The Business of Blogging – Backstage

We have family in town this week so we’ve asked one of our FAVORITE event planners behind such celebrations as this and this to stop by for a visit here on Backstage. And she’s chatting about the one thing we hear over and over again…how to be a wedding planner! SUCH valuable, incredible information for anyone looking to foray into the wedding planning world. So, I’ll just go ahead and pass the torch right over to Bay Area Event Planner, Amy Nichols!

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One of the questions wedding planners are often asked is how does one get started in the wedding planning industry, or what’s the best way to get experience in the wedding planning industry. Where to start! Please note, this is just my humble opinion on the topic – if you’re interested in getting a job in the wedding planning industry, reach out to planners in your area. Keep in mind that some may not be able to respond to you – many planners (myself included) receive a very high volume of inquiries which prevents us from personally responded to each inquiry.

Get Some Experience

The first thing I ALWAYS recommend (especially to recent college graduates) is to get some real-world job experience – regardless of the industry. One of my internships in college was working with a realtor. While I obviously am not a realtor, I found that experience still was a good foundation – working with clients, responding to inquiries, creating databases – all of those skills are ones that you can take with you into event planning. Learning how to behave professionally, treat your coworkers and colleagues with respect are skills that EVERYONE should have – regardless of the industry. Becoming a strong writer is absolutely essential as well; in this day and age, especially with social media and text messaging, people forget about propriety! Start your emails with a salutation. Use capital letters, spell check, and sign each email with a closing. I can’t tell you how many emails I receive that miss these basics.

Real-world job experience is helpful as it exposes you to life in an office, and working with a variety of people. Many wedding planners are sole proprietors which means they run their business and likely only have one or a few people working with them (unlike a large corporation). Many planners (such as myself) do not have full time employees but rather rely on people to work for them on an hourly basis for office work and then of course on-site at events. Not all planners can afford to have full-time staff who work for them, so these job opportunities can be few and far between. That said, when looking for a new hire, I always look for people who have some real-world experience.

Corporate event planning experience is also fantastic for training for working in the wedding planning industry. Many planners (myself included) got started by working on corporate events. Keep in mind that a job title may not necessarily say “Event Planner” but can include event planning skills. Jobs in marketing, business development, public relations are all areas where you may have a lot of exposure to event planning. I was working in marketing and business development in financial services when I first started getting my feet wet (professionally) with events. My boss realized I had a knack for details and tapped me when it became time to organize investor events and kick-offs for the private equity and hedge funds we were launching.

Meanwhile, while I really enjoyed my job, I’d always loved weddings. My earliest memory of my interest in wedding planning was February of 1997 when I picked up my first copy of Martha Stewart Weddings. My cousin was getting married and my mom and I bought the magazine on a whim to check out the creative ideas. One look and I was hooked.

Offer Your Time

During my career in financial services, I wanted learn more about wedding planning, so I started volunteering at The Wedding Library in New York City. This gave me exposure to weddings and the planning process. What is so great about getting wedding planning experience is that you can get it and STILL have another “day” job – take advantage of your evenings and weekends to volunteer for a wedding planner or to help out on charity events (while keeping the steady income of a paycheck and health insurance!). When I moved back to California and was looking for a full time job, I took on an unpaid internship with Special Occasions, Inc.  in Beverly Hills. Keep in mind that many opportunities may come your way that are unpaid. Take advantage of them if you can – you will learn a lot!

So how do you find these opportunities?

Do some research and find out who the wedding planners are in your area. They don’t necessarily have to be the “top” planners in your city, but do look for planners who have been in business for several years, and ones who are affiliated with one of the bridal associations (more on that later). You can also find planners in your area by looking on the vendor lists of websites such as Style Me Pretty. I also really like mywedding.com, and of course you’ll find planners listed on websites such as theknot.com and weddingchannel.com. Resource “Libraries” with retail store fronts such as The Wedding Library in New York City and The Bridal Bar in Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta are good places to look for volunteer or job opportunities.

