How to Become a Wedding Planner

Wedding planners don't save lives. They do not educate our kids or find ways to protect the environment. Wedding planners do, however, serve an important role in the lives of many couples by making what they consider to be one of the most special days in their lives beautiful, memorable and as stress-free as possible.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Wedding Planner?

Couple discussing wedding cake with cake maker
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Weddings can be stressful for brides and grooms. Not only are they about to enter into a new phase in their lives, but they are also about to throw a party that they and many of their guests will remember forever. As a wedding planner, you must be sensitive to others' needs. You have to be able to remain calm in the face of adversity and sooth nerves (not only your own) when things don't go as planned. Excellent interpersonal skills are essential in this line of work.

What Skills Do You Need?

Wedding planner checking over reception room
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Couples hire wedding planners to take care of the things they prefer not to do themselves. These tasks include negotiating with vendors, managing a budget, and coordinating the flow of the event. To handle the variety of tasks that comprise throwing a wedding or any other event, among your strongest skills must be:

  • Budgeting
  • Negotiating
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Managing Time
  • Solving Problems
  • Networking

Do you have a good sense of style and color? This will allow you to coordinate the decorations including flowers, tablecloths, and napkins. You must also be knowledgeable about different religions and cultures, and sensitive to the customs inherent in them, especially as they relate to weddings.

Do You Have to Go to College to Become a Wedding Planner?

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You don't have to go to college to become a wedding planner. As a matter of fact, many people begin their careers after making their own wedding arrangements or helping their friends and relatives with their affairs.

Several professional associations or trade groups offer wedding planning certifications which can demonstrate to potential clients that you are qualified to do this job. Since these programs are unregulated, do your homework before handing over money to any organization. Ask established wedding planners for recommendations.

Another option is to earn either a bachelor's or associate degree in event planning. A college education can provide you with vital skills you won't get elsewhere. First of all, your preparation will be more broadly based, allowing you to work on other types of events, in addition to weddings. Graduates of these programs, for example, may work on events such as conventions, trade shows, award shows, sports tournaments, and music festivals. You may take courses on the following topics:

  • Food Preparation for Catered Events
  • Event Promotion
  • Weddings and Ceremonies
  • History and Culture of Wine
  • Negotiations and Agreements
  • Concert and Event Production

To round out your education, you will take classes in accounting, finance, and hospitality law.

Entrepreneur or Employee?

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Many wedding planners are self-employed. Running a business isn't for everyone, so before you make an investment you should determine whether it is the right option for you. Keep in mind, business ownership involves working long hours and having many different responsibilities.

If you do decide to start a wedding planning company, it is worth taking at least some basic business classes. You may even want to work for someone else for a little while in order to get experience and see how things are done.

If you choose to work for someone else, your job may involve selling your employer's services to potential clients, in addition to actually planning weddings and other events. Some employers pay a commission—a percentage of clients' fees— rather than a straight salary.

What qualities do employers look for in wedding planners they hire. A sampling of help wanted ads revealed the following requirements:

  • "A positive attitude, and well kept appearance."
  • "Well organized, with solid planning experience."
  • Wedding planning certification.
  • "Must work weekends in addition to office hours throughout the standard work week."
  • "Must be available for domestic and international travel."