If you’re planning your wedding and have found yourself to be surprisingly fabulous at it, or the big day is over and you can’t stop thinking about the number of guests that said, ‘it was the best wedding they’d ever been to’, or ‘you could be a wedding planner’.
If this sounds like you, then you might consider wedding planning as a career.
We’ve spoken to the experts to get the lowdown on being a professional wedding planner and gathered top tips for breaking into the industry.
Good wedding planners are usually extremely organised and always prepared for any eventuality. Think Hermione Granger kind of organised. They are also problem solvers with the ability to think on their feet. As the job involves a lot of face-to-face interaction, the ability to converse with anyone and a bubbly personality is a must.
According to the National Careers Service, in addition to the personality traits outlined above, you will also need the ability to manage a budget. Solid financial knowledge is essential as many couples will rely on you to set their budget and help them stick to it. If you are self-employed you will also have to issue invoices. A good wedding planner will require sales and negotiations skills, not only to secure business but to build relationships with suppliers to help couples get the best rates they can. You will also need to work under pressure and be able to make deadlines in a pressurised environment. At the height of wedding season, between May and September, you could be juggling multiple weddings at one time, and it is necessary to give them all equal and full attention.
We’ve all seen the film The Wedding Planner, and believe us when we say there’s nothing glamorous about being a wedding planner in real life – and there’s definitely no Matthew McConaughey at the end! Due to the nature of the job, wedding planners work long hours that include evenings and weekends. Some of your time will be spent meeting clients and going over their ideas but behind the scenes, you will be expected to do all the work they just don’t have the time to do, such as researching a list of photographers to meet exact specifications or setting up meetings with suppliers.
Being a wedding planner can mean anything from sitting down with a couple to help them plan their budget, to being on hand for important decisions such as picking the venue, or simply being there on the day to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Although it is not a direct requirement, a lot of couples expect their wedding planner to bring a creative element to the job. This can mean anything from styling the venue yourself to being able to put together mood boards on different themes.
A wedding planner in the UK and Northern Ireland is expected to earn on average between £17,000 and £25,000 a year whereas Payscale.com reports a wedding planner in Ireland is estimated to earn an average of €25,131 a year. These figures are all approximations and can vary depending on whether you work for a company or for yourself.
Although event management qualifications are available, these are not always required when looking for a job in the industry. A degree in a subject such as PR or communications with transferrable skills can stand you just as well. Don’t worry, if you don’t have any qualifications to speak of, building a good portfolio will be what sets you apart from the crowd.
Many people assume wedding planners are self-employed, this is not always the case. Self-employed wedding planners have the luxury of a flexible working schedule but it can be difficult to build up a portfolio without any experience. Learning the trade in a wedding planning company will have more rigid hours but would provide you with valuable experience and a guaranteed pay cheque at the end of the month. In Ireland, there is stiff competition for entry-level wedding planners but a good way to gain experience is to approach hotels and inquire about whether they are hiring for their events and banqueting team.
The downside to starting out in any career is trying to gain experience while no one will hire you for your lack of experience. Unfortunately, when you are just starting out as an event planner most experience you gain will be free of charge but try to think out of the box as much as possible. Working pro bona doesn’t have to mean quitting your job and living on beans while you slog your guts out at a full-time internship for a year unless you want to that is. If (like all of us) quitting your salaried job for an internship isn’t an option, ask a local wedding planner if you can volunteer on a casual basis at weekend weddings. Similarly, there is some crossover between a wedding planner and a venue stylist, so honing your creative skills under the guidance of an experienced venue stylist will look great on your resume. If the events don’t come to you, then make the events. Approach any friends you know who are getting married but haven’t booked a wedding planner and ask if they would like an inexperienced events planner free of charge. They get an additional helping hand and you get some valuable experience and hopefully a glowing testimonial, it’s a win, win situation!
Event planning is a creative industry so if you want to break into the competitive Irish market with little experience, you’ve got be creative about it. Unless you live in Dublin, there should only be a handful of event management companies in your area making it easier to research each one and offer a tailored application. Don’t worry if there are no jobs currently advertised, make yourself known to the directors and ask about casual internships and the possibility of a job in the future. Don’t harass them, but make sure to check in around once every six months.
While becoming a wedding planner without qualifications can be achievable, setting up your own business is a different ball game. A short course in business management is recommended before branching out on your own. Self employed wedding planners have to juggle clients, bringing in new business and all the admin that comes with issuing invoices and keeping on top of the financial side of the business. Didn’t we say that you’d need to be organised and good at budgets? The upsides to being a self employed wedding planner is being able to work for yourself, liaising on a one-to-one basis with clients and essentially running your business in a style that works for you.