Video producer Karen Hopkins “accidentally” became a wedding planner while living in Canada, and now runs her own online wedding school for brides, Wed-U.

Karen Hopkins of Wed-U, an online wedding school for brides, was waitressing in Canada for several years, for a company that also hosted weddings. She fell into becoming their event planner, then fell into becoming a wedding planner. “I’d never even been to a wedding before, so I thought ‘This is going to be interesting!’ But the bride actually made me feel calm, and trusted me to know what I was doing.” Upon returning to Australia realised her true passion was creating a stress-free environment and inspiring brides to remember that the wedding day is all about celebration, love, and steps towards the rest of your life, rather than how perfectly the candles are aligned with the tablecloth.

After working for a few summers as a freelance wedding planner in Canada, she “jumped on the entrepreneurial train” and started stirring up ideas. “There was a rainy February when I had about five wedding clients in two weeks, and I realised everyone was asking the same questions.” Karen put all the pieces together and decided there should be an easier way for people to have all the information they need in planning a wedding, instead of trawling through magazines advertising overblown budgets.

“I have always been of the mind of if you’re not happy, change something. You have to create energy in order for things to change and move in your life.

Karen has only been back in Australia for a year, and already Wed-U is taking off nicely. In her “other life”, Karen is a video producer, which becomes pretty evident when you visit the website and see all the super pro clips!

I first met Karen during the pilot episode of Cereal Entrepreneurs a few months ago, where she was a keen audience member. We met again a few weeks ago on a torrential night at Zigi’s in Chippendale. The night took an interesting turn and really cemented Karen’s “cool” status in the way she went with the flow of the interview. After 10 minutes of chat, we were approached by a gentleman asking if we wanted to be involved in a brain science activity study thing in the next room. Well, of course we did!

It’s hard to describe what happened next, but basically Karen was sitting with a high-tech headset, watching her brain activity in colour on a screen, wine in hand. It was glorious and weird and exactly what Cool People Doing Cool Things is all about.

Karen watching her brain activity at our interview!

Karen watching her brain activity at our interview!

“I am pretty lucky, my family don't think I am too crazy yet.”

What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced in setting this whole thing up?

I think finance is a challenge; you have to invest in a business. And figuring out what my strengths are and realising I can’t do everything. I guess dealing with being hard on myself and working not how I normally work now that I work for myself, and being less social, and missing that social element you would have in an office with a team around you to bounce ideas off.

What has been the biggest reward?

Every time I speak to a bride-to-be, it fosters these lovely conversations, and it does feel people are suffering from these challenges in planning. So it’s really nice to know you are helping people, and helping them in a real down-to-earth way.

by Amy Lovat

What were some of the same questions you kept getting from brides?

I found a lot of the questions were mostly about ‘Do we have to do this? Or have to do that? What are the rules about this?’ And I’m quite loose with those things so I was like, ‘No, of course not!’ But it felt like everyone was looking for permission to say ‘Do what you really want!’ So I started creating an e-course that basically leads you through your wedding planning process from start to finish and encourages people not to go with tradition simply because they think they have to.

Where did you film all the videos on your site? Did you have any help?

I am a video producer, in my other life, so I was like ok, I need to film this all over there while I have access to crew and studio, and spent my evenings and weekends editing the content for this course and building everything around it aswell. Then got home in November, and put all the pieces together; I had the videos edited and built a website.

So you did it all yourself?

I had various freelancers but it’s all my dreams!

How did you manage that with a full time job?

I think I just got it done. I’ve always been one of those people who have multiple things going on at once. I can’t just do one thing. I think people get home from work and sit in front of the TV for six hours, but there are so many other things you can do. The goal is that I create this business, which allows me to freelance, so work a lot less and not have to have a full-time job, travel whenever, work wherever. The drive behind the goal is what keeps me motivated to work those extra hours.

So now you are back in Australia, what are you doing for work?

So I got a job quite quickly for one of the big four accounting firms working on their video team. I worked there for seven months, didn’t like it, didn’t like the role and ended up quitting and working full time on my business, while doing a bit of video freelance on the side.

What’s changed since you quit your job?

It’s good! I probably still work just as much! I’m not very good at managing myself; it’s been a huge transition into working for myself. So technically I am paying myself and I am my own employee. Before when I was working full time, I would be texting my friends all day organising fun things to do at the weekend, but now I’m like ‘I can’t do that, I have to do my own thing!’ I’m a lot harder on myself. It’s a challenge balancing that.

Do you do your own marketing, PR and networking, and what strategies do you use to get out there?

Reaching out to bloggers, and offering to do guest posts for them and also offering them a percentage of any sales of articles they want to write, such as promotional post. I’ve been hearing Pinterest and YouTube is where I should be. It’s kind of overwhelming with the constant information overload. It’s got to the point where I am going to actually bring on help as it’s hard to create everything and then publish it and share it. I release a weekly video, which is a wedding tip as something fun and sharable.

Do you have any bridezilla horror stories to tell us?

Yeah sure! One wedding, the bride was so drunk that she could hardly walk down the aisle; she was such a mess. It was a Jewish wedding so she had to sing a Jewish prayer and she had a really bad voice and was out of key, and she kept cracking up with laughter. Then later on in the evening she threw the bouquet and smashed one of our heritage chandeliers, which shattered glass flew everywhere and cut up her disabled cousin!

What’s next for Wed-U?

I just wrote an e-book, which is pretty much the course content turned into a book. I’m about to launch that.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you love weddings as a child?

No, not at all. Though when I read my high school yearbook recently, it said I wanted to be an events planner, so that’s kind of funny. I was always into acting when I was younger, so I thought I would be a drama teacher.