Questions & Answers with community faces
Kendall (Gilbert) Rose (32) is originally from Westland, a suburb of Metro Detroit. Growing up, she was a major celebrator—throwing holiday parties for all of the neighborhood kids, planning her April birthday party in October, and dressing up the family dinner table to make the occasion just a bit more special. Now, as an adult, she considers herself an artist and a creative, whose medium is experiences and environments; she loves to create events, spaces, and moments that people linger in, enjoy, and forget about whatever else is going on outside of the present moment.
After finishing high school, Rose attended Grand Valley State University, where she graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in geography and a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology. Her academic focus was in environmental studies. Following a series of internships and practicums, she landed a job at an engineering, surveying, and planning firm in Grand Rapids as an associate urban planner, spending her time working on community development projects throughout the state and honing her skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) while developing community engagement events for everything from rapid transit projects to rails-to-trails programs to community zoning review meetings.
In 2015, she decided her niche in this field of work was outdoor recreation and environmental planning, and so she pursued a lifelong dream of working for the National Park Service. After a short stint with an NPS training program in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she applied for and landed a dream job working for the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, a joint effort between the National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was based in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—her office was just a few steps away from Lake Michigan in the historic Glen Arbor area.
She first met her husband, Ryan Rose (38), shortly after graduating college, when she moved into a house that he was sharing with his brother, who was a friend she had met at college. They started dating as roommates about a year later and then resided in Grand Rapids. He fully supported her desire to move to Chattanooga to pursue the job with the National Park Service and again when they moved to Northern Michigan—although he would have loved it if they could have made it out to Wyoming or Montana.
However, when the National Park Service was put on a hiring freeze in 2017, Rose lost her job in May. That summer, she worked a part-time gig for a local catering company that specialized in weddings, and that led to an epiphany—or maybe just a remembrance. Going back to her roots of event planning since childhood, Rose started her own business in 2017, and she has now worked with more than 40 couples over the past four years to make their dream weddings a reality.
Continuing with our interview series on impactful Benzie County characters, The Betsie Current caught up with Rose as she was taking time during her maternity leave.
The Betsie Current: You took quite a leap, going from environmental work into event planning. What made you want to work in the wedding industry? What do you enjoy about this line of work?
Kendall Rose: In 2016, following the federal election in November, I was informed by my boss and the head of our program to expect drastic funding cuts to the department. When the 2017 fiscal year budget was released in February, it became clear that the next four years were going to be incredibly challenging from a funding standpoint, and they also prepared me to expect a federal hiring freeze that would prevent me from extending my contract for another year. I was devastated and crushed. I had found what I thought was going to be my forever career. The day of the election, I was on a three-day solo kayak trip on the Shiawassee River in Southeast Michigan mapping geographic features of the river to prepare it for a recreational water trail map—I mean it doesn’t get any better than that! By May 2017, my contract had ended, a federal hiring freeze was in effect, and I was officially jobless and completely unable to figure out what to do with my life. I saw an Instagram post from a business that I followed, Epicure Catering, a farm-to-table caterer on a historic farm property in Leelanau County, and the draw of the hospitality and service industry beckoned me back. I figured it’d be a good weekend job for the summer and would buy me some time to figure out what to do. We had just bought our first home in Almira Township, just outside of Lake Ann, and so we weren’t keen on moving any time soon. Over that summer, I somehow felt myself being completely swindled by these weekend events we were doing. The work I had been doing over the past five years was so serious, and I always felt the pressure to have a serious, career-oriented job, and somehow I forgot that one of my favorite things in life, and in the world, is just having a good time with people. Having and throwing a party. Connecting with others. I would get so excited for the weekend to come and head back to Cherry Basket Farm where the owners, Cammie Buehler and Andy Schudlich, took the role of being the region’s best culinary team and event venue very seriously. By Labor Day, I realized that I wanted to stay in this world. Ryan and I were planning our own October wedding at the time, and I was loving it, and so I impulsively said, “Why don’t I try being a wedding planner?” I was used to being a project manager, developing budgets, and working and traveling all over the state, so I figured this would be somewhat in my wheelhouse! So I made a super simple website, got an email address, started an Instagram account, and just kind of put myself out there. It’s hard to recount how everything happened, but Northern Michigan is so small and connected that somehow some wedding vendors knew that I was starting a wedding-planning company, and word of mouth was basically how I booked my first clients, along with referrals from super supportive wedding planners who were already in business. I also assisted another planner with coordination for a few weddings, and this was so helpful for me to gain experience. In the summer of 2018, I also worked for Epicure Catering again, along with Island Thyme Catering, and those experiences definitely gave me a strong handle on event logistics. This community is so supportive of and used to entrepreneurism, and I just happened to be in the right place for something like this business endeavor to work; last I checked, Leelanau County had the second highest count of marriage licenses filed in the state after Berrien County. It’s a destination wedding market, and that worked out so well for me in those first years. About three months after I launched, I landed my first full-service planning contract. The couple were small-business owners, and I remember them saying, “We like to give new businesses a chance.” They paid my full rate, didn’t ask for a discount because I was new, and completely trusted me from start to finish for almost a year. They were really happy with my services, and that was such a huge boost to my confidence. Since then, I’ve worked with 40 couples, from Ann Arbor to Cheboygan. I have done every size wedding you can imagine, from 12-person intimate weddings to 300-person festival weekends with four days of events.
