If you have been to a wedding recently, did you notice one person running about possibly with a walkie-talkie in their hand? They always seem busy speaking to the staff at the venue and are friendly with both the grooms as well as the bride’s side; Chances are you’re looking at a wedding planner in their element.
Being a wedding planner can be fun but it is also intense. You need quite a few skills to not just survive but thrive in the industry. Plus, the actual capacity to physically run up and down a venue a couple of hundred times a day.
If you have been contemplating getting into wedding planning in the USA, you’re in the right place. Keep on reading to find out more about the profession and how you can make your first steps in.
Read on to find out how to become a wedding planner, straight from the experts.
Discover how to become a wedding planner:
Wedding Planner vs. Coordinator – What’s The Difference?
A coordinator is someone who essentially takes over in the last few weeks to review all the arrangements and help you on the day of. They are ideal for people who have a fair idea of what they want and who they want as vendors during the wedding as the coordinator will make sure it is all ready and follow up on anything that’s left. Coordinators are usually the point of contact on the day of the wedding so you can focus on enjoying your big day instead of running the show.
A wedding planner, on the other hand, is someone who can fully rely on to plan the entire thing. It’s always nice to have a wedding planning team to back you up if you aren’t too sure of what you want or have multiple events to plan (like in south-Asian weddings). The job of a wedding planner is to give you options according to your budget and then finalise every detail from food to hotels for you and your guests. Much like coordinators, they are also the main point of contact on all matters relating to the events.
The main difference between hiring a coordinator and a planner is the budget and extent of responsibility you want to hand over. Not everyone has the budget to hire a wedding planner, so there are chances people might opt for a coordinator just so someone can ensure everything goes right on the day of. Moreover, a lot of people like to have a very active role in the planning, and so coordinators are more suited to such couples.
However, with the extent of responsibilities that a wedding planner has, it is quite a lucrative career path to take. Once you make your mark in the industry, the word of a new and efficient wedding planner spreads like wildfire. To step into that world, here are a few skills that are needed to be successful.
Skills Needed to be a Wedding Planner
Naturally, being creative is the number one skill required for a job like this. With the number of weddings that happen in the USA, your clientele will need something that is out of the box. Perhaps they don’t know what theme to go with or want a common theme like “Hollywood”, and need you to make it better. Either way, as a wedding planner, you need that creative side to shine.
2. Numerical Skills
While you won’t always be dealing with numbers and finances since you could have someone do it for you, if you have a small team (or even if it’s just you), you will need some level of numerical skills. This is mainly because you will constantly find yourself in a position where you have to deal with budgeting, whether it is with vendors or clients.
As a wedding planner, your job will be to fix a price that works for both the vendors and the clients. Hence, being a bit quick with numbers will always help.
Being a wedding planner is not for the weak; you will need to be on your feet. A certain amount of stamina isn’t just needed for the day of the wedding but throughout the planning phase. A key role for the wedding planner is to find the best vendors in the USA that suit your client and this might mean walking up and down a market, sifting through various businesses.
Moreover, the day of the wedding is quite chaotic too. From ensuring everything is in place, to the ceremony itself, the reception, and everything in between – a wedding planner needs to oversee it all.
4. Communication Skills
Communication, much like creativity, is a much-needed skill in this profession. This does not just mean talking but also effectively communicating via social media, emails, text messages etc. As a wedding planner, your job is to keep your client in the loop and your vendors informed of what is required of them. Without impeccable communication skills, you may not be able to do either or both effectively.
5. Negotiation Skills and Diplomacy
After communication, comes the art of negotiation. You may be great at talking to people and selling your service to them, but what happens when a couple quotes an impossibly low budget for an extravagant wedding? This is where you need those negotiation and diplomacy skills.
No couple is the same and, inevitably, there may be some who are easier to work with than others. Instead of having an all-out argument when things start to clash, you need to be diplomatic and be able to negotiate so your differences can be solved. Being unable to do so would not just be bad for your business, but will also put a hold on their wedding.
Steps to Become a Wedding Planner In the USA
1. Find Your Niche
Weddings can be of all types – local or destination, traditional or out of the box, in a church or someone’s backyard etc. And so, the first step is to figure out what kind of weddings you want to plan. If you already have some event management experience, figure out how it can come in handy and what skills are transferable.
2. Research, Research, Research!
Once you have figured out what kind of weddings you want to plan and who your clientele will consist of, start conducting some in-depth research. Things like the amount of money you will make, the money you need to start the business, and most importantly, the kind of qualifications you need.
For people who are already in the industry in some form or shape, it may be easier to slip into the wedding industry. However, for a newcomer, having some sort of training and certification to show that you’re in the business for the long haul will be beneficial.
3. Training and Qualifications
There are a ton of training courses in the USA that any aspiring wedding planner can look into. This is ideal for people starting in the industry with minimal experience. While your degree does not have to be anything related to the event management industry, having hospitality or a business background does help.
Additionally, you can look at sites like the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners for more information on wedding planning certifications. AACWP is a certified organization that trains budding wedding planners and offers all the necessary support for a recognised certification. Moreover, they can offer opportunities to network (more on that later!) which will help you get your foot in the door.
There is also the Certified Wedding and Event Planning (CWEP) course offered by Longevity which has helped many budding wedding planners in the USA. The course is made to teach aspiring wedding planners how to offer service packages, structure their business and utilize the various marketing options available to them.
4. Get a Business Plan Ready
Having a business plan is one of the hardest but most important steps, especially if you’re new to the industry. Whether you are looking to find investors or just want to be organized, having a business plan ready is crucial. You would ideally start with making a draft about who your target audience is and what they might need in a wedding.
To make it easier for you, here are a few things you need to include in your business plan
- Services: To begin with, make sure to have a detailed list of all the services you plan to offer your clients, what the price range will be, and how long it may take to choose an appropriate vendor. The main idea here is to stand out in terms of what you are offering, compared to your competitors.
- Finances: Starting a business costs money, and so, you need to keep in mind not just the profit you may gain but how much money you need right now to get the business going. Do you need office space? How many chairs/desks/computers? What are your marketing costs going to be? It’s things like that which need to be taken into consideration.
- Company Values and Strategy: Make sure to have a back story of the company. It does not have to be super emotional or reflect the typical “rags to riches” type of story but just an idea of how it started in the first place. And more importantly, think about where you want to take it.
5. Have a Marketing Vision
Once you know what your business is going to be like and what services you’re going to offer, start thinking about how it needs to be advertised. Social media is your number one tool in this day and age, so make sure to use every platform from LinkedIn to TikTok. Working with local newspapers and magazines will also be useful in getting the word out about your new business.
Whether it is through training or you just happen to be at a party hosted by an old friend, never stop networking. Any occasion with a large enough gathering is an opportunity to talk about your company (although try not to push it in a casual scenario like a party too much!). It is highly recommended to attend industry events and conventions for networking purposes.
You don’t have to have a degree in event planning to join the wedding industry. At the end of the day, it’s all about going above and beyond to make a couple’s dreams come true. And now that you’ve read this guide, you’re already on your way!