Out of the Clouds
February 15, 2022, Anne V Muhlethaler

S2:E09 Annie Lee

on safe events during COVID, setting healthy boundaries and not planning for perfection

Portrait of Annie Lee

In this episode, host Anne Muhlethaler interviews her good friend, entrepreneur and event planner Annie Lee (@Daughterofdesign). Annie is known as “The Wedding Doctor” by Refinery29, “The Party Planner” by New York Magazine, a “celebrity entertaining expert” by People Magazine and Shape Magazine’s “Woman in Action – Entertaining Expert.” 

An event and wedding specialist for nearly 15 years, Annie has been an industry spokesperson for safety in events since early in the pandemic. She continues to run her own events company, Daughter of Design, while also developing a major project, Plannie. Dubbed ‘Uber for events’, with Plannie she hopes to open the possibility for customers to have access to top event planners (and help on the day of) at an hourly rate (breaking from industry norm), making professional event planning accessible, in some way similar to how Uber made the luxury of a chauffeur available to many around the world.

As someone who has designed and produced many weddings, Annie also shares with Anne her mindful perspective on the importance of setting healthy boundaries with clients, knowing what not to worry about, and above all, letting go of the idea of a ‘perfect’ event. Wise, funny and insightful, Annie’s interview is a must-listen if you plan to throw a big event any time soon.

Happy listening!

Selected links from episode

You can find Annie on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/daughterofdesign/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daughterodesign

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.ch/DaughterofDesign/

through her company website https://www.daughterofdesign.com/

and her project Plannie https://www.plannie.com/

on IG at https://www.instagram.com/askplannie/?hl=en

Mylar balloons a la Fiona Leahy https://aynhoepark.co.uk/musings/fiona-leahy-at-aynhoe-park/

Annie’s Gathering Guide

The Castello Aragonese in Ischia https://castelloaragoneseischia.com/

Korean ‘Booking’ (Clubbing) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booking_(clubbing)

Full Episode Transcript

Anne Muhlethaler:

Hi, hello, bonjour and namaste. This is Out Of The Clouds, a podcast at the crossroad between business and mindfulness. And I’m your host Anne Muhlethaler. Today, I am thrilled to be joined by my friend, Annie Lee. Annie is the principal planner at Daughter of Design, the founder of Plannie and the author of Learn to Speak Wedding: Flashcards for Beginners. Annie has been at the top of the event industry for quite a while. She’s been called the wedding doctor by Refinery29, the party planner by New York Magazine. And has been recognized as a celebrity entertaining expert by People Magazine and lots of others. Annie and I met through a mutual friend a few years ago, and we have managed to keep a strong friendship despite living in different places.

Anne Muhlethaler:

We were in New York at the same time for a short while. She’s currently in Miami. And I’m hoping to visit her again in Miami soon, crossed fingers. So I wanted to interview Annie for quite a bit, and I was particularly excited to ask her questions that we don’t always ask our friends about what she was like as a kid, so her early beginnings, and also explore a lot of the things that she has done since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. So I’m delighted to be bringing you this interview with my wonderful, talented and gorgeous friend, Annie Lee. I’m not biased at all. Enjoy. Annie, welcome to Out Of The Clouds.

Annie Lee:

Thank you for having me.

Anne Muhlethaler:

It’s so good to see you.

Annie Lee:

I know. This has been a long time coming.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Absolutely. But then I didn’t want to rush it anywhere. And you were so busy last year.

Annie Lee:

I was. I was like, it’s such a funny habit last year always defaults to 2020 and I don’t know how long it’s going to be. I mean, yeah. I mean, I guess it’s only a couple days into it not being last year, but I have this constant feeling of I skipped a year or there’s some weird time reality check that I have to have.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Yeah. I saw a headline in The Guardian a couple of days ago and I took a screen grab of it and yeah, 2021 looked like it was 2020, but just extended. So I think that’s why everyone is confused about the timeline, because I feel exactly like you.

Annie Lee:

You know what? Exactly because the opposite way I have clients who are booking for 2023 and it feels so far away, but it’s not. It’s next year. And it’s normal for us to be looking one year out, but it just feels like we’re talking about two years away or beyond because I feel like I got cheated out of a year, but anyway.

Anne Muhlethaler:

So welcome my friend. I would love to start the interview by you telling your story and tell people who are listening to us, who you are and what you do.

Annie Lee:

Yeah. Okay. My name is Annie Lee and I’m mostly known for being a wedding planner, an event planner with my company Daughter of Design. I founded it in 2008. And before I started my own company, I worked at other companies like San Francisco Opera, Tribeca Film Festival, BizBash. I mean, and some other Bay Area. Wedding planner before I ended up moving to New York from California and started Daughter of Design as like a Moonlight side gig and quickly realized that that was a much more promising career and had a lot more growth opportunity than working at some of my nine to five jobs that I had had. And yeah, 2008 jumped fully in and thought like, Hey, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go get a job again. And it really worked out. That first year, I would say it more than doubled. And mind you 2008 in the middle of a recession.

Annie Lee:

And I was like, oh great. Of course, what a great time to be starting a business. But it actually was because I feel like with social event, especially weddings, it’s a little recession proof. And in some ways, obviously like COVID and pandemic and all that stuff, but not that it was pandemic proof, but they could persist where corporate sometimes could not because of brand image and blah, blah blah. So anyhow, 2008 came into the scene and just from there kept growing, growing, growing. I’ve had some other ventures that I’ve done along the way. And right now is a really interesting time for us to be speaking, because I’m just sort of doing something totally new. But yet in a very familiar space, which I’m very excited about.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That sounds awesome. I’d love to hear from you what you were like when you were a kid growing up.

Annie Lee:

Oh God.

Anne Muhlethaler:

What were you passionate about?

Annie Lee:

When I think of me as a kid, I think I was very overactive a little bit, a lot a bit, type A. I’ll give you one example, which I thought was totally normal, but looking back it is definitely odd behavior, is I decided to write numbers on every single one of my hangers so that I could keep an organized system of my clothes and then also journal what numbers I wore every day. Just stuff like that, normal kid stuff. And I would say also when I think of some of my childhood memories and how I look back and I’m like what an odd child I was, I was always very business oriented. I just have these memories of trick or treating was a business transaction. I took that very seriously. I didn’t even think of it as something that you would do for fun with friends.

Annie Lee:

I dressed up, I waited till I remember like sitting in my living room dressed, ready to go, thinking five o’clock is a good time to start. And then at five o’clock going out there. No parent, I don’t know where my parents are, working, going out there and going door to door, collecting candy like it’s my job. But those door to door, they must, gosh, my neighbors must have thought it was so peculiar. Because I would also draw pictures and just go door to door and sell them. I used to also, with all the neighborhood kids, I don’t know if you guys all had Sour Patch Kids like cards or like leaves like little like trading card things. I’d go out and sell those. I would put dog babysitting flyers. I created a library system from not even my books, but my neighbor’s. He had so many books. I was like, we should rent these out. So I’ve always been a little bit entrepreneurial.

Anne Muhlethaler:

A little bit. Yeah, for sure. What did you decide to study at college?

Annie Lee:

So I went in thinking I wanted to be an anthropology major and then found out there’s a little bit too much science connected to it. But I ended up doing History and I focused on really kind of more, a cultural social aspect of history. And at the time I remember my mom being like, “Why not do a business minor or…” And I think she told people I did a business minor anyway, even though I didn’t it. But I’m just really fascinated with history. I like knowing how we got here. And also I really like seeing patterns and you see things obviously repeat or you learn from what others did at that time and how not to repeat that. And then very much, which I didn’t realize was going to be so helpful in my current career is understanding what happened historically with style and even if it was type of furniture used at the time, paintings that were in style, any of that, it really helps today because I like making sure that my events are historically, culturally and geographically accurate.

