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Meet Kelsey Smith of Kelsey Rae Designs in North County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelsey Smith.

Kelsey, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from Vanguard University with a degree in Business Administration. I knew during my time there that I wanted to get into events + weddings, but I wasn’t sure how. I set up an informational interview with the Food + Beverage Director at Ponte Winery in my hometown of Temecula, CA and was hired on the spot to be one of their wedding planners. I still to this day, thank Karon Cartwright, for giving me my “lucky break!” In my 2 1/2 years there, I coordinated over 150 weddings/events and gained so much experience. As I was starting to get a little burned out (never having weekends off!) I decided to move to Greenwich, CT and pursue a job unrelated to the events world. After going through a million interviews and not finding the “right” fit, I finally took a job doing social media for Vik Retreats, which are luxury resorts in South America. During my time there, I still felt that nudge to start my own business and pursue wedding planning. I always knew I wanted to have a small business, only taking 20-30 weddings, where I could focus on my couples, get to know them and really focus on the design of their big day. I come from a family of entrepreneurs (my mom owns her own HR company and has a travel blog and my uncle owns his own screen printing business), so I knew I had it in my blood. In my spare time in CT, I decided to get a business license and launch my website for Kelsey Rae Designs. I was up and running! After a few short months, I decided to move back to California, where my relationships were built up in the wedding world and where I thought I would have more success. I was able to keep my social media job remotely and also take Kelsey Rae Designs full time in San Diego! I saw a gap in the market for a super modern design aesthetic and ran with it. I connected with some of the best vendors in San Diego and finally found a spot that I truly felt at home at with my business. Things took off pretty quickly and I haven’t looked back since!

Has it been a smooth road?
I feel like I’ve been pretty fortunate to have a pretty smooth ride! I feel like I started my business at the right time and at the right place, because I saw a need in San Diego and filled it. Of course, I’ve had my fair share of people doubt me or be super competitive toward me, but for the most part San Diego has been super welcoming! I truly believe in community over competition and only surround myself with those that feel the same way! We’re all in this together!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business really focuses on wedding planning for a unique and modern bride. We offer Full Service Planning + Design, taking over every little detail of the planning and encompassing a pretty extensive design plan, as well as our Final Details Management Package, aka month-of/day-of planning for the bride that pretty much has it set! Although we do every type of wedding, my design specialty tends to lean more on the modern + funky side. I’m not afraid to push the limit and I dig brides that come to me with crazy ideas and aren’t afraid to do something a little different. I think what sets us apart, is that nothing is ever impossible. We want to hear our clients’ dreams and we’ll do everything we can to make it happen. We also only take a limited amount of weddings a year (we aren’t a giant wedding factory over here!) so we can really focus on our clients and provide a really amazing client experience.

I’m the most proud of being published in some of the country’s biggest bridal blogs + magazines. In my first year, I was published over 30 times which really gave my company a boost and gave me the credibility I needed to be successful. I was also featured in BRIDES and named The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2018. Such a big accomplishment in only 3 years of business!

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
San Diego has been amazing! The vendors I work with are all super cool and have a laid back vibe to them. I’ve become really great friends with so many of them and the community of creatives is incredible! I would highly recommend someone to start business here. The resources are amazing and there are small creative groups people can join, like Tuesday’s Together through Rising Tide Society!


  • Full Service Planning + Event Design starts at $5500 and is typically a percentage of the overall wedding budget.
  • Final Details Management (aka month-of planning) begins at $2000.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ashley LaPrade Photography
Jenna Joseph Photography
By Amy Lynn Photography
Plum & Oak Photo

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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