Gina Humilde, Wedding & Event Planner
Gina is a boundless source of energy and laughter who juggles weddings, corporate events, and Toronto fashion week all as part of a day’s work. Learn more about what it’s like to be in the events industry and what the best, worst, and craziest parts of it all in our conversation below.
Tell me a bit about yourself Gina. What got you into the events space?
Events was always something that I had naturally gravitated towards but didn’t think much of as a career. I loved being part of productions when I was growing up, and when I was at Western University I always found myself organizing these insane house parties or campus fashion shows. My friends and I used to joke that event planning was my unrecognized minor.
After graduation, I became an insurance broker and financial advisor. As the family business, it was this safe, seemingly more lucrative path that my asian immigrant parents encouraged me to follow. The challenge was that I had no drive for it. I’d go into work each day and basically countdown the minutes to 5PM.
The way that I found my way back to event planning (more officially this time) was when my younger brother was in university and looking to transfer to a film program. He wanted to become a director, so he put together an entire powerpoint presentation for my parents with a full plan for how he was going to make it work. Seeing his passion for film was the moment I realized that I needed to make a career change myself. What was the point of spending tens of hours each week doing something I wasn’t proud of?
I ended up leaving my job and starting at an event management program. From there I would volunteer for every single event I possibly could get my hands on. Weddings, corporate events, festivals - Toronto has so much going on so. One day a speaker came in to talk about what it was like being a wedding planner and the next thing I knew, I became her assistant. I loved the way she presented herself, her lifestyle of being able to travel for destination weddings, and how she described the process of bringing a vision to life. Now 7 years later after that internship, I have my own events company that I’m looking to grow.
That’s amazing to hear that you took the plunge. What do you love most about being a professional event planner full-time? I’d imagine It must feel amazing to see events come together after months of planning.
Event day is definitely amazing, but what I absolutely love about my job is trying to get into my clients’ heads to understand what they’re thinking and then translating that vision into something people can experience. With weddings, it’s essential for me to tap into what’s important to the couple so that when their guests show up, they think ‘oh my gosh, that’s so them!’. And with corporate events, I love trying to turn a brand story into a creative concept. There are a million ways to bring an idea to life, and where my creativity thrives is deconstructing ideas and having surprise and delight elements blended into an event.
Beyond the actual design process, I’m also very grateful to have the luxury of being a bit of a nomad of the world. I get to draw inspiration from other cultures and carry them forward to all my events when I travel for destination weddings. Plus, any excuse for new experiences from a new restaurant opening to an outdoor adventure is something I can always chalk up to inspiration for work. I love that part of my job requires me to literally stay up to date with what’s trending.
Are there any of the job that aren’t fun then?
There is a lot of work that leads up to the glitz and glamour of event day. And even when you have plans A through F thought through, things still go wrong. I guess the fact that events involve a lot of troubleshooting is the downside, but at the same time, I honestly find that I thrive off the adrenaline of solving problems. Event planners must all have a masochistic bone in our bodies or something. Not only is being on your feet that long hard on the body, but there is also an emotional and mental toll of managing so many people, with different personalities, goals, and needs. You either have to be able to get into some sort of flow state (or be a crazy person like me) to enjoy that kind of heat-of-the-moment, make-it-or-break-it stress.
The other part that’s challenging about my role is that I find that I’m not just carrying the pressure of my own company’s reputation, but my clients as well. Whether the event is a wedding representing a couple, or a brand launching something new, people’s (guests) compulsion to document everything means that every single aspect of an event needs to look good. And because we’re constantly exposed to new ideas, the bar keeps getting higher. Sometimes it feels like each event needs to out do the next, just for the sake of the ‘gram.
And if that wasn’t enough to suck me into long days, because I own my own business, it makes it especially hard to turn off. Beyond nailing an event, as the sole owner, there are a million little things like updating my website that need to get done. The fact that I never have a finished to-do list can drive me a bit crazy, but I’ve always been a leap first and figure it out kind of person. Starting my own business was exactly that and I’ve just had to trust that things will come together in the way they’re meant to.
After 7 years, have you found that there are certain events that you gravitate to more than others?
I love changing it up so I think that’s why my portfolio is so large. The one that I hold most closely though is Toronto Fashion Week (TFW), in part because it really is the only platform Toronto designers really have to showcase their work!
Unfortunately, the government has yet to recognize fashion as an art so it’s hard to get grants in the same way TIFF does. Beyond designers paying a small fee, and TFW pays for and does everything else like the runways, AV, music, lighting, and event producers. We really try to create an environment and show for each designer that brings to life their vision in a way that they probably wouldn’t be able to do until they reached a certain scale. It’s kind of like using your powers for good, creatives need to support creatives.
I bet with all the events you’ve done there are probably some really crazy stories! Can you share any?
I’ve been very fortunate to have cool clients. There haven’t been any bridezillas or anything like that. Where some craziness does happen though is events with really big budgets. One thing I’ve gotten to plan recently is this far out Christmas party. Because these clients have seen it all and done it all, they really wanted to do something different, which meant having an elegant winter wonderland scene that also somehow incorporated their pet Siamese cat...
The brief ended up including a 14 foot inflatable cat customized to look like their pet, a dance song and show that incorporated cats, and extra special treatment of their pet who was to be brought into the event on the most royal looking cat bed I could find! I guess when it comes to event stories, it’s not really from the people for me, it’s mainly just from sourcing truly weird things.
Any advice for anyone who’s looking to pursue events?
I’d say to just put yourself out there. Events is definitely a relationships business. When I started volunteering in Toronto, it really opened up my eyes to see how simultaneously big and small this industry was - everyone knows each other. Make as many connections as possible and be memorable! At my first few industry events, I had business cards made that said ‘Event Planner in Training’ with my face on them and honestly, that’s what got me in the door!
As for anyone who might be looking for that spark in their job and hasn’t found it, take that leap to find something that does. We spend too many of our waking hours working to be doing something that doesn’t make us happy. Enjoying your career should be non-negotiable. Trust me on that.
Check out snaps of Gina's events on her Instagram profile @ginahumildeevents, including one of the cat themed bash she just recently threw.