YENW: Please tell us about yourself and the genesis of The Privilege is Mine
LM: Well, my name is Lara Mahler and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada as Lara Gemmiti 😉
I moved to New York City in 2007 where I attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received my MFA in Dance. I am actually very proud of my education, so, unfortunately, you’re going to have to hear all about it. I have a BFA and MFA in Dance as well as a B.Ed specializing in English and Drama.
In 2015 I was working as a Program Coordinator for a summer camp, which was affiliated with their private school. I was sitting in my office with a co-worker who had gotten married 2 weeks before I did. After we came back from our honeymoons we had a lot of time to process our weddings. I found myself in an Internet spiral, researching venues, dresses, vendors, wedding traditions, etiquette, design and decor, everything I should have researched when I was planning my wedding. I was kind of obsessed with the industry. One day, I swiveled my chair to face my coworker and I said “I’m going to start my own wedding planning business” and she responded, “You totally should.” I’m not sure if she thought I was joking, or crazy but “You totally should,” was all I needed to hear to validate this crazy idea.
YENW: What jobs did you have before you launched your own business?
LM: I taught dance in a dance studio since I was 20, I also worked retail all through college. I was a high school drama and English teacher for a short time as well as a first-grade teacher, all the while dancing and performing professionally. I still continue to teach dance to children for a nonprofit, one day a week because it completes me. I still continue to dance when my schedule allows me to. Dance is an enormous part of my identity, it is impossible to let it go 🙂
YENW: This summer you are launching Pop Up Weddings. How did this idea form and how did you select your vendors?
LM: How much time do we have? haha
I think I owe it to my husband. Matt and I wanted two different things while we were planning our wedding. He wanted the city hall wedding, dinner with immediate family and then a dance party with friends. For me, it was important to have a wedding. There was this constant discussion about how much money we were spending, he had a hard time understanding why we were spending so much money when there was an affordable option. After our wedding, I spoke to a lot of people who felt the same way my husband did. During our engagement, it felt like there were only two ways to get married in New York City, either a traditional wedding, where you are spending a ton of money, or trying to figure out ways where you can save, or a city hall elopement.
Last year I started brainstorming ways we could make a courthouse marriage, feel more like a wedding and it starting evolving from there. I reached out to vendors I have worked with before or had a reputation for having the same wedding mission as I do. In the end, I want to work with vendors who do their job for the same reason I do, to give people experiences, and want to give couples amazing memories. The good news is that I have worked with amazing vendors, and if they are not working with me on this POP UP WEDDING, they will for sure be working with me on future ones 🙂
YENW: Were your family and friends supportive of you launching your own business?
LM: Since I was little, I have always had wild ideas, my parents have supported every idea and every goal that I’ve had. I know how fortunate I am, they traveled with me to different countries to go to dance auditions, they supported me wanting to go to an arts high school, they supported me when I told them I wanted to move to NYC.
I’m not sure they even understood what I was doing when I started TPIM, but they were not surprised. They love hearing my ideas … I am very lucky.
I think for my friends who I grew up with in Toronto, TPIM is abstract to them, of course, they support me, and think what I’m doing is so cool…but sometimes I can’t help but think, they think I’m nuts. haha
YENW: Did you ever imagine yourself and your business to be where you are right now?
LM: I know everyone says this. But in 2016 when TPIM launched, if someone said this is what I would be doing, I would never in a million years believe them.
YENW: Best reason to hire you and what do your clients love most about you?
LM: Oh my goodness!! I started THE PRIVILEGE IS MINE with the idea that everyone, no matter their budget, should feel taken care of and feel special, without going into debt. I vowed I would always be honest and transparent. I was going into business to help people, be creative, collaborative, meet people and share memories with them. I want to help give people memories they will obsess over forever, and I want to be apart of that memory. I think people appreciate my calm demeanor, I have a pretty stress free approach to life, and I never say no to a challenge, I think my clients can see that balance. I really try to go above and beyond, I make myself as available as I can like a friend would. Transparency and honesty are huge and I think it shows.
YENW: Can you remember the first wedding you were paid for -as the Wedding Planner? Did everything go as planned?
LM: Yes, I do remember. I was very nervous. I have to say it went pretty smooth, I feel like it gave me the right amount of confidence I needed to keep going. If that first wedding went another direction, who knows how TPIM would have evolved.
YENW: A career high/ and your biggest career mistake?
LM: This is a tough one. I make mistakes every day, I try not to think of them as negative. I don’t know everything, However, I will say this, the mistakes I have made were because I didn’t ask enough questions….so now I ask A LOT of questions.
I think when another person from the industry comes up to me and says “I’ve been following your work,” or “I’ve heard about you,” or “I love your ideas.” These are all career highs. Also, when my clients text me after their wedding to thank me…I have an extra beer that night to celebrate a victory 🙂
YENW: A favorite quote?
LM: “The most important decisions in life are made between two people in bed.”- Billy Bragg
YENW: A random fact or talent you’d care to share?
LM: I literally think about eating, when I’m going to eat my next meal, what kind of food I’m going to eat. Like all day! There is never a time of day when eating and food are not on my mind…I’m still trying to figure out if I should be concerned about this. HAHA!
Lara, thank you so much for participating in this interview! We cannot wait to see the images you share with us of your POP UP Weddings this summer. I’m sure they will be stellar!