17: Chicago Wedding Planner Heather Vickery | Greatest Expectations

We’re joined this week by Heather Vickery – Wedding Planner, Business Coach, and host of The Brave Files podcast about her life and work with LGBTQ+ couples.

The Most Exciting Gay Thing That Happened This Week

Ok, well, not this week anymore, because we recorded this episode a little while ago. But anyway – two contestants on The Bachelor did not fall in love with him but instead quit the show to run off with each other! SO EXCITING! SO GAY!

Coming Soon: Our spinoff Podcast, Super Gay News!

Not really though because we are barely keeping up with this one and all the other crap we have going on. Like, planning and photographing your weddings and stuff.

More Exciting Super Gay Stuff: Janelle Monae’s Pynk

In other news, neither of us is ever caught up on gay pop culture, so please feel free to enlighten us. We’re stuck at Melissa Etheridge and Tegan & Sara over here.

While we’re browsing YouTube for Gay Stuff, Here’s a Fight Scene Featuring Elton John that Amanda Really Thinks You Should Watch

At least one of us is wearing pants.

(And we’ll never tell you who it is.)

Meet Heather Vickery, Chicago Wedding Planner, Business Coach, and Host of The Brave Files podcast

That’s a lot of different things, and Heather is also a mom of four. We’re wondering how she gets it all done.

Speaking of children, dressing them is hard… or is it? If you just don’t fucking care, maybe it’s not so bad.

Maine: THE Destination for Lesbian Vacations?

We’ve all been there. We’re all lesbians. (But correlation does not imply causation! That’s very important.)

About Heather’s Wedding Planning Company, Greatest Expectations

…has been around for a whopping 21 years. As her life developed, she added coaching to her offerings and works with a lot of wedding industry folks.

Creative industries can be very competitive, but Heather says the Chicago wedding scene, especially among planners, is really very collaborative. Finding our people goes a long way towards collaboration and maturity within our careers.

Surprise! Our Podcast is About LGBTQ+ Folks in the Wedding Industry!

We didn’t know, but Amanda just came out on this episode, so I guess that’s what’s happening. Anyway, it’s fuckin’ hard to find our people in the wedding industry. Vendors who are actually OUT. It’s a very heterocentric place.

What Makes LGBTQ+ Weddings Different?

Without exception, the couples Heather has worked with all thought a wedding would not be an option for them. So they are different from the start because they are finally getting to do something that they never thought they would do. And their family members are getting to experience something they never anticipated would happen.

Statistics show that most guests at an LGBTQ+ wedding have never been to one before either – so they’re learning that love is love in this beautiful way where it isn’t just a regular wedding. It’s better. It’s more special.

We’re All Scared Right Now.

This political climate is terrifying for LGBTQ+ folks and has cast a shadow over our marriage equality victories. One of Heather’s couples called her the day after the election to ask if they should move their wedding date up because of it. (Thankfully, it will take some time to reverse that decision, if it’s going to be reversed, but should we really have to fucking worry about that when we should just get to be thrilled about finding love and committing??)

Her clients ended up getting legally married in Illinois, rather than their Wisconsin destination, because Illinois is a protected state – so in case the federal ruling is struck down, their marriage will still hold up at a statewide level. (I mean seriously??? Seriously, we have to worry about this still??)

It ended up being a lovely wedding ceremony, which Heather officiated (yep, we planners get ordained just in case of emergency!) at her house. Heather’s mom happened to be at her house and witnessed their ceremony – the first time she’d likely ever seen two men kiss and definitely her first time as a guest at a same-sex wedding.

Nope, We’re Not Converting Anyone to be Gay.

Not because we don’t want to, but because THAT’S JUST NOT HOW THIS WORKS.

And we’re all disappointed that you’re not gay. Yes, you. You’d be such a good gay! Join us.

What Different Needs do LGBTQ+ Couples Have as They Plan Their Weddings?