Annie Lee:

And I’m sure people have seen like Moroccan Prince mixed with Indian Prince just because they’re like similar-ish. So I just like to be, no that’s rococo, That’s not the same era as baroque, or whatever it might be. And just kind of making sure that we don’t mix that way. I don’t know why, almost like, I think I’m making a movie set and someone’s going to point out that it was made incorrectly or something.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s interesting. I wonder if it’s also because you are the daughter of, of an interior designer and that this was perhaps a really part of your life in other ways.

Annie Lee:

Oh yeah, I mean, actually I didn’t say that. I think you just know that. That’s the reason my company is called Daughter of Design. I’m a daughter of an interior designer. And so it just was the name I came up with.

Anne Muhlethaler:

But it’s interesting I saw somewhere on the site that you also take great pride as to the kind of events that you put together in terms of the look and feel, right. In terms of the design itself.

Annie Lee:

Absolutely. I think it’s a definitely calling card, right. And at baseline, I think all event planners should be someone organized, that’s your job, that’s a fundamental. But then when people pick you versus someone else, it’s not because I have my timeline as part of my portfolio. It’s really because they’re looking at what is my aesthetic. And I think that I’m very big on people, as a business owner, letting your natural style be your company style, right. So for me I’m very into fashion. I love anything like boutique hotel, interior design, things like that, anything interesting and current. And then at the same time I love historical, right. So I like to blend it all together.

Annie Lee:

And I would say you see that come across in the direction that I take on a lot of my event designs is… And I should say, this is when it’s more social event because corporate is another beast, right. We’re doing like pink neon signs and whatever looks like their brand or whatever theme that they have going on for whatever launch. But when it comes to a lot of social events, clients are usually coming to me because they’re attracted to my style. So I have a lot of clients who work in fashion or work in designer creatives because I think that appeals to them.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Now, how did you get into events?

Annie Lee:

Let me try to think about when is the first event. I mean, in college I was involved in some events. We established, I’m a type A kind of organized type. And then at the same time, I am that textbook kid that was the project leader or pretty much just did the assignment for the group kind of person. So I think there were a few things in college where I definitely… I remember putting on this festival and I was the one that who organized it and then did all that stuff. But the first real job I worked from San Francisco Opera during college. I worked with them for two years. And initially I had started in the marketing department and then when I was at the marketing department, they had me go to the gala because I was literally following the society photographer around and just taking the names down of all the people he was shooting.

Annie Lee:

But I still got to dress up and I still got to go. And I remember being at that event being like, this is amazing. Someone put this amazing party together and I asked him, I was like, “Can I work in that department? Sorry, no offense marketing, but can I switch departments?” And they let me and that was it. I was like, I love this. I can’t believe people get paid to do this. And it just tapped into all my skills.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s awesome. I remember the first time that we met because it was, well, I can’t remember the year, but probably…

Annie Lee:

I can’t remember the year, but it was a rooftop. Yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That was probably 2015. It was Soho House, Miami, I had just arrived. I had landed from London. It was the first night of Art Basel. I think Chanel had a huge party happening on the ground floor. And we met with our friend Lexing. And I remember you said you were an event planner and I said, “Oh, that’s great. Yeah. I’ve got a good friend who’s an event planner. Who’s helping me for this event for Louboutin. Do you know if Fiona Leahy.” And I’ll always remember what you said to me. You’re like, “Oh my God. Yes. I love Fiona. She put balloons back on the map or something.”

Annie Lee:

Yeah. She put Mylar, Mylar balloons. She really did though. Again, I don’t know if people credit her enough. She really started that huge, I mean, it’s still a huge trend. It’s still ongoing. I don’t know that it’ll go away!

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s very funny.

Annie Lee:

Yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler:

It’s very funny because I was thinking, huh? That is really interesting and nerdy.

Annie Lee:

Absolutely.

Anne Muhlethaler:

And also I know Fiona really well. She definitely is obsessed with those balloons. So it sounds about right. So I wanted to talk to you first about what the events industry has gone through in the past couple of years, because obviously it’s been decimated, especially in 2020 with the closures due to COVID. And I remember that one of the first things that you did, as things were starting to reopen is proactively putting together as much information as you could to make sure that people could have safe events. Would you mind talking me through that?

Annie Lee:

Yeah. I mean, I’ll just kind of tell you about that whole couple years. So obviously I’m in the states and for us, when it came to the second week of March in 2020, that’s when it was the lockdown, all these things started to happen. And for me, the first indication of this is going to be way bigger than we were all thinking was I saw on an Instagram post from the director of events at Bowery Hotel in New York, she made a post about how she let her entire event team go. And I was like, “Why did you let your entire event team go?” And that kind of quickly made me realize my God, this thing is going to shut us down for a while if they’re letting employees go, and if that must mean all of their events have canceled for the foreseeable future.

Annie Lee:

2020 was I think for everyone, it was just unknown. How long is this thing going? And for events that’s difficult because we plan it out, typically a year in advance. And so when your job is to plan during a time that is impossible to plan and know the certainty of the future, it’s very challenging. For us it was a plan, A, B, C, C1, C2, C3, you just had to have so many different contingency plans. And it really tested a lot of us, I think in terms of how is your business, I mean, to bring it back to business, but how is your business model? What was on your contract? Are you obligated to replan your client’s event 20 times if need be or are you charging them? What happens to all of these cancellations? Are they going to ask for the money back, all the legality and the headache behind that?

Annie Lee:

And actually when I saw that Instagram post, I was like a little bit Instagram famous for a second because literally I just made a little meme that encouraged everyone to postpone don’t cancel, right? That was my first initial call out to the community and just to encourage them to try to help the community and like what to communicate to their clients. Because I realized that if all my clients canceled, first of all, that would take away all my future income, and second that would mean that there are going to be some people who are going to ask for some refunds, or like dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And I’m like, that’s going to be terrible for all my vendors and myself. So I really was very proactive and had an early conversation with all my clients about let’s reschedule and let’s do it quick because let’s take advantage of future dates being available will to us now versus everyone realizing, waiting and then realizing next week or the week after that they want to postpone or cancel, right?

Annie Lee:

So that was one of my big first pushes, and then kind of just became known as the event industry spokesperson on COVID for a little bit. But I also really care a lot about public safety and health and all of that. And when it came for finding masks and just some of these in the beginning, when I think about like all the little things that we did just to keep things, be as helpful as we could, I had a client who, Benefit Cosmetics, and I knew that they had a cotton swabs on sticks that we used at all their events for waxing eyebrows. And I remember I saw a call that they needed cotton swabs at the time to do the test. I remember, I mean, it’s so hard to remember back to those days and remember we didn’t have masks. I remember we couldn’t even find elastic because they were sold out of elastic to make our own masks to send to the hospital.

Annie Lee:

And with the swabs they were low, and so I contacted someone there at Benefit and they’re like, “We will donate all of our inventory to them.” I think they donated it to their local UCSF Hospital. I just got active. Suddenly, I had a lot of time. I think we know, we can tell, I don’t do well with idle hands. And so I just got to work and saw where there were possible solutions. I mean, that’s what planners do, we find solutions for problems. We are resourceful people, and I just try to use some of my superpowers for good during that time. And then as the calendar went on and it just was so murky as well, right? Every single city, and I’m talking about the US, but I guess it is a global thing in that every country, every county, every city had its own rule and some didn’t have rules. It was so not uniform in terms of what the rules were, what the guidelines were.

