My 2014 Review :: What Worked, What Didn’t

December 30, 2014

As I reflect on this past year I recall the word I assigned to 2014 – CONVERGE – to bring all things together.  Ha!  What a word.  But I understand where my head was when I chose that word this time last year.  I recognized that there was a big lack of balance between my personal life and my professional life and I wanted to bring it together.  As I reflect on 2014 one thing really stands out.  Not the 28 planes I traveled on to the several speaking engagements I had all over the country this year or the weddings that were planned for amazing couples or the workshops I lead or the coaching clients I had the pleasure of working with.  While all of that was wonderful and exciting the one thing that stood out for me this year was a prayer I prayed in August: Lord, change what needs to be changed and align my life with your will.

I had a long list of goals for 2014 and I accomplished nearly all of the professional goals I set for myself, which resulted in my best year professionally.  But something was not right.  Actually, a lot was not right. I tried to stay busy and distracted in an effort to push the reality of that away, but the aching that echoed in my heart only grew.  I’d be speaking on stage to hundreds about being real and using your personality as a platform in your business and afterwards people would wait in a line (an actual LINE!) to speak with me and take pictures with me and tell me how much they admired how “real” I was. Every time I heard that I’d die a small little death to myself because if only they knew that 2014 was my worst year personally. I was unhappy with the focus of my life.  It was so far from what I had envisioned and everything was about my career and my husband’s career and consequently our relationship suffered. Our kids suffered watching their parents disconnected. Not something I was obviously going to discuss on stage. With any amount of success comes a deep responsibility to be authentic and with so much chaos raging around me and so many demands and pressures I started to feel less than authentic because even though I was doing well professionally, I was struggling personally. I finally surrendered and did something I should have done long ago: I called on God.  Funny how we do that when the shit hits the fan.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, but I have this horrible tendency towards impatience.  If God isn’t making things happen quickly enough I jump in the driver seat and (attempt to) make things happen myself – except I make a big mess.  So this time around – when I decided to drive and leave God in the proverbial dust – I actually did great professionally. I thrived. God allowed me to experience a good measure of success but at the cost of relationships, my marriage being the main one.  In August, when I prayed for God to change everything, I was finally really ready for change.  And I wanted to go home (to Hanford).  I wanted to start over in the place where it all started.  Mark and I wanted to slow things down and focus on our marriage and we wanted to be surrounded by people who champion us. Weeks after I prayed for change Mark received a job offer in Hanford and a few weeks later we sold our San Diego home and moved.  In the three months that we’ve been here, it has not been easy, but Mark and I have recommitted ourselves to this marriage (again! For probably the 10th time) and to God (for probably the 10th time too – thankfully God’s love and grace are sufficient and plentiful!).  And I guess in the end it all did converge.  Different pieces of my life and my work did come together to create the full picture and I realized I had so much of it wrong.  I am beyond grateful that hitting the redo button was an option and that we were brave enough to do it.

With all that being said there were plenty of reasons to celebrate in 2014!   I would like to share with you what worked for me in 2014 (and further below, more of what didn’t).  I encourage you to make your own list and share as well.  It’s so great to look back on it at the end of the year and see where you grew and where your time was wasted.

Below is my list of accomplishments (professionally and personally) and things in general that worked for  me in 2014.  It’s so easy to play the comparison game, but please don’t.  This list is to share with you my triumphs, yes, but more so proof as to what can be accomplished when you work hard and surround yourself with really great people.  It is by no means a bragging session, as you’ll see further below that I also experienced several challenges this past year (some of which I’ve shared).  I hope this list serves as inspiration that you CAN make big strides in your business if you remain diligent, consistent, fearless and love what you do.

