Balancing Beautiful Events and a Beautiful Baby
Speaking with wedding and event planner Ashley Farthing
One of Farthing's weddings was featured in Vogue!
So I’m scrolling down Facebook, trying to zone out and ignore kids’ pleas for snacks and “Fuller House” on Netflix, when I start coming across these other-worldly pictures of a jaw-dropping wedding: #oklovefest. It’s like staring at pages from Town and Country, or a Goop spread, but it’s a four-day festival described as a “Tulsan Coachella.” There’s even an itinerary: dove hunts, camping, ranch tours, food trucks, bands. There’s yoga and salon-ing for the bridesmaids, and there’s after-parties galore. The weekend caps off with a brunch flowing with Bloody Marys and mimosas. I am simply mesmerized by this exuberant bacchanale. And the mastermind behind this spectacle? A beautiful blonde Owasso high school graduate named Ashley Farthing.
Ashley is an OSU grad, a wife and a new mom, and a genius at executing logistics. She jokes she could probably run Fedex. She has learned to do what she does by working hundreds of events, starting with grunt work at fundraising events at the Tulsa Zoo. After a few years of working and honing her skills and attention to detail, she tentatively started going out on her own, doing lots of pro bono fundraising events, and word got out about her magician-like event-planning skills. A friend asked her to plan her wedding, and she laughed. She couldn’t do THAT. Too personal! But her friend begged, Ashley considered, and then decided to give it a try. Voila! Of course the wedding was a smashing success. Her wedding business was born, and raving reviews from word-of-mouth clients have made Ashley a premier Tulsa event and wedding planner. She’s been booked almost solid for years now; one of her weddings has even been featured in Vogue. Yes, that Vogue!
So, I sit down with Ashley, who resembles an angelic meshing of Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani, and ask her about her work. “It’s really about lots of hard work, long hours, and attention to detail,” she says.
So it’s not really a fairy wand and a whimsical genius? Despite the gorgeous, artistic details in her events, I am stunned to find out Ashley feels she does not have a creative bone in her body. She can’t sketch, and she didn’t minor in Fine Arts or anything like that.
“No! It’s about the relationships I’ve built with vendors all over the world who trust me and know that I am reliable and show up,” Ashley said.
Clearly there’s a lot of imagination that goes in to these stunning fetes, but Ashley insists it’s her finely honed eye and military precision. Her team makes up a to-the-minute map out of the event — a huge book — so everyone knows exactly where this flower goes, what napkin goes where, and what happens at 6:08 pm. She encourages her brides to dream big and not worry about what things cost initially. Because, for example, if a bride wants a unicorn-shaped topiary, Ashley might already have access to one, or might know someone who could build it very cheaply.
Ashley worked tirelessly the first few years of her business, and was regularly working over 100+ weeks in the months leading up to the birth of her first son, a seraphic little blonde boy named Mateo. And she knows it’s a cliche — how everyone told her that she wouldn’t know how much she would love her child -- but right away, she was blown away by her all-encompassing love for her little boy. Suddenly, she saw her work totally differently. Despite her passion, Ashley realized that she had to take projects that she really enjoyed, because every minute working was a minute away from Mateo.
Like so many of us moms discover, she finds it difficult to focus on her son at home with work emails and calls coming in from all directions, and being a distracted mom really bothered her. After a whirlwind year of finishing up big projects like the #oklovefest, Ashley has decided to winnow her focus to big projects that excite her and her team. She has discovered -- like we moms do -- how having a child makes the extraneous noise of work and life fall away; we want to focus on what excites us and makes us happy and engaged if it’s going to take us away from our babies! And, oddly, birthing a baby awakens in many of us a new energy. Watching our baby’s perspective -- the giggles and excitement about ordinary things -- expands our own vision, and helps us see the world in a new way. Ashley hopes to grow her family -- and her business -- and looks forward to the hard but joyful dance of balancing good work with time with her family.
So if you’re a mom struggling to balance work and babies, take some cues from Ashley if you can. Work hard and make that time away count. While we’re not all uber-entrepreneurs with our own successful businesses, we can strive to say no to work that feels more “con” than “pro,” even if we sacrifice some short-term profit. Time with the babies doesn’t last. A line I read back in my 20s still flits through my head: “You can write a book (or start the business or launch the website or join the circus, et cetera) when your daughter’s in college.” There’s time for all of it later. “Balance” is a relative term and unique to each person, and finding what works is part of the journey.