Have you ever attended a great wedding and basked in its impeccably planned, perfectly-thought-out glory? Vendors all arriving on time, guests guided to their exact locations, and most importantly, a peaceful, happy couple whose only preoccupation is with each other. Like anything that required months of professional planning, a successful wedding is a marvel to behold.
How does this happen? In most cases, a wedding that moves in perfect rhythm and goes down without a hitch is the handiwork of a wedding planner.
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to become a wedding planner, here are the four basic steps:
- Learn what it means to be a wedding planner
- Decide if certification is right for you
- Get hands-on experience
- Take on your first clients
Let’s explore each of these steps one by one and get your career started on the right foot.
Learn What It Means to Be a Wedding Planner.
As rewarding as planning weddings is, make no mistake: being a professional wedding planner is an absolute grind. From getting certified (or not), owning your own business (or not), attracting clients, dealing with contractual issues, chasing down late payments, arranging with vendors… it can all be overwhelming, and we haven’t even mentioned the day of the wedding yet!
Given everything you’ve read and seen in the media, you might have an idealized picture of what being a wedding planner is all about. The truth is that making a career out of planning weddings isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, and it’s best to enter this career with an accurate representation of what to expect.
Before spending thousands of dollars and years of work in starting your career, invest some time learning the ins and outs of this career and educate yourself on what it truly means to become a wedding planner.
The most popular introduction to the life and career of a wedding planner is the Wedding Planner’s Handbook by Kristie Santana, a certified wedding planner and member of the National Association of Wedding Professionals. From getting certified to dealing with vendors to winning over clients, it’s the most authentic and comprehensive guide to becoming a wedding planner on the market, and it has helped thousands of aspiring planners break into this industry.
Decide If Certification Is Right for You.
The wedding planner community is quite divided on the topic of certification.
On the one hand, some planners look fondly on their certification course and report learning valuable lessons that allowed them to hit the ground running when it came time to open their doors.
Other planners will tell you that certification is a complete waste of time and money. There’s no point to getting certified, they’ll tell you, because all of your real training will come with real weddings and actual clients.
As is often the case with such a divided set of opinions, the truth is likely somewhere in between. To be perfectly clear: you are not required to complete certification in order to become a wedding planner. And no, clients will (probably) never ask you about your certification. So in that respect, no, you don’t need to be certified in order to become a wedding planner.
However, if you feel that your understanding of planning weddings is severely lacking, or that you need some guidance on what it’s like to open your own event planning business, by all means take the certification course if you can comfortably afford it. Great certification courses will take you through the nuts and bolts of becoming a wedding planner and when it comes time to open your doors, the information gleaned from these courses will make you a more confident, well-rounded planner.
Get Hands-on Experience.
This one is tricky, as you will face a sort of chicken and egg problem. How do I get clients without any experience? And how do I get experience if no one wants to be my client? There are a couple possible solutions to this catch-22.
The first solution should come as no surprise: offer your services for free. Yes, free.
Do you have a co-worker, family member, or friend who is recently engaged? If you do, ask them if they’d be OK with you planning their special day for them, from vendors to seating. If it sounds like a lot of work for very little to no pay, it’s because it is! However, the lessons you’ll walk away with after planning your first wedding will be just as (if not more) valuable as completing a formal certification course. And it will be absolutely free of charge!
Alternatively, you can contact local wedding planners in your area and ask if they’d be interested in bringing you on board as an intern – paid or unpaid. Again, it’s a lot of work for very little monetary reward, but the point of this is to gain a different kind of wealth: knowledge. The kind of knowledge that will equip you to go out on your own and plan your own weddings.
Take On Your First Clients.
Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, it’s time to open your doors and accept new clients. This can be a daunting process that will require some business savvy to execute correctly, but there are some basic steps you can take to hit the ground running.
First, you’ll want to create a business website and add some photos of weddings you’ve planned or worked on in the past. (This is where your prior pro-bono experience will pay dividends yet again). Create accounts on social media and vendor directories like Yelp and TheKnot.
Once you’ve set up your online presence, it’s time to put your boots on the ground and attract clients. Attend wedding expos. Try some paid advertising on Google and Facebook. Build up your Yelp review count to improve your Yelp rankings and get more visibility.
Your first year in business will essentially consist of trying all different kinds of marketing channels until you find one or two that you’re good at or have success with.
Before long, your client list will grow long enough where you’ll attract enough clients through referrals alone. Once you reach this point, the sky’s the limit!
Given the excitement and ever-changing nature in the wedding planning industry, it’s so surprise that this field is growing in popularity every year. How many people get to be the architect of the most important day of their clients’ lives, all while maintaining great relationships, meeting new people every day, and earning a great living while doing it? Here’s a hint: not many.
If you’re an outgoing, organized, and motivated kind of person, a career as a wedding planner could be the perfect outlet for your unique set of skills. So if you’re ready to start a new life planning weddings, go out there and put your talents to work!