Jo Ann M. Grant considers herself an architect who helps people create their ideal weddings from scratch.
Whether it involves a groom making a grand entrance on a white horse as part of an Indian ritual or a couple uniting in a traditional Catholic ceremony, Grant said she helps build clients’ big day “from the ground up.”
As the owner of Apropos Creations, which she started in 2009, Grant has successfully orchestrated weddings that celebrate the cultures of India, Laos, Mexico, the Philippines and the United States.
She also helps people lay the foundation and carry out other life-changing moments – including delivering marriage proposals and anniversary parties – along with birthday celebrations, quinceañeras (coming-of-age parties for young Mexican women) and corporate events.
Grant, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1986, has studied rituals and traditions from different ethnic and religious groups to incorporate into multicultural weddings her clients desire.
Photos from weddings she has planned reveal beaming women wrapped in colorful, elaborately decorated Indian sarees and grooms donning sherwani, royal-looking suits with long jackets.
Brides in modern, white strapless gowns and grooms in popular American suits posed outside with palm trees, cacti and mountains behind them at other multicultural weddings Grant has planned.
“It’s just my niche,” Grant said. “I educated myself with the traditions, with their lingo. You have to be respectful of their traditions.”
With some clients, the groom has been led to the marriage location in an Indian procession called the Baraat. Grant said the groom’s family members and friends escort him as he rides a white horse.
Because of logistics in some of the Indian weddings Grant has planned, the procession starts somewhere closer to the wedding site, not at the groom’s home.
Grant contacts a vendor who provides her horses for such Indian weddings and also for brides and grooms who want a horse and carriage for their weddings.
Despite cultural variations, Grant said she and the team of vendors always have the same mission.
“We all have one common goal, to make sure the bride and groom is happy on their wedding day,” she said.
Planning weddings and receptions can take more than a year and involve multiple elements on a checklist. Some people hire Grant just to work the day of their wedding and reception, while others seek her assistance from the start of their planning journey.
Since December, she has been planning a wedding scheduled for January 2019.
The first steps are figuring out the venue for the wedding and reception, as well as their budget and number of guests they will invite.
Then she will typically narrow down the list of venue options to three and ask her clients to visit them to make their final selection.
“It’s all about the flow,” Grant said.
That flow involves making sure it is easy and smooth for the bridal party and guests to move around during the wedding, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing.
Sometimes she hires subcontractors to help her plan weddings, including assistant coordinators the day of the wedding.
They perform many tasks the day of the wedding – making sure bridal parties are lined up for the procession, shadowing the bride to be sure she has what she needs, checking on the cake and putting place cards on dinner tables.
She keeps a detailed checklist she gives her clients, setting tasks that need to be done by certain dates, including picking the style and colors, choosing the guests, sending out save-the-date cards, booking a caterer and reserving the officiant nine or more months ahead of the wedding.
Working with DJs, photographers, bakers and many other vendors can be stressful, but Grant doesn’t let her clients see her sweat.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” she said, adding she enjoys the rush she gets orchestrating weddings.
“I am a very organized person, but I’m not OCD,” Grant said. “You have to be able to adjust accordingly and go with the flow, if something goes wrong, finding a solution. Don’t get stuck. You just make the best of it, of the situation. Do not have that panicked look on your face. You have to keep that calm face.”
She tells her clients not to worry about anything and to just enjoy the moment.
A source of stress is people’s not performing their duties at scheduled times, she said.
Grant recalled how she had recommended a DJ arrive an hour and a half before the ceremony began. Instead, he came 15 minutes before the wedding was scheduled to start.
“I had to roll with it,” Grant said, adding she talked to the DJ about his later-than-ideal arrival afterward.
She also keeps a sense of humor when things do not go as planned at weddings. Grant recalled how nature called for a horse a groom was riding to a wedding.
She said the procession kept moving as it could. She also remembered at a “fusion wedding,” where Indian and American traditions blended when the bridesmaid, who was the bride’s sister, tried to put a flower garland on the bride.
Traditionally, the groom is the one who is supposed to put the garland on his bride, Grant said.
“The priest made light of it,” she said.
Grant enjoyed planning her brother and sister-in-law’s destination wedding and many friends’ weddings over the years.
She loved planning her own wedding about 20 years ago, which prompted her husband, Amoa Grant, to recommend she turn her passion for wedding planning into a business.
“He’s the reason why I have this company,” Jo Ann said. “It’s awesome. I never thought I’d be where I’d be.”
A mother to a 20-year-old son, Grant is also treasurer for the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events.
She planned 15 different events last year, mostly weddings. So far this year she has planned 10 weddings.
She also planned The Playhard Project’s 2nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament in Mesa. The Playhard Project, based in Chandler, aims to get corporate, government and private funding, as well as to do fundraising, to help struggling families and young athletes be able to play sports.
Planning weddings and other special celebrations can be stressful.
“It’s definitely a lot of mind stress,” Jo Ann said. “It’s not just one wedding I’m focused on. It’s being able to juggle and organize my thoughts. I write it all down. There are challenging times where you doubt yourself. Then you have this family that supports you.”
She said hearing praise from her clients at the end of the night is “all I look forward to.”
“It’s those little words that makes me keep going,” Jo Ann said.
Many clients have posted praise for Jo Ann on Apropos Creations’ Facebook page.
“Apropos Creations/ Jo Ann Grant was such a pleasure to work with,” Daniela Enriquez posted. “Jo Ann is a true professional and knows all the ins and outs about wedding planning, and in our case she was the backbone of our very complex multicultural wedding which turned out absolutely amazing!!”
Nicole Ashley also was thrilled with her wedding organized by Jo Ann.
“Than you, that is all we can really say!” Ashley posted. “Our wedding was absolutely perfect."
Grant’s services start at $2,000. Information: aproposcreations.com.