Carrie Baldwin Smith
Carrie Baldwin Smith
Name: Carrie Baldwin Smith
Occupation: Owner of Door County Event Planners in Sister Bay
Lives in: Baileys Harbor, with her husband and two daughters
Claim to fame: She has planned more than 500 weddings
Favorite Door County activities: Hiking and cross-country skiing, exploring local parks with her family, and taking advantage of the wonderful restaurants in the area. “Most of all, I look forward to Sundays in the summer and spending the day on our boat with my family and friends,” which is particularly relaxing after having worked weddings on Fridays and Saturdays, she says.
Q. How did you get your start at wedding planning?
A. I studied hospitality and tourism with an emphasis on event planning at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and moved to Door County after graduating. I was working at a few resorts and discovered a need for planning events like corporate groups and weddings. So, I decided to start my own business! That was 18 years ago; I was also waiting tables at the time, but after the first four years, I was able to quit my side job to concentrate on my business full-time.
Q. Why is Door County a great place to get married?
A. Hometown wedding festivities typically last just a matter of hours, then they are done. A destination wedding that is a short drive away — but is still a “getaway” for guests — allows couples to have an entire weekend to celebrate with friends and family. Only about 5 percent of the weddings I plan involve Door County residents, so most of them are considered destination weddings. However, it’s not the same kind of event that people travel to Jamaica for, for example. While it is a beautiful and romantic place to visit, most people who choose to get married here are from the Midwest and have some tie to the area — either they vacationed here or have family who live in Door County. They have made fond memories here in the past and want to return for this momentous occasion.
Door County’s vibe is so different from that of a big city. The pace is slower here, and there are fewer choices for venues and services, so we tend to attract laid-back couples who don’t need 30 different florists or caterers to choose from. That said, we’re home to amazing organic farms and quaint floral shops so those who prefer to have locally sourced foods and materials used in their weddings love our high-quality vendors.
Q. When is wedding season in Door County?
A. Though winter and spring weddings are gorgeous here, “wedding season” is considered to be May through October. People who love a fresh, clean look and the beautiful blooming season with the cherry blossoms and tulips are attracted to spring weddings. Summer weddings are popular because of the warm weather, long days and the fun that can be had in and near the lake. Fall weddings usually cater to more adult groups, since the kids are back in school, and take advantage of the gorgeous fall colors. Also, fall and winter weddings use the earlier sunsets as an opportunity to use candlelight in lovely ways. Outdoor weddings in Door County are a big draw, but I always have a backup plan that includes a nearby building or tent just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Q. Why does it help to hire a wedding planner?
A. My job as a planner is to help answer questions, find solutions, and use my relationships with local vendors to deliver the weddings my clients dream about. I work for both my clients and the local businesses. The more common issues I tackle involve logistics, including transportation arrangements and figuring out where to block off lodging. That can be a tough one since many of the hotels here aren’t huge — Door County is so seasonal and for the short six months of wedding season, it can be difficult to find and block off lodging for large groups. But we always make it work! I also do much more than block rooms — I have a great deal of knowledge of the area and am a one-stop shop for out-of-town couples to have an idea of what Door County has to offer. I help them make their wedding visions a reality.
Q. What kinds of trends are popular for Door County weddings?
A. I’ve been seeing a lot of smaller, 50-person weddings, and a lot of huge, 250-guest weddings, in addition to the medium-sized weddings of around 150. So people are really doing their own thing and creating an event based on personal size preferences. The great thing about Door County is, it can accommodate weddings of any size. The larger parties will find accommodating lodging and venues in Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor and Baileys Harbor, and smaller parties will be at home in any of our communities.
When it comes to food and drink, a lot of people want to utilize the local wineries, breweries, farms, orchards and other products made here. They want cheese curds and mini brat stations for appetizers — foods that are found only in Door County or Wisconsin. It makes the event more memorable for guests. Another trend is his-and-hers signature drinks that can incorporate local ingredients like apple cider, liquor from local distilleries, and wine from local wineries.
Weddings are a boon for the local economy — they don’t bring up just one family; they bring up dozens or even hundreds of guests, and many of them are first-time visitors. These weddings create positive experiences for visitors that will make them want to come back and take in everything else Door County has to offer. It doesn’t get much better than that!