Valerie Gernhauser Interview with Borrowed and Blue

Being a wedding planner and designer means spending a lot of time asking other people questions, so it was nice being able to turn the tables and have someone ask ME questions! Helen, the New Orleans Market Specialist at Borrowed & Blue, reached out to me to learn a little bit more about my business, and about New Orleans in general—and I was happy to help. As Helen says,

French Quarter Black Tie Wedding

“Borrowed & Blue is your online guide to finding amazing New Orleans wedding vendors and inspiration, and when it comes down to pulling off the fantastic event that is your wedding day, you’ll need a set of classy event professionals to make it happen. That’s why we always advocate for hiring an amazing wedding planner, designer, or coordinator like Sapphire Events! Valerie and her team are a tight-knit events team who execute truly flawless events on a regular basis. You can trust this crew to keep a cool head on the day of your wedding, and throughout your planning process! I was so thrilled that Valerie was happy to do this Q&A with us so we could learn more about their process.”

Here’s the Q&A:

Valerie! What was your journey from lawyer-to-be to event planner?

Becoming an event planner was never something I envisioned myself doing, but now that I am in the industry I could not imagine a better position suited for my skill set! I moved to New Orleans a month before Katrina to attend law school at Tulane. I met my husband there (a New Orleans native) and in 2009 after graduating law school and passing the bar, we married on the rainiest day on record (seriously – the entire Metro area flooded)! It was also the worst job market ever to find a job as a new attorney after the 2008 credit and banking crisis. Right before our wedding, I was laid off from the small firm where I was working, and when we returned from our honeymoon, my husband was laid of from the small firm where he was working. We felt really sorry for ourselves for about a day, then we formulated a plan to start our own law firm. Because my husband is from New Orleans, he set out to build a client base through friends and family, and I knew a lot about weddings having just planned my own, so I began coordinating weddings to help with the household income until our firm got off the ground. A year and a half later, I was nine months pregnant with our first child, underemployed in the legal field, and wondering what I was going to do with myself to set a good example for my unborn child. I sat up in the middle of the night with a plan to start my own event planning company, call it Sapphire Events (I am a September baby and it is my birthstone), and set out to be the best event planner in the city. The rest is history! We will be five years old in September of this year, and in that short period of time we have had some amazing events with extraordinary people. Being a creative business owner truly is my passion, and I am happy to put my law degree and my artistic nature to good use!

Describe your event aesthetic in five words (or less!).

Elevated Event Design, Extraordinary Experiences.

bride and groom holding hands outside pink building with gas lantern in new orleans

What is the most important thing a couple can do to help you understand what they would like their wedding to be like?

Truly, the most important information for me is to understand how my clients live, both as individuals and as a couple. I want to know what is on their bedside table, what is an ideal date night, how and where they like to hang out with friends, what is their preferred beverage. As I get to the heart of who my clients are, I then become empowered with information that I can transform into their particular event design for the most important day of their lives. I have a very thoughtful and intentional process for doing this, and it has worked exceedingly well for us. The results speak for themselves!

Do you have advice for couples who just got engaged? What should they be doing first?

My advice for newly engaged couples is to treat yourself! Definitely soak in the excitement and revel in the moment. All of the details will come together over time but I see many brides dive in head first to planning without taking the time to reflect on the precious milestone of their engagement. Then, prioritize your guest list and determine a budget. As a planner, these are the two most important pieces of information for me in order to steer my clients in the right direction for their big day.

Blush and bashful (and all other “safe” neutrals) is my least favorite trend AND one that has stuck around over the last two years. It is beautiful indeed, but we desperately need an injection of color in the industry! Color is so fun and can be super romantic. I’m excited to see a bit of a resurgence in jewel tones lately and cannot wait to work with my next bride who tells me she wants to bring sexy back!

bride in long veil kissing her father on his cheek with him smiling and hugging her

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

Sigh, the emotional moments get me every time! When the couple first see each other on the big day, when the bride dances with her father, touching toasts and ecstatic dance-offs…these are the things life is made of! I wouldn’t trade my job for any other in the world!

What part of a wedding is your favorite (if you had to choose)?

Receiving hugs from my clients and/or the moms and dads (and a guest here and there!) at the end of the night, because they really did find themselves relaxed and able to enjoy themselves throughout the process.

When you’ve got the day off, how do you spend your day in New Orleans?

You can probably find me at Audubon Zoo’s cool zoo with my kids during the summer, or at the Aquarium in the cooler months! When I have a day off to spend with my family, we usually take the opportunity to shut off the phones and spend the entire day together going out on the town. The sky’s the limit! For a fun night out with my husband, we love to try new restaurants and take in a show. Live music is our favorite.

green and white floral centerpiece arrangement on a dinner table in a hotel ballroom wedding reception

Do you have a favorite venue, or area in New Orleans, where you love to plan events?

There are so many! Right now we are often at the Old Ursuline Convent, but private homes and tented events have been our favorite spots to plan events lately. It is wonderful to start the design process with a completely blank slate!

Describe something that sets New Orleans apart from other places you’ve lived.

I have lived all over the East Coast, and even though I am not from here originally, New Orleans is most certainly my home. The music, the food, the atmosphere, the architecture, the people…there is always something to do and people to see. I will never tire of this city!

If you’re planning your wedding, turn to Borrowed & Blue for help finding fabulous New Orleans vendors!

All photos by Ryan Ray Photography.