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Event planners relieve clients of heavy lifting

Sherry Henney used to help coordinate weddings by default.

As a wedding photographer, she found herself leading poorly planned wedding parties through their paces, simply to get her job done.

Seeing an opportunity, Henney and business partner Sherri Straubel have combined their talents to launch Event Planning Unlimited to help clients organize a variety of gatherings, from anniversaries and weddings to fundraisers and reunions.

"A lot of times when I was a photographer, there were people who wouldn't hire a planner for their wedding," Henney said. "I'd end up doing the planning there on the day of the wedding. There was no one to say it's time for pictures or it's time for the cake."

Although Henney, 52, had given the idea some thought for some time, it wasn't until she met Straubel, 38, while doing landscape work that the idea came to fruition. They began talking seriously in November and put their limited liability company together earlier this year.

"When we looked into it, there were just not that many planners in the valley," Henney said, although some places that host events have planners on-site. "We think there is a need for someone to plan reunions, parties and wine tours to help make them a much more stress-free event. When everything is done, nobody has to worry about the cakes. I'm Irish and even planning a good old-fashioned wake would be fun."

Henney, a native of Deerfield, Ill., attended Arizona State University, then lived in rural British Columbia before moving to the Rogue Valley two decades ago. Straubel, also a native of the Chicago area, lived in several parts of the country before settling in Southern California. She worked for Grande Affair, a Santa Barbara event planning and party rental enterprise where she planned political events and weddings along with bar and bat mitzvahs. Three years ago, she and her husband moved to the Applegate Valley from Ojai, Calif.

"With all the new people moving here, we're finding they are expecting the amenities they had before in Arizona, California or Nevada," Straubel said. "We definitely decided there was a demand. It takes the willingness to return phone calls, being reliable and organized. You have to pay attention and listen to them."

Winery tours are in a class by themselves, because they also involve transportation.

"We have our special wineries we like more than others picked out, but it would depend on where the clients want to go," Henney said. "We make sure they were on a bus so they can drink and not worry about driving."

There are standard checklist items and some trial and error dealing with particular events.

"For a wedding, the checklist is really long, close to 100 items," Henney said. "There are so many aspects to it and a lot of details. There are lot of rituals that go with the process and you've got to make sure you cover that, all the things leading up to wedding. For a reunion, the list is somewhat less and then something like a wine tour wouldn't be as difficult."

When it comes to price, Straubel said there is a great variance between a couple of hours' worth of planning and a 200-person wedding.

"We're aware of people's event size and budget limitations," Straubel said. "We work within that."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

Event planners relieve clients of heavy lifting