The wedding industry is full of so many wonderful, talented creatives, from visionary planners and skillful florists, to makeup magicians and stationery smiths. Each one of us has a unique role to play in making beautiful wedding dreams to life. We have different backgrounds, products or services but ultimately we are all here for the same reason: to serve our couples.
That’s why it is so important to cultivate strong, meaningful relationships with our peers. Whether you work together throughout the planning process or on just the wedding day itself, you need to look out for each other and have each other’s backs – for your own sake and for the sake of your couple.
As a wedding planner, I’m a firm believer in “community over competition” and actively support my fellow planners. My attitude is that one day we may need each other. For example, if I acted rudely and unprofessional to one planner and then an emergency happens and I can’t do my wedding, will this person help me out? Probably not. That’s why we need to build strong relationships together, both with vendors who have the same business and vendors who offer something different. There is enough room at the table for all of us.
When I first started my wedding planning business in 2019, I didn’t know anyone. I had no prior wedding experience, no brand awareness and no connections except for the few people I’d met through WPIC. I didn’t truly know who I was or what my business was all about. All I had was my passion for planning and a strong desire to make friends, but I’d been told that the wedding industry could be competitive so I was nervous about getting out there (side note: the industry has been nothing but welcoming in my experience). I had nothing to lose so I bit the bullet and searched for vendors whose style and work aligned with my own. At the time I felt like the “new kid” but because I took that one first step, I made some incredible connections with planners, photographers, venues, stationers – some of whom I’ve never even met before. What I gained from these connections far exceeds the occasional referral – what I really gained are friendships, support networks and amazing opportunities for collaboration and I absolutely want the same for you.
Before we dive deeper into this topic, one thing I’ll mention is that you shouldn’t set out to keep these relationships with the expectation that they will automatically bring you more clients or blow your business up. I want you to understand that real, authentic relationships are the goal. Referrals and opportunities are just a bonus and they’re not always guaranteed – they can be a one-off and sometimes don’t last. What does last is relationships. It’s never too late to build authentic relationships, whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re brand new to the industry.
Here are three things you can do to get to know your peers and deepen your connection with them.
Reach Out On Social Media or By Email
One of the best ways to meet vendors is through social media, specifically Instagram. If you find someone whose work you like and you totally connect with their brand, give them a follow and like or comment on some of their photos. This shows them that you admire what they do.
You should not send them a direct message without even bothering to follow them or visit their website. Research them first. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a pre-written DM from a vendor that doesn’t mention anything about me or my business. It’s just a straight-up promotional message asking me to follow them back (if they even bothered to follow me that is) and check out their services. Many times they’ve even called me by the wrong name! This kind of pushy, one-sided marketing is not effective and tarnishes your credibility as a wedding professional.
Instead, say hello, introduce yourself and tell this person how much you love their work. Tell them what you love about it so they feel you’re really paying attention. For example, if you find a photographer you absolutely are dying to work with, give them a compliment specific to their work. Do you love how they focus on capturing raw emotion and intimate moments? Or how bright and inviting their editing style is? If you can make it personal and come from a place of genuine adoration, they are more likely to want to connect with you.
Focus On What You Can Give, Rather Than What You Can Get
It’s common to perceive vendor relationships in the wedding industry as transactional, i.e. doing something with the expectation that you’ll get something in return. Now, while I do believe that in some cases everyone should benefit (such as a styled shoot), what you should focus on is how you can give or be helpful without expectation. Offer to review their marketing materials or website. Refer them to your clients or promote them on social media. Add them to your preferred vendors list.
When I moved back to my hometown of Ottawa in spring 2020, I found myself in the situation again where I didn’t know anyone. While I had already been in business for a year, I was “brand new” to the Ottawa wedding industry. I didn’t know anyone and they certainly didn’t know who I was. But I was very active on social media and posting engaging content, following all of the amazing local photographers, planners, stationers, florists and rental companies with who I wanted to work. I’d reach out to them if they didn’t already message me first. Once I felt more comfortable, I decided it was perfect to see these vendors in action. So I organized my first styled shoot.
Plan a Styled Shoot That Benefits Everyone
Styled shoots are one of the best ways to collaborate with other vendors and get to know them on an intimate level. You are seeing them in their element, doing what they’re so good at and love to do. At the time of my first style shoot, we were still in the early months of Covid-19. Hundreds of weddings were being postponed and so many vendors weren’t working or growing their portfolio. So I thought that a collaborative styled shoot would be the best way to help everybody out, give them a chance to work and gain some beautiful new photographs to show off their work.
I found that by approaching this styled shoot with a giving mindset – that is, focusing on what they get and how they benefit – the vendors I’d reached out to were much more willing to participate. Keep in mind I’d never met any of these people and they didn’t know who I was. But by letting them know that I was truly grateful for their time and generosity, they were more open to working with me.
If you already have a strong network of “friendors” (vendor friends), think about the different ways you can give back and deepen those relationships. This doesn’t have to cost anything, although you can certainly send them a handwritten card or a surprise thank-you gift (those go a long way!). There are many ways you can promote these vendors or help them out. Promote their work on your social media; write a blog post about them and what makes them so amazing; offer to review their marketing materials or website; offer to give them one of your products or services. However you choose to give back, let it come from the heart and it will completely transform your business.
Alex Baillie-David is a wedding planner and designer based in Ottawa & Prince Edward County. She believes weddings are about connecting with people and with places, and she takes her inspiration from the beautiful surroundings of nature whenever possible. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her couples. She specializes in providing a mixture of intuitive design ideas and logistical expertise to make sure everything comes together smoothly and culminates in a truly beautiful celebration.