Listen to the Podcast About Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events

Podcast for Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events

Podcast Summary

Join us for an exciting episode of Eventful Endeavors where host, Mike Sherman, sits down with Marsha VanArk from Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events. Marsha, who has a rich history in the hospitality industry, spent years managing everything from casual to fine dining establishments before transitioning into wedding coordination. Marsha’s passion for creating unforgettable wedding experiences empowered her to establish her own company, Distinctly Yours Wedding and Events.

Marsha shares that the hospitality industry has always been deep in her veins. She absolutely loves coming alongside couples, partnering with them to help create an event that draws from their vision and personalities. Marsha’s dedication and commitment to crafting memorable experiences make Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events the go-to choice for many couples. Her team of eight strives to make every couple’s wedding dreams a reality.

Sherman reflects on how working with Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events and witnessing their level of professionalism has always been a pleasure. The company stood out to him, not just for their excellent execution but also for Marsha’s genuine passion.

Marsha emphasizes the importance of incorporating the couple’s personality into the wedding planning process. The ultimate goal is for every guest to walk away feeling like the event was a reflection of the couple’s essence. She advises anyone unsure about enlisting the services of a wedding coordinator to consider the ultimate benefit of having an expert guide. Taking this step can alleviate stress, save time, and possibly save money.

For more insights into the world of wedding planning and coordination, listen to our full interview with Marsha VanArk from Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events.

This interview was provided by Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos.

Podcast Transcript

Mike Sherman (00:24)
All right, welcome again to another exciting episode of Eventful Endeavors. I, of course, am your host, Mike Sherman with Felix and Finger’s Dueling Pianos. Today, I’m interviewing the great Marsha VanArk of Distinctly Yours Wedding and Events. Marsha started out in hospitality with a degree in restaurant management from UW -Stout. She spent a decade managing everything from casual to fine dining establishments.

However, after she got married and started a family, she transitioned into wedding coordination, starting at her local church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, where she discovered her passion for creating unforgettable wedding experiences. In 2010, she then turned that passion into a profession by founding Distinctly Yours Wedding and Events. She has over two decades of wedding coordination under her belt and 14 years of successfully running her own company.

She’s cultivated a dedication to crafting unforgettable experiences for every couple. And today her company is a team of eight and they’re all committed to making wedding dreams a reality. Marsha, how are you today? How did I do on that intro? Sound pretty apparent.

Marsha VanArk (01:24)
Thank you, Michael. Thank you. Yeah, I’m doing great.

Mike Sherman (01:29)
Good, well so good to see you. Marsha and I have worked together in the past, along, you know, with our Felix and Fingers dueling pianos, working with her company, and it’s always so great. She is definitely a professional in every sense of the world, and also just really seems to enjoy and love what she does, which is such a great thing for me to see whenever I work with anybody. So why don’t you tell me a little bit in your own words how you kind of found this passion for wedding coordination, and just a little bit about your company and kind of how it came to be over the last 14 years.

Marsha VanArk (01:58)
Sure. I have, hospitality is in my blood. I love absolutely to come alongside a couple that literally has never planned this event before, this kind of event. So I love to come alongside them, partner with them and help them like really like with their vision, take their vision, whatever kind of couple personality,

even their family flavors and things like that, and then kind of meld them and help that into, you know, and work that into the design of the day or just making it something that is totally unique to them. Um, my favorite is, you know, when their guests walk away and say, Oh my gosh, that was such a cool event. It was so much fun. And we, um, it was just totally them. It was, it just represented who the couple was. So that’s ultimately my favorite thing. And so,

whether we’re bringing it in with design and aesthetics or it’s just a guest experience that is like over the top and amazing because it’s just who they are. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (03:10)
Yeah, that’s amazing. Me too. Whenever people are asking for my input on advice on anything, I’m always happy to give that input, but I’m always like, it’s really just so important to show your personality, especially for a wedding. Like that is kind of like everything about you. It’s like, I want to see your personality in every aspect of every single wedding that we’re at. So, which is great. Now, what would you say to somebody? I mean, we do obviously a lot of weddings. Some people have like a wedding coordinator, some people don’t have a wedding coordinator. I mean, I certainly can tell the difference when they have somebody. I mean, some people might think…

you know, like, oh, I don’t want that extra expense, you know, but like, I know that I’ve seen historically that it actually can often save you money, let alone the stress and the time. I mean, what would you say to somebody who’s kind of toying with the idea of getting some extra help for their wedding?

