How to Become a Wedding and Event Planner

When it comes to significant events like weddings, no feature is too small to matter. But keeping track of a thousand tiny details is not an easy task. As such, most people rely on an expert to help plan and execute their big day, relieving the pressure of planning and allowing them to enjoy the event stress-free.

Working as a wedding and event planner isn’t for everyone. Still, if you are a highly organized person who thrives in a high-stress environment, it might be for you. Wedding planners are responsible for every facet of an event. They hire vendors, negotiate contracts, track the delivery of services and are on-site during an event to manage the schedules and ensure everything goes off without a hitch. The job requires a great deal of stamina, sharp attention to detail and well-honed problem-solving skills.

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Steps to Becoming a Wedding and Event Planner

Wedding and event planners have a great deal of responsibility. If you hope to succeed in this career, you will need to acquire skills, build contacts, adapt to changes and handle problems that arise. As such, entering the field without some knowledge would be a grave error. Here are a few things you should consider before seeking work as a wedding and event planner:

  • Expand your Knowledge Base: Take a course or get a degree in the field.
  • Work for an Established Professional: Get real-world work experience through an internship or employment with an agency.
  • Join a Professional or Business Association: Spending time with others in your profession and community will help you learn and network.
  • Consider Certification: Depending on your market and the events you want to work with, certification may be a boon to your career. Do your research and make an informed decision.
  • Never Stop Learning: Continuing education is essential and will help you adapt to new trends in a quickly changing market.

In the end, wedding and event planning is a business, and you will either need to start a business or work for someone who does. If you plan to work for yourself, you will need to acquire some business skills and go through the required procedures to get your organization up and running. With that in mind, some additional steps will be necessary:

  • Research your market to decide how to best structure your business’ services.
  • Write a business plan.
  • Decide how much startup money you need and find funding if necessary.
  • Pinpoint the best location to launch your business.
  • Consider filing as a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Decide on a name for your business and register it.
  • Get federal and state tax ID numbers.
  • Consider whether you need permits, licenses and insurance.
  • Open a business banking account.
  • Consider how you will network and market your business.

For more information on starting a business, you can refer to the United States Small Business Association website.

The Day-to-Day Life of a Wedding and Event Planner

So, what is it like to work as a wedding and event planner? Event planners have many tasks within a specific event. Their numerous roles include designer, organizer, contract negotiator, confidante and problem solver. For instance, at a wedding event, a planner may need to calm down a stressed bride, deal with a delivery mishap, ensure all the decorations are correctly placed and corral the groomsmen and bridesmaids for their introductions.

The events you plan will be a culmination of months or even years of working through every minuscule detail to create the desired atmosphere. Planning an event means meeting with the clients to discuss their wants, needs and vision. Once the event planner has a clear idea of the expectations for the event, they can start to implement a plan. On any given day, a planner may be responsible for contacting vendors, securing contracts, locating a venue or meeting with a client to discuss some facet of the event.

Event planners report a high degree of job satisfaction, especially on the day of an event when all the tiny details they have planned are put together to create a beautiful day for the clients. Many enjoy working closely with their clients and being a part of their special events. The job can also be incredibly stressful and requires thinking on your feet, especially when things go wrong.

Event planners need to be ready to respond to all types of last-minute mishaps and ensure the event itself doesn’t suffer when something goes wrong. For instance, an event planner may have to secure a new venue at the last minute and reroute all the vendors if there has been a disaster at the original venue. Or a wedding planner may need to adjust the wedding party to accommodate a bridesmaid who missed a flight. The job certainly includes highs and lows, but all in all, for a particular type of person, event planning is a rewarding and satisfying career choice.

Types of Event Planners

Of course, some of the most talked-about event planners are wedding planners. Still, there are many different types of events and, as such, many distinct tracks onto which you can steer your career. Following are the various types of event planning in which you can specialize:

  • Wedding Planners – Wedding planners work specifically with couples who are getting married. For many, their wedding day is one of the biggest and most important days of their life. Thus, wedding planners work on a significant event for which couples have many expectations. Specializing in wedding planning means learning about the popular vendors and venues with brides and grooms and building contacts with them. As such, wedding planners need to be especially sensitive to the needs of their clients.
  • Event Planners – Event planners also work with clients on significant events that mark lifelong milestones. These include Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Retirement parties, Anniversary parties, Quinceañeras and reunions. Event planners may also work on charity events, galas, award ceremonies and corporate events such as product launches. 
  • Meeting Planners – Meeting planners plan gatherings for various organizations. Meeting planners can specialize as healthcare meeting planners or corporate meeting planners. The events that meeting planners organize may be held on-site, off-site or online. 
  • Convention Planners – Convention planners plan large-scale events, like conferences or conventions. Convention planners can specialize as association planners who plan conferences and trade shows or convention service managers who work for hotels and convention centers. Convention service managers act as local liaisons between the facility and planners who work for the event sponsor. 
  • Exhibition Organizers-These organizers plan, produce and promote a display such as an exhibit or a show. 

