time of crisis) knows that at that time, it was precisely the Wedding Dream that I was struggling with. Years earlier I had chosen a name that made people dream, but my entrepreneurial dream, although from the outside incredibly successful-in a very few years I had invented, in Sardinia, a market and a profession that did not exist-was turning into a nightmare. Too many couples to manage at once, weddings with little budget and so many demands, nonexistent administrative and legal assistance given everyone’s lack of experience in this new field. I was under the impression that I was working so much, tirelessly, without earning the right amount of money and without allowing myself a day off for fear that my clients would get the impression that I was unavailable to them. I had adopted a 24/7 business model that did not leave me a moment’s respite.
I remember one night, at yet another Whatsapp at 3 a.m., I got so tachycardia that I thought, “I’m going to die here!” I was not happy to receive calls from some clients, they did not respect me as a professional, and I felt that they would not appreciate my efforts to please them, even though we were over budget-their demands were increasingly out of proportion, and never an ounce of gratitude.
I had studied so much, struggled so much, but I could not fulfill my potential as a designer, except by self-investing and losing all possible margins from each job. Everything was due, everything all inclusive. Even having to respond immediately to a late-night text message. It made me anxious to think that my life, given the cyclical nature of Wedding Planning work, was already organized, FULL, for the next 18 months.
And at the end of that night, I realized that I had to stop, and reorganize my life, and my profession.
In three months-which fundamentally changed my view of this work-I decided to do something I had been tremendously afraid of unplug:
I sent one last email to all my 2014 spouses, saying, “I have to stop, I’m not well. And if I’m not well, I’m not in a position to be able to best manage a delicate moment like your marriage.” I gave them two choices:
Everyone wanted their money back, some sent a couple of letters through lawyers, I was broke and in tremendous fear that I had screwed up a career and my life. I was 25 years old, a rent, the lease on the van, bills to pay, a co-worker and… 13 furious married couples. Only two of them agreed to wait, with one sentence that I will always remember: “You are the value we want to add to our event, otherwise we will do it ourselves as, for that matter, has always been done for decades now. Take all the time you need.”
In my heart, I hoped that they would all leave me, to be truly free, unencumbered, period. Only several months later did I realize that those newlyweds were MY newlyweds, what I was looking for, and theirs was one of the most beautiful marriages ever. But that’s another story….
THERE WAS SPACE, in that planner, which suddenly from extremely rich, messy, fatigued had become a blank canvas, a sum of gray lines and white spaces that I could finally choose to paint as I wanted.
Terror gave way to excitement, to possibility. I didn’t know if I would continue as an entrepreneur, not sleeping at night from the thoughts, the fears, the bills at the end of the month. I wanted to understand what was beyond the sea of my island, in the world. So I did a Google search, “The best luxury wedding planner in the world,” and I started looking around, opening dozens of sites of the real Rockstars of the world Wedding. The more I looked at those wonderful, lavish, detail-rich events, the more the desire grew in me to one day be like them, and at the same time the feeling that I had no idea how to do it, as small as I felt in my own little reality. I took courage in both hands and wrote a sincere letter to some of them, in which I introduced myself, and asked if I could do an internship -even a free one- with them. New York, Atlanta, Dubai… it didn’t matter, the important thing for me was to get out of my own world and experience the thrill of being part of something bigger, questioning myself, but most importantly learning from the greats.
What happened amazingly, was that they all responded to me, immediately, and the reaction, from all over the world was unanimous: “okay, YOU’RE IN!”. I was young but already with many years of experience, a decent portfolio, albeit of small weddings and events, and I was ready to go.
I was jumping with my heart in my throat from room to room, opening suitcases, dancing … and when the excitement died down, I looked around, and perhaps for the first time I had a sense of what I had really built.
I didn’t have a “rent to pay,” I had a HOME OF MY OWN. I had no lease, but a car of my own with a beautiful logo on it, carrying things of mine inside my warehouse filled with objects, projects, labors. I had furniture of my own bought during tiring ship crossings to fill the van with dreams and Billy bookcases to assemble. My cats. Where were they going to go? What would have happened to all this stuff, I would have had to leave the house in two weeks at most.
