With over 100 weddings under their collective belts, here's how two Irish expats found their place in the bridal industry in New York, and became inseparable friends along the way.
It’s quite fitting that it was a wedding-related incident that brought Melissa Deane and Maisie-Kate Keane together. Two years after initially meeting, the young professionals both work harmoniously in the fast-paced bridal industry in one of the busiest cities in the world.
When Deane (27) was searching for a flower crown to complete an outfit for an upcoming wedding she was attending, she came across a bespoke accessory company on Instagram called Bramble & Berrie, co-founded by Keane.
“Maisie offered to hand deliver the crown to me as I needed it quick,” Deane told Image.ie. “It turned out she worked in the building directly across from me so we went for lunch. Fast forward two years later and we want to open our own business someday together… fingers crossed!”
Deane, from Rathmore, Co. Kildare studied Commerce and German in University College Cork – but she always dreamed of becoming a Wedding Planner (she even did her Transition Year work experience with a wedding design company). To date, she has worked at over 50 weddings.
After graduating, Deane set her sights on moving to New York to gain experience in the industry. After a stint at Ted Baker on their PR and Events team, she found her entry into the bridal world when a role at JLM Couture came about.
“JLM Couture is a multi-brand bridal house carrying wedding dress brands such as Hayley Paige and Lazaro. I managed PR for all brands, as well has planning and managing the Spring and Fall season runway shows and any events held at our LA store,” Deane explained. “When I first started, it was very much a sink or swim situation; I had to learn the industry very quick. In my first few weeks there I planned and managed a runway show. It was a very tough, but a great learning experience.”
Her experience led her to her current position as a Wedding/Event Planner at a prestigious New York City-based event company, previously named as the premiere wedding planning firm by Vogue magazine.
“Everyday is different, but overall my role is to plan and manage all aspects of a wedding and, depending on the client, the whole wedding weekend. We have a really strong team and work on every event together."
"Some of my duties include securing all vendors (such as lighting, band/DJ, photographer, hair/make-up artists), coordinating the production of paper products like menu cards, invitations, ceremony programs, escort cards, and any other paper products the client may want. I also attending tastings, create and manage budgets, create internal and vendor timelines. And of course, our whole team is there on the day of, from start to finish, managing all vendors and making sure the day goes smoothly.”
While the hours are long, and many weekends are spent attending clients’ weddings and watching the events come to life is still Deane’s favourite thing about her job.
Keane (also 27) from Oranmore, Galway, originally studied Fashion Design at the Limerick School of Art and Design and completed a digital Pattern Making course at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, so it’s no surprise that she has ended up immersed in a creative industry.
“As clichè as it sounds, I spent my childhood sketching, creating 3D things from empty cereal boxes (or whatever I could get my hands on) and making clothes for my Barbies from fabrics that my mom would bring me back from her travels,” Keane said. “I was always making or upcycling things and knew I wanted to something creative, but I didn’t specifically know or plan that I would end up in fashion.”
“My dream job always was (and still is) buying and restoring old buildings and working with interior spaces. I’m currently transitioning into Event Design which has many similarities to Interior Design in that you are working with a blank canvas, designing and creating an atmospheric space for a client, inspired by something that they love. I’m excited to start working with a New York planner this July to help design spaces for their weddings and events.”
Keane, who has lived in New York almost four years, also lived in London where she gained experience working in the world of fashion.
“After living in London for over a year, I decided to move to New York as I was finding that entry level jobs in the London fashion industry are either unpaid internships or extremely badly paid,” she said.
Having fallen in love with Manhattan on a childhood trip with her family, she felt it was inevitable that she’d make it her home one day. However, the fact that she’s found her footing in the bridal industry wasn’t really ever on the agenda.
“I always say that ‘everything happens for a reason’. One of my first jobs before starting fashion college was working as a Bridal Attendant in Galway for almost three years,” Keane remembered. “My workdays would entail helping brides choose their wedding dress and conduct their fittings. I’m also from a musical family so I grew up playing music at weddings and used to love seeing how different each wedding was. I suppose that was the start of it all, I just didn’t realise it at the time!”
“Melissa is another reason why I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Keane continued. “That day [when delivering the flower crown she had made] when I was on the way to Bryant Park for my lunch and asked her to join me… well, the rest is history. We have so many similar interests and we just clicked from day one. I could have easily just mailed her the flower crown but that story would have been much less interesting and we never would have met.”
It was during her formative years living in New York that Keane was introduced to a somewhat unique concept: bridal styling. While a Wedding Planner is tasked with perfecting the overall event details in the lead up and during the big day, a Wedding Day Stylist has a different role altogether. Keane is now busy with her role as a Lead Wedding Stylist and Hiring Manager for one of New York's top Bridal Styling companies.
"In a nutshell, I’m there to prepare the bride and bridal party’s outfits, dress everyone and troubleshoot any fashion emergencies that may arise such as stains or rips. I help the photographers during photos by making sure the bride and everyone's outfits look perfect. I also attend the bride's final fittings to make sure the fit and bustle of the dress are perfect," she explained.
"On the day, my assistants and I arrive to where the bride and groom are getting ready and take care of all of the fashion needs. We prepare (steam, press, label and organise) all items, help the bride into her dress, assist with all accessories, and assist other members of the family or wedding party with dressing as needed. We tie the groomsmen’s bow ties, and pin their boutonnieres. I also work with the photographer to set up a beautiful vignette for shooting the dress and accessories prior to dressing."
Keane is also tasked with ‘shadowing’ the bride for the day, ensuring she looks picture perfect at all times and that the dress stays in perfect condition. Most importantly, she will be on hand to 'bustle' the wedding dress after the ceremony so the bride can enjoy the night without having to worry about anyone stepping on her dress. Of course, emergencies can happen during the night, so if stains, rips, broken straps, or any other disasters occur, Keane and co will have it covered.
“I prepare the bride before going down the aisle and hold the veil and train until she is at the end of the aisle and ready to go. This part always gives me goosebumps when the music starts, doors open and I send my brides down the aisle,” Keane added.
After working at over 40 weddings in America, Keane has also had the opportunity to work at nuptials in Amsterdam, Lake Como and Tuscany... not to mention Ireland’s lavish Adare Manor.
For Keane, the travel and opportunity to meet similarly hard-working people is what makes the job so rewarding.
“It really pays to work hard and be nice to people as it can lead to other opportunities,” Keane maintained. “People remember and appreciate hard work, especially during a stressful wedding day. Starting off in any field, you never know how small that industry may be. It quickly became clear to me that I would be working with some of the same vendors at different weddings and I soon realised that everyone knows everyone in the New York bridal scene. Everyone goes to the same bridal events and refers each other to different brides.”
Deane agreed: “I’ve learned first hand that the only way to succeed is to work really, really hard. There really are no shortcuts. Also, be patient – it took me some time to get to the position I am in now, but I was persistent and never gave up. The work/life balance is tough at times, but if you are truly passionate about the work then it won’t matter.”
While it’s hard to imagine anything in New York City being classed as small, Deane revealed that the bridal industry is actually quite tight knit: hence there are many times when she finds herself working on/at weddings with Keane.
“Sometimes my clients will hire the bridal styling company that Maisie works for for the wedding day, so that's always a bonus” Deane said. “Aside from the world of bridal we do everything together from workout classes, to dinner parties and trips away.”