Every year, I receive literally hundreds of internship applications from young women who want to become wedding planners. We have a very strict vetting process for choosing the best candidates for the position because we learned early on that an awful lot of people have a very wrong impression of what being a wedding or event planner actually is.
Jennifer Lopez's portrayal in The Wedding Planner not only made it look like a wedding planner doesn't really do a whole lot (and can carry all her backup supplies in a fanny-pack on the big day), but she also broke a very basic rule that shouldn't even have to be stated—she flirted with, and eventually stole away, the groom. Can you even imagine the review that the bride would have given her on WeddingWire?!
My favorite fictional wedding planner was Candice Bergen in Bride Wars. Imagine if a wedding planner could really tell her clients when they may get married. And if I ever tried to ask my brides to split my attention on their wedding day at the same venue, I imagine I'd be fired—if not worse. Brides want to be more than just "Bride One" and "Bride Two" on their wedding days.
But seriously, wedding and event planning is a very detail-oriented—and sometimes emotionally intense—career choice. There are no industry-standard business hours. There are no holidays. We rarely have a free weekend. And we work when clients hire us to work (sorry, Candice—we don't tell them when to get married).
Wedding planning may be portrayed as glamorous in some TV shows and in movies, but in reality, it's a stressful, exhausting business. So here's a reality check, from one seasoned wedding planner, for anybody considering going into the wedding planning career.
Random Texts and Phone Calls
Wedding planners receive random messages at all hours of the day and night, from clients who have a different standard of what is an emergency than most people. We walk a fine line between when to turn off our phones and make ourselves unavailable, and when it's not worth facing a bride's wrath later. And when we're in the middle of a wedding week, we can never be unavailable.
Planners have to get up at the crack of dawn on a client's wedding day. Most times, they haven't slept well because they're worrying about what the weather will be like, wondering if all of the vendors will show up on time, and hoping that nothing dramatic has occurred within the wedding party overnight. Then they're on-site telling the lighting crew where to put things, and supervising the arrival of the rental equipment, and the setup of the décor. They don't leave until the last guest is gone, the mess is cleaned up, and vendors have been paid.
Constantly Being the "Bad Guy"
From harassing a rental company until they go back and get the correct chairs the bride ordered, to having to enforce whatever rules the bride and groom want to be observed on their big day (no pics at the wedding, no social media posting, no shots at the bar, etc.), wedding planners are used to being the "bad guy." Brides and grooms might think it's simple to tell a planner to have a guest cut-off at the bar, but they don't take into account that their close friend or family member is likely already drunk enough to be pretty irritated when the bartender shuts them down—and somebody has to deal with the fallout.
Keeping Everything on Hand
A planner's bridal emergency bag weighs a ton, and yet, there always seems to be something else they could add to it. It's not just about safety pins and hairspray—they have to be prepared with any wedding day supplies that another vendor may have forgotten. Sometimes, planners even need to have a back-up plan for some of the bride's planning decisions. For example, I always bring votive candles and underwater LEDs with me when the clients insist on using floating candles in their décor, because when a candle capsizes from a guest bumping the table, they won't relight when they're wet.
If something goes wrong, and a guest is injured or something gets broken, the wedding planner is in charge, and it's their responsibility to handle the problem with a clear head. Also, most liability insurance won't cover the damage if the insured wedding planner has been drinking.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. She was the star of TLC’s "Wedding Island" where she planned and coordinated weddings on Vieques Island in the Caribbean.