Current: Why should someone hire a wedding planner?
Rose: Ah, the golden question. I really equate it to this: 90 percent of people buying or selling a home hire a realtor to guide them through the process, because it’s stressful, the investment is enormous, and most people need a trusted and experienced guide to help them make efficient and effective decisions to get the best outcome for their goals and wishes. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of couples hire a wedding planner, and I think that is what contributes to people finding the whole experience stressful and demanding. We have a real public image problem, and for me, I never really knew that hiring a wedding planner was an option. I thought only the Kardashians and other rich people had wedding planners. Now, I realize it is as fundamental a vendor to have as part of your wedding as a photographer or caterer. Especially if you are planning a sizable wedding and are making a sizable investment in your wedding. We help couples make smart decisions right from the get-go, have excellent resources and connections, are aware of best practices, and are really experienced in hospitality and service to make sure that you and your guests have a really good experience. Also, things go wrong—at every single wedding—all the time. It’s nice to defer some of those challenges to someone who has seen it all and is experienced and capable of working towards solutions.
Current: What does a typical day of work look like for you? How has that changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Northern Michigan in March 2020?
Rose: My typical workday has changed so much since I started out, mostly because I now have an almost-two-year-old son and I just gave birth to a daughter! Prior to them, I didn’t have a very structured schedule. My day looked like doing a bit of computer work, meeting up with other friends or people in the wedding industry for coffee or lunch, and taking several calls a day with clients or vendors. Because we live in a rural area, we don’t have access to internet services, which is shocking to many people and was shocking to us when we moved in and tried to contact Charter/Spectrum, and they let us know that we were a half-mile outside of their service area. Because of that, I always had to work from coffee shops or the library until we figured out how to increase our cellular data packages to cover our hotspot use at home. I always felt like I was working, and yet I never felt really focused. One of my goals had always been to move away from a desk-based computer job, and yet I found myself spending more than eight hours a day doing just that. Since having my son in early 2020, I had to develop a more structured day to balance raising him and managing a workload. During his first year of life, he took these amazing morning and afternoon naps, so I’d pour a second or third cup of coffee and have a solid three to four hours a day to work—and it was really productive time that I felt good about. I’d schedule all my calls for the evening after he’d gone to bed, which also worked out well, and sometimes I’d spend a half-day on Saturday catching up. However, he was born just eight weeks before the pandemic started, and that crushed any hope I had of childcare for when he was a year old. That was a really hard time, because I was essentially working double the hours between postponing and replanning weddings and communicating with very worried and stressed clients and vendors. I don’t know how I did it still. We luckily were able to begin daycare at Stepping Stones in Lake Ann once a week this past March, and we increased it to two days during the summer, so that I could have one full office day, and then, on Fridays, I could be on-site for wedding set-up. My husband took quite a few days off work in the summer to help accommodate our schedules, too. Now that we have relocated somewhat back to Grand Rapids while I was in my last trimester of my second pregnancy, we have grandparents available to help with childcare, and so I anticipate that—after maternity leave—I’ll have a similar schedule of trying to have about two full work days during the week, maybe a catch-up half day on Saturdays. During wedding season, I am usually on-site with clients and vendors doing set-up on Thursday and Fridays all day, and then, for Saturday weddings, my day usually starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 or 2 a.m. On Sundays, if I don’t have any tear-down to do, I usually sleep in until noon! Then spend the day in the tub or with my feet up.
Current: How have you seen your work grow and change? How do you hope that it will continue to grow? What is next?
Rose: It’s not super out and forward, but what I’ve seen change most is the back end of my business and my processes. It’s so much more organized and efficient and professional than when I started. I didn’t have an LLC for the first year of my business, until a couple threatened to sue me over some disagreements, and I realized how important it was to not only have an LLC but to have a lawyer, as well. So now I have those; I have an accountant. My taxes are organized. I use a really good CRM program for my contracts and invoices, and I have a very good work/life balance. The biggest challenge of this profession seems to be disillusionment and burn out, and I have a very light client load now compared to what I thought that I needed in the first few years. I’ve learned that I’d rather have fewer, deeper relationships with couples that invest a higher amount in my services rather than trying to have a certain number of weddings each season. In terms of growing, I always want to expand my design portfolio and offerings to clients, and I know that takes time and experience. A huge career moment for me was booking my first wedding out of state, in Chicago, for next summer—they are a wonderful couple that asked me to work with them, even though they could have easily worked with a Chicago-based planner, and I don’t take that opportunity lightly; I cleared my August calendar, so I could focus on them and executing this wedding well.
