Even people who don’t believe in living happily ever after describe wedding planner and designer Lyna Larcia Calvario as a “fairy wedmother,” and not because they’ve had one too many of the wedding toasts.
Calvario, 36, is the creative director and founder of KasalNY which has been named “Top Wedding Planner in New York” by The Knot magazine for four consecutive years: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Wedding vendor website www.weddingwire.com also gave Kasal NY its Bride’s Choice Award from 2010 to 2012.
Most of the outfit’s client couples have given KasalNY the perfect rating of five stars on the vendor rating website on the following criteria: Quality of Service, Responsiveness, Professionalism, Value and Flexibility.
Wrote one groom of his experience with this wedding planner: “Lyna’s creative mind and ideas seemed so unreal during the whole prepping period, but when we entered the room to see her creation, it brought tears of joy to my wife’s eyes because it was more than she dreamt of; it was a fairy tale.”
Also typical was this comment from Patrick R., a New Jersey groom who wedded in August 2012.
“Lyna and KasalNY really brought the wow-factor to our wedding. Our guests raved for days about how the reception hall was staged. From the escort cards to the homage of family photos, the hall was exactly how we envisioned it; it even exceeded our expectations in every aspect.”
Another satisfied client, 2011 bride Leah, added: “Somehow Lyna even arranged for a little rain shower followed by a rainbow during our wedding pictures.”
Calvario, a Mogpog, Marinduque native acknowledged that being a Filipino might have something to do with the success of her company. “We always aim to please; we’re hard workers and resilient. Those are key traits if you want to thrive in this business,” she said of the outfit that she started in 2005.
A good wedding planner, Calvario added, “must listen to clients, understand their needs and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks by keeping in constant communication with all the (suppliers). Running a smooth-sailing wedding (means) working harmoniously with the team, as every successful wedding is a result of collaborative efforts.” Above all, he or she must be an island of calm despite the hysteria and excitement that usually swirl around the event, she said.
“A wedding involves a lot of mixed emotions coming from the bride being so excited, the groom being nervous, and everything in between, so I think kailangan may puso at pasensya ka (you need heart and patience) on the wedding day.”
Added Calvario: “Unlike the portrayal of commando-like wedding planners in some TV shows, I don’t feel the need to (yell or throw a fit). “Saka mas pakikinggan ka nila pag kalmado (Besides, people are more likely to listen to you if you are calm).”
The calm, the heart and her patience have apparently paid off.
Many happy couples later, Calvario’s list of clients has expanded to include couples from different countries and cultures—Irish, Indian, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Haitian and Filipino—and of different faiths and beliefs: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Catholic.
She’s even had her first same-sex wedding (two brides!) in New Jersey in 2012.
Couples have also flown her in to handle their weddings at destinations like Aruba, Mexico, Philippines and across the United States.
KasalNY holds office in New York and has a satellite office in Montreal, Canada, but Calvario and her team can fly anywhere engaged couples need them to be. Making sure every wedding becomes a personalized affair is an overriding concern of her outfit, she said.
“I’m a wedding designer whose signature events are inspired by my couples’ style, infused with my flair. Colors can be repeated, the theme can be a rendering of another, but the overall flavor of the wedding will not be the same when you incorporate details and elements that are unique to the couple. I try to capture the couple’s unique taste, incorporating their personalities and preferences,” Calvario added.
To avoid cookie-cutter weddings, she makes it a point to do research on the couple engaging her services. “I ask couples specific questions about their customs and traditions. That way I’m mindful and won’t do anything that would be disrespectful or offensive to their beliefs. Listening to them is key.”
Consulting the couple is the best way to find out what works best for them, she said. “I first ask how they met. I love hearing their love stories and proposal stories, that’s how I start crunching ideas that they may like. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they work!”
While wedding themes and motifs vary with the trends of the day, Calvario said some themes are more popular than others.
“We’ve probably done more purple, hot pinks and aqua events than other colors. Purple is such a fave among brides that I don’t think it will ever get old. (But) this year it’s refreshing; we’re doing more muted, pastel colors and fresh tones of green.”
To make the wedding events even more personalized, Calvario injects glamor themes that speak of the couple’s relationship. She once set up a posh airport-themed wedding for a couple who had carried on a long distance relationship, and rented a red double-decker tour bus to take guests from the church to the reception venue in New York City.
Assembling a reliable team is another key factor to succeed in this business, said Calvario, adding that she works with floral designers, lighting specialists, graphic designers, couture paper designers, rental companies, linen companies, favor providers and specialty vendors.
