The Do's and Don'ts of "Playing Nice in the Sandbox"

Talk it Out Tuesday: Coffee Chat

The Do's and Don'ts of "Playing Nice in the Sandbox" 

Join Lauren and guest, Tiffany Learned of Detailed Engagements, as we dive into the do's and don'ts of getting started in the wedding industry!

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Episode 4 Coffee Chat Replay

Episode 4 Podcast

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Tiffany: Website | Instagram | Facebook


Playing Nice in The Sandbox

Lauren Dragon-Cook: We have a very exciting chat for this morning! We have a guest… my very first guest! We will be talking today what it means to be wedding creative and what it means when you are first starting out. There are quite a few things both Tiffany and I have seen come up and we really think they need to be talked about. I’m excited to talk about this!

If you don’t know who Tiffany is… you should! We met kind of haphazardly and it has been fun ever since.

Tiffany: Hi everyone!

Lauren: Without further ado, I’m going to let Tiffany take the stage and let her just do her thing. Tiffany, thank you for being here and chatting with us!

Tiffany: Let’s jump in! Who has been doing this for less than 3 years? Less than a dozen weddings? We are all in the same boat. We have to stick together! This industry is really unlike anything else out there. There are a lot of similarities, but there are a lot of differences. I want to be nice, but I don’t want to give you a false reality that this is an easy industry to get into. There are a lot of ways you can make it awesome. I’ve been in this industry for over 10 years, and I have to tell you… I love this industry! 

Do’s + Don’ts About Playing Nice in the Sandbox

Don’t #1:

First thing…. Don’t pretend to be someone else and shop your competitors’ prices. One, it is rude. Two, we can tell when you’re doing it. I actually got one a few years ago, I realized she was an assistant to one of my competitors and I responded:

“Gee I am so flattered that you chose my business to plan your wedding, rather than your boss.”

So I’ll call you out and make you aware of what you’re doing. Don’t stop around and pretend to be someone you’re not. But ask us! Talk to me! I have an FAQ on my website and you can check it out. I will 100% talk to any new planners. Happy to do so. The prices I charge 10 years into this are not going to be what newcomers are charging, but you can work yourself into this. Its awesome! Work yourself up to it!

Don’t cheapen your services! Do know what your industry and market can hold, but don’t shop. Ask us! You’ll be surprised that a lot of planners will open their doors to you.

Don’t #2:

Write this down. DO NOT form a clique. DO form a network. Our industry can sometimes feel like highschool. You are the company that you keep. I’ve seen a lot of new people coming in and forming a clique real fast. That’s awesome… but sometimes that bubble isn’t exactly what you want to be when you grow up as a wedding professional. If you form a strong network you are two or three deep on all your favorite photographers, videographers, DJs… you will have a better longer… more lucrative career. Don’t just form those three or four mean girl clique groups… form a network! 

Get out there and start knocking on doors. Find the people that are like you. Talk to them. But get out there and get your name in front of a lot of people. Your business will grow. If you keep your clique small, a lot of people are going to look at you and say you only work with certain people. This is not a good look. It is so important to grow your network. Have a bunch of different people you can call to work with you. Things that you need, clients that you need to have bookings with. 

Lauren: Yes! This resonates with me. It is one of those cliché things… community over competition. What Tiffany is talking about here is exactly that, but taking it a step further. It’s the etiquette of being in business the right way. There is definitely a wrong way to do stuff and a right way. That’s why I love that Tiffany is here. She tells it like it is! You are real. You are transparent. And I feel you are an unicorn in this industry. So many people are afraid of stepping on toes and that’s not how it should be. Speak your truth, speak your mind… but there are ways about doing that.

Tiffany: My clique is like 250 people… that’s good. I’m talking about the people who have a clique of like 3 people. That’s not cool.

Sometimes people come into this industry guns blazing. They don’t respect people who have been doing this for a long time. If people come in stealing work and claiming to be something you’re not… you will piss people off very fast. Take the stuff you love from other people’s websites and make it your own! Don’t just copy.

