So, you want to be a wedding planner?

I get lots of inquiries on open positions with Emilie Duncan Event Planning and/or questions on how to get started in the event planning business. I hope this page will give you some honest answers to the questions I am most often asked:

How did you get started?
Short Answer: I planned my own wedding.
Long Answer: I planned my own wedding, then friends started asking me for help with their weddings. I began to realize that a lot of my hobbies and past work experience were geared towards weddings: I was a wedding cake decorator in college, I did some floral design as well and photography has always been a favorite hobby. I began to look into starting my own event planning business and realized I had no idea what I was doing.

Once that sunk in, I joined ABC as a novice and began to work to get the education I needed to avoid ruining someone else’s wedding day. Once I had completed some education and made some local vendor contacts, I started spreading the word to friends and family that Emilie Duncan Event Planning was almost open for business. I then did several weddings for friends of friends for nothing more than the experience. Only after those weddings went well did I feel like I was ready to accept actual clients. All told it took well over a year to get to that point.

How do I become a wedding planner?
Short Answer: Please get some education!
Long answer: Please get some education – in my opinion, all wedding planners should get some education through a credible professional organization. ABC, ACPWC and June Wedding all offer training programs. You wouldn’t try to cater or photograph a wedding without some training or a good deal of hands on experience, same thing goes for planning and coordinating a wedding! This type of education covers more than just who stands where in a processional and what flowers are in season, it will also explain how to start and run a wedding business and all that goes with it. Also, don’t limit yourself to just wedding consulting – you must to have a basic working knowledge of everything that goes into a wedding: flowers, cakes, photography, music, food and wine. Seek out classes in those areas as well.

You have my dream job – I would love to be a wedding planner!
Short Response: I am very lucky – I LOVE what I do. I have the best job in the world and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Long answer: I am very lucky – I LOVE what I do. I have the best job in the world and can’t imagine doing anything else. That having been said, the reality of what I do is quite far from what J-Lo did in the Wedding Planner movie. Rarely glamorous, it certainly isn’t always pretty. You must be able to handle stress and never let it show – I honestly think the phrase “never let them see you sweat” was coined by a wedding planner!  You must be willing to do anyway and everything to make the bride and groom’s day as close to perfect as possible – NOTHING should be considered beneath you.  If anything is beneath you, you can bet it won’t be beneath another planner.

A coordinator friend of mine, Linnyette Richardson-Hall, said it best: “While television and the media may have glamorized our industry, the real truth is – this is hard work!! This job is not for the faint of heart nor the easily offended. If you get your feelings hurt easily, look at another profession. If you aren’t able to move at the speed of light and multi-task at the same time, consider another job. To be a wedding planner you need the patience of a saint, the skin of an alligator and the soul of an artist.”

Final Thoughts: if you do decide to pursue wedding planning and coordination as a career, don’t be surprised if some vendors are less than enthusiastic to work with you for the first time. More than likely they have dealt with someone who woke up one day and decided that they were wedding planners – no research, no experience but they printed business cards for themselves and were in business. They booked a wedding and on the wedding day, they made that vendor’s job harder and it left a bad taste in the vendor’s mouth. Rightfully so – our job is to take care of the bride and groom AND make the vendor’s job easier! Those planners make those of us who are professionals have to work that much harder – don’t be that kind of wedding planner. You are going to have to work for your reputation and earn trust from your vendors and then you have to work to keep it – it doesn’t come easy but it is worth it when it does come.

Additional Reading: I was asked to contribute an article to Sage Wedding Pros (great website by the way for all things business with regard to wedding vendors).  You can read that here: 10 Lessons for New Planners.

The ever lovely, always smart, world class collector of Converse Chucks Sandra has a series on becoming a wedding planner that is another must read: Becoming a Wedding Planner. Her altar ego is Saundra Hadley, Sales Coach and she has some great advice too: It Sucks When you Grossly Undercharge.

Liene, the mastermind behind Blue Orchid Designs and Think Splendid gives you: Advice on Being a Wedding Planner

Finally, if you do approach an established planner for an internship or possibly position in their company, the always VERY direct (seriously, hang on for this one) Terrica tells you Why I Won’t Hire You.

I hope you will take to heart the advice given here and in the links – it is sometimes hard to hear because we are a “I want it now” society and this career does not come quickly or easily but those who are truly dedicated to their clients, to their craft and to raising the bar can be very successful and HAPPY in this industry.

I wish you the best of luck and hope that this has given you some answers to your questions and insight into this amazing career.