Annie Lee:

And so I did actually create this kind of crowdsourced guide that we called gathering guide that showed at least some of the basic rules of are events even allowed right now in your location? How many people are you allowed? What’s a distance rule? How many people can be seated at one table? Are dance floors allowed? Do you have to wear a mask indoor or outdoor? All of that kind of stuff. We tried to tackle that big problem. I mean, people didn’t even know if they could have an event. The rules changed so much. I just realized how bad a lot of government websites are during that time, because information was, not only not clear, sometimes contradictory. And so it was a mess. 2020 was just a big, blurry, confusing mess with no clarity in terms of when we could have events, what the rules were and all that. And everyone very much divided between rule followers or being cautious about what they are versus just kind of renegade and who cares, I’m going to do this anyway. I got to make some money.

Annie Lee:

The way that people behaved during that time, it really showed you kind of their true colors or how they operate as a business or what kind of people they are. And it stayed with a lot of people. And I know some people prefer not to work with some people now because they just find them reckless or because they didn’t think of public safety and all that kind of stuff. But that’s just a story of the division of, I feel especially in the US right now, where you have these very different camps of people.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I think it’s worldwide.

Annie Lee:

We definitely felt that in our industry. And then of course, because I was more or less the COVID police or COVID spokesperson, everyone tagged me in like, “Did you see so and so’s event with 500 people and no masks?” And people just kept on tagging me. I mean, I did speak to a couple people, I did call a couple people and just ask them, “Hey, why are you throwing these events right now?” And especially at a time, I think the media made a little bit of an example and they loved the shock of weddings and events as super spreaders. And then I got this kind of press campaign for a while where I was, “You know what? You can’t just keep saying that events are the bad guys. They can be safe and they can happen. If anything, can we focus on the fact that the rules aren’t clear or that the rules don’t make sense, and not so much that we’re just trying to have businesses and try to proceed with life?”

Annie Lee:

But some of us, we’re doing our best to keep it safe and keep life going. But obviously a lot of the events turned into micro events or virtual events, and then it’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. And I think that’s everyone, we’re all on the same roller coaster and it just affects events a little bit differently, in that one minute coast looks clear, they’re telling us, “Go ahead, you’re vaccinated, take your masks off. Get out there.” And then a month later, “Hey, don’t do that anymore.” And so the uncertainty has just been really terrible for clients confidence. It’s returning slowly, but even with this Omicron, you see that kind of rearing its head again where people feel uncertain, “Can I put this deposit down for a year?” I don’t know what’s going to happen in a year. I’m like, “No one does, and neither do I. No one does.”

Annie Lee:

And one of my favorite planners, she made a funny comment because she’s like, “You know what? Clients are always asking me, what’s going to happen.” She’s like, “I don’t know.” She’s like, “Oh, what am I supposed to say?” Yeah, when I was having coffee with Dr. Fauci, he was telling me, “No, we don’t know either. We’re wedding and event planners.” We are in the same bucket. I can advise you on the best way to strategize, granted that we don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to put us in a position that if this happens and we do this, if that happens, then we do that. That’s the only thing that we can do right now and continue to do, because I remember thinking, oh, 2021, rescheduling events into 2021 thinking like we’ll be safe.

Annie Lee:

And we did it. And we had to move them again. Or we’re still testing. We’re still doing all these things that we really thought we’d be out of the woods. And it just is persisting. Anyhow, I mean, I could go on about this forever, but it’s been one of the biggest years I’ve ever had. It was 2021. So we went from this famine to this feast. And so everyone in the event industry is a little bit exhausted in 2020 from being scared and not being certain of income and at a loss. And then in 2021 being overwhelmed with how much work there was while there was a shortage of staff while there was a shortage of flowers and goods and everything.

Annie Lee:

I mean, one rental company in New York sent out a letter to everyone saying, “Please bear with us because we went from a team of 1,200 employees with warehouse fulfillment and everyone down to 70.” And they are slowly trying to rebuild their team. But we feel it, we don’t get half our rentals. They don’t email us back for weeks. It’s tough. It has not been pleasant trying to fulfill all the event requests we had last year while our suppliers and our vendors are running so thin.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That sounds so hard.

Annie Lee:

It was, yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler:

And I feel for them as well. Yeah.

Annie Lee:

I do. And there’s compassion. And so I think you’ve seen this stuff probably for like restaurants. I’ve definitely seen the memes where they’re like, be kind to the people that are working there because we should just be so lucky that we have the three servers there, even though they could probably use six, just be patient because everyone is just trying to get back to business as usual. And so everyone just chill.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Thank you. I think that you also built a bunch of websites in 2020, in 2021 you seem to be very adept and really enjoy that. Let’s go back a little bit. Before that time you had already started building out some new pieces to add to Daughter of Design. So talk to me a bit about Speak Wedding, the cards and the other ventures.

Annie Lee:

Yeah, I’m definitely, I mean, if we go back to the childhood stories, I’m always… I like to act on ideas that I have. And so the Speak Wedding, they’re called Learn to Speak Wedding: Flashcards for Beginners. And it really started as a joke, right. And I remember watching, I think it was what movie as that, Confessions of a Shopaholic. Did you watch that ever?

Anne Muhlethaler:

I don’t remember.

Annie Lee:

Okay. It’s a like a cute romcom, right. But there’s one moment where the guy knows whatever shoes it is. And I can’t remember if she was like, “You speak Gucci or you speak Prada.” There was some kind of thing where she made this comment that he understood what brand these shoes were. And I just thought it was so funny the way that she called it, like speak and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. So I just always clung on to, oh, I speak wedding. It was actually from the title being cute that I backed into what is it that I want to fulfill it with? And I realize that I’m constantly teaching my new clients the same terminology. So for example, if I say STD I know what goes through everyone’s mind, but in weddings, STD is Save The Date.

Annie Lee:

So it’s totally different. And I always get a look when the first time I put in an email. Because I forget that not everyone knows it. And they’re like, ‘What do you mean?” I’m like, “Oh no, it’s save the date, not the other one.” And so I was like, it’d be funny for me to just take all these common terms because when you start wedding planning, especially there’s a whole other vernacular that you need to get on board with. So I just made it as a joke gift for my clients, but then just realized, heck if I’m going to put the effort into making it for my clients, I might as well just sell it and market it.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I love it. And yes, I already knew because obviously when I was at Christian Louboutin, we did a lot of events and yes, when you end up typing something so many times, of course you’re going to go to the acronym. So that really stuck with me. Yeah.

Annie Lee:

And then the other thing I started and then one idea I had, it was based off of a service I was already offering my Daughter of Design clients. For some of them, I realized that they would call and full service planning was just either more than they needed from me or more than they could afford, yet I still wanted to find a way to work with them. And so at the time came up with the solution which was to work with them on bit of like a more retainer and hourly basis. So I would have an hourly billable rate that I would share with them and just work against that and be able to be involved and help them with their event or wedding planning, yet not be the full service planner controlling the whole thing. I started that in 2009, it just, over the years, I’m like, gosh, those are my favorite projects.

Annie Lee:

And those are some of my favorite clients. And I just had so fun with it and I felt so rewarded in terms of it being compensated by my time, because I’m not sure if you know, but for event planners, a lot of them don’t do billable hours. They do either some kind of percentage, they do a flat rate. That’s just the way the business and the model and the industry always is. If I really think about it, I’m like, why are we the only consultants who don’t really bill by our time, especially when it does come to let’s say a wedding or an event. I mean, you’ve been involved in them and anyone who has realizes there’s a lot of thousand million little things, right, that need to be taken care of. And that’s just a lot of time. Is it brain surgery on some of these things?

