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Meet Laura Harrelson and Kayla Portillo of Back Patio Event Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Harrelson and Kayla Portillo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Following both of our weddings in early 2016, Kayla and I separately approached each other about starting our own business in event and wedding planning. After working in corporate hospitality separately and also as a team, we were craving the opportunity for more freedom and challenges!

We hesitated for a few months, navigating wedded bliss and future goals, however in the Fall of 2016 we put the research down and started making moves. By January 1, 2017, we had written out our business plan, applied to be a business and immediately started designing our website, marketing materials and most importantly networking within the industry!

Almost immediately after going live, we received our very first wedding planning and coordination inquiry via a friend referral. We recently completed that first booked event in September, and WOW it was bittersweet! Watching your first official booked event come to fruition, and so beautifully, really solidifies the passion we have for this industry. Since then and to this day we have planned and/or coordinated 13 events and weddings.

Additionally, we consider ourselves very blessed to have been approached in January 2018 by a beautiful event venue in Bonita called Sweetwater Farms. Owner and operator, Roberta Jackson, approached us after great friend and industry partner Cate Batchelor Photography suggested she work with us. Because of that partnership as the property’s onsite Event Directors, we have had the opportunity to transform a beautiful farm and ranch into a Winter White Baby Shower, Americana Bar Mitzvah, and endless, sun-kissed farm-style weddings.

Though we are still a very new company, we couldn’t be more appreciative of our friends, family and industry partners for where we are today. We would not have accomplished what we have without them. Kayla and I look forward to heading into the last bit of 2018 and the new year with 16 more weddings on the books, new advertising goals with The Knot and working with new and beautiful couples and clients to bring their dream celebrations to life.

Has it been a smooth road?
In all honesty, yes it has been a smooth road for Kayla and I. We believe this is because we took three, almost four solid months to sit down every week, write down our goals, design ideas, motivations, and hot buttons when it came to creating Back Patio Event Design.

During this process though, there were plenty of moments where our differences were present. Since we had already worked together in our prior corporate positions, we have been very comfortable talking about our opinions and working together towards one solution.

This all sounds so cliche, but we have worked very hard at communicating as openly as possible one hundred percent of the time. It has worked in our benefit since day one and has continued to make us stronger.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Back Patio Event Design story. Tell us more about the business.
Inspired by your vision, we at Back Patio Event Design create personal designs for timeless gatherings, fostering warm memories. We may have a background in corporate and non-profit event planning through local hospitality groups, however, we have the most experience recently as Back Patio in wedding planning. All-in-all, we love all events! There is nothing more exciting than watching months of planning with our clients come to fruition the day of an event. Most importantly, the smile on our client’s faces when they are having the time of their lives at their own event that they designed, and we brought to life for them, stress-free.

We are most proud of the fact that every client we have worked with thus far has walked away with no regrets. We wouldn’t be doing our job properly without offering every possible detail, design or mere suggestion to boost their event. You can certainly count on us to be uber communicative and very organized from start to finish. There may be other coordinators, planners and designers out there who are organized, creative and Type A; however Kayla and I are a mix of east coast and down south personalities who are fun, kind, honest, risk takers and most of all reliable. Our life balance rooted in live music, faith, our families and good times alone set us apart from the rest.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The future of event and wedding planning is going to evolve even more because of technological developments, new and unique venues, and less DIY. We are able to do so much from our phones alone these days, eventually, people will be ‘planning’ their entire event digitally, without the ability to eliminate distracting content. Ideas are endless, though not always new, and eventually, people are going to be so overwhelmed with the Instagram, Pinterest and other media posts they are exposed to. They will need someone to help narrow down ideas to achieve a specific design and to eliminate the clutter. That means one thing… hire an event or wedding planner!

We are already seeing venues starting to require Sales + Event Directors to require clients to hire a planner so they can focus on sales. Bringing in the professional to focus on your details and design as well as the day of event stresses and operations is going to be common knowledge. Additionally, working with one-stop-shop specialty and niche companies that offer planning, unique rentals and possibly even the venue will be the new ‘all inclusive’ offering when it comes to events.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Photographer: Cate Batchelor Photography
Flowers: Sugar Rose Flowers
Rentals: (assorted in multiple images) TBD San Diego, CC Vintage Rentals, Not My Dish, Platinum Event Rentals
Venues: Luce Loft, Morgan Run Club + Resort, Sweetwater Farms

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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