Calling all wedding lovers! Do you dream of helping couples plan the most special day of their lives? Do you get a thrill every time you hear “I do” or see a bride in her wedding dress for the first time? Then becoming a wedding planner just might be the profession for you.
While it's one of the most rewarding jobs a person can have, being a wedding planner takes more than just organizational skills and good taste. In order to share what the road to becoming a wedding planner is really like, we tapped some successful industry insiders to share how they got started as well as information on what skills and qualifications are needed to make it in the industry.
Read on to find out how to become a wedding planner, straight from the experts.
5 Planners on How They Got Started
For those who want to pursue this path but don’t know where to begin, we interviewed five renowned wedding planners—many of whom run courses to teach up-and-coming event organizers.
Heather Hoesch and Lindsay Ferguson
Hoesch and Ferguson own LVL Weddings & Events, known for producing one-of-a-kind weddings in California, Hawaii, and Colorado. They are also co-owners of Planner Life Academy, which offers workshops and virtual training programs to prepare leaders to open their own wedding planning businesses.
Ferguson worked part-time for a wedding planner in Chicago as a young professional. “I always had a love for hospitality and customer service-focused careers,” she says. “I grew up with an entrepreneurial mom who really encouraged me to find something that I loved and was passionate about.”
I grew up with an entrepreneurial mom who really encouraged me to find something that I loved and was passionate about.
In high school, Hoesch worked for a family friend who owned the local bridal salon. “She hired me to clean, hang, and steam dresses,” she recalls. In college Hoesch worked for a catering company that primarily did weddings. “It was a crash course in weddings,” she continues. “I learned a ton about food, service, timelines, flow, logistics, guest experience, and catering to couples' needs for their special day.” Five years later she was ready to start her own company.
Dorman is the Owner of 42 North, a full-service wedding and event planning firm. She is based in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and specializes in high-luxury celebrations across New England. She also mentors young wedding planners through a sister company, Mavinhouse Events.
Early in her career, Dorman worked as an event hostess, an executive assistant, and a GM at a restaurant. “These experiences helped me build fortitude and a deep understanding of what happens in the ‘back of the house.’” Dorman explains. Her first wedding planning job was for a small, local company where she took on more responsibilities before getting clients of her own.
Treynet is the founder and CFO of Firefly Events, a high-level event planning company with offices in New York, California, and Wyoming. She also runs The Firefly Method, a community and education platform for thousands of wedding planners and small business owners across the world.
She started a career as a development coordinator for a nonprofit in Los Angeles, where she planned large-scale, celebrity-driven events. A year later she helped her best friend plan his wedding on the island of Holbox, Mexico, and started Firefly Events soon after. (Fun fact: She booked her first paying client off Craigslist!)
Rago owns Michelle Rago Destinations, a wedding and events company considered one of the best in the world. Her office is based in New York City, but she is known for organizing elaborate destination weddings in far-flung locations.
She attended the New York Restaurant School, worked in hotel sales, and operated a flower business for years before landing on weddings. Those experiences gave her a “more holistic approach of producing with an emphasis on design, food and beverage, and service,” she says.
Skills and Qualifications
Now that you know what it takes to get your foot in the door, it's time to learn more about the skills and qualifications of successful wedding planners.
Be a Great Leader During Stressful Situations
Being a wedding planner requires you to wear many hats. At any one time, you have to deal with vendors, couples, families, and finances. Of course, there can also be a lot of drama. “Being a good leader and being able to stay calm, delegate, listen, and lead in a time of stress is your most important skill,” Ferguson says.
Learn these skills by interning or shadowing with wedding planners, so you can be immersed in different situations and learn how to address the chaos.
Be Empathetic While Remaining Professional
“Anyone can learn the systems and standard operating procedures of event planning, but what makes a planner really great at their job are characteristics like problem-solving, empathy, professionalism, and high attention to detail,” says Dorman. “Someone who likes to feel purposeful, and strives to make others feel important and cared for are two factors for success in this unique industry.”
Be Organized and Attentive to Details
Wedding planning requires you to be uber-organized and attentive to details. After all, so many components go into the event from schedules to menus to dance playlists. “These skills or traits can be built on as you grow into your role,” says Dorman. “They are muscles that can get stronger as they are flexed.” If you don’t have these traits naturally, consider an internship or entry-level job to help you develop them.
Get Hands-on Experience
While you don’t technically need any certifications or degrees to become a wedding planner, getting experience from a veteran is essential. “As a wedding planner, you’re also safeguarding one of the most important times in most people’s lives so it’s imperative you know what you’re doing,” says Treynet.
“Corporate planning or nonprofit planning does not count,” adds Ferguson. “You must seek out quality education from a reputable source and couple this with hands-on experience by working under a wedding-trained and experienced planner.”
Seek Out Learning Opportunities
“The best wedding planners have a ‘never stop learning’ mindset,” says Hoesch. “They read, they watch webinars and social media lives, they collaborate and listen to wedding podcasts. They take courses, attend workshops and conferences.” Many of these resources are available online, so you can start your education in your free time. As Rago puts it, “If I have learned anything over the last 20 years, it’s the importance of constantly learning and keeping up with what is tried-and-true.”