KasalNY has also partnered with prominent personalities, among them Buddy Valastro aka “The Cake Boss,” who did the cake for the outfit’s same sex wedding last year.
Kleinfeld Bridal, New York City’s most famous bridal salon is putting the spotlight on KasalNY for making it to its prestigious featured vendor list. Kleinfeld got acquainted with KasalNY after Calvario and her client-brides made several appearances on the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC.
Sylvia Weinstock, New York’s cake diva, is also a regular at KasalNY’s annual wedding showcase party, Captivate. She has done cakes for Calvario’s weddings.
For flowers, Calvario has partnered with another Filipino in the floral design business in New York: Ivie Joy Flowers.
Calvario’s relationship with these partners might as well be a match made in heaven.
“I always say to our team and our (partner-suppliers): It’s not about me or about any of us; it’s about the couple. So let’s work towards one goal, and that’s to give them the most unforgettable day of their lives.”
Calvario had an early start honing her people skills. Born and raised in Marinduque, Philippines, Calvario grew up learning the pharmacy business. The Larcia family owned one before they migrated to New York when she was 12.
It was recession in the US then, so Calvario’s parents, Lorna and Gregorio Larcia (from Cuenca, Batangas), had to work two jobs each. Because of financial constraints, the family decided to send all the kids back to the Philippines to attend college while maintaining their immigration status. Calvario attended the University of Santo Tomas, where she took up Communication Arts, and moved back to the United States soon after. Her first job was with the Bob Mackie Design group, the designer credited with Cher’s outrageous red carpet outfits.
Calvario also worked at Aerosoles’ Corporate Office in 2003 and at Estee Lauder in 2004, before founding KasalNY the following year.
Time management and dealing with clients are skills that Calvario learned early. At age 10, she had a clue on how a business was run, what the clients wanted and how to give it to them. “I would recommend the generic brand of medicine to them so they could save money. And that would make them happy.”
Starting from her teen years, Calvario became the family’s designated and volunteer party planner, organizing the babies’ baptisms, kids’ birthdays and sweet 16 parties for teen relatives. Kin and kith had taken notice of the girl’s natural gift to inject little details that would make parties look unique and feel personal.
But she started KasalNY only after organizing her own wedding to Kirby Calvario, a photographer that she partners with for her weddings. She got her first wedding client that same year.
“I helped a relative plan her wedding and (the experience) gave me a taste of what planning was like. I’ve always liked designing and being behind the scenes. So I followed my heart and pursued my passion,” she said.
While pregnant with her son, Matthew, eight years ago, Calvario used her six-month maternity leave to learn the ropes of the business. She took a Wedding Consultancy certificate course, got her business license and set up her LLC (Limited Liability Company).
Today, business is good, and pricing might have something to do with it.
Weddings in the US can be frighteningly expensive, but KasalNY’s full planning package starts at $6,000 and generally includes design and logistic fees.
“I can’t speak for the rest of my competitors but it’s safe to say (their fees are) pretty up there,” Calvario said.
“But I don’t hard sell, I want them to book KasalNY not just because they can afford our price,” she added.
Aside from budget, couples must also set aside enough time, this wedding planner counselled.
“Ideally a year out would be the best scenario, although we’ve done a wedding under four months and it still turned out great.”
The success of KasalNY has turned Calvario into one of the most influential Filipino women in the US, according to the Filipina Women’s Network.
And she has used this influence to counsel her client-brides wisely. “I always tell my brides, weddings should be fun and memorable. Never lose sight of what’s important: You found the ONE who would like to spend the rest of his or her life with you and that’s a rarity! So when your big day comes, forget about everything else. Let go of all the planning details, don’t check the weather every five minutes. Forget about time; heck-don’t even wear a watch. That’s my job to keep things in check… Just keep smiling. With a solid planning team, everything will fall into place.”
When this fairy wedmother founded and named her business eight years ago, she did not realize that scrambling the letters in KasalNY would spell out “Ask Lyna.” And that’s what couples have been doing all these years.
Perhaps, like all fairy tales, it was meant to be. •
For more information on KasalNY, visit www.kasalny.com or find KasalNY-Weddings-Events on Facebook, or Instagram: KasalNY.
Carissa Villacorta is the author of “Surreality,” a collection of essays about life in NY from the perspective of a young Filipino publicist. “Surreality” is available as a digital book on Amazon.com.