How to Become a Wedding Planner

Image by Emily Roberts © The Balance 2019 

While wedding planners don't save lives, they do, however, serve an important role in the lives of many engaged couples. A wedding planner can help the happy couple create an occasion that they'll always remember and will likely consider as one of the most special days in their lives. Successful events are beautiful, memorable and as stress-free as possible for the bride, groom, and all of their guests.

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

Bride and Groom outside with sign reading You're Invited
Pamela Moore / Getty Images

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's likely larger and more lavish than any they've thrown before. They and many of their guests will remember the wedding celebration forever.

As a wedding planner, you must be sensitive to others' needs and have empathy and understanding of the amount of pressure some couples place themselves under during wedding planning.

You'll need to be able to remain calm in the face of adversity, like when the DJ cancels at the last minute, and soothe nerves (not only your own) when things don't go as planned such as the bride's dress getting ruined just before the ceremony has started. Preparation, quick thinking, expert problem-solving, and excellent interpersonal skills are essential in this line of work.

What Skills Do You Need?

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 well-versed in the customs inherent in them, especially as they relate to weddings.

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

You don't have to go to college to become a wedding planner. Many people begin their careers after making their 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 knowledge and 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?

Many wedding planners are self-employed. Running a business isn't for everyone, so before you invest your time and energy, 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 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."

Just as there are many different sizes and scales of weddings, though, each employer will its own requirements, such as not needing to have certifications or international travel.