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The stereotype is that professionals in the same industry plot against one another, but not in Charlottesville. So when Reverend Claire Goodman and event planner Jessica Sheffield decided they needed to spend more time interacting outside of the events they worked simultaneously, a community-wide spark was lit-- and when the pair threw their first vendor party in March 2009, it was an immediate success.

“You see each other running around on a wedding day, but you never get to catch up personally or catch up with what people are doing with their business,” says Sheffield.

The following winter, photographer Jen Fariello approached the pair with the idea of throwing a holiday party for the event professionals in town. Rallying together donations for a party at Veritas Vineyard, the holiday evening was a success, with more and more members of the community wanting an invite. (If anyone knows how to throw a fabulous

Local vendors throw down

party in town, it’s obviously the members of the event planning community.) It was then that the Community of Charlottesville Wedding and Event Professionals began. “It became clear that if were were going to keep going, we would need some money involved,” says Goodman. “The idea of creating a membership arose, and we agreed that it needed to be more organized and that for $35 a year, we could throw three to four networking events a year.”

With the formal creation of the CCWEP, membership boomed-- about 190 members as of the group’s fall party at Pippin Hill-- and the event community stepped up to the plate, donating services and goods to each successive party: dessert tables, catering, photobooths, venues. Not only was it a way to keep in touch professionally-- and not in front of clients-- it was an excuse to enjoy each other’s company and keep

the competitive spirit from overwhelming the area.

“We never wanted to make it 100 percent a networking thing,” explains Sheffield. “You go to Richmond or D.C. to attend events, and those markets are more competitive. “

“The unique thing about this area,” agrees Goodman, “is that it is a community despite a little competition.”


As CCWEP grew over 2010, the duo began adding in extra educational workshops and seminars on social media and marketing. Maintaining a baseline level of educational standards aids everyone’s business, according to the pair, and by allowing individual vendors to interact in non-competitive settings

helps grow the sense of community. “Couples tell me that one of the things they love about planning their wedding here is that when they meet with an event planner, a florist, and a photographer, they feel like we do all like and know each other,” says Goodman. “It makes them feel secure, like there’s a team that’s on their side.”

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