-I set a goal to speak 12 times in 2014 and I ended up having 9 speaking engagements this year.  I had the pleasure of speaking at Event Solutions/Catersource in Las Vegas, Wedding MBA in Las Vegas, Wedding Market Expo in Denver and St. Louis, Be Sage in Chicago, REFINE in San Diego and Texas, as well as a few times for WIPA and NACE.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE sharing what I have learned as a wedding planner and entrepreneur with others!
-I baked more this year than I have ever.  I consider this an accomplishment because I am not a baker.  I hadn’t baked in maybe 6 years prior to this (I don’t have a sweet tooth) but found that I really enjoy it (and guess who got a Kitchen Aid mixer this year?! Yup. This girl.)
-I gave more of myself to those in need this year, both in time and financially.
-I planned and lead my own workshop – REFINE – twice!  Having my own sweet group of people to teach and encourage was amazing!
-I was contacted by producers at ABC Daytime to interview to co-host a new talk show with Tyra Banks. After my first initial Skype interview they invited me to Burbank to interview at ABC studios in person. With Tyra herself.  On a mock-talk show set (similar to The View, all sitting around a table gabbing). Holy freaking moly, right?  When I get there not only am I sitting next to Tyra, but also next to Chrissy Teigan (you know, John Legend’s wife) and Cat Cora (the chef) and so many other amazingly accomplished people.  I could’ve felt small and out of my league, but I didn’t (okay – I felt a little out of my league since I was the only person who didn’t actually have TV experience); instead I was just so HONORED to be included in that group!  My ultimate dream is to have my own show – has been since I was a child – and to actually be THAT close to it, to be validated and called upon by ABC and told Hey, you’re good enough and talented enough to do this….I mean, I cried. Obviously. Even despite not getting the gig (Tyra and I didn’t have tons of chemistry) it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
-As mentioned before, we moved to Hanford, CA and bought a new house.  Best decision ever.
-I made 32 videos this year (you can visit me on YouTube here).  I still have a deep love for video as it has advanced my career so much.  I incorporated more interviewing this year which can be seen on The Wedding and Event Institute’s YouTube page here.
-I planned and coordinated my first wedding out of state in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  It went perfectly!
-I journaled.  A lot.  I’ve always been an avid journal-er but there have been quieter years.  Even though I lost sight of God’s plan for me, and assumed my own plan was better, I still talked to Him.  A lot.
-Mark and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with a picnic lunch in the same park where we used to picnic as high school sweethearts.  It was perfect.
-I coached 7 aspiring and new wedding planners from Maine, New Orleans, West Virginia, Atlanta, San Diego, and Luxembourgh! I love coaching and will continue to do it in 2015.
-We took a family trip to Legoland and the kids had a blast (especially our 6 yr old son, Brody)!
-I read so much more this year than last year.  (Book review coming soon!)
-I was better at receiving direction and discernment from those I trust this year.

I’ve already shared with you some of what did not work for me in 2014 but this list is comprised of a few more challenges I faced this year.  I am far FAR from perfect and every week frustrating struggles presented themselves.  Some are more personal than others and the very personal things I’ve excluded from this list (you’re welcome).

-The most significant thing that I realized wasn’t working for me professionally anymore in 2014 was wedding planning.  I’m having a hard time even writing that because wedding planning has been such a huge part of my life for such a long time.  This career has been so good to me and I have felt so much love through every experience. I LOVED wedding planning when I started my company in 2007.  Nearly eight years and 204 weddings and events later and I find myself more excited about teaching new planners how to successfully run their business, whether that be via coaching, speaking at conferences or at my own workshops.  The relationships with my couples and the amazing creatives I have worked with over the years has brought/brings so much joy to my life and making the decision to take a break in 2015 and reexamine was difficult. But change is a part of life and I am so excited to explore new challenges and opportunities.  I do have one wedding left in April with the most amazing couple – seriously…I am so happy they will be my 205th and last (well, for now) – wedding because they are so special to me and their wedding is going to be the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever planned.  I can’t wait!
-Traveling more than twice in one month.  I won’t do it again.
-Remember those 15 pounds I lost in 2013?  Well they came back in 2014.  Traveling so much and then dealing with the huge move took its toll on my healthy eating habits and workout schedule.
-As I’ve already mentioned, not walking closely with God this past year only made everything more difficult to manage.
-Traveling so much caused me to miss out on a lot of family time.  I will be more selective with my commitments in 2015.
-I was easily distracted by my phone countless times.
-A major challenge was the dissolving of my team as a result of my move to Hanford.  Managing things long-distance, especially once I decided to not book weddings in 2015, was something that just didn’t make sense.
-Visiting my hometown of Hanford (prior to our move) and my nephews and niece not really knowing who Tia Alison was KILLED me.
-Missing out on what’s important in life to make everyone else happy.  I only have this time.  I only have now.  I’m not going to live so carelessly anymore.


