With an office right on Main Street in Red River, Karen Kelly runs KWK Events, her own business, as an event planner of weddings, reunions and corporate retreats.
Karen Kelly knows that getting married in Northern New Mexico is a special treat of nature.
Her roles as various tourism and hospitality directors around the Enchanted Circle and Colfax County for the past 10-plus years has given her the boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the area, but her event planning experience stretches back over three decades.
With an office right on Main Street in Red River, Kelly runs KWK Events, her own business, as an event planner of weddings, reunions and corporate retreats.
She went into business for herself in November 2017. Since that time, 65 percent of her business has come through the doors because of referrals. A lot of her clients are also coming from Albuquerque because that metro area is very expensive to get married in, she said.
"They're getting out of the heat and coming up here to enjoy the mountains and a more affordable wedding," Kelly said.
In a recent meeting at Kelly's office, Nicole Perea and her fiancé, Antonio Garcia, both of Los Lunas, said, "We love it out here." The alpine environment and charming town, surrounded by Carson National Forest, was a match made in heaven for the couple.
The couple met at a conference table with Kelly and discussed wedding details in great detail -- such as where to place the seating, how long the receptions will last and whether any special family accommodations were needed for elderly relatives and children.
Her first step when someone contacts her is to do an introductory call and discuss the vision for their ceremony and reception.
"Sometimes I don't meet the couple in person until the day of their wedding," she said.
No matter what the size of the event, Kelly gives her expert attention and years of experience to organizing the events. The smallest event she'll plan is for two people. The largest? About 350 people.
Kelly attributes her success to her partnerships, working with other businesses and individuals to make the wedding seamless for the bride. For example, she is partnered with Alpine Lodge and Auslander Condominiums, and she is the official wedding planner for the Red River Ski & Summer Area.
Generally speaking, Kelly's plans for 2019 include continuing to work very closely with the towns and villages in the Enchanted Circle to create marketing materials showcasing wedding and event venues and partnerships.
"We attend bridal expos and shows throughout New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and southern Colorado to support our marketing and we will continue to do so," Kelly said.
KWK Events is licensed in Red River and a member of the town's chamber of commerce.
"For weddings, the kids grew up here. They want to get married here, they have very fond memories here."
Kelly doesn't just do weddings; she also plans family reunions -- "There are thousands of them here in Red River" -- corporate retreats and other special events.
Kelly reflected on the start of her hospitality career in a production wedding facility on the shores of Lake Tahoe that also specialized in working with the Nevada Film Commission.
"Right out of college my love of detail, organization and event planning went into overdrive with this exposure and I never looked back. Owning my own business in event planning and wedding coordination is a dream come true," Kelly said.
She conducts the marketing for business mostly via social media. "I don't have a lot of marketing dollars. I put an ad in The Taos News's Wedding Guide last year. A couple walked in holding that magazine. They asked: 'Why aren't you signed up with The Knot and WeddingWire? We never would've found you without this ad.' So the ad paid for itself," Kelly said.
Kelly is not listed on those popular wedding planning websites because, she said, they are very expensive. Nevertheless, her years in tourism has given her a strong marketing capability. Visit kwkevents.com for more information.
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