How to become a Wedding Planner: Part I

As I start a series on how to become a wedding planner, I want to first address the ethics around starting a business and being educated in the process. In this post, I share what I did and what I wish I had done!

So let’s get at it….

Are you a new wedding planner that planned your own wedding and decided you really love it so you jumped into it as a career? I’m going to pick on you in this post, only because it’s a stereotype and the odds are, that’s how most of us got started.

That's actually how I became a planner. So we are in this together. Granted, I had experience in corporate events so it wasn’t totally new. Though, corporate and weddings are also very very different.

But with the mentality that they couldn’t be that different, I spent way too much time learning the hard way. Which meant it took me way longer to make real money than if I had just done it the right way.

As a new planner, I bet you have already picked up on the fact that ‘brides turned wedding planner’ are the laughing stock of the industry. And I bet it hurts a little.

Hear me say this, though: we are entitled to career changes. So good for you!

I don’t want you to feel beat down by a cut throat industry so I want to share why it’s that way. It’s that way because there are no barriers to entry. It’s that way because any Ma and Pa can pop up and claim they know what they are doing. It’s that way because people start a business without investing in it.

Friends, these are weddings we are conducting. Up to this point in their lives, it’s the.most. for a couple. How dare we come in and practice on them? Like real question. Challenge your heart on that.

Proper education isn’t an option. Even after stumbling around on luck for a couple of years, the only way I made any real progress was when I invested in education.

I see it every day. One planner comes in, willing to spend a couple thousand dollars on a proper start and she nails it in the first year. Then, another planner comes in and boot straps it, not willing to spend money on more than a shoestring website with poor images and bad fonts… and she struggles for years. There are two things to unpack here:

  • Investments allow you to have the proper aesthetic, branding and message in order to attract leads and clients.

  • Investments allow you to charge a real number from the start. It creates profit.

When I started, I spent about a thousand dollars on a logo, a website, a professional email address, my LLC and all the state paperwork, business cards and some flyers. That was about it.

If I had to do it over again, here is what I would do:

  • All the things I mentioned +

  • Insurance

  • Attend Wedding MBA (mass amount of education) or a smaller workshop (hands on, ask questions)

  • Purchase Templates

  • Join online communities until I found one with an educator I related to and trust. Invest in their training. (These didn’t exist when I started.)

  • Get to know local wedding planners.

I didn’t do any of that until three years into business and I’m telling you. The changes happened over night! I was an immediate success with the things I implemented from simple education and coaching.

And you don’t have to totally break the bank to do this either. Sure, you can come in and easily spend a $5k on a sparkly new website. Or, you could get Squarespace and spend a few hundred dollars on having someone on their team set it up. Get creative!

You can take all of that or you can leave it. At the end of it all, you’ll either quit or eventually land with the big dogs and if you do, you’ll look back and finally admit I’m right. But your journey to get there is your choice. Spending money never feels easy, but I can assure you it’s far easier than 2-4 years of battling a shoe strapped business.

There are a lot of options for education and it’s important that you really vet them. Get involved with someone’s platform before just buying something from them. Make sure you trust them and see them as a giver. Are they helpful? Are they smart? Are they encouraging? Do they challenge people and are they willing to have the hard conversations? Do they swallow their pride and humbly accept when they got something wrong? Are they real?

Ask yourself those things. You’re going to learn the most from the person you trust. Don’t just stalk the Facebook groups, get involved. Ask questions, answer questions. Respond to the moderator or other leaders in the group- get to know them. I’m telling you, it will move you forward and open doors. They’ll become connectors for you. They will keep you in mind for practice rounds on content. The relationships are as important as the education.

You simply cannot plan your own wedding, become a wedding planner, and just hope it works. If you literally don’t have $2-3k to invest from the start, I would encourage you to save until you do. Or ask yourself if that’s really even true. Is it that you don’t have the money or is it that you’re not prioritizing? It’s not ethical to serve your clients without education, even if you’re upfront with them about that. They don’t understand the ramifications any more than you do. On this side of things, having done it myself, I really believe that.

There is a reason there are ‘she planned her wedding so now she thinks she’s a wedding planner’ jokes. Defy them. Invest in yourself and show the world you’re not a joke.

If you’re not sure where to start, join our Facebook group. It’s positive, it’s not spammy, it’s supportive and A ton of it! Sadly, the group is only accessible by mobile right now until FB can work out the desktop kinks.

Other resources I offer that fit well within the budget I mentioned above are:

My 2018 Year in Review

Due to health (Lyme’s Disease once upon a time and severe post-partum depression), I’ve had much harder years. Though, this is the first “hard year” I’ve had that was paired with the business systems I implemented in the last couple of years and y’all, I conquered this MFer like a boss.

