We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Hronek and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My love of planning weddings and events comes from a zeal for creating opportunities for friends to meet, have fun, and connect. Even from a young age, I was fascinated by experiences that created community – whether it was attending a performance, traveling, or gathering to celebrate. I love bringing people together and watching the magic transpire between them.
When I was in high school, I visited one of my friends’ high schools. A sign above the gym said, “There are no strangers here, Only friends you haven’t yet met.” That quote has stayed with me for my entire life. I have been described as a “connector” over the years because I have a penchant for introducing people who become lifelong friends … and in my work, for connecting the perfect vendors for each of my clients.
In my early years after college when I worked as the Dining Room Manager at the Bel-Air Country Club, I would organize monthly outings for my friends. We would go to the theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, a polo match, a concert, or any other event that interested us. Eventually I planned wine tasting trips to Santa Ynez and Napa and an annual weekend trip to Arizona. Finally one of my friends convinced me to start my business – as she said, I might as well get paid for all of the events I was planning.
Deciding exactly what I wanted to do was a little tricky. Party planning, destination management, wedding planning, group travel, and catering all interested me. Because I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do, selecting a name for my business was also a bit challenging. The name couldn’t have a specific service attached to it because I knew my business would continue evolving. I came up with Joie de Vivre because I spoke conversational French (at that time) and I couldn’t think of anything in English that had a nice ring to it and meant “Joy of Life” or “Joy of Living”.
The brother of a good friend of mine was a personal chef. After we met, we decided to partner as a catering/event-planning team. He would be in charge of all things culinary and I would manage all client relations, event planning, staff, etc. It was a huge leap of faith on both of our parts, but we started booking more and more events and met with a good amount of success. My first wedding break came when one of the clients who had hired us to cater and plan a large trade-show event for their tech company, recommended my services to her good friend who was getting married. I had executed many weddings at the country club, but this was my first opportunity to be in the driver’s seat planning a wedding. I loved every minute of it. Happily that couple will celebrate their 30th anniversary this Fall!
My second wedding was the result of having successfully built strong relationships with my clients, other vendors, and being involved with MPI (Meeting Professionals International). It was a very large wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey and it went off without a hitch. Because of that wedding, the Ritz Carlton gave my name to a couple who was going to marry that Fall: Saul Hudson (Slash) and Renee Suran. Coordinating Renee and Slash’s wedding propelled my career faster than any other event to this date. Ironically, their wedding, although elaborate and beautiful, was not as complex as my previous wedding at the Ritz Carlton, but because I had coordinated Slash’s wedding, “I must be good” … and my wedding planning career blossomed.
Over the years, I realized wedding planning was my true love and I segued away from catering and corporate event planning. Starting my career at the country club and then forming a catering company provided excellent training for wedding planning and established long-term relationships that continue to this day. For many years, I have almost exclusively planned weddings with an occasional birthday party or anniversary celebration.
Pleasantly, this too has come full-circle. Wedding clients have now hired me to coordinate their parents’ anniversary parties, their kid’s bar & bat mitzvahs, out-of-town medical meetings, several galas for a non-profit organization, and on a few occasions, parents’ memorial services,. I have been tremendously blessed over the years to work with amazing people – both clients and other event professionals.
This past year has been difficult for everyone – including our industry which was one of the first to shut down, and is one of the last to open. There was a small silver lining in that colleagues and I had formed Los Angeles Elopement in 2017. We had been directing our marketing to couples who wanted to make LA their destination for a micro-wedding or elopement. When the Pandemic started, it was easy for us to pivot. We already had a website, an Instagram feed, pricing, and strategies in place. Over the last few months, we have had the pleasure of helping couples re-think their once-large weddings and plan smaller scale events, which have sometimes even seemed more special than a traditional wedding.
One of our favorite occasions was helping a couple who had been separated by the pandemic. Because of work, he was living in Los Angeles and she was living in Canada. They had not seen each other in months when travel restrictions finally loosened a little. They thought they had their elopement plans in place in LA when they realized they couldn’t get a marriage license. Faced with her having to go back to Canada for work – still unmarried – they made one last-ditch attempt by calling us. Within a week, we were able to plan a beautiful wedding with a gorgeous backdrop, and a more beautiful bouquet than she had ever imagined (and their marriage license, of course!)
As we continue to a new normal, I am looking forward to planning a mix of elopements, micro-weddings, other celebrations, and, of course, large traditional ceremonies & receptions. I find so much joy working with couples to make their dreams come true – no matter how large or small! It’s all about the experience of creating unforgettable moments.
And perhaps more important than ever before, let us remember,
“There are no strangers here, Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
~ William Butler Yeats.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
The most important lesson I have learned over the years is to listen and observe. Inspiration, knowledge, and insight are everywhere. The moment we stop learning is the moment we should stop working. Never think or say that you’ve seen it all !
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite place to take friends and visitors is the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. It is a 100 year old 120 acre historical gem with world class art galleries, impeccably landscaped gardens, and a world-renowned research institution. In the Spring, the rose garden is on fire with blooms of every color. In the winter, the camelia forest is stunning, Actually, year-round it is always remarkable. I love to spend the day exploring the gardens, taking in the art galleries, and being surrounded by beauty.
The next day, we would drive out to Santa Monica and continue up the Coast on PCH to Nicholas Canyon Beach which is a beautiful and quiet beach. We would spend the day walking on the beach, having a picnic – and swimming if the water was warm enough.
Another day we would take Metrolink into DTLA and go shopping and dine at Olvera Street.
Our culinary adventure would be to spend an afternoon at Eataly in Century City – tasting, dining, and shopping – definitely an epicurean delight!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Absolutely! Here’s a huge shout out to the amazing event professionals who created California Association for Private Events (CAPE @savecaevents) who have worked tirelessly in the past year to bring special events and weddings back to the state of California. These super heroes have spent countless hours talking with our state legislature, the California Department of Health, and local officials to create guidelines for safe events to return.
Instagram: @joieweddingsla and @losangeleselopement
Facebook: Joie de Vivre Events and Weddings and Los Angeles Elopement
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