By Raiza Giorgi
Maria Irwin has gone from one high-octane job to another by making a rare transition.
As a production coordinator of commercials for large motorsports companies, she said, she learned the skills to become a successful wedding planner.
The biggest difference, she added, is that the motorsports industry is heavily male dominated, and weddings are more female oriented.
“My job was securing a venue, the talent, producing what the commercial director wanted. It’s a lot like weddings, as it was ensuring the film shoots went flawlessly and under budget,” she laughed.
Irwin is now in her fourth season of event planning as the owner of Wünderland & Co. in the Santa Ynez Valley. Her husband, Shawn Irwin, grew up in the valley and when they married, the couple decided to live in his hometown.
“I ended up meeting a lot of people in the industry in the valley and found a lot of the vendors weren’t online. Even the venues up here were referring to Santa Barbara or Los Angeles-based vendors, which seemed off to me,” Irwin said.
She decided when she opened her company that she wanted to be as hyperlocal as possible.
“If people are coming here to enjoy the views and backdrops, why not support the local economy as well?” she added.
Irwin customizes her services for each client, and no budget and scale are out of her range. Wedding coordinators help not only in advance but also with day-of duties such as directing vendors to the right spot and making sure guests have what they need while the couple is busy getting ready.
Irwin said her job is to “keep the calm” and keep the chaos away from the couple so they can enjoy their special day.
“I want to help the couple as much as possible, ensuring contracts are written properly, vendors are held to a certain standard, so in case of emergency the couple is aware of all the information and not left in the dark,” Irwin said.
For example, if a couple books a certain photographer, they are aware that the photographer might sub in an assistant if the photographer double-books the day.
“It’s happened before, and people are caught off guard when it clearly stated in the contract it could happen,” she said.
The wedding season in the valley is mostly from March through November, and in the last year or two Irwin has noticed a trend that weddings are becoming more of an experience.
“It’s not just about the couple anymore, but entertaining the guests as well. People love the photo booth or backdrops, lounging areas and unique experiences,” Irwin said.
She also said that couples are preferring a lot of greenery, and this year is all about the flowers.
“A lot of my brides this year are seeking out a vintage look and unique furniture to add to their reception areas,” she added.
While wedding day can be intensely stressful, Irwin said, she keeps calm because she trusts her assistants and communication with the vendors to ensure a smooth flow.
“Of course there’s always something that comes up, which is why I keep a stock of essential items like extra guest books, glue, ribbon, and other stuff that was forgotten,” Irwin laughed.
Irwin recalled a wedding at the Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse when an unexpected rainstorm moved in. But the couple insisted on still holding the ceremony outside.
“We made it work, and even though most of the women’s shoes were stuck in the mud by the end of the reception, it was a memorable day for all of us. I just remember gathering up heels stuck in the mud that were abandoned and lining them up on the porch,” she laughed.
To learn more about Irwin and her Wünderland & Co., log onto www.wunderlandco.co.