Corinne Kalupson
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Events pro, writer, mom, chaser of dreams.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? The pieces of a wedding, on the surface, are very straightforward: invitations, food and drink, decor and costume changes. It’s a party that has a milestone event as the main attraction, and you think you’d like to be the ringleader! Maybe you’ve planned parties for your friends and family or even planned your own wedding. You may be a food service professional or floral designer who realizes that you also have a knack for building relationships. Whatever led you down the road to becoming a wedding planner, it’s important to do some preliminary research before diving in head-first.

What does a wedding planner do?

In some circles, wedding planning still has a reputation of not being a “real’ or “serious” profession, so it’s up to the people in the industry to legitimize it. Event pros know it’s not just a fluffy, pretty job that anybody can do. A wedding planner has to be well-rounded and quick on their feet in a way many other jobs don’t require. They're expected to be an expert in areas such as style trends and wedding etiquette, and they have to be able to speak fluently about food and wine while keeping details and preferences organized, all while maintaining a welcoming nature and commanding respect.

There are a few different areas in which they need to be well-versed:

• Sales and marketing.

This includes determining who their market segment is and how to reach them. A salesperson has no trouble answering the most-asked questions, “Why do I need a wedding planner, and why does it cost so much?”

• Wedding design.

Wedding planners determine the theme and style of the event, create a custom color palette, select flowers and linens and decide on the lighting concept.

• Planning and logistics.

Once vendors have been selected and contracted, wedding planners make absolutely certain that everyone knows where to go and when at every moment of the event day. They also ensure that there is ample electricity available and all paths to the venue are clear and accessible.

Ultimately, the wedding planner needs to be able to build relationships with vendors, and the couple needs to trust that their wedding planner really is the expert in their field.

How much does a wedding planner make?

Celebrity wedding planners charge upwards of $15,000-50,000 for a single event. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the median annual salary for event planners at about $49,000, with an industry growth rate of 7% over the next 10 years. Wedding planners are in high demand! Ultimately, a wedding planner’s salary is based on the volume and quality of business that they are able to book each year. 

6 tips for starting your wedding planning career on the right foot.

Because it’s such a volatile industry, there's no one way to achieve success. Here are some tips to help you build a strong foundation:

1. Get a hospitality job. 

Work at the front desk of a hotel, wait tables in a restaurant or banquet facility or offer assistance to a florist or rental company. Get dirty. Get yelled at. Power through a rough weekend and challenging customers, and live to tell the tale. Get kudos and big, cash tips. Make sure you’re comfortable working nights and weekends, while everyone else is having fun.

2. Earn a degree or some form of advanced education, with an emphasis on business. 

More and more colleges and universities are adding event planning as a legitimate, practical major. You may be surprised at the number of creative-based projects that fail because the owners are following their passion but winging the actual “business” part of running a business. At the very least, gain a passing familiarity with basic small-business accounting, financial reports and payroll.

3. Find a mentor

Every profession requires interning, apprenticing or similar experience. Wedding planning is no different. Spend a wedding season with someone who has encountered obstacles and is willing to share what they've learned with you. You’ll see first-hand the daily tasks of a wedding planner and how to map out every detail so that the couple doesn’t have to think about it. You’ll gain perspective, not to mention a great source for client referrals!

4. Surround yourself with creative professionals. 

Support each other. Collaborate. Keep an open mind. You won’t be able to be all things to all people — nor would you want to be — so you need to have people in your tribe to whom you’re comfortable referring clients. There’s enough business for everyone to succeed! 

5. Join a professional organization. 

A wedding-centric association is not only great for networking but also for furthering your education. You’ll have the opportunity to become a Certified Professional Wedding Planner over about 4-6 months in a self-study environment. However, certification without a business background and some hands-on industry experience simply won’t get you as far. Combining all three will make you a force to be reckoned with!

6. Be smart about your earnings and run the business legally. 

Set aside money for retirement from the very start. Make sure you have liability insurance and worker’s comp. While you’re at it, be well-educated about laws pertaining to your industry. For example, you should sign up for training in responsible alcohol service and food safety and understand the requirements for marriage licenses and venue permits. Your clients will expect you to be an expert.

At the end of the day, understand that a wedding planner isn’t just there to make things pretty on the happiest day of their lives. It's hard, emotional work that, when done well, is one of the most satisfying jobs in the world. If you’re up for the challenge, make sure you do your research, and then decide what aspect appeals to you — sales and marketing, event design or planning and logistics. Once you’ve found your niche, find a partner or team of sub-contractors who excel at the rest. 

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