College students often
ask me about internships, and if I have any advice
on how to be a wedding planner. It's definitely one
of those jobs where experience and reputation count
for more than schooling, but schooling can help, of
Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule? Basically,
it says that in order for any professional to be the
very best, like Michael Jordan great, that
professional needs 10,000 hours of experience.
Georgia Meyers (Event Planner at The
Depot in Saint Paul, MN) told me that someone
in her capacity might be working 60 hours a week,
and at that rate, you'll get 10K hours in a little
of 3 years. If you are a full-time, 40-hour-per-week
wedding planner working for yourself, that's about 5
years, but it's incredibly hard to get that much
work on your own. A little more realistically, say
half-time, 20 hours a week, would take you about 10
years. And it's this kind of 10 years of experience
that brides want, the kind of wedding planner who
has the resources and experience to care of
emergencies, handle conflict well, and keep cool
under pressure. But how to start?
How to get all that experience?
- Some wedding planners get into the business
by starting in the food industry. In this case,
I would recommend getting your feet wet at a
hotel, country club, or event site, working on
the banquet staff at about $12/hour. One of two
things will quickly happen - either you'll be
noticed because you're a hard worker
who is really good at thinking ahead without
being told what to do, or, in the
other case, you'll realize how difficult the job
is and quit (yipe!). If this first-case event
happens, you will eventually be promoted to
catering manager, and you're on your way. The
more you work as a catering manager, the more
wedding receptions you worked with, and thus
either you'll become a de facto wedding planner,
or perhaps start your own business.
- I've also seen a wonderful wedding planner who
started out by owning a rental business, soon
specializing in weddings (renting chairs,
glasses, etc.), and then branched out into
- Other wedding planners started by working as
an assistant, and that's the route I would
recommend, offering your services for free at
first, then accepting a wage once you've got
some experience. Once you've coordinated a
hundred weddings, you'll be ready to start your
- If you want to start out in the hotel
business, you can get an actual 4-year college
degree, majoring in event planning (thank you,
Katherine Hendrickson, Executive Director of Semple
Mansion in Minneapolis, MN).
- Sarah Trotter from Lasting
Impressions Weddings, winner of the Twin
City Bridal Icon Award, The Knot "Best of
Weddings" Award, Bride's Choice Award, and
several Wedding Wire "Best Of" awards, earned
her marketing degree and then started working
as a Marketing Director for a company that ran
15 restaurants. Sarah was a real go-getter,
and soon was planning more and more events at
the restaurants, including corporate events,
weddings, rehearsal dinners, and receptions.
Eventually she was planning weddings full-time
(and finally she started her own company). If
you do earn a degree, can intern and work at
hotels over your summer vacations, and perhaps
even during the school year, so by the time
you graduate, you'll have some experience
already. Sarah says, "Experience is key. Lots
of people ask how to be a wedding planner, and
I'll only consider their resume if they are a
Banquet Manager already, or at least have
worked in the event industry or restaurant
field for years."
much of being a wedding planner is who you know,
too, so you can recommend good vendors (and steer
your couples away at the right time, too). The more
wedding ceremonies and receptions you work at, the
more you know, and of course, the more people who
will be recommended to you. The business is
definitely local - getting years of experience in
Minnesota won't help you if you move to New York!
Once you've spent a few years in the field and you
know most everyone in town, you can get your couples
the best deals, as well as give the best advice.
What does the job entail, besides physically being
there on the wedding day, taking care of business?
Sarah has a great quote: "95% of my day is on the
phone or computer, working out budgets, emailing,
and getting quotes."
Some downsides to look at, if you want to be a
- Giving up every Saturday - spring, summer, and
fall. This aspect can be quite wearing, as all
your friends and relatives will be working 9-5,
and the only time they can get together is when
- Spending every Saturday night, until 2:00 am,
at someone else's party. Everyone else is having
fun and drinking, and you're working.
- Dealing with conflict. To be a wedding
planner, you must be willing to deal with the
photographer that doesn't show up, the child
who's disconsolate because her mother is
intoxicated, the DJ who is saying inappropriate
things. You're the one they come to, and you
have to be okay with that.
The burnout rate is high, but if you are
extroverted, love making phone calls, are organized
and good at multitasking with a million things going
on at once, good at math and accounting i.e.
budgeting, are good and conflict and have a high
attention to detail, you, too, can be a wedding