Advice from the South's Top Wedding Planner

The story of what would soon become “Mariée Ami” first began in 2009 with Neillie Butler, her Sam’s Club computer, and a desk she shared with her daughter in the playroom of their home. At that point, no wedding was too small and no dream was too big for the company Neillie was building. In early 2011, Neillie decided to open the doors of Mariée Ami. Soon after she knew that to grow her vision for serving clients and taking care of their every need, she needed to assemble a team with the same values, and work ethic.

Today, with an ambitious and dedicated team, Mariée Ami has grown in number and heart. What started in Neillie’s basement has become a globally recognized, award-winning wedding planning company that has planned weddings across the world.

We are so thrilled to include Neillie Butler in Volume 6 of The Scout Guide Birmingham and equally excited that she took the time to chat with us about taking the entrepreneurial leap, wedding planning, and what newly engaged couples need to know…

The Scout Guide Birmingham: How did you start a career in wedding planning?
Neillie Butler: I grew up dreaming of becoming a wedding planner. After graduating from the University of Alabama, I spent six years learning the industry in corporate event planning before starting Mariée Ami. In 2009, I was newly married and ready to shift gears in my career. I bought the cheapest computer I could find at Sam’s Club, set up shop in my basement, and put the word out that I was planning events, parties, and weddings. Over 10 years and 9 full-time employees later, that Sam’s Club computer turned into globe-trotting & working with some of the best clients I could ask for!

The Scout Guide Birmingham: What motivated you to take the entrepreneurial leap and start Mariée Ami?
Neillie Butler: I was in a transitional stage of my life and ready to make some career changes. I had a serious learning disability as a child but, as a result of it, knew I could work harder than anyone if given the opportunity. With nothing to lose, I took the leap of faith, and I could have never dreamed where it would lead me!

The Scout Guide Birmingham: Let’s switch gears a bit and chat about your expertise. Can you share the “why” behind hiring a wedding planner?
Neillie Butler: There are many more layers to wedding planning than picking out pretty florals. The best weddings come from experienced planners who can guide couples into making intentional decisions, anticipate and troubleshoot problems, and execute harmonious wedding weekends. The relationships planners have with vendors is an incredible value during the process, as we can speak the industry language others cannot!

The Scout Guide Birmingham: What should couples know before hiring a wedding planner?
Neillie Butler: It is always helpful to approach your planner with your budget and guest count range. Being prepared with this information allows us to guide couples to make the best decisions right from the beginning and set expectations for the road ahead.

The Scout Guide Birmingham: Who is the ideal Mariée Ami couple?
Neillie Butler: A couple who is eager to have fun with the process and trusts the process – not to mention our years of experience – is special to work with. Our name, afterall, means “friend of the bride.” This is the very essence of our work.

The Scout Guide Birmingham: What is the best part of your work as a wedding planner?
Neillie Butler: The lifelong friendship established with every Mariée Ami bride is the greatest reward of this business.

The Scout Guide Birmingham: Can you walk us through what potential clients can expect from working with you?
Neillie Butler: Mariee Ami is a full-service wedding planning company with complete in-house production management (think large-scale build-outs, lighting, draping, and design). This is a unique offering you won’t find at most planning companies, but we believe it’s essential because it allows us to create a cohesive, flawless design for our brides. In short, we leave no detail untouched. 

Our process begins differently for each client, as each wedding is its own. For example, sometimes our couples come to us with a date and location in mind, sometimes without. We jump in wherever our couples are, whether that’s scouring the globe for the perfect setting or securing the best vendors for their special location. Once the vendor team is secured, we move into design— simultaneously working on the paper suite and production design. For destination weddings, a site visit is a principal part of the process that happens as design gets underway. When we return home from the site visit, our planners work closely with the floral team and our in-house production team to fine-tune and design the weekend. As we approach the wedding day, we create an intricate timeline that we eventually execute, allowing our clients to be completely present on the weekend as we run the show!

The Scout Guide Birmingham: You mentioned destinations… Do you have a dream venue?
Neillie Butler: We have a plethora of dream locations, but if we had to pick one it would be The Parker Palm Springs, as it is full of character, warm weather, and opportunity for a weekend filled with events for couples and their guests. Regardless of the exact destination, we love building tents in dreamy locations that guests are excited to visit. Our favorite locations thus far have been Pebble Beach, Sea Island, Palmetto Bluff, Nantucket, and Gasparilla Inn, and are looking forward to working at Blackberry Farm later this year.

The Scout Guide Birmingham: Let’s talk wedding trends, specifically those you love and those you’d like to see retired.
Neillie Butler: I love the pandemic’s trend of smaller weddings and would love to see it continued with more brides retiring larger weddings in favor of more intimate gatherings with seated dinners. An intimate group makes for a peaceful day and leaves all friends feeling important and excited to celebrate the couple.

The Scout Guide Birmingham: Do you have any sage advice to offer to couples?
Neillie Butler: Of course! Here are our top pieces of advice…

Don’t get laser-focused on one thing, you’ll let the fun of the planning process slip quickly by.

Prioritize the guest experience—how your guests will feel and what they’ll walk away remembering is so important! Make it a memory they won’t forget, in the best way! This can be done with entertainment, gifting, an unexpected conclusion of the night…the list is endless!

Trust your vendors! They have your best interest in mind and want the day to be as perfect as you do.

To learn more about Mariée Ami weddings – and view additional stunning celebrations – head to Don’t forget to tell them Scout sent you!