Photos by Photography by Lauryn
At Notre Dame and beyond, June is wedding season — so, for MK Andersen ’17, it’s going to be a long month. The onetime political science student is the owner of Your Day by MK, a full-service wedding and event planning firm that she founded just weeks after her graduation. For our inaugural young alumni Questionnaire, the wedding whiz told us a bit about her unusual path.
What made you want to go into wedding planning?
My dream was always to be a high-profile campaign manager, but after the 2016 election, I was a little confused about how I wanted to enter the political scene. Everything I learned in campaign and elections classes felt like it was no longer applicable and, honestly, I was upset about the 2016 result.
In addition to studying political science, though, I was also co-president of the Notre Dame Ultimate Club, which had 100-plus members spread across four teams that traveled out of state at least once a month. And I realized I could transfer those management skills to something else I found interesting. I love being a good host and have always had a fascination with weddings, so with a final push from my parents, I landed on opening my own wedding and event planning firm based out of Chicago immediately post-grad.
What has surprised you about the industry since starting your company?
Without a doubt the most surprising thing was how expansive the community is. There are so many avenues to learn about, to include, to pivot into and to become an expert in. There are the actual wedding and event vendors, but then there are graphic designers that specialize in wedding vendor websites, photo teams for content creation, marketing specialists and so, so much more. These are all roles and communities you never know exist until you’re immersed in it.
Since Notre Dame doesn’t have a hospitality major — let alone some kind of wedding planning major — I imagine you’ve had to learn many of the skills of your job on the job. What would you say has transferred from your education at ND?
The thing is, no major prepares you for small business ownership, let alone event planning, and it’s kind of liberating! Instead of feeling like I picked the wrong thing or leaning on my Mendoza friends for nuanced business practices, I zeroed in on what I knew worked across all professions — relationship building. In my industry, couples want to be around someone they can trust and enjoy. And in the small business world, learning how to market yourself through referrals and surrounding yourself with great collaborators is so important for success.
A tablescape created by Your Day by MK
There seems to be a major women’s empowerment element to your work, through things like your Every Woman Workshop and your Woman Wednesday blogs. Why was it important to you to prioritize that, particularly in the wedding industry?
As I built my business, I had to learn to be proud of what I was doing and to shamelessly promote myself and my services. It was uncomfortable and not something innate to me. I got over it quickly because I needed grocery money, but then I started recognizing it among my pals and colleagues. Too many people were apologetic for their successes and accomplishments.
The wedding industry is primarily made up of women business owners, and people sometimes discount them as just frilly-for-fun DIYers and not legitimate, thriving businesspeople. All businesses have values and morals, whether explicit or implicit, and owning a business meant I was given the privilege to choose just what values and morals my business would have. So I wanted to take an active role in supporting my friends in the industry and give others in various professions a chance to be shamelessly proud of the things they’ve accomplished in their lives. There’s a lot of work to be done, but if I can help on the micro level of helping people recognize just how strong and cool they are, I’m here for it.
Finally, what’s your best tip for someone planning a wedding in South Bend?
Notre Dame is more than just blue and gold and football. Visit your favorite spots on campus and take photos there. If you cherish the way you always walked to DeBart, the Backer, or the candy wall, get those pictures too. Those will tell the story of your relationship with your person, and with Notre Dame, much more than anything else.
Questionnaire highlights two notable Notre Dame alumni — one recent graduate and one from the remainder of the alumni pool — every month. If you have suggestions for an alum we should know, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Interview, by associate editor Sarah Cahalan, has been edited for clarity and length.