The biggest one – that many couples don’t realize they need – is to have LGBTQ+ friendly vendors. Heather tells her couples up front, “I’m going to come out for you. I’m going to go ahead of you so that you get to just be somebody planning a wedding and you don’t have to come out this time. Because I know that we come out every day, multiple times a day, and it’s exhausting!”

“So I can take that,” she says, “and I can make sure that my vendors use the right pronouns or the right language and make it a really special, comfortable experience for my clients. Everything else is planning an event, but making sure that my clients are treated respectfully and how they prefer to be treated is really important to me. And I think that’s the number one thing I can offer.”

“Also, I plan a really good wedding.”

Words Matter. Forms Matter. Being Gender-Neutral Fucking Matters.

Heather recalls working on the wedding of Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson and his husband. A DJ sent a form to the pair without going through Heather (a big no-no) – and it was a “bride” and “groom” form. Brian’s response? “I’m not filling this form out. We’re really proud to be getting married in our home state, in our home church, and I’m really tired of having to cross ‘bride’ out to write in ‘groom’. Send me a different form.”

And it took the guy a fucking week. He claimed it was a mistake, but it was clear he didn’t have a different form.

There’s no excuse for this bullshit anymore. Do your homework, straight people.

Are You Interested in Interning for or Networking with Heather? (Or Cindy? Or anyone really??)

Stop with the copy-pasting of your form letters and the “To Whom It May Concern”s and take five minutes to look at our websites first. And offer to buy the whiskey.

Please do ask us to add language to our contracts requiring all meetings to take place over adult beverages.

We’re into that.

Heather’s Favorite LGBTQ+ Wedding Moments

Heather recalls a bride who really didn’t want to wear a dress – but her mom wanted her to. She was having none of it and decided to wear a beautiful suit. Heather had been hired by her mother, without having met either of the brides – the first and only time Heather’s ever had that experience. But this mom had only one goal in mind: to protect her daughter. To find somebody who would make the process fun and special for her daughter. And at the end of the wedding, she turned to Heather with tears in her eyes and said, “I’ve never ever seen her this happy.”

Success in the Wedding Industry is Being Able to Yes ONLY to the Right Clients for You.

It’s better for everyone. A good match between ourselves and our clients results in a much better, more personal, and more enjoyable wedding experience.

As a planner, it’s such a big part of our jobs to match our clients with vendors that fit their personalities, styles, and budgets.

Are We Drunk? Are We High?

I dunno, but this episode just got really fucking weird all of the sudden.

What Advice Does Heather Have for LGBTQ+ Couples Planning a Wedding?

Heather only has one wedding planning rule: and that’s that there are NO wedding planning rules. You don’t have to do anything just because that’s how it’s always been done. You can do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter what anyone else wants. If it doesn’t work for you, chuck it in the Fuck It Bucket.

What Should You Know Before You Contact Heather?

“If you’re going to come in and work with me, you have to trust me. You’re going to spend a lot of money for me to produce the event of your dreams and if you do not trust me, it will not work.”

When you let your vendors do what they do best and stop trying to micromanage it – you get to be present and enjoy your guests, and you get a better wedding experience. You’ve gotta let it go.

Heather Tells Us About the Worst Wedding She’s Ever Done

You know, the kind that makes you think, “Maybe I will just not ever do weddings ever again.”

PSA: We cannot control your guests. Also, neither can you.

We Ask Heather Our Random Question, G: What’s the Best Book You’ve Read Lately?

Before We Were Yours. A historical fiction book, the story of Georgia Tan. She’s widely known in the United States for creating the adoption system in the United States. She helped erase a lot of the stigma around adoption… but she also stole a lot of babies in order to put them up for adoption, so…

Here’s Where to Find Heather:

Greatest Expectations, Wedding Planning


Vickery & Co., Business & Success Coaching


The Brave Files Podcast

Stories of people who are stepping out of fear and living courageously in their lives.

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