There is no doubt that being a wedding planner can be fun and incredibly rewarding. Going to catering and cake tastings, choosing linens and helping clients decide on the perfect centerpieces are absolutely fun. Seeing months of hard work come together on a perfect wedding day is one of the most rewarding experiences many wedding planners experience in their careers.
Being a wedding planner also has great perks such as being invited to all the industry parties, going to uber fun conferences and staying at incredible hotels while you “tour” the event space. We also get to work with wonderful clients on one of the most important days in their life.
Having a career as a wedding planner can seem pretty glamorous but there are definitely reasons why you wouldn’t want to become a wedding planner. There are days when I can hardly believe I get paid to do something I love so much but there are also days when there is not enough money in the world to make me plan or coordinate a particular wedding again.
Wedding planning is a unique career choice. The work centers around ensuring two people have the happiest day of their lives, stay within budget, and stick to a schedule.
Planning weddings can be a very rewarding career. You will never experience a downturn in job opportunities, people never stop getting married, and weddings are almost always fun. There are some key items a traditional wedding needs to have, but there are many other aspects, tangible and intangible, that make a wedding both successful and fun.
While most people are able to plan basic weddings, those who are exceptional at wedding planning share a few key characteristics.
Jyl Deering—wedding planner and coordinator for Chancey Charm—wasn’t one of those little girls who played “bride” when she was growing up. Nor did she spend her weekends binge watching Say Yes to the Dress (but, uh, maybe I’m the only one who does that).
During her freshmen year, though, she started working at a bridal boutique and ended up loving it. She soon realized she wanted to learn a lot more about working in the wedding industry.
“I saw the girls leave with their dresses but never got to see them walk down the aisle, exchange vows, or anything else about the big day,” she explains. “I loved working there, but I felt like I was missing out.” So, she chose to take a college internship in hotels and catering in order to play a bigger role on wedding day.
Itching to venture out of small-town Massachusetts, she applied to Disney World’s college program and spent a year working in the front offices of their hotels.
“It was an amazing experience,” she shares. “It taught me hospitality at the highest level.” From there, Deering worked in a few different sales and events positions up and down the East Coast. But, she began to really miss working on weddings.
“I spent time as a sales manager at a truly world class hotel in the mountains of North Carolina,” she shares. “They do these breathtaking high-end weddings, and I got to sell the venue to couples and also execute details like reserving hotel blocks and creating reception menus.”
A few years later, Deering decided to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to family. She started working at Chancey Charm as soon as she moved back.
“I researched starting my own business, but it was super expensive to build a decent website, get a lawyer, draw up contracts—you get the picture,” she explains. “The agency had all that ready for me. As soon as I finished relocating, I was already getting clients.”
But, because she wasn’t sure how steady the income would be, she got a full-time job at a seasonal hotel, where she ran corporate events and small weddings. After 10 months, it became clear she had enough business to leave the resort and coordinate weddings full-time. And she hasn’t looked back since.
If you enjoy and do a great job of planning big parties, like working with people, and have serious skills when it comes to networking and negotiating, consider becoming a wedding planner. People who work in this field are also known as wedding or bridal consultants. Many are self-employed, but others work for wedding or event planning companies.
Even though fewer people are getting married, according to various statistical sources, those who do so are typically taking this step at a later age. Generally speaking, couples who wait longer to get married are more established and have more money to spend on their weddings. It also means that because they are so busy with work, they don’t have a lot of time to plan their own events. They need and can afford to pay for the services of a professional wedding planner.
Working as a wedding planner can be very rewarding, and your start-up costs won’t be overwhelming if you decide to go into business for yourself. The costs of starting up a wedding planning business can be less than $2,000, according to Entrepreneur.com, since you can work from home rather than having to rent office space or a storefront. You will need to budget for office equipment, invest in marketing for your business, and purchase appropriate work clothing.