Mark Bustos – If you don’t follow him on Insta you need to (@markbustos).  He is a hair stylist in NYC who spends his one day off every week blessing the homeless with a haircut.  He shares a piece of their story on Instagram.  I love the concept of taking your gifts and skills and using them to selflessly serve others. It is beyond inspiring.  His hashtag is #beawesometosomebody

This interview with Oprah.  I know, I know…I’m a sucker for Oprah but I love her story.

Jess Connolly – Author of the blog Naptime Diaries and creator of The Influence Network.  I am a new fan and what I admire about Jess is that she encourages women to use their online influence for God’s glory.  I believe in her message and I hope to attend a conference soon.  Also – she has created an app called She Reads Truth with daily Bible reading plans that is beautifully designed (I just downloaded mine yesterday).

Oahu was the most inspiring place I traveled to this year.  I spent one of my 3 days there  just traveling around the island a little, visiting different beaches, one of which required a ridiculously steep hike to a private beach where I watched the sunset.  Well worth the fright.  I wish I could go back to that moment.

I believe assigning a word to the upcoming year that reflects what you intend/hope to happen/focus on can be energizing and prophetic.  My word for 2015 is SURRENDER.  I have worked as hard as possible to create what I thought would fulfill me; my own plan.  In 2015 my focus will be surrendering to God’s plan for me.


I made a long list of goals last year.  This year my only goals are:

1) To fall in love with God again.  Deeply in love.
2) To love others well.

I figure everything else that should happen will happen as a result of those two actions.

I wish you all more blessings in 2015 than you ever dreamed of.  I wish you all the courage to let your lights shine.




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Post Categories: Inspiration, Personal
2 comments - Latest by:
  • Makayla Coats Hi Alison, I loved reading your post about all the challenges you were faced with this year. It was very touching. ...
  • Laura Love it! Great job Alison! Real. Raw. Touching. Encouraging.

End Of The Year Blues

December 28, 2014

Christmas is gone and with its swift departure an unsettling reality lingers – the New Year.  Its impending arrival looms in these days after Christmas and many (or maybe just myself) become introspective as we reflect on the past year.  While definite excitement accompanies the arrival of a new year and fresh start, there is also fear.  I hate fear, for its debilitating effect.  Its tendency toward resistance.  But I appreciate fear too.  I value its warning.  I have learned that whenever I fear something, I’m usually on the cusp of something big and good.  Growth.  If I only knew exactly what that meant. You see, I’m in the throws of major life changes and for someone who always has “it” figured out I find myself really uncertain about what 2015 will hold for me.  This makes me uncomfortable.  As I’ve been working this out within myself the past few days (okay, the past few months) I thought I’d share with you because maybe you find yourself in the same place and reading this post will make you feel less alone.

I haven’t been in this space of professional uncertainty in a long, long time.  What is my next move? What will I be doing in 2015?  I have no idea.  But what I do know is that most of us hit a crossroads in life, be it professionally or personally.  We all come to this point where we ask ourselves Who am I?  What do I really want?  Am I doing what God created me to do?  When that impasse arrives and those big questions present themselves, how do you manage the weight of it all?  Below is how I navigate seasons of uncertainty.