Don’t forget that other vendors are excellent sources of knowledge too – working for a floral designer (especially if you have a knack for design and color), or a caterer can also provide you with fantastic experience and exposure to this industry.

Education and Networking

The best best best way though to find job opportunities is through the many wonderful industry associations in the wedding and special event industries. Most of these organizations have educational programs and events geared towards people who want to get started in the wedding industry. I highly recommend the Association of Bridal Consultants which has presence all over the U.S and in several countries including Mexico and Japan. Other organizations you can check out are:

· Wedding Industry Professionals Association – WIPA

· International Special Events Society – ISES

· June Wedding

· Association for Wedding Professionals International

· Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants

Do your homework – I’d suggest joining an organization that has a local group in your area – not all of these organizations have local chapters, so choose the organization that makes sense to you. For me, I got a lot out of the Association of Bridal Consultants and chose to go through their Professional Development Program.

There are also several great local networking organizations – do a little googling to figure out which ones are in your area. For example, in San Francisco we have BAWN, the Bay Area Wedding Network. Outside of networking organizations, check your local colleges (especially in their adult education or extended education departments) to see what educational opportunities they have for certificates in event and meeting planning.

Being active in networking and educational programs will make your resume stand out from others when you apply for wedding planning jobs. It shows that you’ve done your research and that you have invested your time in learning more about the industry. In addition, by attending networking events and participating in educational programs, you’ll meet people who may have job leads or volunteer opportunities for you. Collect business cards and keep in touch with these people – you never know when they (or someone they know) might have a job opportunity! What is great about these educational programs and networking events are many take place in the evening (or are at-home programs for the educational classes) which enable you explore and pursue your interest in wedding planning if you have another job or are in a career transition.

Reading is Fundamental!

If you don’t like to read and you want to be a wedding planner, you’re missing out. The good news is, most wedding planning books, websites and blogs are full of pictures! The amount of information out there is amazing – there is no excuse to not read as much as you can.

If you think at some point you might start your own business, there is no time like the present to learn as much as you can. I can’t believe the number of resources that are available to prepare for starting your own business – I wish they were around when I started my business! Before I started my business I read just about every wedding planning book out there (this was before the popularity of wedding planning websites and blogs). Now, there are blogs that are dedicated to advice on how to start or run your wedding planning business. Two that I find very helpful are Splendid Communications and Sage Wedding Pros. Another one that I just discovered (and can’t wait to read more) is Aspire to Plan.

That said, you of course still need real-world experience too.

What are some of the skills you need to be a wedding planner? What should you know? As someone once said, “wedding planning is not for the faint of heart”. It is never easy. If you don’t handle pressure well or don’t like surprises, this probably isn’t the career for you.

· If you thrive on chaos, are an adept juggler and know how to put out fires, chances are, you have some of the skills you need to succeed. First and foremost, you’re a project manager – you are managing many different people, many different details, and often different priorities. You also deal with a lot of very different personalities (both from your brides and vendors).

· You have to be good at managing time, both your own, and of course on the day of the wedding. I was paid a very nice compliment in 2009 when a venue coordinator at a resort said to me, “your timeline is the most detailed and realistic timeline I’ve ever seen”. I have everything to the minute on my timelines – including how much time it takes to “drop” a salad course to all of the wedding guests to how long it takes for those guests to actually eat the salad course.

· You have to have thick skin and learn not to take things personally. This is something I struggle with (as I think many people do). This is a business first and foremost – people are not always going to see things the same way I do.

· You need to have excellent financial planning skills and need to know how to create and stick to a budget.

· You need to have patience. A planner friend of mine passed on a quote to me that said “A wedding planner is a mother, sister, friend, drill sergeant and psychologist.” I wish I knew who to attribute this to. It is so true!

I hope this information is helpful. This is only my opinion and what I think might get your prepared for a career in wedding planning. Ask others for advice – ask them what’s made them successful. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the planners who gave me a chance and who helped me get to where I am today. GOOD LUCK!!!

