With a background in creative writing and theatre, Stephanie’s start in the events industry was not traditional. However, it’s clear her creative background helped propel her career planning events. Stephanie is the Assistant Director of Special Events at The Juilliard School, one of the leading schools for performing arts in the world, and owns her own event business, Stephanie Gatton Events.
“I earned my bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, majoring in English (Creative Writing). I thought I’d be a poet, but theatre soon took over my life,” Stephanie explains, “I then went to the University of California, San Diego and earned my MFA in Theatre Stage Management. Educationally, I’ve taken continuing education courses at UC Berkeley, MediaBistro, The New School, and the Event Leadership Institute (Wedding Planning Fundamentals and Fundraising Event Management, for which I received certifications).”
Stephanie then worked as a freelance theatrical and events stage manager for over ten years and then went on to spend five years working at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
“I received my first exposure to ‘special events’ while at the Guggenheim, and of all the work we did in my department, collaborating with the events team on high-profile celebrity events, product launches, exhibition openings, and educational symposia were what spoke to me the most. As a stage manager, I had worked on the production side of numerous one-off events, but it wasn’t until I started my career at Juilliard that I gained a true appreciation and understanding of the social side of things.”
Transitioning from her background in theatre to a new role presented some challenges for Stephanie, “Early on, I had to adjust my expectations for planning an event that rehearses, opens, and closes all in one day! Coming from a theatre background – where an integral part of my job was to maintain a single show eight times a week for weeks or months on end – this was quite an adjustment! I had to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and learn to roll with last-minute changes, always learning to think outside of the box and never say no when faced with a problem.”
Through this, Stephanie learned, “The importance of flexibility in our industry. It’s absolutely essential to go into any event with a Plan A, but what’s almost equally essential is the ability to understand that the plan can and will change, and it’s up to you to make it happen. Rigidity in our industry can make for unhappy clients. So, no matter what, I always go in with the attitude of ‘how can I help?’ instead of ‘how did we get here?’”
However, that wasn’t the only challenge Stephanie faced throughout her career. “The most challenging situation I’ve faced professionally involved working for a former boss who – especially when viewed in the lens of 2018 and the #metoo movement – really approached me with a patronizing sense of sexism and gender superiority. I worked incredibly hard on all of my events, only to be pushed down, professionally, at every opportunity I met. It took its toll on me over the years, and the best thing I could to was to extricate myself from the situation,” Stephanie shares, “Moving on from that experience taught me a LOT about what I wanted from a boss, an organization, and my own career. I now have the privilege of working for an amazing female Director of Events at Juilliard, and it has done wonders for my confidence and growth in the industry. This experience also lead me to start my own company, Stephanie Gatton Events, and to ‘be my own boss.’ I probably never would’ve become an entrepreneur if not for that previous negative experience.”
Today, Stephanie thrives in her role and in her business. When asked what the most inspiring part of her career is, Stephanie responded, “At Juilliard, I absolutely LOVE the mission of the school – everything we do, and every event we plan, is all in support of our amazing students. Ninety percent of our students qualify for financial aid of some kind, and if we can graduate them from the program with as little student loan debt as possible, that’s an achievement.”
And as for her business, “In my wedding business, it’s my couples who inspire me! I tend to work with a lot of non-traditional or offbeat couples, and I genuinely enjoy becoming their partner in the planning process! I always say that by the time their wedding day comes around, I’m so happy for them because they’re finally marrying their person, but sad for me, because it means our working relationship has come to an end!”
To date, Stephanie feels opening her own business is one of her greatest accomplishments, “To go from having an idea, to fruition and execution, has been nothing short of inspiring! I did my research – starting with taking Lindsay Landman’s amazing Wedding Planning Fundamentals online class – and laid the groundwork. I built my website from the ground up myself and spent the first year of my business saying yes to every opportunity, building vendor and venue relations in the industry. That has paid off immensely, as most of my clients are now from direct referrals, as opposed to the little bit of paid advertising I invest in. I enjoy putting my own procedures in place, feeling the accomplishment of making someone’s big day dreams come true, and empowering other women to follow in my footsteps.”
Owner + Lead Coordinator, Stephanie Gatton Events
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., my love for city life has yet to be quenched. Pursuing a degree in English Creative Writing from Georgetown University, my days were equally divided between editing the entertainment section of the university newspaper and producing and stage managing for an upstart theatre company on campus. After graduation and a year-long stint as a graphic designer (where I learned to love the perfect beauty of a well laid-out design), I headed out west for what I lovingly refer to as my “California years.
Two years in Berkeley led to three years in San Diego earning my MFA in Stage Management from UCSD. I then – finally! – made the move back east, embarking on three more years of enlightening, challenging, and rewarding theatrical work in the city I now call home. After 10+ years as a freelance stage manager, I yearned for a bit of stability. While the theatre has been the cornerstone of my professional life, as well as my personal one (I met my husband backstage at Playwrights Horizons, as I was desperately in search of a clip light for a prop table; the rest is history), I sought out new avenues to put my very practical and valuable skill set to use in other ways. Once I realized that planning events was just like managing or producing a production, the rest was history!
After five years in venue management for the iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NYC, since 2013, I have had the honor of serving as a full-time event planner for The Juilliard School, one of the world’s leading arts conservatories. Each year, I directly plan or help my team coordinate over 80 special events. My background is deeply ingrained in the performing arts: I am known to be a kick-ass SM, with a deep reservoir of live event management across all areas (corporate, non-profit, artistic/creative performances, meetings and
conferences). You name it, I’ve done it.
My friends started asking me to “stage manage” their weddings a few years ago, which I was glad to do, because a wedding is essentially a show, and I love own running the show! After my wedding, I realized that my experience can benefit all couples – but in particular anyone who feels left-of-center, or non-traditional, in whatever way that means to them. I work with couples of all shapes, sizes, religions, gender identities, colors, and more! I am a proud LGBTQ ally, and will go down just about any road with my couples in order to ensure they have the wedding of their dreams, whatever those dreams may be! Whether you see yourself as a traditional couple, or want to bring your own unique touch to your wedding (I’ve seen knife juggling, hand fasting, and cosplay at my weddings), you should come to expect the same level of excellence and professionalism in how your wedding is executed.