Marsha VanArk (03:54)
Yes, literally when I come in and I explain to them what I do, it instantly elevates the overwhelm. They’re like, oh, I don’t have to figure all of this out because of the fact that they’ve never done it before. So I’ve said that before, I’m saying that again. But the idea of the day is that they’re the host.

hosting all of these guests and then they’re also the guests of honor. So how do they take that and make that a, yeah, how do they navigate between those two things? And so that’s where I come in because that’s my favorite is that I just make them look like great hosts and they get to enjoy the day because I’m doing all the behind the scenes things to make them look amazing.

and make the day go so smooth and fun. And guests really notice it as well. I know vendors do because they get to see multiple weddings. So do guests, you know, and the guest side of it. And I love to come in and help guests make sure that they’re well taken care of just as much as the couple. Obviously they’re my clients, but I love to come in and just, yeah, take care of guests and make sure that they’re

not cold or they’re not too hot or they have drinks on a timely manner or their food isn’t overcooked or all of those things because timing makes such a difference throughout the day. So.

Mike Sherman (05:30)
Oh, absolutely. And those are the things a lot of people aren’t going to think about. Like those things, they’re not considering those, you know, when they’re planning their wedding, those little things like that. And that really can make the big, big difference. And I love what you said too about just like you want to make them look good. I mean, that’s like, even when people hire us, to me, that’s always the thing. It’s like, we want people to have so much fun that they’re complimenting you on your wedding, even though really you just were having fun and getting drunk with everybody else. But like we want, we’re going to help you take the credit for like the best wedding anyone’s ever been to.

Marsha VanArk (05:39)

That’s right.

Oh my gosh, Micah, I love working with you. It is so amazing because of the fact you’re so talented and all of your crew is talented. So, and what you bring to the table is just so unique and nothing, you know, no, I’ve done multiple weddings with you and it’s never the same.

Mike Sherman (06:15)
Yeah, that’s why I don’t.

Marsha VanArk (06:15)
And so when I explain to them, I’m like, it will be like no other, you will not be like your cousin’s wedding. It will not be like your sister’s wedding. It will not be like theirs at all. So that’s what brings in that uniqueness. I love that.

Mike Sherman (06:29)
Oh, thank you. No, that’s awesome. I mean, I always tell people, like, I want 20 years from now, people to still remember your wedding and forget every other wedding they’ve ever been to. It’s like, that’s my selfish goal is to create those memories for you and for you to take the credit for them, just like you said. So that’s perfect. Great. So I want to ask you, what are some common misconceptions that couples might have about their weddings and how you address those misconceptions in your work and with what you do?

Marsha VanArk (06:35)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, great.

misconceptions. Um, just that it’s, you know, they have their, their lives, they have their family, their friends, and they have a full time career. And then they’re just going to, you know, take on this wedding, which in essence is a full time job for me. So, you know, that it’s, it’s just going to be something that they’re going to add onto their plate and it’s not going to be stressful.

or overwhelming. And that’s, that’s where I love to come in and to say that this is not, this is not, you’re not adding on a part -time job. You know, that’s literally what you’re doing by taking on a wedding. Um, and the misconceptions is that they can do it all themselves because their cousin did or their sister did. Um, but maybe for them, it’s not the right fit to do.

it themselves because of their career, because of their family situations or because of what else they have going on. Um, they might, I mean, I just talked to a couple last night that was, they have five dogs. Well, that’s, that’s a lot to take care of that, you know, so adding on a wedding and in addition to careers, family and all that, and five dogs, you know, that’s, that’s a lot to take care of. And it can be overwhelming. Um,

Mike Sherman (08:10)

Marsha VanArk (08:23)
The other thing that I bring to the plate is just that I’ve been doing it for a long time. I have relationships with great vendors, kind of like you, Michael. I have great relationships and I love to recommend my friends. So how easy would that be as someone that I’ve worked with? I know their personality, I know their style of work. I know their design. I know all of those things because I’ve worked with them before and they don’t have to figure that out because I’m going to give them.