I can see the fruit of my labor. I can see the impact that systems and procedures have made on my operations. I didn’t have those in the other hard years. I rode on luck. And lucky for me, luck got me through. But I don’t want another lucky year. I want to do it right and well. To look my clients in the eyes and tell them with honesty that we have a system.

So let’s take a quick look at my super hard 2018. The one that actually caused very little stress for me. The one I’m floored didn’t cause stress for me.

  • January - Doesn’t count. #duh

  • February - Spent most of it in New Zealand and Australia, decided our marriage was hanging by a thread

  • March - Started marriage counseling; got a wild hair, bought a new (to us) house down the street, remodeled 2 bathrooms in old house, listed it and sold it in one day- with kids home for Spring Break. #cray

  • April - Pack the old house, catch up on work after basically taking 3 months off

  • May - Moved, unpacked most of new house, bought Refine

  • June - Went live with Refine acquisition; new house flooded #cool, spent the following few weeks moving things out or upstairs and demoing flood damage / waiting to get on contractor’s schedule; half days at childcare for my 4 year old because you know, when I submitted the schedule change I expected a slow summer with swim lessons across town and mom time. We’re now at #craycray.

  • July- Wrapped up marriage counseling, remodel begins, moving back and forth from our house to parents’ house

  • August - Have a I mentioned the remodel? The one that includes displacing a 2 and 4 year old for now the 7th month in a row? (anyone know a behavioral specialist??)

  • September - Don’t mind us, still just remodeling; Beyonce + Jay-Z concert … the #2018silverlining

  • October - OMG, still remodeling, Texas is flooding so why not just have wedding rain plans for 6 weeks in a row #imnotcrying #yourecrying

  • November- Punch list time! #praise, Wedding MBA, Thanksgiving (another month of #allthecomputertime #thisismysarcasticfont)

  • December - One more major remodel project we added last minute, a week in NYC with the said 2 and 4 year old #craycraycray, Christmas and all the things

With restoring a marriage and gutting a house, I really was only able to work 1-3 days a week. And it all got done. 2018 tested my systems and I can now say they are proven. No way could I say this ended up being the best year of our marriage without having gotten my business in order and ready for me to take time away from work, reconnecting with my husband. With my systems, I see that I CAN be set free from my computer. But friends, you never know when that storm is going to hit. Are you ready? Is your business in a place that will allow you to step away while watching it continue to thrive?

If you haven’t sat down and put your process on paper, DO IT. If you haven’t converted everything you do on a regular basis into a template, NOW is the time. And if that overwhelms you, hop over to the template kits I offer and build from there. You deserve to remain calm and enjoy your family and friends when life’s storms come your way. You deserve to be healthy. To have balance and boundaries. You cannot afford another year of riding on luck. And you know exactly what I mean.

So, as I reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019, I’ve been giving thought to my “word for the year”….. For 2019, I’ve chosen “FINISH”.

  • Finish one idea before starting 5 others.

  • Finish organizing the cabinet before getting bored and taking a break.

  • Finish that book I started.

  • Finish.

You see, I’m a hopper-arounder. I get it all done, sure. But I want to see what could happen if I just … finish.

Tell me Refiners, what is your word?

year in review

Thank you!

I'm blown away at the mercies REFINE has brought to my family and want to thank you all for believing in me.

amber anderson educator

The Black Friday sale produced what is typically 2-3 months of income for me.

In one week.

I can't express to you what a blessing it is to have reached this point in my career. And perhaps money talks should be private but I wanted to share for two reasons:

Mainly, I want you to have a true appreciation for the depth of my gratitude.

But I also want to show you the impact of education and investments.

I make large investments in my business(es) each year and with them, I see far greater return.

Refine is focused on new, aspiring planners in the 0-4 year range of business. Or those at a fork in the road of moving forward or closing. I'm grateful to have seasoned planners in this group that are willing to share and mentor alongside me because community over competition is everything.

That being said, I would have given anything for a group like Refine in my first year or two of business and not to toot my own horn here, but newer planners- if you hear one thing, hear this...... do not take this community for granted. It's unique! I’ve searched high and low for anything remotely close to it - there isn’t one community like this exclusively for planners (that I can find), especially for free. You should be proud to be here!

If you're a regular reader but aren't involved, I encourage you to dive in. The friends I have made through Refine are such lifelines (and part of how I even came to take over Refine in May). All from engaging in simple conversation.