Annie Lee:

No, but it is a lot, a lot of time. We are finding that we were being compensated relative to other businesses or other planners, I do get compensated well. But even at that, it didn’t seem fair for the amount of time I input on some of these projects. So anyhow, it just between knowing how I felt doing it and seeing the demand because more and more phone calls would come in where I would just see that people who did not have budgets for, in my mind, didn’t have budgets for full service, were calling, asking for a planner and looking for that kind of access. And it made me realize that the market is really growing. And the perception of having a planner is really changing because I’ll get people call who have like below national average budget and still are calling to have a planner, whereas a planner, once upon a time used to be this luxury service that was just for the whatever five, 10%.

Annie Lee:

And it keeps growing. And I think it’s really the idea of having a planner has really saturated down to the entire market. So for me, it just became an opportunity where I felt like, huh, this hourly thing and this helping people just by the hour, it shouldn’t just be my one company. I think this could be much larger. So then I came up with this concept of having this network, a platform where there would be a network of planners that you could work with on an hourly basis. And I wanted to make it global because nowadays everyone is doing a destination event, right. And I feel like everyone considers a destination event and then sometimes stop because of how hard it is to really be able to plan something there because they don’t know the language or they’re planning remote like that, it’s so difficult.

Annie Lee:

But if you could access a planner in Mykonos and just talk to them for three hours to arrange your 25 person party, why not? For a couple hundred dollars, I think a lot of people would be into that. And it’s just going to hopefully open up the idea of, or the feasibility of doing a destination event, big or small for more people. So that company is called Plannie. It’s like Annie, but Plannie, and I think you know that a lot of my friends call me Annie Plannie, kind of just as a funny nickname. And so long time ago I bought, because I buy every URL that comes across my brain. I bought Annie Plannie and I bought Plannie, I mean decade plus ago.

Annie Lee:

And I just sat on it and I had it and I didn’t even know that I wanted to name this company this, but I was having a grand opening launch party and didn’t have a name. And so I was like, “Let me see what I own already.” And I was like, “Sure, you know what? I’ll just use this one for now. And then if I switch it later, I’ll switch it later.” But then turns out people like it and it’s memorable. So I’ve just been just rolling with it.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s awesome. I generally know when an idea is good when I can already think of people I know who would need the service that you’re offering. And it’s really funny because there’s a friend that I met last year. We play tennis together and it’s her 40th this year. She may want to go to Mykonos.

Annie Lee:

Everyone wants to do their fortieth in Mykonos.

Anne Muhlethaler:

And then suddenly I’m thinking, yeah, she probably would benefit from Plannie.

Annie Lee:

And that’s the other thing I want to point out is that I think the event market is prime to expand beyond just the big life occasions, right. Like right now we celebrate and do these big events for obviously weddings and corporate launches and big birthdays and things like that. But I really want to make having a planner almost mundane and so easy that even if you’re doing a dinner party at your house and you don’t want to deal with where should I get the flowers? And I just really want to do some lanterns or something in the front. That you could call a planner to arrange that. Even I think of all the events that probably don’t get trapped in the data research, the billions spent in the event industry, aren’t even capturing the little at home baby showers and the smaller birthday parties and all of those other events that just aren’t traditionally captured in some of these bigger data grabs.

Anne Muhlethaler:

It’s such a good idea. And you’re giving me more to think about. I remember before you launched it around a time of launch, you talked about it as Uber for weddings. So you really mean this to be truly global.

Annie Lee:

Yeah. So here’s why I say Uber for weddings or Uber for events is because like I was mentioning before Uber to me made the luxury of having a chauffeur, something that everyone could have, right. It just really democratize that service, that kind of having a driver at call service. And I want to do the same for the luxury of an event planner is that you can have access to, and some of the top event planners, right. So I’m talking about, you can access top talent while yet spending a hundred times less the cost of hiring them fully, when you really just need like a bite sized amount.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I love the idea.

Annie Lee:

So it started out as just this like group of known top event agencies and planners who are open to doing hourly basis and then planning, right. Hourly basis planning, but not necessarily going on the day of. And then as I was a live platform and getting inquiries. And so many people almost, I don’t know if they misconstrued or just assumed that this was also a service started asking for day of planners as well. And so just to kind of unpack what day of planners means, because it kind of gets confused a lot. People use the term day of planner, but what they sometimes really are referring to is a month of which is someone who comes in beat for cleans stuff up, organizes it, does your timelines. And then is there on the day? And an agency might take that on because at least they’ve had a chance to clean it up and organize it a little bit, versus just like showing up on the day. right.

Annie Lee:

But a lot of times clients don’t want all of the extra bells and whistles. It’s a simple event in the backyard or whatever it might be, but they just really want someone there on site to help them. And the problem there has been that event agencies do not want to staff up, because A, the margins aren’t great. And then B why would you risk your brand and send someone from your team for an event that you have not planned or designed, and then everyone else is going to be like, “Who planned this?” And you’re like, “No, no, no, we just staffed it.” Right. And then also we have got a giant pool of freelancers, event freelancers. There’s a huge, huge pool of them.

Annie Lee:

But they have no direct access to the clients because they don’t have websites. They don’t have anything. So that’s what I’m trying to solve that problem of people who just are truly looking for some help on the day and people who are truly open to just showing up on the day. So that’s been actually a really interesting development that happened last year and it’s now 50% of our revenue comes from the day of as much as it does from the hourly event planning.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That is super interesting. And you’re completely right. That’s a massive difference from the early planning solution finding to yeah, the day of. I wanted to talk a bit about corporate events. You have a massive experience in that, and this is something that you have done pretty much since the beginning. Do you have any advice or any thoughts about corporate versus wedding and what’s to be considered for anyone who wants to be developing corporate events?

Annie Lee:

So there’s a huge difference between corporate and social. Corporate, so I do, especially a lot of beauty events, a lot of influencer events, more on that side. I will say this, we have a lot of fun. We can be a lot, lot more creative on the corporate side and do kind of wackier thematic things because for a wedding we’re keeping it classy usually. And not that these corporate events aren’t classy, but they’re usually meant more to be a little bit outrageous, fun, Instagramable and all that kind of stuff. The production side of it and the design part of it is interesting. If I was to go category by category, it’s the food. Unfortunately, the food is not as important, which is a shock to me. I’m so used to the food being of such importance when it comes to social events, but when it came to corporate, at least my corporate events and experience was that the food was like, [inaudible 00:37:34] we just fine?

Annie Lee:

But it wasn’t the show, right. It was really about more of how everything photographed. And budgets are actually, I mean, just because of the realm that I’m in social clients, the budgets are pretty comparable between the two. It’s just that with corporate, they do more events per year. So for example, I’ll do one big social event for a client whereas for one of my beauty brands, we might churn out three, depending on how many launches they have or whatever it might be. We’ll have like three big events. And at the same time where weddings, they give you a year to plan or so. In corporate, I don’t know, they’ll give me maybe three months. So you have a definitely a shorter planning timeframe, which some planners love just that like quick in and out.

Annie Lee:

Although obviously it’s like a little bit you’re on the amazing race, because you’re trying to make everything happen so quickly and get things custom produced and you have two weeks to get it done. And then the biggest difference I think is the emotional component or just the client management between the two. So when it comes to the social side, there’s a lot more being their therapist as well. And just kind of also calming nerves, calming all kinds of things and really emotionally stabilizing the whole experience. Whereas on the corporate side, the handholding is different because it’s me helping the people that I’m working with fulfill their job requirements and making them look good.

Annie Lee:

And then there’s always hierarchy and bureaucracy that we have to navigate around. So there’s navigation on both sides. It’s just a little bit different. And it’s funny because I have corporate planners who are like, “I don’t know how you deal with brides.” Right. Or I don’t know how… They just see that as being so taxing. But for me, for what never reason I do very well. Not that I love a distressed client, but I can cope with that and I can help them. It doesn’t irk me. It actually makes me feel better that I’m helping them.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I saw a video interview of you, in doing my research that was really interesting. So you are giving advice for anyone who was starting to plan a wedding and saying you have to watch out because it’s no longer about you. It turns out it’s most likely going to be about your family, your best friend and everyone else. Do you mind speaking to that?

