Loved ones are gathered, the music begins as the lights dim, and everyone turns as the beaming bride elegantly makes her way down the aisle to her beloved to begin their lives together. A wedding is one of humanity’s most time-honored traditions, and whether traditional or not, a public declaration and celebration of the love between two people is a dream come true for many. It’s Nicole Benvenutti’s mission to help make that dream a reality. Wedding planning was not even a blip on Nicole’s career radar when she enrolled at Rhodes College to study for her degree in vocal performance, however, several very timely and fortunate circumstances and opportunities presented themselves, and in a spot-on example of the butterfly effect, the proverbial fluttering of small wings has led to the perfect storm that has been Nicole’s fantastic career.
I first met Nicole in 2007 when she auditioned for the Performance Company at the Texas Renaissance Festival in Magnolia, Texas. 24 years old, fresh from her university studies at Rhodes College and subsequent study abroad program at the Gaiety School of Acting – The National Theater School of Ireland, she put her Bachelor of Arts degree in Vocal Performance to great use as she approached the stage singing the famous “Habanero Aria” from the Bizet opera “Carmen.” She wowed us with her talents, poise, and charm, was cast in the role of Mary Boleyn, sister of the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, and settled in
comfortably as a member of the tight knit performance company of actors, and rightly so; Nicole is talented, beautiful, a giving performer, a natural leader, and very easy to work with.
Having grown up in Texas, she returned after completing her studies and auditioned for TRF with the hope of finding a community where she would fit in, work with people who understood and shared her love of the arts and performance, and where she could meet kindred spirits with whom to forge new and long lasting friendships. For performance company members, the Texas Renaissance Festival is a four-month long commitment in the summer and autumn months with rehearsal and performance activities occurring almost exclusively on the weekends. Nicole became a fixture at TRF for several seasons, and luckily found her tribe of kindred spirits, performing artists, and treasured friendships to last a lifetime. During the week, away from her TRF commitments, she earned her living as a professional vocal artist and working with De Beers Diamond Jewelers where she organized their luxury events. A knack for this new experience inspired her to enroll at the University of Houston’s esteemed Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management where she earned a Masters of Science Degree in Hospitality Management and during which time she launched her own upscale independent wedding planning and consulting business, Nicole For Your Memories.
The contacts and networking opportunities afforded her would prove to be invaluable. During a conversation with a job recruiter for Fairmont Hotels &
Resorts she mentioned her plan to attend a hospitality convention in New York City. The recruiter recommended she stop by the Plaza Hotel to meet with their Director of Sales. “I had no idea it was for a job interview,” she says. “I met with the Director and had a tour of the property. By the time I was saying goodbye they offered me a job in the department. I was never planning on making the move into hotels, but who can say no to The Plaza!” Who indeed!
From there her career reads like any event planner’s dream resume, from The Plaza Hotel in NYC, followed by a move with her husband, Cham, to Las Vegas with the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts as a Catering Manager, and then on to Santa Fe to work at the Four Seasons there where she was promoted to Director of Catering and Conference Services. She, her husband, and their two young sons now reside in Palm Desert, California where they moved when Nicole accepted a position as the Director of Catering with the Waldorf Astoria, La Quinta Resort.
Three years ago, after coming to the realization that there was a need for personalized options in the wedding planning industry, Nicole registered Fleur Consultants as an LLC, knowing that she eventually wanted to branch out on her own to conduct her career in a way that was fulfilling and sustainable, affording her the flexibility to be a parent.
Leaving the Waldorf company a year and a half ago, she returned to sales as a Sales Manager for Miramonte Resort. This move allowed her the opportunity to work with Fleur in earnest as an independent consultant offering her services to brides in the desert area. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic took its professional toll and Nicole’s position at the resort was eliminated in June, but that opened her time and she immersed herself in her business, hammered out her beautiful website, and her full time career as Fleur Consultants, LLC was officially born.
So what is her philosophical approach to her craft? Her mission is to provide a luxury service without the luxury price tag which includes personalized consultation and the ability to work within a client’s budget despite the amount of that budget. If a couple require a full wedding planning experience, Nicole can do that. If a couple on a more modest budget requires some basic consultation and advice rather than full scale planning from top to bottom, Nicole is able to offer a la carte service as well. For her, the luxury is in her client’s experience and the extra attention paid to a traditional formal dinner place setting, the polishing of flatware, the way a napkin is folded, and the way flowers are arranged. All of these may seem like a given, but they are meaningful details that together create an experience that take the most simple and humble aspects of an event to the next level.
