In an area teeming with personality and character, we will be featuring 10 select influencers that are leaving their mark on the Northern Virginia region. Spotlights will be featured on a weekly basis and will range in industry from authors and performers to tech giants and unique business owners.
“It is not about thinking alike, but rather thinking together.” Those are the words that the Grit & Grace team have lived by since their formation in 2008.
The Leesburg-based event planning business, which offers wedding planning guidance and consulting and mentoring sessions for people interested in transitioning from a desk job to a more creative form of entrepreneurship, originally went by the name Events in the City, but have spent the last few years rebranding.
For Principal Event Designer Laura Ritchie, the inspiration came from her late mother. “In her diary, she wrote that she’d like to live her life with grit and grace. … I feel like that rings true to who we are. We’re the first people in the room to help set up, we are doing things with a smile. … We love the pretty things, but we’re not little princesses sitting on the side.”
Fellow Principal Event Designer Christie Yerks wholeheartedly agrees. “There’s definitely a perception out there that your wedding planner is in a perfectly-pressed dress running around with a headset on, and that everything goes according to plan. [But] there’s a lot of actual real, hard manual labor, long hours and days that require that grace.”
The three women who spearhead the company were all born and raised in the Northern Virginia area; Ritchie spent 10 years in the event planning industry, through which she met Yerks at an event they co-coordinated about nine years ago. Event Manager Brittany Hagaman came onto the scene fresh out of college, having worked as an intern for them while she was a student.
Ten years of Grit & Grace has armed these women with a thorough knowledge of the business world’s inner workings, a knowledge they are more than happy to share with others. Above all else, they emphasize opening up to the change and the new experiences that will come with it. “Every weekend we learn another thing we didn’t know before,” Ritchie says. “So remaining open and humble, just making that leap and asking for help to learn those lessons is paramount.”
With workshops at Alexandria’s AR Workshops and Georgetown’s Foster Creative, the trio value imparting their wisdom as much as they do practicing it. “By being strong, powerful and encouraging women in this industry, we want to breed and share our knowledge too—not just keep it to ourselves,” Ritchie adds.
Although Grit & Grace’s primary specialty is event planning, their most frequent request is weddings. Just take a tour of their website to view the portfolio of dreamy, Pinterest-perfect ceremonies and receptions they’ve created for their over 200 clients. Their work has brought them from Mexico to Rhode Island. Weddings they’ve planned have been featured in several publications, including Martha Stewart Real Weddings.
But there remains something special about the weddings they plan in Northern Virginia. “Northern Virginia provides a lot of different wedding experiences within a very small area,” Yerks says. “You can be out in Middleburg and experience Virginia wine country … but within 30 minutes you can also be downtown, right in the heart of the city. I feel like we get the best of both worlds here.”
In every project they tackle, the women of Grit & Grace also make sure to establish a genuine relationship with their clients. “[In planning a wedding,] it can be hard to keep your eye on the prize. And that’s our job: to make sure that our clients aren’t going off on tangents … and encourage them to let us design an event signature to them,” Yerks says. Their thoughtful approach to the coordinator-client relationship is a manifestation of their work ethic, based on notions like “work smarter so your choices aren’t harder.”
As for Grit & Grace’s future, their plans are simple: to keep fulfilling dreams and connecting with their clients. “I think if we can continue to work with fantastic couples…and we continue to get to design really beautiful but enjoyable events, we’re living the dream,” says Yerks. “To be able to own our business and work with our best friends, there’s really not anything else you could ask for.”
In their true collaborative fashion, Ritchie shared the same sentiment, but maybe: “A TV show would be nice.” // gritandgraceinc.com