How to Become a Wedding and Event Planner in Washington, D.C.
Planning weddings and events sounds fun, right? After all, little compares to helping people realize their dream wedding or putting together an event that attendees remember for the rest of their lives.
While it’s true that events management is an exciting, rewarding career, it’s also hard work that can take a toll on even the most energetic of professionals. Long hours, late nights, and plenty of pressure are regular features of the job. But if you’re a detail-oriented quick thinker with first-rate people skills, it could be the perfect career for you.
Requirements and Useful Skills
There are no official requirements to start work as a wedding or event planner in Washington, D.C., but that doesn’t mean you should jump right in with no training. If you’ve organized successful events in the past, that’s a great start. However, there’s a lot more to running an events management business than throwing amazing parties.
A degree in any of the following areas will prove helpful:
- Events, Hospitality or Business Management
- Public Relations
It’s also worth thinking about whether you want to be a general event planner, taking on a wide range of events, or specialize in particular types of event−such as weddings or corporate meetings. While the skills required are similar across events, specializing can help you make the best use of resources and contacts and seem more professional to potential clients. You could always generalize until you find your niche, then specialize.
If you don’t have a degree, that doesn’t have to be a barrier. Experience with hospitality or business management will help, as will acquiring professional certifications in relevant areas.
Education and Training Opportunities
There are plenty of relevant education and training opportunities in Washington, DC. Universities.com lists the following colleges as offering the best four-year degree courses in the state in Hospitality Management, Public Relations, and Business Administration:
If a degree isn’t for you, the following training courses could be what you’re looking for instead. They’re more in-depth than the certifications listed below and are more suitable for newcomers to the events industry:
- Certified in Exhibition Management® (CEM) program: an extensive course and designation demonstrating the highest professional standards in event management
- Certified Quality Event Planner (CQEP) program from the Management and Strategy Institute: covers all aspects of event planning and management.
The following internationally recognized certifications are either standalone exams or consist of a short course followed by an exam and are suitable for those with experience in the industry:
- Event Planning Specialist Certification (CEPS): This is an entry-level qualification from the National Career Certification Board (NCCB).
- Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) from the Events Industry Council, based in D.C. Developed to reflect best practices in the fields of meeting and event management.
- Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE): This is offered by the National Association for Catering and Events as a mark of excellence for catering and events professionals.
There are also certifications available specifically for wannabe or established wedding planners, including:
- In-house or online training from the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACWP)
- Certified Wedding and Event Planning (CWEP): an online course from Lovegevity’s Wedding Planning Institute
Salary Expectations and Career Outlook in Washington, D.C.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Washington, D.C. is the number one area in the U.S. for employment opportunities for Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners, with the highest concentration of jobs and highest employment per thousand jobs in the country.
The BLS also lists D.C. as the third top-paying area for Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners with a yearly average (mean) salary of $67,340, well above the national average of $55,890.
Washington, D.C. is a densely populated multicultural area with a strong economy and a vast range of industries. and with lots of people and industries come lots of potential events! That means plenty of work for event planners−newcomers and established businesses alike.