Like here the three that would be a perfect fit. It’s within your budget. It’s within your style. And then they can just go, Oh, okay. I just get to pick from three, not 50 DJs that are out there or whatever. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (09:02)
Like that conversation right there just could save them three weeks of Googling and Pinterest and TikTok or whatever they’re doing, just like having you an expert. Right.

Marsha VanArk (09:11)
I was saying months. Yeah, months of that. Cause if you just taking one vendor and doing that back and forth with them, um, you know, I even had a couple that, you know, I talked with and they were like, I just felt so much pressure once I reached out to somebody that I was interested in that I had to book in the next 10 minutes, you know, kind of thing. And she was like, but I’m just searching, you know, and that’s what I’m finding with couples. They’re super smart. They’re super savvy and.

they are just taking longer to decide because they are decisive in a sense that they have so much information. They’re trying to also filter through all of it, but also just giving them time and breath and not, they can smell a sales pitch from a mile away. Like they don’t want to be sold to, they just want to be educated or knowledgeable in their decision.

the decisions that they make. So I want to help them do that and help them and educate them to make those best decisions for them. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (10:16)
Oh no, you’re absolutely right about that. They don’t want to be sold too. I mean, that’s why even just doing sales for Felix and Fingers, it’s like, I’ve never felt like I need to be a salesman because I actually really do enjoy what I do. And I’m just telling people how much I love what it is that we do. And it’s like, they can hear that and tell that. I’m not trying to convince them to buy something that might not be good. I’m like, I believe in this. It’s like, I see it every week how much fun people have. And it’s just awesome.

Marsha VanArk (10:39)
Right. And that’s how I feel about what I do. Cause I’ve, I come alongside, you know, the, the uncle that tells me that, wow, this was so much fun and it wasn’t chaotic and crazy. It was like the last four weddings that I was at, at this family venture, you know, kind of thing. So yes, right. Try to prevent them as best I can. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (10:57)
because we’ve all been to those weddings too for sure.

Awesome. Well, so now tell me, so now I know you say you kind of started in Stephen’s point specifically. Do you mostly, I mean, I know most of what I’ve done is kind of been in that general area with you. I mean, how far out do you, I mean, do you cover all over Wisconsin or do you have like a more central location that you try and stick to? I mean, how selective are you with, you know, when people reach out to you?

Marsha VanArk (11:25)
I literally love and have a passion for ground up events. So give me a field and I’ll have a whole lot of fun with it. But definitely central, I think I’m blessed because I’m in central Wisconsin. So I can go anywhere within Wisconsin within three, four hours of travel. So I…

I will go, I mean, I was in Milwaukee, I was in Madison this last year, Green Bay, and then also the deep north of Wisconsin where there’s nothing. There’s trees. Yeah. Maybe some roads. I’ve done some dirt roads as well. So yeah.

Mike Sherman (12:04)
Not a lot yet. Yeah.

Oh, that’s amazing. Well, cool. Well, I mean, obviously, someone has been doing as long as you. I mean, I’ve been in the wedding industry, not even quite as long as you. I mean, maybe maybe 12 years and you’ve certainly eclipsed me with your expertise, too. So I was like, I’m curious, you know, I always like to talk to people like about what what has changed, you know, what what are people doing now that they didn’t used to do or what do people used to do that they’re not doing anymore? Any kind of trends that you’ve seen, like just over the course of time, like how are weddings different now?

than they were when you started doing this, you know, 20 years ago.

