Jena Clem founded Propose Charleston to professionally plan proposals.
After a partner pops the big question, there’s another one that follows immediately from everyone else: “So…how did he do it?” Inspired to make those stories sing, Jena Clem founded Propose Charleston to professionally plan proposals.
“Charleston is a huge wedding destination and we have vendors for everything. But the one thing that’s missing in the market — in Charleston and all over — is someone to assist with proposals,” said Clem, who collaborates with each client on the venue, staging it, finding photographers, ring shopping, even planning a party afterward. “It’s not just getting down on one knee in a living room anymore. You have to have florals and a space, lights, candles, photos. Then you may have this huge event afterwards. People have bands and family and friends coming now. It’s huge.”
Giddiness runs through Clem’s veins at the idea of marriage proposals. In fact, that’s the first bit of detail she asks a couple when touring them through the Gibbes Museum of Art where she is the special events director and has been for the past seven years. “Regardless of whether it was a grand proposal, like during a big vacation, or not, the stories made me so happy. I think that, combined with my own proposal, subconsciously, put the idea in my head to start this business, and it finally came about this summer,” admitted Clem, who is one of Charleston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.
Looking back on her own proposal, a romantic night on the moonlit beach, it was perfect on paper – but it had its quirks. Her husband was too excited the day he picked up the ring that he didn’t plan how to do it — he just knew he had to give it to her that day.
They ended up sitting on the shore during a January night that was so cold Clem had to bundle up in rafting pants — feeling the opposite of cute stuffed into her layers. Add a sky so dark that she couldn’t even see the ring. “I said ‘yes,’ then had to take out my phone’s flashlight so I could actually see it,” Clem reminisced with a laugh.
She loves that this is her story, but her romantic and strategic mind couldn’t help but think, even in that moment, how a little planning could have made her endearing moment that much more picturesque. “It was so sweet how excited he was. And beach proposals can happen, but not in the dark.”
Propose Charleston is full-service, white glove, from the moment the client calls Clem up to the moment the couple walks away happily engaged. “We take their budget and we make it work to what they want. We find out their love story, a little bit about them, what they like and dislike, what they’re looking for,” Clem said. Then she provides options for venues and sets up the scenario, marking everything down to the spot and the time the proposal will happen.
The day of the proposal, Clem is on site making sure plans are properly executed and her client feels confident and comfortable. “Everything is planned out 100 percent for them. Literally, all the client has to do is ask — and remember the ring. If they need us to bring the ring there for them, we’ll do that, too!”
Clem’s services are so loved in the Lowcountry, Propose Charleston is the exclusive planning firm for Wild Dunes Resort, a recent partnership that has the entrepreneur excited for the endless proposal possibilities. “One of my favorite proposal setups was a beautiful picnic at Kiawah River. The water was the backdrop of the picnic, goat.sheep.cow provided a cheese and charcuterie platter, and Loluma provided lanterns,” she said, adding that Jen Keys Photography was on hand to catch every moment. “After he proposed, the couple shook up champagne and popped the cork!”
While the company’s focus is Charleston, in the future, Clem would love to expand to other areas, such as Nashville or Atlanta, or partner with more venues and vendors in the Lowcountry.
Said Clem with a smile, “A person’s already going to be nervous, so if I can take the stress out of that special moment, that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what Propose Charleston is here for.”
By Teri Errico Griffis