Annie Lee:

Oh yeah. Oh, there’s so many. I mean, let’s get into it. I love all the life lessony things that I’ve learned especially through wedding planning. But yeah, I think the couple goes into it thinking it’s really all about them. Here’s all the things that the normal things or the usual things that people will think, everyone is going to clear their schedules for me. Everyone’s going to jump and ask me what they can do for me. Everyone’s going to be so excited for me. But a lot of times they’re just blindsided, and I try to warn them, okay, the event is in honor of you. But just know that you’re going to very quickly realize how sadly selfish the people around you are. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, but you just naturally people cannot help. You invite them to a wedding in Lake Homo.

Annie Lee:

You’re a friend. Their first question is not going to be like, how can I help Emily with her event planning? It’s going to be, Emily what should I wear? What am I supposed to wear? Where should I stay? What hotel should I stay at? Their first concern is going to be what the effects are going to be on them personally. And everyone’s got also their, of course personal agenda. And when it comes to all the, I always say, all the family politics and all the old wounds, they just open right up. When it comes to wedding planning, suddenly people will become very religious again or someone when it comes to especially talking about money and family and the joining of these two families or mom sometimes has a hard time letting go of being mom. And this is really a rite of passage and you’re supposed to become your own adult and your own family. And it’s hard emotionally for a lot of people in different ways.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Fascinating. Now I’d love to… It’s almost feels like a silly question, but what’s the hardest job you’ve ever had to handle.

Annie Lee:

The hardest job. I mean, there’s hard in different ways. There’s hard in like the event I did in Tokyo was difficult just because of clear language and time zone issues as well as they have a completely different way of doing business and speaking to colleagues and just understanding and gaining knowledge of how to approach situations. So there’s difficult in that sense of when you do a destination really, and a destination event anywhere is like starting your business over again, because you don’t know the weather patterns, you don’t know who the local vendors are. I learned the hard way that in Japan, you can’t just throw away stuff. There is a high cost. You can’t just buy IKEA furniture and then toss it or donate it. No one will take it or it costs even more to discard of it.

Annie Lee:

So that is often one of the more difficult parts of the business. But I would say, I can think of a few situations and where the clients were just not nice to another level. And to the point that it’s made me had to put into my contracts a healthy working environment or no emotional abuse clause, which is, it sounds like what ha ha, but actually a lot of planners for whatever reason, I don’t know why wedding planners specifically, I don’t know if we get to where we’re so in the inner circle or they just feel so comfortable with us or what it is that that boundary gets crossed so often. And people just get crazy and they treat you almost like a nasty way that you would talk to your mom. But your mom has to love you because she’s your mom versus I’m like, I’m your planner.

Annie Lee:

You can’t talk to me like that. So I hate to dish on that kind of stuff. I feel like it feels a little bit tacky to get into the nuances, but it happens. It’s common and everyone wants to hear about the horror stories. I don’t love to get into it. And then sometimes I find when I see the bigger picture, I’m like, oh, it’s because your mom is so nasty to you that you push that onto me. Sometimes I get a bigger picture of it and be like, your mom has been yelling at you about this and wow, she’s a number. And then you turn around and you’ve got to push it onto someone. And that someone is going to be me then.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Yay. Fancy that. Now you’ve told me about what was really hard. I’d love to hear what was your favorite? I mean, if you can choose a favorite event ever.

Annie Lee:

I would say my favorite event ever. A lot of times, I kind of default to my first big destination event. So it was very early in my career and I don’t know how this couple trusted me who had never been to Lake Como and didn’t actually even get to go before the wedding. We did everything remotely. I looked at like Google Maps, I think, and like Google Earth Satellite view to figure out how to do this. Didn’t speak Italian, but did this beautiful event. And it was just magic. I mean Lake Como in itself is such a little magical place and it always gives me such a feeling of like nostalgia. And I don’t know, I don’t know if you can concur on that. But it was a huge accomplishment. In that early in my career, never done a destination event. We have to think back at 2009, it wasn’t like now. There was no Instagram where you could scope all the things out.

Annie Lee:

It was a little bit more old fashioned of figuring things out the way, the industry used to be. And it was a beautiful, beautiful wedding. And from that, I got an eight page spread in Martha Stewart Weddings, that was a turning point in my career. And I think that’s why I often think about it so fondly is because it was the event that sort of put me on the map because not only they were like, who is this girl? And I get an eight page spread in Martha Stewart. And so that was a major event for me.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Wow. That sounds amazing. There’s a subject that I wanted to bring up as well, both for planners and for clients, especially in the times that we’re in. And I remember you telling me about the importance, and hold on, I also read about on your LinkedIn, the importance of cancellation insurance for weddings nowadays. And you being at the top of the industry, you’re really pushing for this. Do you mind talking that?

Annie Lee:

Yeah. So cancellation insurance is basically, it’s what it sounds like. If something happens, it covers your lost deposits. What it does not cover and probably will never cover is a COVID situation because… And I’ve had lots of toxic different insurance companies. And for them they’re like, “Look, if 100% of our clients pulled the policy would go bankrupt. So we can’t cover things that would be that sweeping.” But I will say other non-COVID and non-pandemic, there are lots of times things happen. We’ve definitely had where a venue had in our architectural structural beam collapse and it made the venue unusable for a year. And so luckily we had the insurance, it took care of it or I will say this, 100% of the time that we do an event at someone’s home, your home insurance is not going to cover the event.

Annie Lee:

So we want to have that just because there’s a liability of having people. And if you’re thinking like, oh my friends aren’t going to sue me, don’t worry. It’s not just them because there’s about probably like 50 to 70 people that are coming on your property to help produce it. And we did have that issue at a wedding at a private home where one of the cater waiters twisted their ankle. And they said they were fine, blah, blah, blah. One year later came around and sued the client for millions because they said that it was because they didn’t provide proper lighting and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And luckily we had that insurance policy in tax so that the insurance company’s attorney and not theirs, and they didn’t have to come out of pocket out of anything. But insurance, it’s just a peace of mind. It’s a couple hundred dollars, depending on your budget, it could be like a thousand.

Annie Lee:

But just to know that something happens to your photographer, your venue shuts down. And these actually also cover if your parent passes suddenly, all of these things that, of course we don’t want them to happen, but they could because that’s just unfortunately life. And so for the peace of mind, I do like getting the event insurance policy. It’s not available in every country. I believe that it’s very prominent in the US and I think it might extend to Mexico, Canada. But yeah, that’s something, it’s honestly been something I consider when I do a destination event. Is there an insurance policy there because that’s the one dicey thing when you do international events is you don’t know how the legal is going to play out if there’s a dispute or someone goes missing and has taken your deposit and disappears and all that kind of stuff.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Sounds fun.

Annie Lee:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Doesn’t happen a lot, but happens.

Anne Muhlethaler:

So I wanted to ask you, what would you like to see become the future of your industry?

Annie Lee:

So with my industry, it’s part of Plannie’s wish, but I definitely want there to be this more equitable and fair transaction between a planner’s time and the actual planning, because I feel like, okay, here’s what I often think of. This is the analogy I think of a lot. Do you know the Vietnamese soup dish with the noodles the pho? You ever had that?

Anne Muhlethaler:

Not so much.

