How MG Hodge became The Venue Specialist
Get to know MG Hodge, Philly’s very own venue specialist, event and wedding planner extraordinaire, through our exclusive interview!
What made you want to become a venue specialist/wedding planner?
I have my Masters in Tourism and Hospitality Management from Temple University, where my research focus was on craft beer events. That led to a long career in the beer industry, then in late 2018 I decided I needed a career change.
I spent a few months both self reflecting and reconnecting with friends and colleagues from over the years, trying to figure out how I could use my talents doing something that I enjoyed, and of course make a living! I recognized the difficulty that people had in finding the right venue for their event, more specifically for weddings, and I just started running with the idea of being a venue specialist.
"I recognized the difficulty that people had in finding the right venue for their event..."
How did the idea of MG The Venue Specialist come about?
Once I came up with the idea, I started asking friends who were already married if they would have paid someone to have found their wedding venue for them, as opposed to them doing all of the research and contacting themselves. The response was overwhelming, and I realized that I had a great idea for a business!
"I realized that I had a great idea for a business!"
What excites you most about the work that you do?
So many elements! I love working with the venues and cultivating relationships with other event industry colleagues. I love being able to problem solve and think outside of the box to offer my clients suggestions and solutions that they wouldn’t have arrived at on their own.
"I love being able to problem solve and think outside of the box..."
What sets MG The Venue Specialist apart from the rest?
My contiguous laugh and my niche service offerings.
What are some things most people don’t know about you?
I’m a left-handed only child who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and moved here in 2000 to attend Drexel University. I spent a year teaching English in Germany after college, and missed Philly so much I came back and have been here ever since!
"I spent a year teaching English in Germany..."
Where do you find inspiration in regards to wedding planning?
Prior to this summer (when I had to rethink my service offerings due to the pandemic) the only elements of wedding planning I offered took place during site visits with my clients. Once I provide my clients a tailored list of suggested venues, they select which ones they would like to visit in person.
Walking through the venue with my clients is my chance to share ideas of flow, timeline and logistics - allowing their wedding day to come to life. Now that I offer more services for microweddings (contacting all of the vendors on my client’s behalf), I’m still inspired by the venue. My clients have shared their vision with me, so I suggest specific venues because of their vision (and their budget!). I let the venue inspire ideas of what’s possible!
"I let the venue inspire ideas of what’s possible!"
You’ve come up with a fun virtual event called “Wedding Wednesday! Wine about it edition” - what is it about? Can we expect similar events coming soon?
I had both friends and colleagues suggest a venting session that I could host for anyone whose wedding was disrupted due to COVID.
I held the first Wine About It in late September and it went well. I wanted to keep it intimate, and it was great to have some honest conversations about how difficult this year really has been for everyone. It gave me more perspective as to what couples are truly going through, and it gave them a chance to just vent.
I have another one scheduled, but I keep pushing the date back as my schedule has been getting quite hectic! Check out my Instagram and Facebook pages for updates on any future events!
"...it was great to have some honest conversations about how difficult this year really has been..."
How has the response been to this virtual event thus far?
I actually received a significantly greater response from fellow event and wedding industry colleagues than I did from couples. The suggestion was made to host a Wine About It for the wedding professionals, and I think that’s what I’m going to have to do!
"I actually received a significantly greater response from fellow event and wedding industry colleagues..."
What are some of your favorite past events that you’ve planned?
Since I wasn’t planning events until this year, I did really enjoy all of my clients I worked with during Year 1 - 2019 to find them their perfect wedding venue. My very first clients (and close friends of mine) got married right before the lockdown this past February 29th, 2020 so to have been able to have found them their dream venue, and then celebrate right alongside them was incredible! Also planning my own wedding - so much work but it was the single greatest party of all time!
"...it was the single greatest party of all time!"
What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
It has been very difficult to be optimistic in 2020, but in April I started seeing wedding planners talking about elopements and microweddings, using the hashtag “Love is Not Cancelled”. This is what motivated me to focus on elopements and microweddings, and help couples who can’t wait another day to marry their partner. I’ve absolutely loved orchestrating these last minute, intimate microweddings, and I’m most looking forward to my clients enjoying their wedding day!
"I’m most looking forward to my clients enjoying their wedding day!"
Implementing anything new or exciting? Tell us about it!
I’ll be updating my service offerings for 2021 so make sure to check my website for updates!
"...make sure to check my website for updates!"
How has your business adjusted to the COVID situation?
With the events industry shut down in March, I took a few months to process and then in May was catching up with my friend who is a photographer. The concept of elopement and microwedding packages came up, and that’s how we came up with our package offerings. I realized that most people can wait for their corporate and other events, but when you want to get married, you want to get MARRIED!
I’ve enjoyed this new offering of orchestrating microweddings so much, that I will continue to offer this service even after the pandemic is over.
"The concept of elopement and microwedding packages came up..."
What drew you to choose this type of business?
When I was trying to figure out my next career move two years ago, I had spoken with travel agents, destination management companies, wedding and event planners, and other fields in tourism and hospitality. I loved certain elements of each job, but I didn’t like the whole package. So I invented my own!
"...I invented my own!"
If someone walked up to ask for your advice on planning events during this time and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Keep your guest list as small as possible, and hire the right photographer!
What factors do you consider when choosing an event venue?
It completely depends on what the client is looking for. Options are very limited during the pandemic, and I’ve been encouraging clients to go with venues that have both indoor and outdoor space. But I ask my clients a bunch of leading questions, sometimes about details they might not have thought about, in order to provide them with a short list of possible venues. I always include one or two venues with factors they might not have considered, just so they are able to make an informed decision.
"...depends on what the client is looking for."
Do you work locally or nationally?
With my microwedding packages, most of my clients have actually been couples who live in other parts of the country but wanted to host their microwedding in the Philly region.
About a third of my previous clients were also from other parts of the country who relied on my Philly expertise to find them the perfect Philly venue for their event!
During the pandemic I’m more comfortable working with our local venues for several reasons.
1) I've researched and visited countless venues in the region, so I'm familiar with their layouts and limitations
2) Every state has different COVID restrictions, and it's a lot of work just keeping up with the state of PA and the city of Philadelphia!
So the short answer is I work with clients across the nation, but for right now, I'm just working with local venues in the Philly area!
"...for right now, I'm just working with local venues in the Philly area!"