Get a tribe and be proactive about nurturing those relationships.
Brandy Blackford

Brandy Blackford

Owner/Lead Planner

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Sweet I Do’s is a wedding management specialist (also known as a wedding day-of coordination) serving the Phoenix metro area. We offer all levels of wedding and event planning and coordination services. We believe that everyone deserves the wedding of their dreams without worrying about making sure all the details are set up and all the vendors are coordinated and on time. During those times when you should be in the moment and making the memories, we are making sure all the little things (and big things) are exactly how you envisioned them being, without putting your family and friends to work.

Sweet I Do’s is a 3-time ILEA Zonie Award Winner: 2016 Best Wedding Under $50K, 2017 Best Wedding Under $50K, Best Wedding Over $50K, and 2018 Best Wedding Under $50K, Best Wedding Over $50K and Best Program Under $50K.

What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?

Just because a client has a tight budget, doesn’t mean that they can’t have an elegant and memorable event. What it does need is someone that is creative, has great connections, and can determine exactly what the definition of elegant and memorable is to each client. It may be something as simple as wishing to evoke a feeling for the guests or it may be more along the lines of unique entertainment or a specific look.

Once I understand what element we are needing to work on, it’s time to get creative (and re-shuffle the budget). This works best with clients that appreciate a creative outlook, that are adventurous and open to a unique perspective, and that are good with shifting money from one bucket to another.

How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?

Vendor relationships are the backbone of a successful event and wedding business. I’d almost venture to say that the relationship we have with vendors is as important as the one we have with our clients. Having an amazing vendor base allows us to be successful and it allows us to offer the best of the best to our clients. Most importantly, having a successful relationship with vendors means that we can sometimes carry out the impossible because we are a large family and we all look out for each other.

Cultivating a great relationship requires work. You have to be a vendor advocate (and not always take the mentality that the client is always right). You have to take care of them, ensure that they have food, water, and everything they need to be successful because if they are successful, so are you. Never ask them for a discount. And make sure that you give them feedback (positive and negative). I also send all clients a list of their vendors and their most popular review sites and ask them to leave reviews.

What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?

Hire a planner. No, seriously, hire a corporate event planner with an actual background in planning successful fundraisers. And be sure to ask questions before and after you hire them. Stay in touch with the process and be very clear about what your expectations are (and be willing to adjust those expectations). Start early and have a budget (that isn’t dependent on ticket sales).

What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?

I’ve been planning events for my kiddos since they were born. They were a blast to plan, but everyone says that (because it’s your money and your decision and if you don’t like it, well you know how that goes). However, the first real event that I planned was a winterguard festival for my oldest daughter’s school. It was a statewide event and all the schools that had a winterguard program came to compete.

We had to plan the schedule, organize the judges, ensure that we had adequate practice space, provide concessions, stay within the guidelines issued by the governing authorities, and of course a school event budget. It was so much fun, but so much work. I learned a lot about working in the community, how to encourage and obtain sponsorships, and that competitive parents are a breed all their own.

What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?

So I didn’t have a lot of the same hurdles that a lot of small business owners have. I have a background in business and corporate accounting, so I knew there was more to it than just announcing to the world that I was “in business”. That being said, I was still naive in some aspects. I actually believed the attendee numbers provided by a bridal show and ordered so many marketing materials that, after 3 years in business, I had a bonfire with what was left over.

I also didn’t appreciate the skills that technical people obtain through training and education and there were a number of things I thought I could DIY that I never should have. Hiring professionals (even if it meant having to wait until the funds were available) is definitely something I should have done.

Finally, owning a business can be lonely. Your spouse may be super supportive, but I’ll bet they aren’t as passionate about your business as you are. Get a tribe and be proactive about nurturing those relationships.

What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?

At one point in my career, I was asked to throw a “conventional” wedding reception out the window and to make it more like an amalgamation of every fun activity on the planet. We brought in sooo many vendors – bounce house, petting zoo, 7 different dinner food trucks, an aerialist, a stiltwalker, a Michael Jackson impersonator, 4 dessert food trucks, poker tables, henna artists, balloon twisters, cigar and hookah tables – the list goes on and on.

It was a ton of work keeping everyone moving and not grouping the guests in one area and have them miss another form of entertainment. Logistics were crazy and the vendor team was beyond flexible and super amazing. It was by far one of my most favorite events to plan.

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