Leigh Rivera loves nice things and she also loves to design and create. And just as much as the 28-year-old loves those things, she also loves bringing a couple’s dreams to life on their wedding day.
For as long as she can remember, Leigh had always wanted to be a wedding planner. It’s not just because she loves weddings, but also because she loves the beauty involved in these romantic events and all that they entail.
It therefore was no surprise when Leigh decided to pursue a weddings-related career.
“I always wanted to be a wedding designer. I have been doing it since I have been 19 and throughout the entire time, I knew that it was a passion of mine but I never really thought I would have been able to make it into my living. So that’s something I’m very happy about right now,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Since last August, Leigh has devoted her energy on a full time basis to running her wedding planning business Whirlwind Events.
“It has been going really good. Much better than I expected. I’ve had clients from both locals and international couples,” she said.
So far, the highlight of her career has been an opportunity to be mentored by renowned event designer Preston Bailey.
“That was the greatest experience I’ve had in my life. He’s like the Beyoncé of the design world,” an excited Leigh said.
“He’s done Joan Rivers, he’s worked with Oprah, a lot of platinum celebrities. This man was basically bankrupt or two million dollars in debt late in his career . . . . Now he is a brand name,” she added.
Having benefitted tremendously from this experience, Leigh now tries to apply many of the lessons to her day-to-day activities.
“Through his mentorship programme, he [Bailey] invites a handful of people to learn his mechanics and how he achieves these large scale designs,” she said.
“This year, I was really fortunate to be able to attend that. So I had a two-day intensive training session with him in New York City. He showed us how to do everything, he shared with us all his experiences and his mistakes.”
“Whereby I don’t believe in keeping everything to myself, I would share with others [and] help others. I think that rubs a lot of people in the industry the wrong way. They don’t want people to be their competition.
“They focus on keeping other people down in order to make themselves stand out. He [Bailey] doesn’t care who copies him or does stuff just as beautiful as [he does] because he believes that his own product is as unique as it needs to be to continue to be successful. That is the mindset that I would like to cultivate as well,” Leigh said.
Leigh said since the training, her passion, drive and focus have doubled.
“I would say I am a lot more open-minded in terms of what people want for their big day. Focus on what they want more than what I’m comfortable doing. It forces me to come out of my comfort zone and come away from the traditional mindset,” she said.
Leigh said one thing she has always held dear to her heart is maintaining high standards.
“I really don’t compromise on quality in terms of the materials that I use and the attention to detail that I put into all of my jobs,” she added.
“I’m very hands on. Sometimes people ask me to do a lot of things in the lead up to the wedding. I help to fold cake boxes if you need help. I would help you to do all those things and on the day, I’m definitely hands-on making sure that everything is the way it’s intended to be,” she said proudly.
Leigh believes that there is considerable room for growth in Barbados where the wedding planning industry is concerned. “I think it will start when the people who are in the business, stop trying to keep everything to themselves and are more open to sharing and mentoring others.”
She added: “I would like to see more people take an interest in the decor of their wedding and not just have it anyhow. I like people to be more adventurous and I would like to help that happen so that in Barbados in the next couple years, we see some more elaborate, unusual designs coming across.”