Ellicottville Events, owned and operated by Samantha Nelson, is Western New York’s premier planning company. Specializing in weddings, Sam and her brain trust take the idea in your head and turn it into reality. Strong relationships with local venues, DJs, florists, rental companies and catering services ensure you’ll get the best experience for your money.
We offer everything from Full Wedding Planning to Wedding Day Management and everything in between. Our goal is to make sure that you get the wedding of your dreams, without breaking your budget or losing your mind! When you hire Ellicottville Events, you don’t just get a vendor; you get a team of people that care about your event/wedding and make sure everything goes perfectly while you remain stress-free!
Hi! I’m Sam Nelson! I am a certified wedding planner, and I founded Ellicottville Events in 2016. I started to love planning when we planned our 80’s themed wedding in 2013!
Event and Wedding planning is my passion! Planning is what I do best, and I am a big believer in doing what you love! I’ve always considered myself on the nerdy side because I enjoy doing research, I love to learn new things, oh and office supplies… man, do I love shopping for those lol!
I am a huge sap, so I definitely cry at all weddings! I love LOVE, and I am so lucky to be a part of so much of it!
What I love most about my role as a planner/coordinator is the people I work with, whether it’s the vendors that I’ve created amazing relationships with, or the couples and their families! It’s great getting to know all of them and make them part of our family.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge I have faced is working with a very indecisive client. They had hired me for Full Planning but ultimately they were the final decision-makers throughout the process. We would be working finalizing rentals and the bride would change her mind a few times going back and forth and coming for several meetings. Then once we got a decision, the groom wasn’t happy. In the beginning, it was a lot of wasted time on everyone’s part. However, I sat both of them down and told them we needed to start from scratch. Determine their true vision, what was most important to them and least important to them and start making secure decisions that they wouldn’t question. In the end, everything ended up working out great and when they saw everything come together, they were in tears!
It’s getting the client to trust you and the process and guide them to the right decisions.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
I would say prioritize first. Pick the top things that mean the most for you on your wedding day. It may be food, music, and photos. Some want a luxurious venue. Once they have determined that, we allocate a majority of the budget towards those items. After that is set, we determine if we have enough budget left to get the rest of the items that they need to make the day happen. When things get super tight, the easiest way to cut down a budget is to reevaluate your guest list. Sometimes couples need to remove some people that they may not have had a close or long relationship with to get their numbers where they need to be.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Oh my goodness, vendor relationships are the most important! These are your partners in business! They are an extension of your business! These are your biggest referral sources! Creating these relationships and building trust with them goes a long way for your reputation as well as your career.
When I first started, I knew that I had to get my face in front of the top vendors in the area. I reached out to as many as possible and set as many meetings as possible and introduced myself and what set me apart from the other planners in the area. I honestly attribute my success to this!
When working with my vendors, I make sure communication is on point. I like to keep them in the loop, let them know everything they need to know and also let them know that I am here if they need anything as well. I also like to bring my vendor’s feedback and fresh ideas. I am a big fan of supporting one another, so I am constantly promoting and referring my amazing vendors as well!
I also feel that the most important vendor relationship is with other planners. Creating community over competition. I feel it so important to have other planners in your corner and to support one another. A few reasons being, they are a great source for back up if unfortunately, something were to ever happen. If you are booked, it goes a long way with a lead if you have someone in your pocket that you can refer them to (and guess what? It goes the other way too, so you can get referrals from them). They can be a great source of calming and someone to help bounce ideas off of.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea of setting up and starting to attract a client base?
I officially started my company in 2016. It all came about in 2013 when my husband and I decided to have a very non-traditional wedding and do an 80s themed wedding! He proposed to me in Aug of 2013 and we really wanted to get married that fall and not waste any time. So we planned our fun-loving wedding in three short months, and I completely fell in love. From the checklists to the budget tracking, to designing, and putting everything together. My senses were on overload!
At the time I was working for an amazing company based out of Seattle and making more money than we knew what to do with. It was too hard for me to leave that. So for a couple of years, I left it as is. I would help others here and there. Then I got referred to a couple out of California that really needed help. It was only one wedding so I knew I could handle it. Again, all of that fire and passion came flooding back!
My husband and I chatted about how we could make it work. I decided to file my business through the state just to get me started. But then again, I was afraid to leave my security.
The next year, I kept going back and forth. I liked my current job, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t give me all the feels that planning did. In November of 2017, I decided, it was time to rip the bandaid off and DO WHAT I LOVED! I quit my six-figure corporate job in December of 2017, built my own website, launched my social media, and did a tiny local bridal show. I didn’t expect much! In Feb. 2018, I got a client, then in March, I got 2 more. It kept going! For my first official year as a full-time planner, I did 13 weddings! Were they all extravagant or perfect!? Nope! But were they all a great stepping stone? You bet!
Fast forward to 2019, and I am getting ready to finish my 22nd wedding for this year. I won The Knots 2019 Best of, Wedding Wires 2019 Couples Choice, published on Wedding Chicks and several local publications, and have been nominated for Planner of the Year by The New York Wedding Awards. I am beyond humbled and extremely proud of myself for how far I have come in such a short amount of time. I cannot wait to see what 2020 brings to us (though I am in no rush to get there lol!)
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
Ahhh, I wish I knew more about workflow and the tools out there to make life a lot easier lol! When I first started, I was using paper checklists and folders. I did contracts, invoices, timelines all in Word and wasted a lot of time! Thankfully 9 short months later, I invested in a CMS (Aisle Planner) and have streamlined everything into one spot!
The other I wish I knew, is how to say NO to things that were not beneficial to me and my business. To maybe not take that client that I ended up giving a huge deal to because I felt bad, but ended up losing money on. To not say yes to every styled shoot I was asked to participate in and to say NO to the couples who kept wanting more and more service that was way above and beyond what they paid for!
All lessons learned now, and of course, it helped me get to where I am today, but, I could have done without some!
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
This job is not for everyone. There are nights where I lie awake sleepless. Times where I am overwhelmed and stressed. Days where I wonder what the heck I am doing. But at the end of the day and especially during the event, when I see everything come together and the smile on my couple’s face, I know I am doing exactly what I should be doing! I would not trade this job for anything in the world. If you are really doing what you love, then it doesn’t feel like a job. You WANT to work, you can’t stop working, and it’s ok! That’s where I am at!