Weddings as theatrical pageantry and spectacle are nothing new. In 1501, Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the famed King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, married Arthur Tudor, England’s Prince of Wales and son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, in a ceremony at the old St. Paul’s Cathedral in London that rivaled that of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles almost 500 years later. Most of us are not equipped with the resources of royal dynastic families to stage weddings of that caliber, but we can certainly enjoy an exquisite experience, nonetheless.
“Weddings need to be magical,” Nicole says, noting that expectations for the perfect day are high. “Weddings are like theatrical productions, and theatrical productions are project management.” If that is the case, which, as a theatre professional I know it is, then Nicole is a very busy director and project manager who is tasked with working with a strict budget, with specialized personnel, and within a very strict deadline. It turns out that a career as a professional wedding and event consultant is the perfect choice for someone educated and experienced in theater and the performing arts. In her magic-making toolbox Nicole has access to lighting and set designers, floral vendors, caterers, centerpiece vendors, and all manner of talented artists who can create a magical event for any client. With modern expectations set so high, especially for luxury events, she says, “Wedding planners need to be specialists in everything. But being able to put together a dedicated team of tech theater personnel to handle lighting, and space design, would be ideal.” She also realizes many have internal struggles with the cost of a luxury experience without the luxury budget. Even though her entire professional career has focused on luxury, she believes that assisting couples who don’t have the money for a huge budget wedding production, what she calls the “middle level bride”, presents a unique opportunity that many other wedding consultants may pass up. “There are brides who want to do it themselves but still may want a consultant who is able to look at their ideas and either validate their choices or steer them in the right direction with some professional industry advice.”
As theater is wont to do, despite the best laid plans, snafus are bound to happen. Nicole’s presence is required at her events and she says that her time rehearsing and performing at the Texas Renaissance Festival, which focuses on improvisation and person-to-person interaction with guests, really prepared her for her role as a hands-on event planner. “When you’re at TRF, you are thinking on your feet and you’re improvising. Being in event planning, you also have to be on your feet and react with confidence when unforeseen circumstances arise. This happens all the time in this industry and you have to run with it. The rehearsal games, ‘yes, and…’ improvisation exercises, and the unexpected things that happen while performing on the path helped to shape how I handle certain situations.” She laughs and adds somewhat jokingly, “I am an expert in how to handle inebriated guests.”
But it goes beyond that, “When managing a wedding you have to be ‘in character’ to help folks overcome nervousness and anxieties. People want someone who they feel comfortable working with.” She tells the story about a very nervous bride who began to hyperventilate just as the doors were opened ahead of her procession down the aisle. Her father and attendants had to close the doors and delay the start of the ceremony for a few minutes while they worked with her to help calm her down. “She wasn’t having cold feet, or afraid of getting married, she was just a very shy woman. Her dad tried to comfort her,
until she asked for me. I was able to get her to focus and the wedding proceeded without a hitch.”
It’s that level of personalized service and relationship along with her reassuring nature that makes Nicole special and outstanding in her field, earning her a 2020 nomination for best wedding under $50,000 from the National Association for Catering and Events. Nicole loves her job and all of the artistic aspects that come with the territory, but what she adores most is her clients, many of whom have become friends. To help promote her business, she relies on word of mouth recommendations and testimonials which are often very personal. What is especially precious is when those testimonials are from dear friends
made during her time at TRF and for whom she has had the privilege of working, even from a thousand miles away, to plan their special day. “The people I’ve worked with from coast to coast, my friends from TRF, are all family. It hasn’t mattered that I’ve moved out of state and have not been back to TRF in five years, because those friends have been supportive of me over the years. At TRF I was allowed to find my authentic self which gave me the confidence to be who I am and to pursue my passions.” We should all be so lucky.
Nicole Benvenutti is the owner and operator of Fleur Consultants, LLC, based in Palm Desert,
California. For a hands-on, luxury event planning experience, visit her website at
By Stacy Bakri
Stacy A. Bakri was a performer with the Texas Renaissance Festival for thirteen seasons
including nine as the Assistant Director for the Performance Company. She is an Estate
Planning and Probate paraprofessional and currently serves as the Artistic Director the Company OnStage Theatre in Houston, Texas