Michelle Leckie, owner of Okanagan Event Planners on 33rd Street in Vernon, has long been accustomed to a fast-paced work environment, which has come in handy as she designs weddings and events during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)

Michelle Leckie, owner of Okanagan Event Planners on 33rd Street in Vernon, has long been accustomed to a fast-paced work environment, which has come in handy as she designs weddings and events during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)

Women In Business: Vernon wedding planner finds the magic in small gatherings

Michelle Leckie, owner of Okanagan Event Planners, has faced industry-wide disruptions head-on

It’s easy to imagine the challenges couples face throwing their dream wedding during a pandemic.

Now imagine you’re in the business of planning weddings while restrictions on gatherings and public health orders put a hold on grand, in-person revelries.

Michelle Leckie — owner of Okanagan Event Planners who brought her family to the valley from Edmonton four years ago — has faced that challenge head-on, opening a storefront on 33rd Street.

For Leckie, a wedding or event doesn’t have to be large to be special; it just has to have that ‘wow factor.’

From her office downtown on 33rd Street, Leckie has been designing weddings, themed parties, corporate affairs and much more throughout the Okanagan. During the pandemic, she’s pivoted her business to offer customized elopement packages for a maximum of 12 guests, to allow brides and grooms to enjoy a stress-free wedding day.

With three kids and two dogs, Leckie says running the business keeps her on her toes — but having been a nurse before becoming an event planner, she’s used to a fast-paced work environment. And as long as her work involves helping others, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her work ethic has been appreciated by others who work with her in the event industry, including nominator Lou Burke with Cheers! Okanagan Tours, whose team saw their own wedding event list shrink from 200 to five last year.

“I believe she’s a woman in business who is going to stay in business for a long time,” said Burke. “I just appreciate her resiliency and her infectious smile.”

Getting to know Michelle Leckie

What is it that drives you in your work?

There is no greater feeling than seeing the results from weeks or even months of hard work and effort. Having the collective vision of my client and myself come to fruition and seeing the joy on everyone’s face is one of the best feelings in the world. The smiles are what make this job so rewarding. It is an unbelievable honour being welcomed into a couple’s wedding journey. Since I am a problem solver, I relish taking on the challenges that arise along the way and finding realistic ways of conquering them. Doing what I love every day and calling it my “job” has been one of the most gratifying accomplishments in my professional life so far.

What are you passionate about?

I absolutely love what I do. I love the process. I love being there to calm the nerves, defuse the stress and make planning a wedding the best experience possible. Finding my clients, the best deals, being their sounding board, surprising them with treats along the way are all perks of my job. It is not always easy, and sometimes it is downright stressful, but it is always fulfilling. It is my goal to give my clients not only the wedding day they dreamed of but a planning experience they can look back on fondly.

How do you find work-life balance / what do you do to escape?

The nature of our business is that we work weekends for our weddings and events, and we meet with clients when they are available. Most of my meetings are late afternoon/evening after my clients are off work. To help manage this, I limit the number of evening meetings to two nights per week. Making time for my family and friends is very important to me. When I have quieter moments, I always prioritize them and make the most of that time.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I never need an alarm clock! I am always awake at 6 a.m. and love sitting with a cup of coffee in the silence before the chaos of the day begins. There is such a peace to the morning that I cannot find at any other time of the day.

What advice would you give to young women who are interested in your field?

Follow your passion! If you can dream it, you can do it. Do not let fear prevent you from starting. The more present you are in the industry, the more people you connect with.

Network with other women in business. Have concrete goals. Do not forget to give back when you have the chance. Learn to embrace rejection — it happens, but it can be overcome.

women in business