When Joy Hersey-Todd was made redundant as a call centre manager in Attercliffe four years ago, she didn’t know what to do.
“I thought I would work in a supermarket for a few months, but it wasn’t for me.
“Then some friends who were restoring a bungalow at the same time as planning a wedding found they were running out of time and asked me to help.”
That was the “light bulb moment,” said Joy, who went on to receive professional training in London and to set up Unique Wedding Planning in Sheffield.
Now the career switch has paid off to the extent of her winning best independent wedding planner in the The 2014 Wedding Industry Awards in London.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Joy. “It’s the only competition I have entered and I think it has the most credibility. The people who vote are the people we have worked with.”
She has helped to organise more than 60 weddings over the past three-and-a-half years, the most high profile being Chelsea footballer Gary Cahill marrying long-time girlfriend Gemma Purshouse - they met at school in Dronfield - at Brookfield Manor Hathersage last summer.
One interest she is looking to develop is from American brides keen for ceremonies in country houses in Britain, buoyed most recently by TV showings of Downtown Abbey. Joy is currently arranging a wedding at Chatsworth for an American woman who saw it in Pride and Prejudice on TV three years ago.
At first, she was unsure whether there was a new career in the offing. “I thought: ‘Is it a real job?’ ‘Is there a market for it?’”
She took the plunge based on her enthusiasm from that first time, and the flexibility it offered of working from the home in Beauchief she shares with husband Richard and children Charlotte, aged 16, who has autism, and Ellie, 14.
Joy, aged 49, helps to organise all types of weddings - one had dogs in the bridal party - and civil partnerships. The average cost of a wedding is about £25,000.
The key advice? “You have got to have a really robust plan, and plan for all weathers. Most people envisage a beautiful sunny day and it doesn’t always work out like that. Stay true to what you want. Most importantly, you should try to set a budget from the outset. It is very easy to get carried away. The choice is vast.”
Now Joy is not only working with brides and grooms-to-be, but she has also set up her own wedding planning college.