One of the most difficult things for me to do when I don’t know which direction to move or what opportunities to say yes (or no) to is to just be still.  Instead, I want to do the exact opposite of stillness.  I want to stay busy and I am easily distracted, especially by social media.  So what does being still mean? Well for me, it has a lot to do with prayer.  When I’m still, I am usually in my favorite chase lounge by the fire, no music, no TV, no phone, no distractions.  It’s an opportunity for me to intentionally pray and listen, to receive clarity from God.  Sometimes I’m only still for 15 minutes, other times it’s an hour, but when I invest time into unplugging from everything I always walk away refreshed and free of the mental clutter I so often wade through.  I may not have any definite answers immediately (oh how I wish God would just TELL me: Alison, this is your purpose, this is why you are here.  Go do that.) but being still coupled with being in the Word always helps me gain perspective.

Social media can be such a blessing, but it can also be distracting and discouraging.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious do you distract yourself by mindlessly picking up your phone to see what everyone else in the world is up to?  Checking to see how brilliant and successful everyone else is doesn’t help you get any closer to solving your own personal uncertainty, especially if  you’re constantly comparing yourself to others.  Their journey is not your journey and you don’t know the whole story. As you’re seeing everyone else gear up for the new year – especially if you are entering 2015 feeling less than certain about the trajectory of your career, relationships, and other endeavors – it might be easy to believe that everyone else has it all figured out and you don’t, so something must be wrong with you.  I assure you nothing is wrong.  Everyone thinks I have it all figured out.  I don’t.  You have your own story to write and this chapter of uncertainty is only a small part of it.

Whenever I feel lost and unsure of what’s next, I learn.  Learning inspires me.  Whether it’s reading (my go-to avenue for learning), enrolling in a workshop or class, or learning a new artistic or musical skill, absorbing something new helps me out of seasons of uncertainty by inspiring new thoughts and ideas. My 10 year old daughter has an adorable art space in our garage, complete with an art desk, an easel and canvases, paints, and all these different brushes.  I’m just as excited as she is about this creative space because I have never attempted to paint something artistic…on a canvas…you know, to like hang on a wall or something.  It’s one of my goals this week and although it may turn out hideous doing something new is exciting.  (I’ll Instagram the results of my painting project – @thealisonhoward) : )  As da Vinci said “Learning never exhausts the mind”.  Ain’t that the truth.

Intentionality always serves me well.  I am intentional when I choose how my days will look.  We can’t control everything, but we can control a lot.  Just because I don’t know what I’ll be doing with myself professionally in 2015 does not mean I will sit and lament and do nothing.  My career is (was?) a piece of me, but not the sum of me.  I will choose to be intentional with my time.  I will still make videos because I love sharing what I’ve learned over nearly 8 years and 204 weddings and events with aspiring planners. I will still blog, but I’m excited to blog not only about wedding-related topics but other things I love like cooking (and eating!), the Lord, entertaining, reading, traveling, parenting, fitness, marriage, etc.  I will be intentional about spending time with people I love and admire.  I will learn.  I will try new things.  I will seek God daily and trust that He’ll show me, direct me, and provide opportunities.  And I will share my journey with you because maybe that will help someone feel less sucky, less alone.

Wherever you are – in a season of uncertainty like myself or in a season of knowing – I pray that you’ll be blessed these last few days of 2014 (and beyond).  Friends, know that it is okay to not have it all figured out.  Know that it is okay to change your mind and choose a new course.  We have this one sweet, messy, beautiful life.  Let’s use our gifts and passions to love and serve and make it as good and meaningful as we can.

Shine On,


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Post Categories: Advice, Inspiration, Personal
3 comments - Latest by:
  • Makayla Coats Hi Alison, I loved reading your post about all the challenges you were faced with this year. It was very touching. ...
  • Laura Love it! Great job Alison! Real. Raw. Touching. Encouraging.