Current: What are some hot wedding trends right now?
Rose: The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of interesting trends for our industry, most of them unintentional. And we aren’t even post-pandemic yet, so these changes are now going into their third season. The biggest impacts have been that couples are now largely okay with non-weekend wedding dates. They had to be, because of limited availability with two years of postponements. As guests, you might be invited to a Friday, Sunday, or Thursday wedding in 2022—or several—and this is no longer taboo or off the table. In 2020 and 2021, COVID forced us to have smaller, more intimate weddings. For a lot of couples, this ended up being something they really cherished and enjoyed more than they thought they would. And for many of my couples, they were happy with their intimate weddings and decided not to go through with their larger receptions that they had originally planned for later. Outdoor ceremonies and dinners are really prioritized right now. They are difficult to pull off in Michigan, specifically Northern Michigan, where our weather is so impacted by lake effect weather patterns, but where and when possible, the beauty of an al fresco dinner and dance party under bistro lights is kind of the ideal environment that clients are wanting and outdoor weddings feel a little bit more resilient to ebbs and flows in the pandemic than indoor weddings. We saw a record number of weddings being hosted at homes and private estates, as this gave couples more control over the logistics of their wedding.
Current: What kinds of things do you do for fun, when you are not working? What other things are you involved with? How did you get involved with them, and why are you passionate about these causes?
Rose: This is the first time someone has asked me this since I became a mother, I think! And so, my honest answer is that I am loving this part of my life right now, when I’m not working. My son and I spend so much time together, because I don’t work outside of the home most days. He has kind of an idyllic childhood, which makes me so happy; we spend our free time hiking, wandering the woods, going to small coffee shops, taking long drives, stopping at farm stands, going to farmers’ markets, swimming in Lake Michigan, and we have one of the most beautiful national parks in the country just 10 minutes away. I’d consider the outdoors, conservation, and environmental preservation of wild places and public land to be my lifelong passion. My other pleasures are pretty simple—I love to have the inspiration and energy to cook and bake; reading; arguing over current events and politics with my husband, as we don’t always see eye to eye on issues and this leads to some exciting, loud,and interesting heated dialogue at night on the porch; and I spend a lot of time either talking with and/or planning visits with my best friends.
Current: How have you seen Northern Michigan change since you first came here? What are your hopes for the area in the future?
Rose: We have really only been here for five years, so I’m not sure our perspective is as nuanced as other people who grew up here or had family live here. There’s been a lot of creative businesses started and founded by younger people since we’ve moved here, and I think the region is known for having this unique, outdoors lifestyle.
Current: What are the biggest challenges and rewards of living/working in Benzie County and in Northern Michigan, in general? What is the best or most rewarding part of your job?
Rose: The biggest challenges are typical rural issues. There are limited healthcare options, mostly all clustered in Traverse City. The housing stock is limited. The diversity of the community is almost non-existent, and this is so noticable and weird coming from southeast Michigan, where I lived just outside of Dearborn and was so accustomed to different types of food, businesses, families, religions, cultural events, and went to school with people whose families had come from all over the world. The homogeneity of white, upper-middle-class families who have these incredible luxury items like waterfront homes, boats, and jetskis can be a bit disorienting if you didn’t grow up with that stuff. The best part of living in Benzie County is that it is relatively undeveloped still. There isn’t a single billboard on my drive to town; there aren’t highways on that drive; there’s barely a subdivision. Every one of my neighbors and so many of the surrounding households have these beautiful gardens. Nothing fancy or showy, but these gardens are gorgeous throughout the summer and fall, and I love that this is so common where we live. I’m conflicted about the internet. While I’d love to see rural internet improved selfishly for our home needs, I also kind of love that we live in this area in the United States that doesn’t have internet providers. It makes it still feel set apart and remote and makes internet seem unimportant in the best way—like there’s still all this life that exists outside of being connected to email and social media, and I love that.
Current: What could Northern Michigan do to attract more talented young people to this area? What else does Northern Michigan/Benzie County need?