Annie Lee:

Okay. So pho takes an incredible amount of work and time and ingredients to make that broth yet it is grossly underpriced because I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Vietnamese dish or why or because it was an immigrant dish that came to… It’s like, we can’t talk about in Vietnam because that’s just obviously local currency. But when you come to the US and have pho or in France and have pho, it’s like, why does that dish not cost what the time that went into it, really. The value of it is really below market in my opinion. And I feel like that is the case with event planners that our input and our work and skills are undervalued for the time commitment that it takes and the input that is in.

Annie Lee:

So I’d like to see that change. And also the second part, which also connects to Plannie is I just love to see people’s attitude change about how difficult it is to plan an event. I think more and more through apps, through blogs, through all the things that are out there, there’s so many resources that it’s been demystified. It’s not this once upon a time, where would I even find a cater. The problem now is like, oh shoot, there’s 200 caters. So I think that just in the future and it will, I don’t even think this is like, I have to wish it, because I think it’s just going to happen is that the accessibility and the option of having an event is just going to increase whether it’s to a larger market that usually wouldn’t host something or to people who were hosting things more frequently.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Yeah. That makes sense. You’re reminding me of, I recently re-watched Friends on Netflix and I had forgotten there’s an episode where Monica is the planner for Phoebe’s wedding.

Annie Lee:

Oh, I don’t remember that one.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Oh, You should watch that. It’s going to play right into what you just talked about. And she decides to let Monica go. And then obviously everything happens, everything else falls apart and she begs Monica to take the job back. And that sounds like she would be a good planner for plannie.

Annie Lee:

Yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler:

The character would be. And so how do you feel about virtual coming into weddings? Obviously some people have had to do virtual events over the past couple of years. How do you feel the metaverse is going to be weighing in and just transforming the future of events?

Annie Lee:

2020 was definitely an expediter of propelling a lot of events and stuff into like the virtual space. And a lot of it has stayed, it wasn’t a temporary fix for 2020. There continues to be many virtual conferences, many virtual events. And I think people just realized, hey, that works. It’s just become an additional option. I don’t know that it’s replacing, it’s just a different option, right. If people are hesitant or they feel nervous about the idea of the metaverse and having a separate kind of metaverse life in there, I would say it’s going that way. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to replace. I mean, who can be sure of anything now, but I don’t think that it means it’s going to replace in person events. But it’s just an alternative and an option, an extra option to have is how I view it.

Anne Muhlethaler:

And blended events. Is this something that you see happening a little bit more?

Annie Lee:

Yeah, we’ve definitely done a few hybrid where we have a wedding, but not everyone could make it. And so we do a lot of live streaming and giving people Zoom code so that they can join from wherever they are in the world. So technology is there. I think we use it. You don’t have to miss these big life occasions or you can still be part of an event yet you can’t, as of now, participate in the same way that you would, if you were there in person. But I’m excited. I think there will be things that come out that will more and more, even though you are not physically there in person, let you experience the event. I’m sure you’re not eating the food and stuff like that, but I can only see that increasing.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Thank you. Yeah, it’s interesting. So you know that the podcast is at the crossroads between business and mindfulness and I was wondering if you could offer us, maybe talk to us about what keeps you grounded in normal times or in peculiar times, like we are in now, any sort of rituals, self-care, mindfulness or other.

Annie Lee:

Yeah. I mean, oh gosh. I could talk about this forever. Let’s hone in on let’s say like the wedding planning or, I mean, really, I guess it’s all clients, if I really think about it. And there has to be a boundary. And I think that’s one of the biggest things, especially in this business is creating a boundary between you and your clients. And what does that boundary really mean is it’s kind of that same act of love for yourself or you prioritize yourself. And I think there are so many people in the hospitality industry that are such people pleasers. I mean, clearly we’re in the hospitality industry because we like to take care of people. But there has to be that line in which you do not over-give, right. Then can go into like, you feel abused, right. Because you’ve depleted yourself.

Annie Lee:

And so I try to be very mindful of my hours and when I’m available to clients and of course, if there’s emergencies, I’m there. But it’s really important setting that, even if it’s eight to eight, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM or whatever window you want to select, I cannot tell you many planner, friends that I have tried to urge them to create some sort of boundary even like that, because we’ll be out 11:00 PM, they’re texting with a client. I’m like, “Are you crazy?” I’m like, “Are you just open? You cannot be available 24/7.” So in terms of at least running the business, that’s one of the biggest things I try to do for myself is prioritize still myself. And remember, even though I’m in the hospitality industry, even though it’s for their personal event, I have to maintain my own personal life and health.

Annie Lee:

And if I’ve scheduled a yoga class, I’m going to keep that yoga class. You know what I mean? Because their schedule change, I’m not rearranging mine all of a sudden. I try to prioritize myself in that way and keep that divide. That’s one thing, but I really would love to tell you what I loved about or continue to love about my business and what it brings to me in terms of mindfulness is because of my exposure to a lot of these really intense emotional situations. And I get to observe these intense kind of from the audience, right. I’m participating, but it’s not really my family. So I’m not as upset or it’s not my husband. So I don’t take it as personally, it’s stressful and I’m around it, but it gives me this perspective on life.

Annie Lee:

And I am in, I always call this perpetual groundhog day, of repeating the same process with different people over and over again. So I know what exact same anxiety they have in the beginning when they don’t know what it’s going to look like. They don’t know where it’s going to be at, all this stuff. I know the same fights that people always have about the guest list or the budget or the design, whatever it might be. The one beauty that have is hindsight, right. Because I’ve done this so many times. And when I watch from the sidelines, I see what are the things that they’re stressing about that they shouldn’t. It’s not a big deal. It’s either not a big deal or it’s really not something to stress about, or there’s going to be a solution or stressing about it is not going to do anything for the situation.

Annie Lee:

And being around the situation. But it not being my own has given me a lot of insight into how I approach my own stressful situations because it makes me realize that things don’t have to be perfect, that if something falls apart or something feels difficult, it’s not forever or there’s probably a solution or it’s just not putting so much pressure. And then also, which I think a lot of couples do is putting a lot of pressure on things to be so perfect. It’s funny because a lot of people think that because I’m a planner and I am type a, but I don’t classify myself as a control freak or a perfectionist. And I’m sure there’s a plenty of people that line up, right. And say that yes you are. But in my head I don’t feel like I am. And I’m very good about releasing that, that’s not going to work out perfect.

Annie Lee:

And here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s my solution. I’m going to find a solution when it’s not perfect. And not concentrating so much on what didn’t happen because I think that’s a pit that a lot of clients, especially around their wedding and the high, high, high hopes that you have around how perfect it’s going to be, that a lot of people fall into that pit. And so that’s like one big bubble of life awareness or just how I operate based on my exposure to constant daily perfectionism or this emotional stress about how great something is going to be or how perfect it’s going to go. And the disappointment that I see people go through when it’s not because it… And I say to all my clients, I can only promise you one thing about your wedding day, something is going to go wrong.

Annie Lee:

And I just try to preempt their vision of how perfect the day is going to be. And I’m the first one to always be like, “But it might rain. So we got to have a rain plan.” I just like to give that reality check and almost put the bar lower. So you’re happily surprised versus being so disappointed. And the one other thing, I mean, and I’m sure anyone in a client based or in like a sales position or deals with people, if you sell the same product, but yet you see people approach it in totally different ways, you start to see people’s attitude, whether they’re easy going or they’re making themselves miserable and why. And just studying those two groups or being around those two of groups and experiencing the same journey, but how they experience it makes me want to be the type of person that is pleasant and is happy and is not miserable and looking for something to be wrong or being nasty about whatever.