Marsha VanArk (12:43)
Oh gosh, that is a loaded question. Um, one thing that, um, I would have to say the biggest change is the traditions is going outside the traditions. They want, if they want to do something traditional that, you know, yes, because that was something that they loved about the weddings that they, you know, went to as a kid, you know, whatever. But I like to go outside the box and you know,

whether it’s doing a first look, you know, or, um, so a first look is when you can see each other before the ceremony starts and then you can actually get some pictures done ahead of time before the actual event begins. Um, I have, you know, just for that specific example, that just takes, um, a lot of pressure and,

doing all those photos after the ceremony between the reception and elongating the event out that much. I, you know, and if that’s something that they’re, you know, open to, then we’ll talk about that and like, Oh, do you want to do something a little bit more private or do you want to do something where you just do all the wedding party photos later and it’s just the two of you because you get this private time together. So I like it taking that.

those traditions, you have the day, but then they get to enjoy it as well because they’re not off doing pictures. They actually get to join their guests and actually be able to experience the event that they’ve spent months and months and months and months planning or years, um, and to be part of it and actually interact with their guests and take all of that pressure off. So just kind of walking outside the box with them as far as the traditions, um,

I have some couples that have been to many weddings and I have some that have been to none. So they have, you know, so I navigate between that. I’m like, well, here, here’s a thought, you know, here’s some ideas. Here’s some thoughts with this. So that’s what I love to do is kind of walk outside that box a little bit.

Mike Sherman (14:56)
that. No, I love that. No, I love what you told me you mentioned tradition because I mean, I think a lot of times people also think like, oh, we need to do these things because we’ve always done it this way. And then I think people often kind of regret those things. So I think it’s kind of about finding that flavor of the tradition, but then also still making it your own. I mean, especially now just in the age of social media and Pinterest, I mean, everyone’s trying to do that unique thing now. It’s like, that’s absolutely what I’m seeing more often, for sure. And I mean,

Marsha VanArk (15:11)


Mike Sherman (15:20)
And I love the idea of whatever I see people doing the first look and the photos before the ceremony. It’s just like great, you know? Cause then like, I would say even five years ago, it’s like cocktail hour was generally just an hour for the bride and groom and their wedding party to like run away and like, quick, quick, get your drinks done while everyone else has some drinks and they get back and they’re sweaty and they’re like, okay, now hurry, let’s go sit down for dinner. And it’s just a lot of stress that goes to it. So I mean, that’s a, I love it when they just like, they get married and they’re like, great, give me a drink and like, let’s enjoy cocktails and relax.

Marsha VanArk (15:35)

Yeah, let’s hang out. Yeah, let’s hang out and let’s do this. And yeah, that is my favorite when they can just like relax or just have that private time together to take each other in, in a sense, like, I just got all ready for you, literally. You know, yeah, so 300 people later, you know, yeah, they’re a big deal as well. But I just got ready for you. And, you know, so to see each other for the first time right then and there, or those special moments, like if it’s,

Mike Sherman (15:50)

Marsha VanArk (16:18)
you know, the bride with her dad or the bride with her mom or whatever it might be. I mean, I’ve done so many first looks with so many very, I think I had six on one wedding. It was like, okay, revolving door, first look with this person, first look with this person. It was like, okay, here we go. Yeah. But in all the tears and I’m ready with the tissues. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (16:30)
So, uh…

Yeah, I know. Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. Exactly. And then they don’t have to like be crying and blubbering, you know, during the actual ceremony, you know, it’s like, they probably still will be, but like, you know, you get that initial, get the cute photos, but then, you know, you can be on your best game when it’s actually time.

Marsha VanArk (16:47)

Yes, right. And it’s a little bit more of, yeah. Yeah. The ceremony is special because you have all of your guests there. So then adding in the flavor of personality, whether it’s music and that’s Michael, that’s where you come in. It’s like, you know, talking through like what is the style of music and what is the feeling that you want your guests to have? Why they’re…

sitting there during the ceremony. We have to do certain things because we have to make sure you’re married. There’s very specific things, but how do we build in a little personality and flavor with it? So.

