As a wedding planner, it is Sandra Downey's job to make sure the bride and groom get the day of their dreams - and on their ideal budget.
As a mom, when her oldest daughter, Lauren, married a year ago, she had double duty.
Downey, 57, was mother of the bride and wedding planner for Lauren and Josh Smith's wedding May 1, 2010.
Challenging is one word Downey uses to describe the experience.
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"I was mom, not just planner. I had to separate myself a little bit," said Downey of Lakeview Shores Loop on Lake Norman in Mooresville.
"But I knew her so well - things she'd like but she might not like at the time."
Downey is owner of With Style Wedding and Event Planning. She officially launched the business in 2008 when she knew she could dedicate herself full-time to wedding planning, her specialty.
"There's nothing I don't enjoy about it," said Downey. "You're involving yourself with someone at the most joyous time of their life. (The brides) are nervous and happy. It's fun for me to do what I can to help them."
Downey and her husband, Darrin, have owned or co-owned and operated three successful businesses. Downey has experience in all aspects of business from purchasing to sales to customer service.
And she also knows how to make a marriage work.
Downey and husband Darrin have been married 32 years and will celebrate year 33 on Sept. 16.
Their wedding day was a simple ceremony on a beautiful fall day in Syracuse, N.Y. She remembers having to follow a strict budget, and she had never heard of a wedding planner back then, but it didn't stop her from having a great wedding.
"For years, friends and family reminded me about a great party," Downey said. "That really makes you feel good that people still remember that years later.
"That's what it's really about; it's the time to let go and celebrate with family and friends."
She kept that in mind while planning Lauren's wedding for two years between engagement and wedding day.
"My mother being my wedding planner and mother of the bride was extremely stressful," said her daughter Lauren Smith. "However, the day of the wedding, she took off the wedding planner hat and was the best mother of the bride I could have asked for.
"The wedding and ceremony were perfect. .... People still tell me I had the best wedding-ceremony they have ever been to. My mom deserves all the credit because she made sure my day would be perfect, and it was better than I could have ever imagined."
The Smiths were wed at The Point, surrounded by family and friends, and one of the bride's favorite parts - Sir Purr.
The Carolina Panthers mascot made a cameo appearance at the wedding, performing the Cupid Shuffle with the bridal party and boogied down with all guests.
It was just the touch to set the Smith wedding apart from others - a detail Downey recommends to all her brides-to-be.
"Make it your own," said Downey. "Don't be afraid to add your special touch to the day and make your wedding stand out from the others."
Downey has several ideas on how to do this, some big and some small like leaving in a hot air balloon or giving a favor that has a special meaning to the bride and groom, like a CD of their favorite tunes.
Other ideas she's executed include a candy bar, a bird cage for envelopes and cards and ceramic picture frames with photos of the bride and groom holding table numbers.
What advice would you share with young newlyweds on how to have a successful marriage?
"Communicate, communicate, communicate," said Downey. "The first year of marriage is such a big adjustment at just about every level. Financial issues will arise and difficult choices will have to be made. Each person will have to listen to each other's needs and wants and learn the word 'compromise.' The best marriages don't just happen; you need to work on them, but it is worth it."