26 Responses to “How to Be A Wedding Planner”

  1. Emma says:

    Thank you so much for this really helpful and insightful article. Even though some of it’s not really relevant to the way things are over here in the UK it’s still very translatable and, dare I say it, inspiring!

  2. Ashley says:

    Thank you so much! I’m thinking about starting a wedding planning business after I’m done with my own wedding and this information is very helpful.

  3. This is awesome advice. I am starting my business this year in interior and event design and have not been sure yet as to all that I should include in my event design services. I have only decorated for the events and not neccesarily planned them, but I think I might want to include more. Most of the jobs I have gotten have been volunteer on my part, but I have done enough events now to finally get together a nice portfolio of pictures.

  4. Very practical and wise advice, Amy. You provided the checklist for any aspiring wedding business owners. I’d only add one essential thing- well developed communication skills. Not only do you need a tough skin as you mentioned, you need to the tools to ask the right questions, listen skillfully and deliver difficult messages with grace. Weddings get messy and the best pros know how to manage emotions- the brides and their own!

    That’s my talent, of course. Thanks again, Dina

  5. Sarah says:

    Great write up! Working as an event planner I DO always get a ton of questions about this. What a great resource this is for interns coming in to our company. I agree 110% on the tough skin statement-it is one of the things I need to remember every single day that no one told me when I started! The only other thing I would say has helped me personally was having experience in the operations side of the business-once you work a wedding in the back of the house you get a better idea of what can be done and sold to clients. You have incredibly impressive experiences and the write up is fantastic-thanks!

  6. Jen W says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I’ve worked in hotel sales/catering for years, and survived planning my own wedding last year. I’ve been toying with starting up a planning biz on the side (at first) to see what I can get my hands on outside of the hotel.
    Thanks for a little extra inspiration- it might be just what I need to get the ball rolling!

    Cheers from Vancouver, CAN.

  7. Thank you everyone! I am so glad to hear the information is helpful — hope to write for SMP again!

  8. raynette says:

    This was great! Very informative, inspiring, and needed.

    xo from Oahu, Hawaii
    Raynette

  9. Amber says:

    GREAT article! I wrote a blog last year that pretty much said the same thing you wrote. In this industry, there aren’t really hard, set rules to become wedding planners, and not everyone can make it

  10. very nice put up, i definitely love this web site, carry on it Regards, Jessica M http://snaxa.com

  11. Abner says:

    I have to thank you for the endeavours you have made in writing this write-up. It has been an inspiration for me. I’ve passed this on to a friend of mine. thankyou

  12. Clarence says:

    It absolutely was great to read through your posting. I really enjoyed the little while which i used looking through it and needed to leave a comment to state that….Regards

  13. Andrea says:

    Wow!! great advice,I ´m turning into a fan of backstage style me pretty… I dream about becoming a wedding planner here in Mexico… hopefully one day I will be featured in your gorgeous blog!

  14. Thanks for some other informative web site. The place else may I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal approach? I have a challenge that I am just now operating on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

  15. oluchi iregbu says:

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  16. Thanks , I have recently been looking for information about this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered so far. However, what about the conclusion? Are you sure in regards to the source?|What i don’t understood is in truth how you’re no longer actually much more neatly-appreciated than you might be right now. You’re very intelligent.

  17. Alicia says:

    This is a wonderful and realistic post about being a wedding planner. As a recent grad (with a degree in history, not exactly what most wedding planning firms are looking for) I can barely find a job in general let alone the one that I truly want which is planning weddings. This is a great starting off point so thank you!

  18. Kaylyn says:

    Thanks for sharing this information, I just stumbled on this post because I’m researching how to become and event planner. I’m creating sort of an outline/timeline… thing… to get my career going. I’m currently an undergrad with a major in psychology, but have began to feel a strong desire to plan events.

  19. Dale says:

    Hi

    Thank you for the valuable information,in Sri Lanka we do not have any school or organization to follow and get any type of certificate in wedding planning.I have being working as a wedding planner for a while,can you please recommend a online wedding planning course?

    Thanks

    Dale

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