Mike Sherman (17:26)

Absolutely. No, and I mean, I see that kind of across the day too. I mean, I bring this up on my podcast all the time, so I’m sure if you’ve heard any of mine, you’re sick of hearing about it. But the one thing that I feel like just disappeared a few years ago, and maybe you see it more often than me, but is that the bouquet and the garter toss, that was like a tradition that just for years, everyone just like, you did it, like there’s no question. And then I think some one day everyone collectively was like, why are we doing this? Why am I?

sticking my head up my wife’s dress in front of her dad like an hour after we get married. Like it’s just this weird thing like let’s get everyone awkwardly that is single up in the dance floor and stop the party for 10 minutes. You know, it’s just like, yeah, that’s one that’s one tradition. I’m glad to see is on the way out because it’s like let’s just keep having fun. You know, that’s what it’s all about.

Marsha VanArk (18:18)
The other thing that, speaking of that, you know, they do the, you know, I think it’s special to do the father daughter dance, mother son dance. I mean, I love all of those. The first dance, whatever, mixing that up a little bit has been. So the thing that I’ve been seeing the last couple years is snacking it down to like just 90 seconds instead of the full three, four minute song that the mother and son are doing.

Um, that’s something that, um, has really been, yeah, instead of your guests sitting there and staring at you for, you know, at least 15 minutes, which can be awkward for some that are, don’t like, like to be in the limelight. Um, but then just standing, you know, dancing with your dad. I’m like that little awkward. So let, Hey, let’s just change it up a little bit. Just do 90 seconds of the song, switch it out, you know, kind of thing you could switch where you could, you know,

bring the groom in and you know, he could, you know, anyway, so there’s, I just love that they’re so open. This generation is so open to being creative and thinking outside the box and just being open minded about doing different things. It doesn’t have to be over the top. It can be very subtle. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (19:35)
Absolutely. That’s great. You just get the picture with mom, get the picture with dad dancing. You know, you got your memories, you got your moment. But yeah, I mean, we used to even I mean, we typically recommend like we would always recommend two to two and a half minutes. But now I even find like that is too long, like just like a verse in a chorus, like 60, 90 seconds. And then because we’re at that point, we’re like ready to party. Like we’re just getting through these dances and then, you know, shut up and dance, you know, so it’s like everyone just got to sit in there and get notes. Very true. Yeah. I mean, and all this is just the last few years. I mean, things have really evolved.

Marsha VanArk (19:53)
Yeah, right. Let’s get everybody out there.


Mike Sherman (20:05)
I do think a lot of it has to do with social media and just people’s ideas and just getting creative in a way that we used to not have. You just did it because that’s what you did. There’s no reason or rhyme to anything.

Marsha VanArk (20:16)
Yes, right. And yeah, so that’s, I would say, one of the things that I love to bring to the plate and talk about. Like, oh, we don’t have to do it that way? No. No, you don’t. Right.

Mike Sherman (20:26)
Yeah, you have to do it anyways, especially I mean, I was, you know, no, no hate to any of the parents who are super involved in the process. But a lot of time, you know, you’re there with the daughter and the mom or the dad or something, and you can just tell, you know, like the mom is like, Oh, well, we have to do this. And you’d see the daughter kind of like, well, okay. And sometimes it’s like, I’ll wait till I have just the daughter by yourself. I mean, like, okay, what do we really want to do? Like you just be honest with me, you know, so.

Marsha VanArk (20:46)
Yeah, right. Right. Yeah. Receiving lines are a thing that I talk to, I talk about quite a bit. Um, you know, because of the fact that you don’t want your guests to walk away from your day, not feeling like they didn’t greet you or connect with you at some point. So you want to make that a priority, but table to table, that’s just excruciatingly long. Um,

And also, you know, I also talked to them about their personalities. Like is your, can your, and the reason why I started having this conversation, cause I had a groom that ended up in the hospital because he had a panic attack because it was just too much for the, well yeah, talk about a buzzkill for a day, uh, for a wedding day. Um, off goes, you know, the bride, because she’s like, I have to be with my husband at the hospital, you know, so they’re gone. Um, everyone’s like, well, we’ll just anyway, so.