Rose: The communities of Northern Michigan need to re-examine their zoning ordinances and revise them expediently. This is a process that happens every 10 years by law, and not enough people get interested or involved in the process, and the ramifications are huge. The two biggest reasons being they need to adapt to 21st-century models of housing that allow people to build smarter and denser, and to increase housing supply. Every zoning ordinance in Northern Michigan caters to the wealthiest homeowners on lakefront properties and prohibits everything that young, creative people want and need for housing, including dense multi-family housing units, homes and dwelling units under 1,000 square feet, and non-conforming homes, such as tiny houses, pre-fab houses, and multiple dwelling units on a single property. It’s remarkable to me that you can build a 33,000-squarefoot home and rip out an entire riparian buffer on a sensitive lakefront property, but 200-square-foot mobile tiny homes are, for the most part, restricted and scandalized. Another reason that I love Benzie County—the zoning is way more favorable for creative housing solutions such as ours, an owner-built 700-square-foot cabin with some quirky features.
Current: Tell us a bit about your house.
Rose: We bought our home in 2017 from a man who worked for the Coast Guard. He and his wife started building it in 2015, and he says that he learned basic skills from YouTube videos and had just finished the majority of it when he got reassigned back to Alaska, where they were originally from. We moved in and kind of started this slow process of finishing up their work, mostly ourselves and with the help of some friends. It’s a beautiful 700-squarefoot cabin that is designed to be as energy efficient as possible. We have large southern facing windows, radiant floor heating, and a wood stove. We always wanted to explore homesteading, and this ended up being the perfect little three-acre place to start experimenting. We always knew it would be a starter home, since it has one bedroom and an unfinished loft. When our son was born, we converted our closet into a tiny nursery! We started looking at homes in early 2020, hoping to possibly move by the end of 2020; and then the pandemic hit, and that pretty much set us back a year. When we went to get pre-approved for a mortgage again in 2021, the landscape had completely changed. Not only were the mortgage-qualifying factors more restrictive, but we learned that because I had reported a significant loss of over 50 percent of my gross income from 2019 to 2020, we couldn’t use my self employment income as part of our household income. Getting pre-approved with just my husband’s income landed us in the low $200,000 range for a mortgage, and there are next to no options—that wouldn’t require a total gut job—for that housing price within one hour of northern Leelanau County, where my husband worked. Also, the housing market exploded in 2020. So, while we were confident we could sell our home, we weren’t confident we’d be able to buy again. It caused us a lot of stress throughout the winter of 2020-21, and by spring of 2021, when we became pregnant with our second child, we made the really difficult decision to move to Grand Rapids and rent an apartment until we figured out our next steps as a family. The move involved so many factors. Our inability to use my 2020 and 2021 income was a huge blow to our ability to qualify for a purchase price in the $300,000 range, which is on the lower end of middle class homes in the Grand Traverse region. We refinanced to a 15-year mortgage when interest rates were so incredibly low, and this effectively wiped out the equity in our house and made us realize that selling our home right now wasn’t in our best interest. That’s when we decided to rent downstate for a year, and keep our home as an Airbnb rental in the meantime. Selling a one-bedroom, one-bath, 700-square-foot home wouldn’t quite get us an exciting return on investment in the real estate world, but the house is a bit of a unicorn in that it’s almost perfectly set up as a vacation rental, and being located so close to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a huge advantage. We rented our house on the Airbnb platform in the summers of 2017 and 2018 for additional income, and we’d go camping in the state park while we had guests. It was basically our hack to paying our mortgage. We had a lot of early luck with that, and so we decided to revisit it now. Other factors that contributed to our move included that I needed more medical care with this pregnancy, as I had complications, and we also knew we’d want and need the support of our families and friends who mostly all live in Grand Rapids. Luckily, my husband’s trade skills are pretty transferable ,and so he was able to quickly find a job, and moving my physical location didn’t really change anything about my business, as I still have weddings up and down the coastline of west and Northern Michigan. We feel really lucky right now to be able to keep our home Up North and give other people the opportunity to enjoy it ,while we enjoy some of the conveniences of city living for a while.
Current: What are your favorite local events and activities? Any favorite dining, recreation, hiking spots?
Rose: For hiking, biking, and trail running, we love Ransom Lake in Lake Ann, the Lake Ann Pathway, Platte Plains, and Otter Creek Loop, which is the Benzie County jewel of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Even though we didn’t get out much in 2020 and early 2021, we have a super soft spot for Hayloft Inn on M-72, and the live music on Friday and Saturday nights. We end up at Lake Ann Brewing Company whenever we want a beer and pizza from The Stone Oven, and the Friday night tradition we started during the pandemic was getting a Cubano pizza from The Village Inn and taking it to Empire Beach.
The Revel Rose is fully booked for the summer season of 2022. If you are planning an intimate wedding—a guest count of 50 or under—for October or November 2022, there are dates still available. New clients will be accepted for the 2023 season beginning in February 2022, when Kendall Rose returns from maternity leave. If you would like to touch base about any other creative projects or endeavors, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit TheRevelRose.com online or @TheRevelRose on Instagram.
Featured Photo Caption: Kendall Rose owns The Revel Rose and holds tulips. Photo courtesy of The Revel Rose.