“You must be crazy to leave everything you’ve built,” they said. “You, with your talent, want to make someone else money when you can make it yourself? It’s weird,” they told me.
“But I’m stranded, I’m not happy, what do I need to do to take my Wedding Planner and Designer business to the next level?” replied I.
There were no secrets, just a new point of view. And some, very valuable advice that I share in my Academies. But most of all, a new motivation, born from regaining my confidence because the greats in this industry had told me “you can do it! You MUST do it.”
I gave myself three months to revolutionize my business model, and if at the end of that New Year’s Eve I didn’t succeed, I would close my business for good and leave to work for someone else.
THE BRAND -I didn’t have to hide anymore, I had to put my face on it. Elisa Mocci Events bore my name, without fear. Events was my “little shield” back then. Not only weddings (I was overdosing…) but the possibility of opening up to other markets fascinated and motivated me.
THE SITE – dark colors, more elegant, totally in English, to consolidate the network of Destination Weddings in Sardinia. I did it personally, as all my sites do. I had no images of incredibly luxurious weddings to show. But I wanted to convey the idea of luxury and excellence that my island, with my touch, could give. I chose an iconic image of my first sailing ship wedding, at sunset, that would remind me of the enormous challenges my wedding staff and I had faced in those years. “The Luxury Event Experience” was my slogan. Sought after days and days of thinking, rehearsing, researching to make sure no one else was using it in Italy. And then a year later it was copied to me by a competitor not even too far away. Even that, in the business world, is a risk.
ME – Everything started with me. Who I was, what I wanted. The fear of never saying no lest I lose a client, disappoint newlyweds, get out of work. Learning to say NO was the biggest effort that, even today, I have to make. Giving a limit and setting my energies on working hours, if not standard, at least humane. And getting the client used to the fact that after 7 p.m., barring (real) emergencies, it’s family time.
DREAMING EVEN BIGGER – expanding the international network and investing in events and my training from the best professionals in the world.
And a few weeks later, having launched the new site, came a vague request like so many others, for a quote and a meeting in Porto Cervo. They did not give me more information as I had requested, and moving like a spinning top without knowing if it would be worth it was no longer in my modus operandi. It was winter, I proposed to them to come and see me in my office in Sassari. Yes, the name Porto Cervo alone was enticing, but too many times over the years it had been a mirror for the larks causing us to waste time and energy.
The bride-to-be came to my office with her family. Elegant, but discreet. They were Lebanese, living in Dubai, and she dreamed of a romantic – not too lavish – wedding. They had already chosen the location, the Hotel Cala di Volpe, on the Costa Smeralda, one of the most coveted places in the world.
For those of us who, like me, were born and raised in Sardinia, the Costa Smeralda it is a mirage that very few of us manage to reach in prestigious locations. We grow up convinced that it is reserved for the rich, sure, and for those who come from outside to buy villas and moor pharaonic yachts. Getting to hold an event at the Cala di Volpe is one of the highest accolades for those in the events business, let alone me!
I knew what that choice meant, I knew how much it cost, that choice. Weighing the words, I asked why he had decided to come and have a chat with me, when he could have the best Wedding Planners and Designers in the world.
She told me, “Because you are local, and an expert in your destination, because you have a great reputation, and because you offer something I have not perceived from others: you design unique events with details and sets handcrafted personally by you. My guests have it all; they know the best of everything. I want to give them a unique, uncommon experience where every detail they will see and take home is designed, handcrafted by you for us and them alone. That to me is true luxury.”
I knew it would totally commit me for months to come, a huge job, and “fate” wanted my schedule to suddenly be free. With my heart pounding, I timidly asked about the budget they planned to allocate for the event. I had to hold back a shiver of excitement when the answer, most elegant and completely natural, was “around one million…“
Discover their incredible wedding story here!
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