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The wedding planner

Camden native Tara Guerard is among country’s top planners

Posted: November 29, 2012 5:58 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Tara Geurard Soiree/

Camden native Tara Geurard has become one of the nation’s premiere wedding planners, recently throwing a wedding for Hollywood couple Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.

Tara Parnell Guerard is all the buzz these days.

Camden born and bred, Guerard boasts about her hometown and recalls what may have unwittingly started her career in the wedding planning business.

“I was junior class president at Camden High School (CHS) and the junior class had to decorate for the prom. I decorated the gym,” Guerard said. “That very first event I hung all of these streamers all around the dance floor and it was so cool and pretty. I still love hanging lamps and fabrics for the weddings I plan … who knew that would be the beginning?”

Who knew, indeed, that this Camden girl would become a nationally recognized wedding planner?

Most recently, Guerard threw a wedding for two of the entertainment world’s top young stars: Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. She has also been featured in such publications as Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle Weddings, Elegant Bride, Town & Country, Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine, and Better Homes & Gardens.

But that’s not all.

Guerard has more than 5,000 followers on Twitter, a blog, two books, offices in New York and Charleston, three children under the age of 5 … and a cute dog.

So how did she achieve such success?

After graduating from CHS in 1987, Guerard went on to study psychology at the College of Charleston, worked in the food and beverage industry, met and wed the love of her life, Russell Guerard, and then opened her own business -- Tara Guerard Soiree.

Guerard has worked tirelessly in the industry ever since to make her business what it is today.

“I had to pay my way through college working in food and beverage, waiting tables … so my only work background I had after getting out of college was food and beverage related,” Guerard said. “I knew I didn’t want to be a server for the rest of my life. So my first job I ended up being a general manager of a temp agency that specialized in food and beverage. I placed chefs, servers and bartenders in temporary and full-time positions. I had that job for about two to three years.”

The daughter of Lorraine Truesdale and Bobby Parnell -- Camden’s fire chief for nearly a decade -- Guerard is no stranger to hard work and weekend duty. In fact, she purports that if you work hard and do a good job, it is not difficult to be successful.

“I have done 500 weddings since I started Soiree. And today I only do eight to 10 events a year. My goal is to do only four larger ones, so that I can do fewer and fewer. Back in the old days I used to work every weekend,” she said. Guerard still remains personally involved in every wedding. So, because they are of higher quality and caliber, the weddings are fewer in number.

Soiree itself started as an event planning business. It wasn’t until later that Guerard began to specialize in weddings.

“At one point I realized that I was a bit of a creative person, so I wanted a job where I could be creative,” Guerard said. “I thought it might be a perfect thing for me to design parties, since I already knew the food and beverage side of it. I also knew everybody in town because I had worked with every hotel and all of the different caterers around. I knew all of the venues from that job. So I said well I will take what I know and be creative with it and that is kind of how I came up with the idea of planning and designing parties … and I started Soiree.

“My first few jobs I remember people would come to me and ask if I did weddings, but I would say ‘no, I only do parties’ -- but there weren’t many jobs for just parties and more weddings kept coming my way so I started taking them. And then I started loving them. I loved getting to know the brides, being their good friend. I am obviously a people person so I enjoy talking with brides and figuring them out. My psychology background then came into it -- in dealing with the mothers and brides. And then I would figure out their style and tastes and would be able to create an event for them. I am also very hyper and very energetic, so the whole concept worked.”

Sixteen years later, Soiree is known as one of the top wedding planners/designers in the country. And Guerard is not letting up. She has continued to branch out with the development of two additional businesses, one of which she opened in 2006; the other launched recently.

“I just launched another business called Tara Guerard -- where we are doing interiors, consulting and products. And there is the Lettered Olive, which is a custom letterpress invitation company,” said Guerard.

When asked if there is any advice she would give to budding entrepreneurs, Guerard replied, “Be smart about your money. Never get ahead of yourself. Don’t get in the hole. Always pay your bills and have a good reputation. I also think that you need to be loyal to the vendors that are good to you because they are part of your team.”

Apart from hard work, loyalty is the other key element which appears to have contributed to Guerard’s success as she also continues to remain true to her roots.

“I may live in Charleston, but I will always be a Camden girl,” Guerard said.


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