For more than 40 years, TFAS has served as a launching pad for a long list of careers including public service, law and journalism. This summer, TFAS added reality television to that list thanks to alumnaSandy Malone (IPJ 96).
Malone and her wedding planning business, Weddings in Vieques, star in the new TLC reality series “Wedding Island.“ The show follows Malone as she and her team navigate the logistical challenges of coordinating nuptials on Vieques Island, a tiny rock in the Caribbean.
Malone discovered Vieques Island, which is located seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, in 1999 while working for the D.C. based public relations firm Creative Response Concepts. As fate would have it, Malone’s first client with the agency was the government of Puerto Rico. After administrations switched in San Juan, so did the PR firm, but Malone was already hooked on Puerto Rico and its tiny Vieques Island. She continued to visit on vacation and in 2004 she and her husband Bill (who is also featured on the show) married on the island.
“We always joked that when my husband was eligible to retire from the police department, we were going to ‘run away’ to Vieques and open up a wedding planning company,” said Malone, and in 2007, the stars aligned. Malone’s husband was retiring and her company was undergoing reorganization. Her first wedding project fell right into her lap. “That sealed the deal, and we haven’t looked back.”
Over the years, Malone has planned all sorts of weddings, most of them beautiful and traditional, but there’s also been a fair share of unique nuptials. “We’ve had Wiccan weddings, double weddings, leprechaun weddings, and way too many weddings involving live animals,” said Malone.
It was these outrageous stories that peaked the interest of a friend who was a documentary film producer. “[He] kept saying for years that we should have our own television show because the things that happen at Weddings in Vieques are too bizarre to be believed,” said Malone.
After years of joking, a camera crew came to Vieques Island to make a demo. The show was sold to TLC and was in production five months later.
SANDY’S FIVE TIPS ON STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS OR BRAND
Malone shared the following advice to alumni with entrepreneurial ambitions
- Learn the business first on somebody else’s dime.If you want to start a business, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
- Make sure you have a cushion that gives you a few years to start making money.Even now after six years, I tend to reinvest everything in my business rather than paying myself because every penny I put back into any of my businesses is returned to me tenfold.
- Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it.Listen to advice. You never know when somebody will drop a really valuable nugget, but stay focused on your goal and don’t let “haters” derail you. Trust me, people who are jealous of your success will be mean and nasty on the most surprising levels. Don’t let it get to you.
- Keep your eyes on the prize and you will get exactly where you wanted to go, eventually!
- Keep in touch with The Fund for American Studies. The relationships I built in IPJ have lasted for years – both my roommates and the staff – and every one of them has been incredibly beneficial over the years. It goes both ways – we all help each other.
According to Malone, Wedding Island is a one-of-a-kind reality show because it focuses on the back end of wedding planning, showing what goes on behind the scenes before the big day. Throughout the season, viewers witness how Malone and her team scramble for limited supplies, rush bridesmaids to the emergency room, order dramatic last-minute helicopter arrivals, and design intricate parade floats. “And we do it on a tropical island you can’t get to without two boats or planes,” said Malone.
“We have an amazing team who work tremendously hard and go to extreme lengths to get what they want every time. I ‘m hoping the viewing public sees what an amazing crew I’ve got and how much our brides and grooms love the results of our wedding planning.”
Before delving into the realm of wedding planning and reality television, Malone started her career as a journalist. In 1996 she attended the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism where she interned with Campaigns & Elections magazine. Shortly after beginning her internship, Malone was hired full-time as an associate editor and stayed with the magazine through the 1996 presidential cycle. She eventually left the magazine to join the Politics.net column for the Wall Street Journal – “back before the the tech page even existed,” said Malone.
Seventeen years and one reality show later, Malone still values the relationships she built as a TFAS student. “We all help each other,” she said. “There’s something extra special about finding out you’re not the only alum around a boardroom table.”
To learn more about Malone’s show, “Wedding Island,” visit tlc.com/tv-shows/wedding-island