Going to cake tastings, finding the perfect dress, picking out a color palette, choosing your first dance song… Even the simplest wedding requires a lot of planning, so it makes sense to enlist the help of a professional. A lot of people think of wedding planning as a dream job. After all, you’re basically putting on one big party, no? But behind the scenes, it’s a lot more than just confetti and tulle. On a basic level, wedding planners are there to coordinate and help you organize your big day, but their responsibilities can massively vary.
Between budget, RSVPs, venue hunting and making sure the couple is happy, it’s often a stressful job. We caught up with wedding planner Charlotte Nichols to find out what being a wedding planner is really like.
Table of Contents
What Is a Wedding Planner?
Wedding planners are responsible for all wedding logistics, from vendor contract negotiation to day-of execution. They make the planning process as smooth and seamless as possible.
Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal in The Wedding Planner not only made it look like a wedding planner doesn’t really do a whole lot (and can carry all her backup supplies in a fanny-pack on the big day), but she also broke a very basic rule that shouldn’t even have to be stated—she flirted with, and eventually stole away, the groom.
My favorite fictional wedding planner was Candice Bergen in Bride Wars. Imagine if a wedding planner could really tell her clients when they may get married. And if I ever tried to ask my brides to split my attention on their wedding day at the same venue, I imagine I’d be fired—if not worse. Brides want to be more than just “Bride One” and “Bride Two” on their wedding days.
But seriously, wedding and event planning is a very detail-oriented—and sometimes emotionally intense—career choice. There are no industry-standard business hours. There are no holidays. We rarely have a free weekend. And we work when clients hire us to work (sorry, Candice—we don’t tell them when to get married).
Wedding planning may be portrayed as glamorous in some TV shows and in movies, but in reality, it’s a stressful, exhausting business. So here’s a reality check, from one seasoned wedding planner, for anybody considering going into the wedding planning career.
Is A Wedding Planner Career Right For You?
As a wedding planner with years of experience in the events industry, I can honestly say that my first few months in the business challenged my ideas of what a wedding planner really is.
The daily stresses and personalities that came with the career were almost too much to handle at first. Many people see the wedding planning career as a romantic and filled with extravagant parties, unlimited budgets, and clients who nod to your every word. This is often the exception, not the norm.
In this article, I’d like to explain everything that a wedding planner career is and just as importantly, everything it isn’t. I still wouldn’t trade my job for any other, but it does come with its fair share of challenges.
We’ve all seen the reality TV shows where a bride-to-be will be looking for the perfect gown to get married in. Or perhaps you’ve seen the reality show where the groom does all the planning and everything looks like it will be doomed thanks to his not-so-creative wedding flair. What if you were to be the person behind a wedding making sure everything goes to plan?
Being a wedding planner can be an exciting and rewarding job for many people, but there are a few things you may want to consider if you’re thinking it’s your next career choice.
You’re a planner
You’re not much for spontaneity and like to ensure everything is set in stone and planned accordingly. You may be highly organised and like to be the leader within your group of friends for ensuring that everyone knows when your outing is, what time you’ll be meeting up and exactly where. You’re efficient and some may feel like you take things too far when organising events. But, this kind of trait is perfect for wedding planning. If you love planning out events and like to know that you are on top of everything, wedding planning may be the job for you.
Passion and Commitment
One of the biggest differences between a standard job and a career as a wedding planner is the time commitment. If you want to thrive as a planner (both financially and professionally), you have to make yourself available before and after the normal 9-5 work day. Some clients will call you at 9PM and expect an immediate answer to their burning questions, and if you are new to the business and trying to earn a good reputation, you will need to take that phone call with a smile. And before you say to yourself, “No, not me; I’ll set boundaries from the start,” just remember that frantic brides won’t always respect those boundaries and an unresponsive wedding planner can turn into a very disappointed client, whether it was your fault or not.
My best advice is this: if you have a passion for being a wedding planner, learn to love the calls and the unscheduled consultations. If you are not passionate and learn to roll with the punches, the punches will eventually knock you out and you’ll begin to look for new employment.