We don’t bad mouth any vendors, we open up a conversation and we lead our clients to the vendors we feel are going to do the best job for them. We talk about this in our bubble of trust, sometime those vendors coming in might get a little ruffled or get a little side eye from me… but they are not going to be around. Lauren and I both have been doing this for a long time… it’s the ones that come in and don’t join the cliques that will last the longest.  If that is your goal… play nice.

Lauren: This resonates with me! I just want to add to that really quickly. It will always get back to you. If you are going to talk shit or you are out there to stir the pot (I find that happens more than not, playing sides)… not cool. I made better vendor relationships by not being in a clique. Do you! Do you! Everything else falls into place. Because people start to see that you’re genuine. They will see that you are real and kind and authentic and people see through the bullshit. As part of this industry you have to have that ability… to read people. Not only vendors, but clients too.

Tiffany: Again, after being here for awhile you see the new people coming in and you can smell in on them… that its not genuine. Maybe they think this wedding industry is super glamorous, but its not… we are in the grit. We are working on the weekend and miss stuff. We give up a lot to be in this industry. Don’t get me wrong… I love my job! I am super lucky to have th3e coolest job in the world. But it doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice.

Don’t #3

DO NOT work for free. DO NOT offer to do your friends, cousins, sisters, neighbors wedding… 

DO reach out to a planner and ask to work for them for free. Ask to shadow for somebody. Offer to intern for somebody. Offer to come and sweep my floors! I don’t mean that in a literal sense, but integrate yourself as much as possible into this industry. 

The reason I say do not work for your friends for free is a couple different reasons:

  1. It cheapens our services. What they pay is what they value. So if they pay you nothing, they value you at nothing.

  2. If you work for a friends wedding, what are you learning? It’s the blind leading the blind. That’s not how you’re going to grow in the industry. You are not getting any valuable experience. You will probably get yourself into trouble. You don’t have the right liability coverages to go into any of these venues.

Or you end up working for a planner like me.. get real life, real deal experience. Even though you may not make money off of it, the experience is invaluable. Work for free for someone in the industry you look up to! Put your time and effort in that instead. It will 100% be a better investment of your time and everything! Please stop donating your services to people that are not in the industry.

Find a mentor! You will both benefit. I have a mentor… someone I reach out to and talk to. For me I need that mentor I can talk to when I need some advice or before I’m going to take a big leap. You find that person now… that relationship with last a life time.

That being said… when I was very very green I donated my time to a planner. Lets say somewhere in the north east… and I didn’t necessarily love her style of things. But I took a lot away from it anyway. Even though you may not grow up to be just like that planner that you internship with or shadow, you will learn a lot. There are thing still to this day I still learn from that person. I learned what I didn’t want to do too. I saw a bunch of things, I got the real deal experience working clients that I didn’t have that emotional attachment to, it was nothing but business. I took so much out of it! All of these years later, I find myself rolling back and going over some of those things. Those experiences tailor and mold you to the wedding professional you are.

If you are having a hard time finding a mentor or internship… get in with someone! You are always going to learn something. It doesn’t matter if they are the best of the best… you will always learn something.

Lauren: So true! This is why I saw such a need for the business side of things in the industry. So for me last year when it finally clicked “oh my god, I am not supposed to be planning weddings, I’m not supposed to be a studio manager, I’m supposed to be helping people with their businesses.” That’s why I love this community so much. I just love it! If you can’t find a mentor that you jive with, at least you have a space in some capacity where you can come. 

You need this in your business, otherwise you’re going to sink. When I broke ties and starting planning… it was lonely.

Tiffany: It is lonely. Leaving a business, jumping in… it is very isolating at times. So when you can find your network and people that think like you… there are a ton of different industry groups. Just listen to people! You will see a lot of people who think like you! It is huge to have someone like that!

When you are a small business owner, there is no one above you to give you help. Get yourself into a community where you can lean on other people. Community over competition!