Welcome Home

December 19, 2014

I’m sitting here in my hometown of Hanford, CA – the town I swore over twelve years ago that I would never return to again.  (This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced life’s irony.) The familiar sound of the train is whistling by and I hear crows squawking outside.  The day is cold and damp; morning fog still lingers in a hauntingly magical wintery way.   All of these things are familiar and comforting yet so new and fresh.  The last three months have been just like this moment now.  Nostalgia dominates my emotions and its like I’m seeing my hometown for the first time – and damn is it charming!  The prideful former San Diegan in me hates to admit it, but I’m starting to fall in love with Hanford.  Being back in the place where I was born and grew up is weirdly exciting and a little terrifying all at once.

Let’s start with the terrifying, shall we?

The Terrifying

1. Small town living has some major cons.  The biggest is lack of restaurants.  I was so spoiled in San Diego with its variety of cuisine.  Sushi (my favorite), Indian, Italian, Mexican….I’m dying in the food department!  Like a piece of my heart is broken over it.  There is literally only a Chili’s, an Applebee’s, a few other local restaurants (one is called Fugazzi’s and is pretty good despite the horribly slow service) – and a million fast food restaurants.  No wonder obesity is so high here.  On the upside – I’m cooking more than I have in months.  And I love cooking.  I just also love sushi.

2. I need a friend.  Yeah, it’s kinda that pathetic.  I miss my friends in San Diego and I love my built-in bestie’s (aka my sisters), but now that I’ve lived in my new (old) town for a few months I’m longing for friends.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to make friends.  It kind of reminds me of dating.  You know, like when you see a person who looks like they might be someone you’d like (say, at your kids classroom Christmas party) and so in an attempt to get to know them and see what they’re about you Facebook them and then decide to send a friend request but once sent you immediately think that might seem weird or creepy so you decide to send a message explaining why you added them as a friend, citing the fact that you have so many mutual friends…then you realize that might be creepy too because you’ve sent them a message AND disclosed that you’ve checked how many mutual friends you actually have. You wonder if you appear as lame and pitiful as you feel.  (This happened.  Yesterday.  Fer real.) Imagine my relief when my could-be-future-friend responded to my message with grace and we agreed to meet after Christmas.

3. Family.  I haven’t lived within 300 miles of my family since I was 20 years old, so being in a 5 minute radius of my parents, sisters, and in-laws…it’s been an adjustment.

The Exciting

1. Organic food DOES exist in Hanford!  Praise GOD!  Savemart (our local grocery) is no Trader Joe’s and my youngest daughter asks where Coba (our former TJ’s mascot) is every time we grocery shop, but I’m just happy I have access to organics!

2.  Weather!  Can we just talk about this for a minute?!   I LOVE that there are seasons here.  This is something I didn’t love about San Diego….perfectly sunny weather nearly all the time.  I had to create seasons indoors since life was so void of anything but summer outdoors.  Don’t get me wrong, I love nice sunny days, but every now and then a girl needs a chilly overcast day to do nothing.  It’s like God himself is giving me permission to stay in my pj’s, drink tea, listen to classical music and read all day long.  I feel more loved by God in Hanford. ; )

3. Family.  I know that I already categorized family as “the terrifying” but living near family also falls into “the exciting” box as well.  This is the whole reason we moved back and it still feels oddly surreal to SEE my family on a daily basis.  I’m loving it.  My nephews know me and even my little niece seems to recognize me now.  It makes any gripes worth it.  And my kids are happier.  That trumps everything.

Shine On Friends,

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Post Categories: Home & Family, Personal
6 comments - Latest by:
  • Makayla Coats Hi Alison, I loved reading your post about all the challenges you were faced with this year. It was very touching. ...
  • Laura Love it! Great job Alison! Real. Raw. Touching. Encouraging.


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I'm so glad you're here!

I'm Alison and I have been a professional wedding planner since 2007. After planning and coordinating over 200 events I am taking a bit go a sabbatical to regroup and focus on the events in my own life.

If you are an aspiring wedding planner I hope you find my experiences and insight helpful. If you are a wife and/or mom in the trenches, I get it and hope you feel less alone as I share my own stories of marriage and motherhood. If you are a fellow blog lover who just happened to find yourself here, enjoy!

Thank you for sharing your comments and thoughts - I love hearing from you!

Shine On,