Best friends make brides’ visions become reality

Photos by Joshua Berry

At any given moment, somewhere in the world a young girl dreams of her wedding. That was the case for Anna Bates and Hilary Henderson, who shared their wedding dreams as best friends in middle school. 

Being Disney lovers, they both had every detail of their dream days planned at a young age. They each envisioned being the “princess at the ball.” “I can remember sharing secrets with her that I would have shared with a sister if I had one,” Bates said. “Our memories are hilarious and timeless.”

After each experienced her own wedding, the wedding bug never went away. Henderson took classes online with the Wedding Coordinating Academy, sharing her ideas with Bates along the way. Henderson said once the two turned 30 years old, they decided to establish their own wedding consultant business.  In August 2019, the two friends opened Passion & Pearls for wedding and event planning. 

“If you had told my 12-year-old self that Hilary and I would be 30 years old and running our own wedding planning business together – I would have totally believed you,” Bates said. 

Although the two are best friends, their weddings were totally different. Bates had a wedding planner. Henderson did not. 

“I was rearranging chairs for my reception in my wedding gown,” Henderson said. “Like anything else in life, you think, I wish I had done this or that. So, we live vicariously through our brides when they have a vision they want to bring to life.”

Bates and Henderson said they both learned from their own weddings, and they use this knowledge in running their business today. They have 12 weddings under their belts as coordinators. 

“The first wedding we coordinated together was one for the stockpile of memories,” Bates said. “Anything and everything that could go wrong, did. The bride’s shoes were mistakenly put in the dumpster, even. Fishing them out with the bride’s aunt will always be a memory we belly laugh about.”

With the first wedding jitters out of the way, the business has 20 weddings booked for 2020. From planning all the way to the wedding day, Passion & Pearls offers a variety of services, including designing invitations, photography and do it yourself projects for the cost-conscious brides. 

“In our experience, money is always the biggest stressor,” Bates said. “Weddings can be so expensive, but one of the things we take pride in is giving our brides options. In our Hattie package, which is engagement to wedding, we offer budget planning. We help brides come up with a budget and manage it.”

It is the planning that really excites these two business owners. The first thing they do is learn the intimate details about each client, whether it is her grandmother’s favorite flower or her mom and dad’s first song. Then comes making a bride’s vision reality. 

“The planning process for a wedding, whether it be three months or two years, should be completely focused on the bride and her vision,” Henderson said. “Every bride is different, and every bride deserves a wedding that reflects her own personality – even if it’s not exactly ‘traditional.’”

Like Passion & Pearls’ first wedding, Henderson said in her mind, there is no such thing as a perfect wedding – there will always be something that goes wrong. Bates and Henderson both said they feel they have the experience to handle every issue, big or small. 

“We want to make our bride’s wedding day as perfect as possible. Every bride deserves that,” Henderson said. “My wedding day was not perfect but was perfect for me and my husband. We had a couple of small hiccups but improvised quickly, and none of the guests even noticed.”

There might not be a perfect wedding, but both Bates and Henderson said having a wedding coordinator goes a long way in trying to create one. Their approach is to take the stress out of the planning, giving the bride and her family time to relax. The second advantage the ladies give their brides is constant communication. 

“Even though life is at our fingertips with our phones, texting, social media, et cetera, I think it has also made it very easy for people to fail to communicate,” Bates said. “We have learned communication is key, and we try to make sure we are in constant contact with our brides so there are not any details left unattended.”

Henderson, her husband Colby and daughter Hattie Belle live in Meridianville, and Bates and her husband Jermaine live in Madison with their three girls, Marlie, Hydie and Ava Blaire. 

These two best friends love weddings, and they pour that love into the weddings they plan. “Weddings are special because love is so beautiful. As corny as it sounds, we love love,” Bates said. “We still get emotional during vow exchanges and first dances. Watching people commit to each other for a lifetime truly never gets old.”