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Meet Wedding Academy Student And Wedding Pro Samantha

  1. Today we have the absolute pleasure of introducing you to one of our wonderful Wedding Business Launchpad students Samantha Withey. And she is also the founder and wedding pro of her sustainability-focused wedding business, Willow & Rust Weddings.

We recently interviewed Samantha to find out what she’s been up to and to discover more about her specialist business offering.

Last year you launched your Wedding Planning and Styling business, Willow & Rust Weddings specialising in sustainable outdoor events. Can you tell us a bit more about what drew you to this niche and the experience you offer your clients?

I have always loved nature and the outdoors and this was further cemented by my time living in Australia. Our own wedding was planned as a fusion of these two countries. It was whilst organising our wedding that I realised planning an outdoor sustainable wedding was actually quite difficult. Finding all of the suppliers needed for a dry hire venue and on top of that looking for like-minded people with a similar ethos took a lot of time and searching.

There is also a feeling that to be sustainable you have to go down the rustic route, style wise, and I want to show that this is not the case. You can have a beautiful, elegant wedding with a reduced impact on the environment. This is where my niche came from, I wanted to use what I had learnt to help other couples have their dream day in a more sustainable way.

I like to offer my couples a very personal and unique service. All of my packages whether Planning or Styling, or both, can be tailored to a couple’s exact needs. I can be there from the very start of their journey to the moment the dancing starts on the day, or anything in between. I like them to think of me as a friend and that nothing is too much trouble and there are no silly requests. 

photo by ekr pictures

Sustainability is a hot topic right now. We’d love to hear your thoughts about how as an industry we can make weddings more sustainable and why it’s so important to today’s couples. 

Sustainability is a real buzz word in the wedding industry at the moment and so it should be. A wedding can have a huge impact on the environment and when you think how many weddings there are all over the world every year, this impact becomes immeasurable. Couples are becoming more aware of this and therefore it is more important to them, I think this is one reason, aside from the pandemic, why smaller more intimate weddings have become more popular recently. However, a lot of couples don’t know where to start and this is a huge stumbling block.

I believe that a more sustainable wedding is about taking things step by step, don’t try and do everything at once or you will be overwhelmed and possibly give up. If you take each element of a wedding, or a wedding business and work on that one thing and then move onto the next, you will slowly reduce the impact on the environment bit by bit. For example with a wedding, the first things to think about are the venue, the time of year and the number of guests. If you can work on making these three things as low impact as possible you have a great basis to build on. There are lots of tips on how to do this on my blog. It’s the same with a business, three things you could look at first are where you work from, your premises, who provides your energy and who hosts your website, for example. 

Tackling things bit by bit, one thing at a time is the only way we are going to make a real difference to climate change and the environment and not get overwhelmed.

Photo by Dani Louise Photography

You’ve recently made it your mission to help wedding suppliers and couples alike learn more about sustainable and environmentally friendly weddings. Can you tell us more about your Eco-conscious Wedding Network and how people can join? 

I decided that I wanted to build a network of like-minded people that have the same ethos, whether that’s couples or other wedding businesses. I wanted somewhere that we can all come together and share ideas and knowledge and build a real community. This is when The Eco-conscious Wedding Network was born. This is a group on Facebook for both couples and wedding suppliers. Couples can meet like-minded suppliers and get tips, ideas, and help on how to make their wedding more sustainable and wedding businesses can join to link with couples and also to learn more about how to make their business more eco-friendly. My hope is to eventually launch a learning platform for wedding businesses that want to be more sustainable and reduce the impact they have on the environment. So, if anyone reading this wants to join us please come and find us on Facebook.

Photo by Dani Louise Photography

You’ve planned and styled some really impressive wedding inspiration shoots, and all in the year Covid hit! With your work featured in some amazing industry publications and blogs, you’ve built up an amazing portfolio of work in a short time frame. What’s helped you achieve this success? And do you have any styled shoot tips you’d like to share with our readers who are perhaps planning their first shoot? 

I spent so long in the first lockdown working on the business side of Willow & Rust, but with no creative outlet, that once lockdown was lifted I had so many ideas for shoots. It was just a case of getting out there and doing it. I found once I had done my first one, which I was really nervous about, and that went well I was so excited to get my next one planned! My first two shoots were picked up by Rock My Wedding and Whimsical Wonderland Weddings, which was amazing and really showed me that I was good at what I was doing and inspired me to keep going.

I think it’s important to build up your own little network of people you like working with and have a similar style and ethos to you. It’s also good to vary who you work with so your shoots all look different, but the more shoots you do the more your network grows until you can pick and choose different combinations for different shoots depending on the concept.

For anyone planning their first shoot I would say, don’t worry about being too formal. I approach most people to start with on Instagram, I find people tend to reply more quickly on there than via email. Make sure you have a good mood board and concept to send to potential collaborators as this will really help to get their buy in. And don’t worry if you get knocked back, if people don’t want to be involved then they’re probably not right for the shoot and you want people who fit with you and the concept. Don’t use someone just because they have approached you if you don’t think they are right, stay true to you.

You’re an active member of our student community Facebook group. What have you enjoyed most about studying with the Wedding Academy and what are the most important lessons you have learned? 

I have absolutely loved studying with the Academy, I just love the support from Kylie and the other mentors as well as my fellow students. I always feel so inspired and motivated after live sessions. I would never have jumped and taken the step that I had been dreaming of if it wasn’t for the Academy. The course is so comprehensive and covers all parts of starting a business, not just the wedding side. I had my own business previously but always struggled without the business and marketing knowledge. I now feel with Willow & Rust that I have the foundations in place to build my business properly and successfully. 

photo by ekr pictures

Launching a business during a global pandemic must have come with its challenges yet you’re doing an amazing job of building your community and getting your work in front of couples. Any standout moments for you from the last year?

Many people would think I was mad for starting a wedding business in the last year, but I honestly believe that for me, it was the best time. It gave me the time to start from the beginning and get everything in place before launching without the pressure of finding clients straight away. 

My standout moments would have to be finally launching my website that I completely built myself from a blank page. And seeing my shoots featured in so many amazing blogs and publications. I feel so proud every time I see my work featured! Of course, I couldn’t do it without the support of my amazing network of suppliers. 

You should be so proud of all you’ve achieved in the last year Samantha! Thank you so much for sharing your story and your beautiful work with us.

Main blog post photo by ekr pictures.

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