Monday, January 5, 2009

Do you want to become a wedding planner? Please read my advice before you venture out

Now that 2009 is here, not only am I getting inquiries about 2009 weddings, but many girls have emailed me for an internship position at least once a week now. I am no longer hiring at this point, but please feel welcome to send your resume and I may contact you based on day of event needs.
I wanted to take some time to write about what it really means and what it takes to become a professional wedding planner. I know so many girls would want this job as their full time career and who wouldn't? It's exciting, fun and helping someone through a very important stage in his/her life is truly rewarding. However, let me make one thing clear.
Being a wedding planner is a business, not a hobby. It's more than dealing with pretty flowers, going to food tasting with clients & choosing table linens. You have to be prepared to deal with people in this profession.

Just because you like to decorate, throw parties, please people around you, have a sense of style and attention to detail, DOES NOT entail that you can make it into this business. And just because you get certified through a wedding association and pay money to become a member DOES NOT make you a professional wedding planner. Yes, you may have helped out with your friends' weddings and have really considered if this was your destiny. I mean, you have to start somewhere, right? But before you seriously consider becoming a wedding planner, I want you to honestly examine yourself & your abilities. And please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to discourage you from becoming one, but it's a whole different ball game once you actually start your business. I wish someone would have told me or gave me good advice before I got started. However, I learned it the hard way.

1) More and more I realize, wedding planning is all about relationships. Relationship with clients, vendors, parents, and etc. Networking is the key and if you cannot sell yourself out there in the industry, it's going to be tough making yourself known or meeting the right people and vendors.
2) You must have an excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Good common sense and insight are just as important and you need to be able to read people's minds. I am not saying you need to be a psychologist, solving all clients' sticky issues or problems, but you need to figure out exactly how you can help the client in the most efficient way. Because every bride is so different, you need to gently guide and lead her. There's no RIGHT way to go about planning. You need to be flexible and to be able to encourage your client to be excited to be on board with you. There's no way you can be perfect at relationship skills. It's a learning process and this is something I'm also working on. Trust me, I've had my mistakes and huge failures but it's also humbling to know that I cannot be perfect or satisfy my clients 100%

3) Your job is not to please everyone and don't burn yourself out. You need to set standards, boundaries, and a work ethic for your company and for yourself. If the bride wishes to use unprofessional vendors that are not aligned with the wedding vision, it's better to refuse their services and talk your clients out of using them so that you can avoid any mistakes on the day of. And if you feel that you will not be compensated in properly, it's better not to get involved in the first place.

4) You need to be legitimately licensed which means file an income tax, keep a separate business account, know how much you're actually earning through wedding planning. Most importantly, having a good contract and written policies are just as important as having your business name.

5) You need to know great vendors and mentors who share the same heart and vision to keep you motivated.

6) It's not a matter of how many weddings you coordinate a year/month, you need to be connected with the right kind of clients. Just because they need your help doesn't always mean you need to offer your services. I've had my temptations where I just wanted to take on more clients so I can build up my portfolio, but it was wiser that I didn't, especially close friends and family members.

My advice can go on and on but I would like to close with one thought, "You are not defined by your career" this is something I learned through my husband over the years and he always makes sure that I set my values and standards as a person, not just as a wedding planner. All the more, I want to stay true to myself. There are some seasons when wedding opportunities can decrease and people may not need your services right away. Nevertheless, you don't want to be too desperate and get too ahead of yourself to seize your dreams. However, you cannot expect opportunities to happen, you must take risks and chances and most importantly, you must put in your effort to make it successful. I am in no position to say that my business is successful. And my ultimate goal is NOT to become one of the top notch wedding planners in the industry who only offer full package planning, but the clients I've worked with in the past have given me courage and much encouragement to become a better person and because of their love, I am now where I am today. I still don't advertise and have a fabulous wedding website/blog, but it was through their word of mouth and referrals that I keep myself busy and continue to learn through my mistakes and failures.

The bottom line is that I would not recommend this career to all the girls out there who are dreaming of becoming a successful planner. Wedding planning as your career will be just as hard as opening up any type of business. But don't let your fears & circumstances bring you down, you only have one life to live and you have to do what you love doing for the rest of your life.
If you're interested reading more on this topic, I also posted an entry a while back about "your relationship with the wedding coordinator"


Anonymous said...

Esther, i think you really hit the points on the head that wedding coordinating is also a business that requires a lot of business skills rather than just a great fashion sense or being crafty. You are opening my eyes more and more! Thanks! :)