When Shayna Walker walked through the doors of the Sir Christopher Wren Building after her graduation from the College of William and Mary in 2000, she had no idea that the building would become the cornerstone of her career a decade later. This historic structure, which has long been held dear by students and alumni alike, has special significance to Walker, who currently derives her livelihood from it.
Walker has come a long way in the past 11 years. During her senior year at the College, she lived in a repurposed barn in Toano among the horses she cared for. After graduating, she moved back to her native California and pursued a variety of careers, first working as a tour director, then as a food-and-beverage purchaser for a major cruise line, and later as a legal secretary before moving back to Williamsburg in 2004.
During her time on the West Coast, Walker married, gave birth to twins and, at long last, found her calling: wedding planning. She took this passion and, upon her return to the ’Burg, founded her own company: Williamsburg Wedding Design, which has now grown into a successful business.
Walker, who has planned somewhere between “30-40 weddings” in the Wren Chapel, praises it as a place that is very precious to the many alumni who use it. Therefore, it is unsurprising that this exclusive venue, which is extremely popular during the late spring and early fall months, is hard to book. Factor in the hectic events that inevitably arrive with the changing of the seasons, such as Homecoming, graduation and football games, and planning can become a real challenge.
Wedding couples have to fit their ceremonies into strict two-hour time blocks. This limited time frame, combined with rigid restrictions on space and decor, may seem off-putting to some, yet for many couples who have battled to book it for their special day, the charm of Wren more than makes up for it.
“You can’t help but have respect for the chapel,” Walker said.
Walker has planned a wide variety of ceremonies, from Presbyterian to Jewish to civil. Regardless of creed, Wren weddings are in demand.
Though Walker seems to enjoy her career and what she describes as the “quirks and restrictions” that accompany the “balancing act” that is wedding planning, she feels that some day she may pursue a different passion.
“I would love to pursue a Ph.D. in archeology,” she said.
Applying to grad school, she admits, is a challenge, what with two children and a jam-packed schedule rife with couples who schedule their ceremonies a year in advance. However, it is this career that has led to her interest in archeology. Walker credits her time planning weddings in Wren and other historic buildings as the impetus for her motivation to get her next degree.
“I wouldn’t have realized the richness of these places without weddings,” Walker said.
For now, however, Walker is focusing on raising her seven-year-old twins, growing her wedding planning business, and making her clients happy.
While every client is special, Walker admits that she has a soft spot for alumni who have a closer connection to the area, especially Wren, and, like many of us, bleed green and gold.