Photo shown above by Innis Casey Photography
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
The wedding day is meant to be one of the most beautiful, memorable and special events in a person’s life. A lovely location, flowers, delicious food and the betrothed couple bedecked in their nuptial finery are all necessary elements for this most splendid of occasions. But a wedding holds so much more on its tulle-and-lace-draped shoulders. This is a place where the personality, culture and values of the couple take center stage, and no two celebrations are alike.
To truly create the wedding of someone’s dreams requires an extraordinarily personal touch. Such careful craftsmanship is the raison d’etre of Wheat and Honey Events.
“We like to be available to our brides and grooms from the time they hire us until the end of their wedding,” explains owner Annette Kirkhuff. “A lot of people say I’m like a Mama Bear — I care about their weddings as much as their parents do.”
Bringing a vision to life
Wedding coordinators come in all flavors (and price points), of course. There are those who will help you on the big day, directing florists and caterers, getting guests seated and prompting the walk down the aisle. There are those who will work with the couple for a month or so beforehand, helping to organize and finalize the details. But Kirkhuff prefers to work with her couples for a year or more, to make sure every aspect is handled without a hitch.
“I’m not a fan of the ‘coordinator for a month or a day’ model,” she says. “We spend a lot of time together. I need to understand their vision and their ideas.”
Wheat and Honey is based in Simi Valley, but puts on weddings (and other events) all over Southern California. Often, Kirkhuff comes on board once the couple has set a date and booked the venue — although she’s also been the one to help them find their location, too. Regardless of which comes first, Wheat and Honey is involved throughout the entire planning process.
“We work with the bride and groom from the beginning to the end,” Kirkhuff confirms.
Communication is key — to get a sense for what the couple is imagining, but also to get to know them. What do they like and dislike? What are their challenges? What kind of budget do they have, and what are their top priorities? Kirkhuff is fully available to offer advice, support and expertise to hammer out all the details.
With an excellent eye for design, Kirkhuff will execute the look and feel of a wedding that reflects what the couple envisions, whether that’s a sophisticated black-tie affair or a rustically elegant outdoor soiree. But first and foremost, she sees the design process as a group endeavor.
“We like to collaborate with our brides and grooms to make their wedding personal and collaborate on design,” she says. “When they walk away, they can feel like it’s *their* wedding.”
But Kirkhuff’s skills go way beyond the look of the event. She’s fully prepared to guide her clients through every step of the wedding planning process. Where and how to spend their budget, finding the right vendors (from rentals and caterers to photographers and florists to hair and makeup people), where flexibility might be required.
“We get an idea for a budget and a vision and prioritize vendors — what’s most important? We don’t want any surprises on the day of . . . .[Couples] spend a lot of money on these weddings. They need to be executed the way you talk about.”
Personal touch with years of experience
Kirkhuff grew up in North Hollywood, and came to Ventura County in 2008, working for Command Performance Catering. As the sales and event manager, she flawlessly executed around 150 events a year. A photographer friend, who had seen Kirkhuff in action, noted that she had more to offer than just catering skills. Eventually, she decided to take a risk and branch out on her own.
In 2016, she opened Wheat and Honey Events with her daughter, Katie, who had run a small company called A Day to Remember. (Katie now lives in Texas and operates Wheat and Honey Events in the Dallas area.) With years of experience under her belt and a solid reputation for professionalism and customer service, she quickly established Wheat and Honey as a leader in the industry, putting on dozens of wedding, corporate and nonprofit events every year. For 2022, the company has been nominated in no less than three categories — Best Overall Vendor, Best Event Design and Best Wedding Planner — by California Wedding Day magazine.
Kirkhuff’s knowledge of all things related to events no doubt plays a role in Wheat and Honey’s success. But it’s her personal touch and genuine love for what she does that has couples clamoring for her services when they’re ready to tie the knot.
“It isn’t just a job for us,” says Kirkhuff. “I spend a year with the bride and groom and we say goodbye at the end of their wedding. We miss them! Developing the relationships with vendors as well as families is one of the things I love most about this business.”
Planning during a pandemic
“When the pandemic hit, it affected our business . . . along with every other business in the world,” says Kirkhuff.
The weddings may have been put on hold, but she was still there for her couples, who needed her more than ever.
“We worked with clients to move their wedding dates into 2021. Some we’d been working with for over 30 months! We all work together in this industry to make this as smooth as possible for our clients.”
Kirkhuff kept busy with some style shoots and mirco-weddings, but never stopped letting her clients know that they were valued and still had her support. Again, that personal touch for which Wheat and Honey Events is known was a balm to many couples nervous about COVID, their weddings and everything else.
When vaccines became available, weddings were back on the books in 2021, and it hasn’t slowed down since. According to Kirkhuff, clients are pleased that things have opened up even more in 2022, with mask mandates dropped, for example. But there are still conversations to be had in the wake of the coronavirus
“We talk a little bit about if COVID hits again,” she explains. “We have clauses in our contracts to protect our clients, too. And of course, we are fully compliant with all health and safety regulations.”
A few things Kirkhuff emphasizes again and again about the wedding process: Communication is incredibly important, and the vision of the wedding couple is paramount. Kirkhuff also feels very strongly that the betrothed should be able to *enjoy* their big day . . . not feel stressed out about it. From start to finish, Wheat and Honey Events will guide, advise and support clients through every aspect. As Kirkhuff states on the company’s website: “We at Wheat and Honey Events . . . allow you to be a guest at your own event.”
“A wedding coordinator and planner needs to have a hospitality heart,” Kirkhuff insists. “Couples should see happy faces from all the vendors and guests to make sure their day is a loving day. And they need to know that it’s all organized — so they can relax.”
Wheat and Honey Events, email@example.com, 805-624-9350, www.wheatandhoneyevents.com.
hed// Trends for 2022
Annette Kirkhuff of Wheat and Honey Events is quick to say that every wedding is as unique as the people getting married, and trends can be hard to determine. But there are a few things that seem to have become popular the last few years.
dek// White on White
“White is really big . . . People are doing a lot of white weddings, with white colors and white florals, or mixing white with soft florals.”
She attributes some of this to the prevalence of Pinterest and Instagram, both of which are “huge in our business.” A bride sees a photo of something she likes, and tries to emulate that. And on these platforms, “white has been big these last two years.”
dek// Colored suiting
Interestingly enough, she is seeing more color showing up in menswear, and a move away from high formality.
“I’ve seen a lot of tuxes with color . . . and more casual weddings with cocktail attire rather than black tie.”
dek// Sleeves in style
For wedding dresses, Kirkhuff says, “Trending right now are sleeves. A lot of brides are able to have sleeves that are detachable — so that they can take them off for the reception, for example.”
dek// Breaking with tradition
As relationships and conventions have changed, so have wedding couples and parties. Weddings for same-sex or nonbinary couples are on the rise, and attendants run the gamut.
“A couple of my weddings have had flower boys and men rather than flower girls. I’ve also seen bridesmen and groomswomen.”
dek// Live musicians with DJs
“I’m finding a lot of brides and grooms bring in a live DJ — maybe a drummer or another musician playing while the DJ is spinning.”
dek// Food for thought on food trucks
Food trucks have grown in popularity, particularly for outdoor and more casual weddings, but Kirkhuff cautions against jumping too quickly on this particular bandwagon.
“Food trucks don’t work for traditional weddings,” she says. “They don’t have people serving the guests and taking care of them. Sometimes the bride and groom don’t feel like food is their priority, and that’s fine . . . However, it’s important to have really good service no matter what you’re eating.”