Reporter Becky Lane sits down with January Mae Tan, the lady behind My Cebu Weddings (formerly Debuts and I Do’s), and gives us a glimpse of the girl behind the name.
Hi Jan. So, tell me, how did you start My Cebu Weddings (formerly Debuts & I Do’s)?
I’ve always been great at organizing events and organizations. In high school, my best friends and I (shoutout to the lovely Roni!) from Manila Science High School organized an outreach program for the underprivileged children in our area. We started with four kids, and by the time we ended, we had almost fifty. We gave them remedial classes in Math, Science and English.
I started hosting events for friends in college and later professionally. As the host, I became the de-facto coordinator, troubleshooting other items related to the event. It was easy to make the shift from event host to event planner. I guess I fell into all of this by accident.
I still host for my intimate weddings. I’m a Toastmaster and I have several national awards under my belt, so it’s always great when I have the opportunity to put myself in front of a crowd.
You obviously enjoy your job. What do you love most about it?
What I love best of all is getting caught up in the festive and romantic mood of a wedding. Most of our brides and grooms are busy working professionals.
A wedding is a chance for everyone to put on their best clothes and their best behavior and I want to make sure they have a wonderful evening. I love hearing about someone’s dream wedding and then helping to make their dream a reality.
I heard that My Cebu Weddings (formerly Debuts and I Do’s) came about because of your son?
When I got pregnant, I couldn’t keep an 8-to-5 job. I needed to do something to take my mind off this big life-changing (and beautiful!) thing that was about to happen to my life.
So, I started doing wedding planning intentionally. Up until this time, it had just been a hobby. I began putting myself out there.
My Cebu Weddings is as old as my son. I had no idea My Cebu Weddings would grow the way it has.
Now, fifteen years later, my son joins the team as our junior events wedding planner, working behind the scenes for our weddings.
How did you manage to stay in business for so long, and grow the way you did?
First, I just kept at it. I was having fun making people happy. I took it one wedding at a time, and just did my best.
Second, I decided early on that I wanted to focus on quality not quantity, so I set a limit that I would only ever handle three to four weddings in a month.
Lastly, it helped that I was an IT system administrator, too.
How does being an IT system administrator help you as a wedding planner ?
I often think that an IT system administrator and an event planner have related jobs. Basically, we are there to troubleshoot issues. It helps to be able to apply that same kind of logic-based thinking to event planning, too.
What is your greatest achievement, as an event planner?
Each wedding done well is an achievement. Ive fixed many issues at a lot of weddings, without the bride & groom ever having to know.
I will never forget a leaking roof at one of the biggest and most expensive hotels in Cebu, on the day of the super typhoon Haiyan. An earthquake had occurred just a few weeks before the super-typhoon and this hotel was weakened by it. They had a leaking roof right inside the foyer by the entrance to the reception venue.
It was three hours before the event start. There was a huge leak inside and strong winds out. The manager was at his wits’ end, giving weak assurances. But, I knew there was no way they would fix that roof in time.
So, in a crazy light-bulb-over-my-head-moment, I said to the manager: call the gardening team. Put some potted plants, basins, ferns, some warm lights.
We turned that leaking roof into a garden fountain.
The guests loved the genius of it! They were taking photos. What could have been a disaster turned into a creative unique memorable focal point.
This is the kind of disciplined and creative problem-solving I bring to each wedding.
You have a really cool logo.
Yes, it is cool, isn’t it?
This logo was actually the theme for a pop-up invitation I did for a very special couple. We copied it from a bridal magazine, but changed it so that the couple was sitting on a bench instead of standing, because both the bride and groom are physically handicapped. After the wedding, they gave me their blessing to use their design for my logo. They are now blessed with a beautiful baby girl.
You work with your mom?
Yes, my brides call her Tita Marilou.
She’s amazing. We make quite a team. I handle Creative Design and she handles Logistics. I am more comfortable in a classy hotel setting and she loves poking around in the stalls of Carbon and colon. She negotiates like a ninja for best rates for our brides. She’s timeless and ageless and we all love her.
Any advice for couples getting married?
I think it’s important to remember that it’s nice to have a beautiful wedding, and it’s better to have a great marriage. I have seen so many couples dissolve into fits and fights in planning their wedding. The best weddings I ever handled had amazing teamwork between the groom and the bride, and the wedding planner.
January’s son, Jed, serves as the inspiration behind My Cebu Weddings. At Disneyland on his 8th birthday, circa 2012
Thanks for your time, Jan. I will give you a ring when I get married, too.
See you around, Becky. I look forward to that call.
Okay, okay, so Becky Lane is a fictional writer. A cross between Becky Bloomwood from Confessions of a Shopaholic and Lois Lane. Everything else here is true. Wasn’t it more interesting to read this way? I promise to be just as creative for your wedding.
Love and laughter to you,