Depending on where you plan to work, you may choose to specialize in a specific area, like a convention planner or exhibition organizer. Those who work in less populated geographic regions may decide to work in various events. In contrast, those in larger cities might concentrate on wedding or event planning alone. Most importantly, you will want to consider how and where you want to execute your career before deciding what type of education and training to take. That’s because some planners need specific degrees. 

Education for Wedding and Event Planners

There are various levels of education for wedding and event planners ranging from certificate programs to Ph.D. level education. Before embarking on your career training, you will need to decide which program is suitable for the future of your career. Below are several options for training at various degree levels. 

Certifications for Event Planning

Becoming certified as an event planner can help showcase your professionalism to potential clients and open opportunities for career advancement. Depending on your goals and what types of events you want to organize, there are numerous certification programs to consider. Below is a list of potential professional certifications that event organizers can earn:

  • Wedding and Event Planners
    • The Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) provides training and certification for wedding planners. You can obtain certification through completing specific courses on their website. 
    • The American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACWP) has three designated certificates: Trained Wedding Planner, Certified Wedding Planner and Certified Master Wedding Planner. Each certificate is awarded upon completion of a training course. 
    • The International Live Events Association (ILEA) offers a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) accreditation that can be earned by passing an examination. 
    • The American Rental Association (ARA) trains and certifies event rental professionals. You must complete the course, write an essay and complete 25 professional credits to receive the Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) designation. 
    • The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) awards a Certified Professional in Catering and Events accreditation upon completing 30 contact hours and passing an examination. 

Salary and Career Growth Projections for Wedding and Event Planners

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), event planners made an average annual wage of $55,890 in 2019. Salaries in the same year were wide-ranging, with the lowest earners bringing in $29,240, compared to the highest earners who averaged $88,360. These discrepancies may reflect those who are starting in the business versus established earners. 

The highest number of wedding and event planners reside in California, New York and Florida. At the same time, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia were the top-paying states for the profession in 2019. These three areas may represent some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, accounting for the increased pay rates. Non-metropolitan areas with the highest wages include Northwest Iowa, Southern Ohio, and Upper Savannah, South Carolina. 

Projections Central estimates 134,100 job openings for event planners in 2018, with a projected increase to 143,800 in 2028. That data indicates a progressive growth in job openings to the tune of 7.2 percent over the ten-year period, which is good news for those entering the field. 

The data above represents all event planners, including wedding and event planners, meeting planners, convention planners, and exhibition planners. When reviewing the data, remember that these are possibilities of what you can expect as you expand your career but are not indicative of your potential. For instance, if you were to begin self-employed and then grow your company to include other event planners, your potential for earning increases.

Finding Success as a Wedding and Event Planner

Whether you choose to work for an established business or start your own company, working as a wedding and event planner is a potentially lucrative and satisfying career. For many people in the industry, getting training and finding a job with growth potential is their only goal. Others may want to pursue self-employment or business ownership.

If your goal is self-employment, you already know that getting your business up and running will take a great deal of grit and determination. However, there are a few things you can do to ease the beginning stages of business ownership. Namely: Marketing and promotion. By making your business known in your community, you can bring potential clients right to your doorstep.

Marketing is more than just advertising, although paid advertisements should be a part of your strategy. However, it would help if you also considered the ways you can leverage no-cost alternatives. For instance, if you join a local business cooperative, you might find yourself invited to local networking events. There, you can exchange business cards or hand out brochures. In addition, the online networking you can accomplish through social media is invaluable. Party guests love to share pictures from an event on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Ask them to share them directly from your page, which will refer others to your business.

Regardless of whether you are helping couples plan a wedding, working out the details for a convention or planning an art exhibit, event planning is a marriage of business acumen and creativity. With the right tools, you can plan events that bring a dream to fruition, help people celebrate significant milestones or bring people together to share information. Event planning accomplishes all of this while bringing your vision and your client’s wishes to life.