Weddings can sometimes bring out the worst in people. We’ve all heard of nightmare stories of “Bridezilla’s” where almost everything wasn’t right or to the standard of the bride. This is where it is important to be committed. Just like the groom, you’re going to see it through to the wedding day and ensure everything goes to plan. Even if your client is almost unbearable to work with, you need to ensure that you are committed to the couple and you’ll be there right through to the end.
Honesty and Integrity
As a wedding planner, most of my day consists of interacting with clients, the clients’ family and friends, and vendors. Given that I’m interacting with dozens of people for the same event, I may answer the same question ten different times one day. Or I may be asked the dreaded “Does this dress make me look fat?” You have to be able to answer those questions in a way that is honest but also appropriate to the person you’re speaking to. Blurting out “Yes, that dress does make your hips look a bit wide” is not what any client wants to hear, especially from someone they have hired. Instead, you can try “I do like that dress, but I think this dress may match your personality more and fit better with your body type.”
Inevitably, some vendors will want to pay you a commission for promoting their services above others. In these situations, remember that you are working for your client, so you must ensure that the vendor you are recommending lines up with your client’s needs and fits within their budget. You must be willing to put your client’s needs above your own, even if that means making a little less commission on the side. In this business, reputation is everything, and it’s certainly not worth risking your image over a few extra dollars.
Thinking On Your Feet
During my years as a wedding planner, I’ve received phone calls at 6AM on the morning of a wedding from a vendor stating they cannot fulfill their contractual obligations. Most people would panic at this point (especially your bride if she found out!), but as a wedding planner your job is to remain calm and immediately begin problem-solving. Whatever you do, don’t tell the bride unless you absolutely need to. They hired you to handle any situation that arises, not to redirect all incoming problems back at them. I have been in situations where a couple’s cake has melted, a bride’s dress has not fit, or a vendor has not shown up, and all of these issues, while beyond my control, ultimately became my issue to address.
Building relationships with other vendors is imperative, not only to building a successful referral network, but also for having key resources that you can call upon at a moment’s notice.
I am not a cake designer, but it was my job to smooth the icing on the cake and move it to a cooler place. I am not a seamstress, but I had to quickly pin the dress and calm the bride. I am not a DJ, but it was my responsibility to call upon a trusted DJ in my area and coerce him to step in for the DJ who did not fulfill their contractual duties. Your job above all is to ensure that the client enjoys their wedding day without a hitch, and whenever possible, occluding any problems that arise until after all the festivities are over.
Sensitivity is key when being a wedding planner. You have to be sensitive to needs of multiple people involved in the planning of one event. Emotions run high, tempers flare, tears flow and usually the wedding planner is the one caught in the middle. You must have a calm personality and be a source of comfort for others in high-stress situations. Sometimes you may have a bride and mother who do not agree, split family situations, even vendors who do not follow through with their contractual obligation. There will be times that you want to walk out, or “tell it like it is,” but your top priority if to extinguish fires, not fuel them. It is not your place to point fingers or place blame, but to be the calm during a storm and create an enjoyable experience for everyone involved in the event.
You love weddings
It goes without saying that you should be pretty passionate about weddings. From the clothing, the dress, the suits and the flowers to the food, the music and the venues, you need to be passionate about it all. You love reading and finding out more about wedding trends and what couples are looking for on their big day. If you love everything about weddings, this could be what you need to do.
You’re a great negotiator
Even if you’re in a store with set prices, you’re likely to be that person still trying to squeeze a deal out of the salesperson. Whether it be a free couple of pillows with your bed purchase, free window tinting with a car purchase or a discounted price on some clothing, you’re usually the person asking for a bit of a sweeter deal. If you love negotiating, you may find that being a wedding planner is a great fit. You’ll be able to negotiate with clients and suppliers for all of the best prices in order to remain competitive and stay within budget.