Annie Lee:

It’s so clear to me because I’m doing the same process with two different types of people and it makes it just abundantly clear that there’s two ways to approach this life. And I would like to be associated with the people that are happier. And happier, it takes more effort. I have a friend that I talk to a lot about this and say that misery is a very warm, cozy blanket. It’s very hard to get out of. And happiness takes a lot of work for some people, not for everyone. But it takes more work to achieve happiness. And so that’s something that I try to keep in mind. It’s something that I’ve learned and I continue to learn from clients all the time, just by their attitude and their approach to the same situation.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I am so grateful that I asked that question, because that was so fascinating. And I do think that you described it perfectly, because everything you were relaying to me or what I heard you say as well is learning to be with what is, and that is essentially mindfulness rather than be with what you want it to be or what it could have been or what you paid for, depending on what happens. It’s a really powerful share. Thank you so much. I forgot to ask you where is a place that you would love to host an event apart from-

Annie Lee:

Oh, I know.

Anne Muhlethaler:

…Your future wedding or perhaps mine, but you know where would you want to set an event for yourself?

Annie Lee:

I’ll tell you an event I wanted to do in 2021, last year, that didn’t happen. I wanted to do a big party and take all my friends to… My family is from Seoul, Korea, so I wanted to take everyone there and just do a big go to a BTS concert, do all our facials and enjoy all the food, and have a big shopping trip. And it’s still something I want to do. I want to just go back. I go to Korea often and I still have family there, but I wanted to bring my friends because I feel it’s people go to Japan, and people go to Thailand and all the places, but Seoul is just not that place that people seek out on their own still, I feel like.

Annie Lee:

I mean, I know you’ve been there but maybe like work related, but it’s not just a place that people think that they want to go to, so I’d love to take some more of my friends. So that’s definitely, it’s going to happen. It didn’t happen last year, but when things are good and we don’t have to quarantine for 14 days before we can be let out on the streets of Seoul, then we will go.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Ah, that would be so much fun. Yeah. That’s a brilliant idea. So is there anything that we’ve missed before I ask you a few closing questions? Is there anything else that you want to share?

Annie Lee:

I mean, I would say the one other obser- okay. The one other observation I’ll share that always sticks out to me when I’m doing these weddings is how people love each other but don’t like each other sometimes. And when I say like each other, I think it’s really respect, right? And I see a lot of these relationships, whether it’s between a parent and a child, or even the couple themselves where there is love there. You know that there’s love there, but the way that they treat each other, they don’t like, it’s like they don’t respect each other. And I think about this article that I read in the LA Times where this writer didn’t experiment with her husband because she just found that he was always so short with her but so nice to strangers, so quick to be hot tempered with her.

Annie Lee:

And so she was like, “Hey, for a week, treat me like I’m a stranger, right? I want you to speak to me with the same courtesy that you speak to strangers with and not the rash, the quick short answers that you just nitpick my cooking, or my cleaning, or whatever it is around the house.” And they did that experiment and found on that they improved their relationship so much because it was really about patience, right? And I feel like one of the things that we all do as humans is the people closest to us we sometimes treat them the worst because we can, right? Because they love us or because we’re close to them, I don’t know why that means that we have to take away the patients that we give to them versus the courtesy that we would to a stranger.

Annie Lee:

And I’m kind of bring this up because it’s something that I applied to my relationship with my mother. And we have had rocky times definitely, and I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone, but it was a big thing and I started it. Even though we could sit here and be well, she should do this first, but I just started being a lot more patient with her. And that could be as small as she’s telling me the same story about her dog for the fourth time, instead of being like, “Mom, you told me, I already know. Yes. I know. I know he did that,” instead of being short with her like that being, “Oh, that’s funny. I think you already told me.” But just giving that extra patience and talking to the people that you’re closest to like they’re strangers, if that means that you give them more patience and respect in some sense.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s such a lovely reflection. And if you can find that article, I’d love to read it. That sounds amazing. The funny thing is you’ve just, because you brought up the parents relationship, it reminds me that there was one wedding I saw on your website, I watched the video. Oh my God it was so touching. It was Sanya, and I want to say and Alex, she was Asian?

Annie Lee:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sayo, yes.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Oh my God. Her and her dad when he sang…

Annie Lee:

I know, I know, oh my God, I’m going to tear up just thinking about it. It was a surprise too. Oh my God, I’m literally tearing up. I love that family so much.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Me too. Oh my God. And it came through the video. There was so much love in that room. It was insane. It really was very beautiful. Okay. Let’s move on to my closing questions. So what is either your favorite word or a word that you would tattoo on yourself?

Annie Lee:

Okay. Try. I always think that difference between people is whether someone tries or not. I think trying, it’s actually very important to me. Say even if you’re in a relationship, to me, even if it’s not perfect, as long as both people are trying, that’s worth trying to save in, versus if someone’s not even. It’s like putting in the effort, what are you doing to actively… It’s action. It’s what are you doing to actually improve the situation, or help, or all of that. So I think that would be it, try.

Anne Muhlethaler:

It’s a good one. Thank you. What’s one thing that you do that makes you happy or satisfied?

Annie Lee:

Okay. Well, this is just for me, but I have to vacuum every morning. It’s just this, everyone’s like, “Get a Roomba,” I was like, “No, I can’t. I have to do it.” It’s something with even the small sounds, little particles going in the vacuum, I don’t know why that brings me such joy. It’s like the fact that it’s getting cleaned. Also, I have the two kitties and it just is a baseline day starter for me. My full day feels out of whack if I didn’t get to start my vacuuming. And I’m not trying to sound like 1950s housewife, but it is just something that, for me, it makes me feel everything is in place, it’s clean, I guess I did it for myself. But I think a clean environment for me is really part of my emotional health as well, not to make it so overinflated, but it’s just something I really enjoy doing. All of as little seemingly menial little tasks that are about improving my home or just in my environment that I’m in, it is something I do for myself. It’s like a weird self-care.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Actually, I found out that it’s not weird.

Annie Lee:

Is it?

Anne Muhlethaler:

No. So I went to a workshop up in London a couple of years ago with an interesting spiritual teacher who was doing a whole bunch of experiments with, I think it was about 50 of us. Anyways, she asked everyone to put all of their belongings out of the room and we were in a big white space and all in their book circle. And she explained that the reason why is because our nervous system picks up on anything that’s out of order. And it takes actually a lot for us to ignore what is a disturbance in the background. So basically by you taking away any of the disturbance or things that are unpleasant to you, you are basically setting yourself up to having a relaxed start of the day. What is a secret superpower that you have?

Annie Lee:

Secret? Secret superpower? So I feel, I mean, you know the word empath and I feel like it gets thrown around quite a bit. But for me, I feel I can pick up on someone’s emotions or their mood, like walk into a room and just feel it a little faster than other people. Or there’s a lot of times, and if I’m not, just to take this back to work, where I’m with clients, and I just can tell, I can feel, I don’t know, nothing’s been said, but I’m like, she doesn’t like it, or that makes her feel uncomfortable. And just kind of come in, and swoop in, and fix that, or rephrase it, or step in for them because it’s uncomfortable for someone to say something. It’s been definitely a superpower that I’ve been able to use at work a lot, and I think with friends where, I guess, it’s more than compassionate, you just absorb someone else’s feelings and like it’s your own almost, right?

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s wonderful. What is your favorite sound?

Annie Lee:

Favorite sound? I do have a favorite sound. I like very specific kinds of the like ting, like a certain kind of ting that is very light and clear and like brilliant. Sometimes I’ll hear it in a song and I don’t even hear the rest of the instruments or the lyrics or anything, I just wait for that repeating little ting. I don’t know why it’s cleansing for some reason.

Anne Muhlethaler:

That’s amazing. I’d love to hear what it sounds like. So if you want to send me a sample.

Annie Lee:

If I hear a sample of it, I’ll send it to you.

Anne Muhlethaler:

What is the last lie that you told?