Don’t #4

Now new planners…! Who is less than a year old? Upping your prices? Who is about to make a scary leap? DO NOT lower your prices! We booked last week, our biggest client of our career. Biggest client. I sent out the proposal and I was shaking a bit… but I sent it out. The biggest one I ever sent out. Within two days they were so excited to work with me.

Come to find afterwards, we were not the cheapest people they were working with, but in a weird way it made them book us. She said they did a lot of work with us, like our worked. She said “I was good with it”. She saw the value, I built that value in our business. If you can build value with people, you don’t have to drop your prices.


Lauren: I’m going to play devils advocate and interject… for the new planners how do you build value? What are some ways you van build value if you’ve never done a wedding?

Tiffany: This sounds crazy right? But believe In yourself. If you can show confidence and show you have something to bring to the table… You tell the client what you can bring to the table and you will build value and your price will be fine!

I’ve had times where people tell me its too expensive and guess what? They are not my clients and that is okay!

Lauren: Yes! That is okay!

Tiffany: My calendar still fills up…

Lauren: It’s not a cocky confidence. There is a big difference. One thing I just want to dovetail is the fact I have people who call me and one of their struggles is pricing. Especially if they are new to the industry.

“Oh my god, what do I price myself? What do I do?”

And there are two questions I get asked…

1. Should I be looking at my competition's pricing?

It depends on the person you are… if you are super competitive in nature, I don’t want to know what other people are charging because then I’m questioning whether or not I’m living up to that. But you need to have a ball park. Are you looking at competition pricing because you want to overcharge or undercharge? No. You want to get an idea of what your market is charging. There is nothing wrong with that. That is you doing market research and being a smart business owner. 

Let's say your toaster breaks. You hop on Amazon. What are the first two things you look at? Price and reviews. So are you going to buy a $300 toaster? Unless you love bread… you probably won’t. But you will find middle of the ground and once you figured out pricing and what fits for your budget, you will look for reviews.

So don’t under value yourself!

2. How do I get the reviews? I’ve never planned a wedding.

Tiffany would you like to speak to that?

Tiffany: You’ve planned something. You’ve photographed something. You’ve been a florist for someone. There are ways you can get creative. We DO NOT fake reviews. But there are ways of asking people. Have you ever helped plan a community event? A party? Get people to give you reviews about that! There are ways to get reviews without faking them and without looking like you have nothing to show.

Think, get creative!

A lot of people come in and say one of two things…

  1. Someone undercut my prices.

  2. How do I get more new clients?

Those are the two things we all hit blocks on. When you sit down, unplug, you can figure this stuff out on your own! But by dovetailing off of other things you see people doing. There are ways of fixing any problem that comes to you.

One of the biggest reasons for not pricing yourself too low, is there are going to be people who buy the $3 toaster, and that is okay. When you price yourself too low you may get into a situation where you have too many clients. You’ve grown too big too fast. And when you sit down and do your numbers you will burn out. You are working way too many hours, you are not making what you should be making. And the bottom line is there is nothing there to show about it.

Now I do military discounts and for things that are near and dear to my heart. I’m talking about slashing your prices like you’re a car salesman. When you go too low, you will draw too may clients that don’t align with your business mentality.

Figure out who your ideal client it! Then align yourself with those clients.

Lauren: And you’ll find too, its really important you have an idea of who your person is. For me, I will tell people go to Pinterest and create a secret board… who have you worked with in the past and one of those people were amazing. So what qualities about them were amazing? Were they Dunkins drinkers, were they Starbucks drinkers? Did they go to college? Are they high school sweethearts? Do they only shop at Target? Do they shop at Nordstrom? 

You need to figure out who that person is. Everything will align itself. I wish more people would do this. People will often say “I’ll take whatever I can get”, but the other piece to that is if they are new… they don’t even know how to figure out if they made money.

Tiffany: When I figure started out I was barely making money. If I had had someone telling me this awhile back, when someone came back to me and asked me to drop by price I would’ve said no. 

Now this huge client we booked the other day, she asked me two questions. Now I don’t know if you know anything about planners, but we take 50% payment at time of booking. And then our policy is to pay ahead of the date for the wedding. So she asked me: 

  • Can we break that initial payment into a smaller chunk? Nope.