Make a name for yourself here. Become known, grow, give and thrive.

And one day, you'll be crying with another Refiner over her adoption journey, sending condolences to someone going through a divorce or loss of a loved one- or, receiving those sentiments from your friends here. You’ll be pushed, championed and held accountable for your next steps. And you'll be introduced to really big and important people. You'll have Sasha Souza liking your social media content. You'll have eyes in the market that will tell you when someone is stealing your content. You'll be brought into Masterminds. You will go places. Even if that place is like mine- sitting on the couch in your PJs or dirty gym clothes, with nothing about your appearance being professional, making more money than your old corporate America job, watching your dream come to life in complete comfort.

My cup runneth over,

amber anderson wedding planner coach

12 Ways to Build Strong Vendor Relationships as a Wedding Planner

I love talking about vendor relationships. Friendors are the lifeline of my business. I mean I’m all about advertising but with friendors, I really don’t have to do much of it. They are my bread and butter and you better know I treat them like it.

These relationships didn’t happen overnight but if you’re a young company, or one that hasn’t put much effort into making friendors, rest assured you can gain strong allies very quickly with the tips I’m going to unfold for you.

1. Be Nice

My reconciliation emails are #teamvendor. “What can I do to set you up for success?” That’s my approach. When I work with vendors for the first time, they typically reply with “wow, you are so thorough and I really appreciate you taking care of me.” Their responses have me wondering why anyone wouldn’t treat them this way. Are they just being tossed around by dictator planners? Sadly, I think many are… so if you’re willing to set yourself apart, you can quickly win over vendors on this front.

Don’t tell them what to do. Ask for their feedback on what you have organized and only if they give push back should you assert yourself. Respect begets respect. And this establishes trust. You’re now seen as one of the good ones.

What’s in it for me: they actually cooperate on the wedding day and I always get photos back from photogs.


2. Make them the Heroes

Use captions on social media that refer to the challenges faced in their categories and educate clients on how to navigate. Then ask a question that allows the vendors in that category to speak into the subject matter. Next, tag as many vendors in that category as Insta will allow and watch the magic happen. We love being given platforms. And when they are tagged, they are not only given recognition by a local planner, they are given a space to speak and show expertise in their category.

What’s in it for me: They reinforce the education you give your clients. That makes it easier to say ‘no’ or ‘redirect’ when a client has an unrealistic expectation. You can point back to a thread and say “you know, I’d love to share some experience on how I typically see that going”, without being the bad guy.

3. Blog About Their Pain Points

Taking it one step further than a short Instagram caption, my vendors LOVE when I blog about those challenges and provide education in a deeper format. It provides content they can share and as a result, they feel connected to me. They want to read my blogs and they want to support what I’m doing because they see me as a vendor advocate.

What’s in it for me: they share my blogs, added exposure.

4. Bring Snacks and Waters on the Wedding Day

Take care of your vendors! Have a little snack station and a cute sign with your logo that says “stay nourished and give it your all, thanks for being on my team today”. It’s such a pick me up! In my reconciliation, I ask about dietary restrictions for the vendor meal so I’m mindful of this in my snack kit as well.

What’s in it for me: this is when the friendship sparks! They see that I actually care.

5. Have Vendors Sign for Their Gratuity

This may seem so small, but when I started doing this, the feedback was again “oh wow, you really cover your basis”. They are impressed how thoroughly I cross my t’s and dot my I’s but most importantly, they see that I value integrity.

What’s in it for me: further establishes trust.

6. Host Vendor Appreciation Events

I spend most of my advertising budget on my vendors in one way or the other. Either through the snacks I mentioned, gifts or appreciation events. Lots of vendors host these for planners but are there planners doing this in return? I recently hosted a lunch and brought in a nationally known speaker. My program included giving updates about our company, talking about our mission and ideal client to make sure our message is clear, lunch and the speaker. I also had a survey for all of the vendors to fill out about our company. They were floored we provided the event and talked about how this really set us apart, that despite feeling connected to us before, now they felt even more bonded to our mission. It was amazing! I plan to expand it next year and hope at some point to turn it into a full blown retreat.

What’s in it for me: feedback I can use to help my company to further succeed.

7. Have an Ecosystem

I have many vendor partners but I only invited my eco-system to the lunch. And I told them that! I don’t plan to shift my vendor list around all of the time just because I loved the cute and talented photographer at my last wedding. No, I’m focused on my top 30 vendor partners and going at it for the long haul. I have enough in each category to cover all the styles and budgets I attract without having the same team for each wedding, but still having enough overlap that they also learn to work well together. This ecosystem is so strong that we really do refer each other all the time. We bounce ideas off of each other and are each other’s biggest supporters.

