So, you want to become a wedding planner? Being paid to help couples bring the vision of their dream nuptials to life certainly sounds fun in theory — especially when you picture working with all of the delicate details like flowers and cakes — but there’s much more to the job than you might think. For example, on top of creating a complete wedding timeline of all wedding-day activities, you’ll be managing a budget; negotiating and securing contracts with vendors; staying in constant communication with your clients; preparing for last-minute emergencies; and much, much more.
If all of that doesn’t sound too overwhelming, it’s worth considering the prospect of becoming a wedding planner (regardless of your current education or experience!). To help facilitate the process, we’ve gathered important information about what it takes to successfully break into the bridal industry, whether you want to start your own business or join an existing one. In addition to breaking down qualifications like college degrees and certificate programs, we’ve also researched real wedding planners, what they make in a year, any advice they have for beginners, and more.
Qualifications and Training
Technically, you don’t need any sort of license, certificate or degree to be a wedding planner (running your own company is a different story — we’ll get to that later). Your qualifications are often at the discretion of the person or company you plan to work at. Unless you have substantial experience, you should start your foray into planning by taking courses, obtaining certifications, or joining organizations like the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners.
Before you invest any time or money into the preparation process of becoming a wedding planner, make sure you have the skills that the job requires. The ability to function well under pressure is important, as is attention-to-detail, creativity, problem-solving, time management, and communication. You should also be good with numbers and able to negotiate.
Relevant College Degrees
You don’t need a formal education to become a wedding planner, but that’s not to say that an associate’s or bachelor’s degree wouldn’t be of use — especially if you plan to start your own company. If that’s the case, consider studying business or one of the many majors the field encompasses, such as management or marketing. Public relations and communications would also be relevant to your eventual job.
The most common field of study for those interested in wedding planning is hospitality management, which can encompass courses in everything from financial accounting to alcohol mixology. However, most colleges will also allow students to choose a concentration within the major, such as event planning. For example, Iowa State University — which ranked no. 1 on College Factual’s list of the best hospitality management colleges for the money — offers wedding-related classes like “Fine Dining Event Management.”
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There’s such a wide range of wedding planning certificate programs available that a mere google search will leave you feeling extremely overwhelmed. So before you start researching, decide two things: one, whether you want to learn in-person or online; and two, how much time you’re willing to dedicate. It should go without saying that the less knowledge you have, the longer the program, the better; however, it’s easy to be tempted by companies or organizations offering a license or certificate with just a one-day turnaround.
As for the quality of the program, opt for one that’s backed by a reputable organization or school. Here are a few worth considering:
In 2013, the Sheffield School — previously home to a renowned wedding planning course — merged with the New York Institute of Career Development to form the NYIAD. Today, the school offers a detailed online course that’s certified by the Association of Bridal Consultants, A.K.A. the world’s largest professional wedding planning organization.
According to the NYIAD, “professional wedding planners will show you how to work with clients of all kinds, how to answer their questions and meet their needs at every step of the process.”
The program also aims to teach how to gain “the business skills you need to find and sign clients, price your work, market your talents and grow your business.”
You can complete the online course at your own pace for up to 18 months. Upon graduation, you’ll receive an official NYIAD Certificate in Wedding Planning.
View the course outline here.
The AACWP has three designations for its members: Trained Wedding Planner, Certified Wedding Planner, and Certified Master Wedding Planner. There’s both online and in-house training, though the latter is only offered in Dallas, Texas (the next scheduled date is for February 17 – 21, 2020). After five full days of training, homework, and exams, you’ll have completed 13 courses that cover everything from vendor relationships to religious and cultural traditions for ceremony planning.
The online course actually consists of videos from the in-house training, along with digital downloads of course materials, the ability to talk with instructions in live Q&A sessions, and more. You’ll get two months to complete the entire course.
View the course outline here.
Run by the award-winning CEO Gary Wright, Weddings Beautiful offers two certifications, though one of them — Certified Wedding Planner — is reserved for experienced planners only. The other, Certified Wedding Specialist, can be obtained through a training course that consists of more than a dozen assignments.
Sample tasks include “Developing Your Business Plan,” “Tabletop and the Bridal Registry,” and “The Ultimate You: Personal Public Relations.” Then, the course culminates with a final exam.
View the course outline here.
Breaking Into the Industry
You don’t necessarily have to wait until you’ve graduated or obtained a wedding planning certificate to start making strides in the bridal industry. At the very least, make a plan and start networking.
Unfortunately, obtaining a certificate or degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll land your dream job — or any job, for that matter. As is the case in most industries, you’ll likely have to work your way up at a wedding planning company. Don’t be afraid to complete an internship or take an assistant position; the work will be grueling but it’ll allow you to learn a lot more than if you were just delegating. You’ll also be able to learn the ropes alongside a seasoned professional.
Lisa Gorjestani, founder and event planner at Details Event Planning, told the muse that while starting out, wedding planning newcomers should “network and get to know as many venues and vendors as possible.”
“Interning is a valuable experience. This is one of those businesses in which it just takes experience,” she said. “Even if you are very creative, you need to understand the business side and logistics involved.”
If you don’t have many wedding or event planning companies to choose from, Kristie Santana, author and CEO of the Wedding Planner’s Handbook, recommends applying at hotels, resorts and country clubs since places like these often host weddings. “Many of these businesses will hire interns or assistants in the summer or during their peak seasons,” she said. “Any one of these would be a great opportunity to gain experience and a good reference, or even get hired on as a full time employee.”
If you don’t want to start at the bottom of the totem pole, aim for an on-site coordinator position. You’ll be able to work with a variety of wedding vendors while learning the ins and outs of weddings and other events.
Starting Your Own Business
It’s definitely wise to follow the above advice and break into the industry by obtaining a position at an existing company rather than starting your own, but it’s also important to think ahead.
For starters, you’ll need a (very detailed) business plan. You won’t just be brainstorming a clever company name or designing chic business cards, but rather, working to ensure that your business is both “well planned out, registered properly, and legally compliant,” as TRUiC puts it. This will involve establishing an LLC, configuring ongoing expenses, registering for taxes, and much, much more. The business education powerhouse breaks these technical steps down here.
If this sounds costly, that’s because it is — but not as much as you might think. According to Credit Donkey founder Charles Tran, starting a wedding planning business “isn’t hugely expensive.”
“As an independent consultant, you don’t need an office space other than your kitchen table,” he wrote for HuffPost, adding that you should still “consider hiring an attorney for basic legal work, such as protecting your personal assets from liability and drawing up basic contracts you can use with your clients before you take on their wedding.”
Make sure to also take advantage of free and affordable tools, like the Wedding Planner’s Toolbox from Planners Lounge.
Lucky for wedding planner wannabes, the overall meeting, convention, and event planning industry seems to be doing well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the employment of event planners is predicted to increase by 7 percent over the next 8 years, which is faster than the average for all other occupations.
What the average wedding planner makes in a year is a little harder to determine. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reported the lowest 10 percent in the industry earning less than $27,560, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $84,900. The median annual wage came in at $49,370, which is significantly higher than the median annual wages for the total of all occupations: $38,640.
These statistics, along with what it takes to become a wedding planner, are undoubtedly important to consider before you embark on a degree or career change — but make sure you’re passionate about what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, too!