Julianne Smith, a former communications director for Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), faced a difficult task in 2004: balancing nine-hour work days while planning her wedding.
And in 2006, she helped her friends plan their weddings, a task she juggled with her official duties as the spokeswoman for President George W. Bush’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
“When I was working on Capitol Hill, I just had zero time. There’s no way my coworkers would have stood for me surfing wedding sites all day,” Smith said. “I was overwhelmed with the choices in D.C. and just didn’t know where to begin.”
The 32-year-old’s struggles, though, had a happy ending. They inspired her and now-business partner Nole Garey, 29, to create a wedding blog full of resources for D.C.-area brides-to-be.
The product was United With Love (unitedwithlove.com), a blog that launched Nov. 1 showcasing local weddings and editorial posts on topics such as food-truck caterers and unique registry options.
“We had some friends in the wedding industry telling us that a tremendous amount of brides in this area were surfing the national blogs,” said Smith, a Pennsylvania native. “So we had brides looking for creative ideas, and vendors who didn’t have a place to showcase their work, and we just felt like we wanted to give both a local place to go.”
According to Smith and Garey, D.C.-area brides face an overwhelming array of choices. Since the area is home to some of the biggest political events in the country, vendor options are plentiful — and pricey.
Smith and Garey’s solution was a guide to local vendors, where caterers, photographers, wedding planners and the like can offer their services.
A basic listing is free, but businesses pay extra to post photos and additional information. Vendors also pay to advertise on the site. Those fees are how the bloggers make their money — both women quit their jobs to pursue blogging full time. Many national wedding sites that highlight local weddings depict stereotypical stars-and-stripes themes. United With Love, though, aims to show the variety of options for Washington weddings.
“One of the main reasons we started the blog was to dispel any preconceived notion about weddings around here,” Smith said. “They aren’t just political and super traditional. It doesn’t have to be red, white and blue, or donkeys and elephants, or cherry blossoms.”
The pair may be devoted to all things wedding now, but it wasn’t long ago that they were both working government jobs.
After she left the Bush administration, Smith started a designer wedding-garter business, the Garter Girl (thegartergirl.com). Garey started a blog about wedding stationery, Oh So Beautiful Paper (ohsobeautifulpaper.com), while she was a Somalia desk officer for the State Department. The Florida native finally quit her job this July to blog full time.
Smith said their similar backgrounds made the two women click.
But not everyone “got” their venture. Smith and Garey had a hard time telling their husbands and co-workers they were leaving secure jobs to blog.
“All of them sort of tilted their heads and looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’” Garey said. “It was funny because you could see the difference in generations in terms of reactions. The 35-and-under crowd wanted to know how I did it, but the older crowd thought I was crazy.”
Smith and Garey admit to missing water-cooler chatter and knowing how many hours they will work in a week. But their current jobs satisfy them in a way that government work didn’t.
“I do miss the rat race and the craziness. I miss having co-workers and an office,” Smith said. “But by the time I left, I was ready for something different. And this is definitely different.”