Annie Lee:

The last lie that I told? Oh, I know. Today I had a tree trimmer come and he asked me how much the other companies quoted me and I didn’t want to tell him because I felt like he was just going to drop it like a little bit below that so I said I didn’t know, but I knew. Because it was 7.50 to trim these five giant palm trees I have and I didn’t want to tell him that because I know he’s going to hit me up with like 6.50 or 7.00. And I stayed quiet and I got a quote from him for 4.50. It’s so good.

Anne Muhlethaler:

All right. Where is somewhere that you’ve visited that you felt really had an impact on who you are today?

Annie Lee:

Oh, well I can think of a very relevant one for us, especially it was with you. Actually we went to Ischia, which is a favorite, favorite place of yours, if people don’t know this. And we went to that castle, you know the castle?

Anne Muhlethaler:

Oh, the one in Ischia Porto?

Annie Lee:

Yeah. It’s got like a bridge, everything, it’s on a little island thing You have to get to. And we did, or I don’t know if I was actually with you or was with your friend, and then we were doing the historical tour and hearing about all the different lives that this little castle has been from a castle to now it’s a hotel, but sometime in between it was an nunnery, right?

Anne Muhlethaler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Annie Lee:

A convent. Really a convent more so. And I remember we went into this dungeony little part and there were these stone thrones. And I asked them, “What’s that for? Was that the potty?” Because it had a little opening in the bottom with a little bowl underneath. And they’re like, “No, that was the crypt or that’s where they put all the dead girls.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And they’re like, “Well basically they would sit them up there and then their…” I’m sorry everybody. Their bones would be the only thing that would be in the bottom. And the thing is that they would make all the healthy girls, the living go and pray for the past girls and then they would get sick from whatever, whatever.

Annie Lee:

And one of the things that I will never… The feeling and memory and I still think about it today, and it kind of goes back to what we were saying about being grateful for where we are at present no matter what, we don’t, what we feel we have not achieved or we don’t have, most of these girls, I think that were being sent to this convent were the eldest daughter of a wealthy family that they didn’t want the daughter to inherit the money or something, so they just dumped them in these convents as soon as they were 10 or something.

Annie Lee:

And then that thought to me, I could not get over. It kind of, also I hate injustice, and it kind of was injustice for women kind of thing where my God, these little girls just had the misfortune of being born into, I mean, there’s plenty of unfortunate girls who are born into poor families, but of being born into a wealthy family, so your life is decided for you that you shall just live in this convent and you shall not marry. All of these life opportunities were taken away from them just for being born in this position. And then I remember at that moment, the feeling that went through me was, you know what, if I don’t get married, if I don’t have kids, if my future doesn’t hold all of these things that I thought I was going to do or have in this life, it’s okay because I chose it.

Annie Lee:

I had some choice in decision making in this path that I’m going versus someone who was cast to this little castle as pretty as it was, but to be sent there, to live and die just because of you’re born a girl. And so I often think about that, I continue to be very happy in my life and try not to want for things that I don’t have right now or might not ever have, because I feel so many people spend their lives, and spend their wedding planning, and spend their whatever it might be being sad about whatever’s missing instead of concentrating on what they have at the moment.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I remember.

Annie Lee:

You remember that?

Anne Muhlethaler:

I remember that room. I remember that trip. Yeah, of course. Yeah. Wow.

Annie Lee:

Sorry, not to end it on a light note.

Anne Muhlethaler:

It’s okay. It’s okay. I have one more fun one for you.

Annie Lee:

Okay. Okay. Okay, good.

Anne Muhlethaler:

What is one of the more embarrassing moments in your life that you can share with us?

Annie Lee:

Oh man. Okay. What is embarrassing? Gosh, there’s so many. Okay, I’ll try to make it not long story. And it’s just one of the first things that comes to mind. So I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Korean booking club. Do you know what that is?

Anne Muhlethaler:

No. What is it?

Annie Lee:

Okay, I’ll explain it. So Korean club, there’s one style of club called the booking where it’s basically all the girls have tables, the guys have tables, the waiters are the ones who take the girls to the guys table to introduce them. This is how they meet, right? It’s not guys going up to girls at the bar, it’s not that kind of setup. So it’s really your waiter introducing girls. So a lot of times you’ll see waiters almost like dragging these girls, because it’s kind of part of whether they really want to go or it’s part of just like kind of the act of being like, oh my God, no, I don’t want to go.

Annie Lee:

And then obviously there’s like the younger girls are the ones taken to the tables. And I think I had gone. And when I say younger, it’s usually probably you’re not even supposed to be at the club yet. And anyone, I remember when I was 18 thinking that 22 year old girl that’s here, how tragic she’s still clubbing. But I remember going after college to one of these clubs and this waiter grabbed my arm and I was like, “Oh no, no, no.” I was just like, “No, I don’t want to go.” I’m just doing the drama of like, no, no. And he was like, “No, miss you have toilet paper stuck on your shoe.” I was like, “Oh, well, okay.” So he did not want to book me, he was just notifying me that I had toilet paper on my shoe.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Oh, yay.

Annie Lee:

That was embarrassing.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Yeah. That’s pretty embarrassing.

Annie Lee:

Humbling, humbling is what I give.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Exactly. And so let’s finish with my favorite question, which is what brings you happiness?

Annie Lee:

I would say time. When I have time and I don’t feel overloaded with things, it doesn’t even matter what I’m doing. If I’m watching Netflix, on a vacation, or having dinner with friends, if I have those extra hours and I don’t feel rushed and I feel I have time to just play around with my little garden in my back, or whatever menial little thing I want to do is when I am overwhelmingly happy. When I have that, any kind of time for myself to do whatever I want.

Anne Muhlethaler:

I’m very surprised you didn’t name your cats in that.

Annie Lee:

Oh shoot. Don’t anyone let them listen to this podcast. But that’s part of it, part of it. Yes. And it’s just being able to stop in, go pet them, go lay on them, do whatever I want, having that time.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Awesome. Thank you so much. Annie, thanks for all the time you gave me today for this wonderful interview. I really appreciate it. Could you tell people where they can find you or connect with you if they’ve got questions and are interested in anything that you’ve talked about today?

Annie Lee:

So you can find me at daughterofdesign.com, or plannie.com. And on Instagram it’s daughterofdesign, and then for Plannie, it’s askplannie.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Awesome. Thank you so much. I hope that you’ve got lovely plans for the rest of the day and into the weekend?

Annie Lee:

I have time. It’s nice.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Yay. Congratulations. Well, it sounds like you’re going to enjoy yourself. Have a wonderful weekend then, and I will talk to you very soon.

Annie Lee:

Bye Anne.

Anne Muhlethaler:

Thanks again to Annie for being my guest on the show today. You can find her online at daughterofdesign.com, and on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, @daughterofdesign. So friends and listeners, thanks again for joining me today. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode. Selected links from everything that we talked about are included in the show notes so head out there if you are interested. If you’d like to hear more, you can go to your favorite podcast app and hit the subscribe button. If you can, leave us a review, it’s really, really lovely to hear from you.

Anne Muhlethaler:

If you’d like to connect, you can get in touch with me @annvi on Twitter, on Instagram, and on LinkedIn, or @_outoftheclouds, where I also share guided meditations and other daily musings about mindfulness. You can find all of my podcast episodes and more about my projects, particularly around mindfulness and meditation at outtotheclouds.com or annevmuhlethaler.com. And if you don’t know how to spell it, that’s fine, it’s also in the show notes. Sign up to receive email updates on all the cool things that I’m doing. And that’s it. So thank you so much for listening to Out of The Clouds, and I hope that you’ll join me again next time. Until then, be well, be safe, take care.