I talk about that personality, like is doing a 300 person receiving line too taxing for your personality, for your own mental health. Like is that too much? Well then let’s think outside the box. Let’s do something a little bit different or something that’s quicker, that isn’t so taxing on you and time consuming or whatever. So.

Mike Sherman (22:09)
And just from a guest perspective, I mean, I make it a point if I go to a wedding now to not even try and talk to the bride and groom. I’m just gonna enjoy it. I’m gonna be on the dance floor all night, making sure everyone’s having fun. And then like a few days later, I’m gonna send them a message and be like, oh my gosh, it’s so much fun. You know, it’s like, I just, you know, it’s… I know everyone wants to experience their wedding in their own way, but sometimes, you know, we’re like about to start speeches and uncle Harold walks up and starts talking and I’m just kind of standing there like with my microphone, just like…

Don’t want to interrupt this conversation, but like you don’t need 10 minutes of the bride’s time on her wedding day. Like 15 seconds, like give her a hug. Oh my gosh. So great to see you. We’ll catch up later. Like, you know, so.

Marsha VanArk (22:39)

I actually, with the bride and groom, I tell them to have a signal between the two of them. Like just have a signal.

First of all, work the room together. I always say hold hands because everyone comes to the wedding, wants to see you in love, wants to see you connected and not often in different spaces. I’m like, so hold the hands, work the room together. And then I said, but then also have a signal. Like if Aunt Shirley is just talking way too much, you know, like, you know, you’re pulling on your ear, you know, like, whoo, you know, and then, and then I even know the signal.

Mike Sherman (23:14)
out of here.

Marsha VanArk (23:18)
So that I, you know, like, Bri looks at me and goes like this. I, I know when to, Oh, Hey, you know, Hey, Hey Melanie, I need, I, Oh, we need to go over this way or have something that, you know, and I whisper in her ear and then I, yeah, I can just divert them. Yes. Right. Right. I can be the bad guy. Absolutely. Yep. I said, throw me out of the bus as much as just let me know when you do. Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Sherman (23:21)
and see you man.

You get to be the bad guy. She doesn’t have to be. You can be the bad guy.

Exactly. That’s what I tell people with speeches. I’m like, I’m never gonna like tell someone to shut up. But if you like give me like one of these, I can, you know, I’m happy to be the bad guy if I need to be, but only if you tell me to be the bad guy, you know.

Marsha VanArk (23:56)
Right, yeah, I had a father of the bride that went up 40 minutes, 40 minutes. I was like, oh my word, stop, yeah.

Mike Sherman (24:00)
Always the father of the bride, oh yeah.

Yeah. And like the caterers are back there like holding the salads like, okay, like we’re ready. Like, like, oh, just.

Marsha VanArk (24:10)
I don’t know. We’re ready to go. The food’s gonna be nasty. Like, please.

Mike Sherman (24:15)
Oh my god. Well, Marsha, thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me today. Once again, everyone, this is Marsha VanArk with Distinctly Yours Wedding and Events, one of the best in the business. So happy for you to take some time and chat with me. Anything else you want to you want to put out there or add on to the end before we wrap it up today?

Marsha VanArk (24:29)
Yeah, thanks Michael.

No, it was just, it was such an honor to be here, Michael. It’s good to see you again, um, as well. And, um, I am excited to work together many, many times, my friend.

Mike Sherman (24:46)
Yeah, me too. And despite the fact that it’s snowing here in April in Chicago and Wisconsin, I know we’re both gearing up for another excellent and crazy wedding season that I’m sure is going to be fantastic for everybody. So, amazing. Well, Marsha, thank you again so much. Once again, everyone, thanks for tuning in. This is Mike Sherman with Eventful Endeavors. Have a great day and until we see you next time, bye.

Marsha VanArk (24:58)
Yep, looking forward to it.

This interview was made possible by Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos

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