What’s in it for me: loyalty!

8. Stop Asking Them for Free Sh*t.

Guys, seriously. Can we just be done with this “favor” asking? At the end of the day, be honest with yourself about how mutually beneficial something really is to a vendor partner before you ask for them to do something for free. I’ve gotten to where I approach vendors with the full anticipation of paying for their time or product, and I tell them that. But you know what I’ve found, when I do this, half the time, they still gift it to me and their response is typically “your approach was so refreshing that I simply just want you to have this, thank you for respecting my value.” I do not take advantage of this, nor do I expect it, but I always give that level of respect. For my vendor lunch, I paid for every single aspect of it. And because of this freebie abuse world we live in, I made sure my guests knew I paid for it. That this was actually a true gift to them.

Social media credit and a publication aren’t really “worth it” for many people.  

What’s in for me: nothing immediate. And that’s okay.


9. Be Aware of Things Going on in Their Personal Lives

This is huge! Showing compassion and being willing to pick up the slack or cover for them in a hard season can go a long long way. I had a caterer that took over for me at a wedding after my second baby was born. I was falling apart, he knew it, didn’t judge me and just took the reigns. And you know what, I’m fiercely loyal to him because of it. That goes both ways.

Seeing when they have to say goodbye to loved ones, have babies, get scary news from the vet, promotions, etc and sending a small gift or handwritten card are simple and easy ways to build a strong bond. It shows you notice and support them in the good times and the bad.

What’s in it for me: reciprocal hugs and high fives when I need it most.

10. Make it Clear That Vendors are Your First Priority

Okay, so maybe don’t say that to a client, but TELL your vendors this. Don’t be scared to tell them you are #teamvendor. Use those words. In my appreciation lunch, I specifically told them that we put our vendors before our clients and in a backwards way, that is how we serve the client best. We recognize that when we are united with our vendors, they end up being their best for our clients. They want to be because they are inspired by our care and support for them and they give it their all.

What’s in it for me: vendors that wouldn’t dare cross my clients.


11. Never Throw Them Under the Bus (unless it’s an absolute last resort)

Blaming only makes the “blamer” look silly. Maybe that’s just one man’s opinion but blaming never goes over well with me and I end up looking closer at the one making the blames. There are ways to exert a backbone when someone thinks you are the one in the wrong, but blaming is rarely the best course of action. When a vendor drags their feet on replying to pertinent emails, don’t just copy the brides. First off, that can create anxiety for her. And secondly, it causes tension with the vendor. Typically, if I find myself in a situation where I’m going to have to loop the bride in, I just tell the vendor that’s where I’m at. I let them know that I’ve really given this my all and my next step will sadly be looping in the bride and I ask that they please get on board so we can help avoid any stress on her plate. It usually works. But if it doesn’t, then heck yeah, it’s fair the bride knows. Better cause stress now than on the wedding day.

What’s in it for me: they see I’m not trigger happy and ultimately, have more respect for me. Do I care? No. They are likely blacklisted by this point but at least we can work better together on the day.

12. Don’t get Caught up in Drama, in Fact- Verbally Stop it. 

I’ll raise my hand here. I do have my inner circles. I have safe places to ensure I’m aware of the scoop that is necessary for responsibly running my business. I find this important in order to determine who I want to align my brand with and who I don’t. But even within that circle, I’m still careful to not get too far down the rabbit trails of gossip. Once I hear the tip of what I need to know to be a responsible business owner, it’s best to move on and keep it at that without digging deeper. Does that always happen? No. The further I get into friendship with this circle, the harder that can be so I’m glad I’m writing this as even a reminder to even myself.

Y’all. Don’t do it. Just don’t get into the catty industry pattern that is so easy to wind up in. Be bigger and put a stop to it.

What’s in it for me: again, more trust. More display of integrity.

Be assertive

Networking can be terrifying depending on the personality but at the end of the day, it’s so critical, you don’t have an option. Someone in your company must network. And eventually, these events become FUN and exciting because you make friends. But it can take putting yourself out there and just making it happen.

What’s in it for me: success.

Here we are at about 2000 words and well beyond the end of your attention span but I hope these ideas are helpful. I feel like vendor relationships is one of my strong suits and it just comes down to kindness, awareness, integrity, respect and empathy. Display high levels of character, and you’ve got this.

If you found this to be helpful, please share it! 

If you are interested in learning more about my reconciliation kit, click here! I've carved a path for you to have stronger relationships with your vendors through the details of my emails with them in the final reconciling stage.