  • Can we pay everything 30 days after the wedding? No.

I didn’t say no period. I just explained why because she didn’t understand our industry well enough and I got to educate her a little bit. And that was cool! She was fine! But had I had someone like me or like Lauren or other amazing wedding professionals, I would’ve probably been better off and grown faster. 

It has been blood, sweat, and tears to get to where I am now. And I wish there were more people when I started off that would just help. 

I was talking to someone who wants to become a planner when she grows up. I was telling her, I don’t want to sound negative about this industry, this industry is awesome! But I would rather people be educated and be built up and get to the point where you are confident. So our industry is saturated with awesome professionals. I want more of you to be awesome people in this industry, because it only helps me and my business in the long run.

Lauren: So so true! Just to hear someone else say this too… we all think it!

Don’t #5

Tiffany: Do not have your business line, be your private line too. Yes it is an additional $30, $40… it is awesome! Its nice to be able to put away when I need a break. My clients will get my personal number one week from the wedding, if there is an emergency. But is nice to have it separate.

Also, preferred vendors list. Do your research before you drop your money. A lot of these places are an investment to be on their preferred vendor list. If you are going this as a new business, put some energy into this. Ask how long will it be out for, one year? Two year? Look at the other vendors on there and see if they align with you.

Lauren: So let me ask for some of our newbies… what is a kickback? Is that the same as a preferred vendor list?

Tiffany: We don’t do kickbacks. If I refer a DJ, he sends me a check. I don’t do that. I do… do a great job for my clients. Because if my clients are happy, I am happy. You want to have great relationships with people, but that is not money.

Now that being said… if you want to send a thank you note or a basket around Christmas… that is awesome! Because it shows they appreciate what we are doing. You work hard as a professional, do not let people skim off your money.

Lauren: Stay tuned for next week’s chat! Much love to you all!

Tiffany: If you have questions or want to get in touch… reach out!

Q + A

Q: Sometimes I feel I need to belong to a group. Is that bad?

A: I’ll be totally honest. Get away. I have been doing this for a long time, I don’t feed into the clique. It is possible sometimes when you’re not getting invited to these things… work hard! Your hard work and reputation will outweigh any of that stuff… all day long!


Q: Styled shoots? What are your thoughts?

A: I’m okay with styled shoots! It will help align yourself with awesome vendors and new venues. Do them right! Try hard to get them published or picked up by something! Use this for getting out there as much as you can.


Q: I’m wondering about participating in a bridal fair. Is it worth it?

A: No. They are not worth it. A couple years ago I produced one, and people just aren’t spending their time going to these shows. You are making amazing vendor connections if you are there. But what I’m hearing, they really are not booking clients. A much better way to do this, is to network! Introduce yourself to the vendors! That will give you more of an ROI (return on investment).

It is a big gamble because millennial couples are doing everything online. Think about SEO… it is free! Invest the time to teach yourself the SEO or take a course.


Q: How do you make contacts with new brides?

A: This is the secret. You find brides and grooms from networking your butt off! I do not pay for a penny in advertising! I get out there and I network. We have wo many catering companies giving out our name because they want to work with us again! Get your name in front of these companies! 

When a bride or a groom gets engaged, what is the first thing they do? They are finding the venue! They are picking the dream venue! They are not going to go look at linens first. Reach out to the venues and offer to buy them a coffee to see what the market is like out there. They will meet you and see you are genuine. IF they are someone you want to align with. When you are a good addition to the industry, it will be seen.


Q: Do you put your pricing on your Rack cards?

A: All of our packages are custom made for our clients. We do a lot of traveling and a lot of pop up weddings. So I need to now what we are getting ourselves into before I can give them pricing. So I can tell them where we start and where we qualify. If you are comfortable with it… put your pricing out there and see what happens. If you do put pricing up… put up some amount of where it starts. That way they know what they are looking at. Don’t waste their time or your time.

Think about adding some sort of customization for your clients. Make your middle package the most appealing, because that will be the package they choose the most.