Want to Become a Wedding Planner? This Expert Shares Her Best Advice

Want to Become a Wedding Planner? This Expert Shares Her Best Advice
Photo courtesy of Debbie Orwat.

I’ve often dreamed of becoming a wedding planner.

I love weddings, and I love — love — making things pretty and organized.

So I’ve always wondered: What’s it take to be a wedding planner?

Is there some magical school where you enter as a normal person and leave as JLo in that Matthew McConaughey romcom?

If you’ve asked yourself the same questions (and really, who hasn’t?), keep reading. I asked two professionals for their best advice on how to become a wedding planner.

Unlike becoming, say, a nurse or an accountant, there’s no one way to become a wedding planner — so read as much as you can, talk with planners in your area and then choose your own best path.

What Traits Do Wedding Planners Need?

First things first: Do you have the skills and personality to become a wedding planner?

According to industry pros, here are some key traits every wedding planner should have:

  • Organization: Juggling dozens of weddings — and multiple vendors for each one — requires you to be on the ball, all the time.
  • Communication: Not only will you need to communicate with vendors and clients before and during the event, you’ll also need to deal with guests in a chaotic environment.
  • Patience: Clients want their weddings to be perfect, which means they can often be demanding.
  • Stamina: On wedding days, you’ll be on-site, on your feet (with a smile!) for up to 15 hours straight.

“Many of us choose this career because we thrive on the excitement, the challenge and the madness that happens on the wedding day,” explains Debbie Orwat, founder and Chief Inspiration Officer at Planner’s Lounge, a community for event planners.

“We live to solve problems, keep everything on time and manage 20+ vendors without breaking a sweat. If you can handle stress and keep your cool, then this could be a good career choice.”

Should Wedding Planners Get a Degree or Certificate?

You definitely don’t need a college degree to become a wedding planner, but majors like business, communications, public relations, marketing or event planning could give you a helpful foundation.

And while certificates might make you more appealing to potential clients, they also aren’t necessary.

If you’d like to pursue one, Orwat hears “the most positive feedback” about North American Wedding Academy. Its online “Certificate in Wedding Planning” program lasts 12 weeks and costs $1,100 (or $1,350 if paid over 10 months).  

How to Get Experience as a Wedding Planner

More important than degrees or certificates? Experience.

Whether it’s an internship at an agency or simply planning a wedding for free, acquiring in-person experience is key to success in this career.

Angelina Colhouer of The Apostolic Wife got started by planning and designing her own wedding.  

Angelina Colhouer talks to guests about her wedding planning business at a bridal expo in Tampa, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Afterwards, “almost everyone I knew started to encourage me to start my own company,” she says. “I agreed to do a friend’s wedding, and it came out beautifully. As soon as that wedding was over, I immediately booked two more.”  

Even if you can’t get a wedding planner job, search for a position in the events industry. For example, Orwat recommends working for a caterer, florist or decorator.

“You’ll have the opportunity to work at many different venues, see how different vendors work and experience a lot of weddings,” she explains. “It’ll also give you an idea of how physically demanding it is to work weddings.”

Or, she suggests going in-house by working in the events or catering department at a hotel or venue.

Should Wedding Planners Work for a Company or Go Freelance?

The answer to this question totally depends on you, your preferences and your experience level.

If you’ve worked in event planning or project management, or have prior experience running your own business, you might be good to go freelance.

On the other hand, if you’re a fresh college grad or don’t have experience managing events, it might be smart to join a company first.

If you do choose to go freelance, here are a few tips:

  • Invest in a professional website: As Orwat explains, “Your website is your storefront and is the first impression potential clients see.”
  • Educate yourself: Orwat recommends taking online courses, attending conferences and even hiring a business coach.
  • Prepare for upfront costs: When Colhouer started, she needed to pay for an LLC, styled photo shoots and a promotional video.

What’s Life Like as a Wedding Planner?

If you’re looking for a wedding planner job description, there’s no one-size-fits-all.

But wherever you’re working as a wedding planner — and whether you’re a freelancer or employee — you can expect every day to be different.

You might spend your time answering emails from clients and calls from vendors. You might taste cakes one day, and choose flowers the next. You might have to juggle invoices, taxes and other business tasks.

Of course, you’ll also have to plan and attend many events — so it’s imperative you’re OK with working on evenings and weekends.

And lastly? Don’t expect it to be easy. As Orwat warns, this job is “demanding both physically and mentally.”

How Much Do Wedding Planners Make?

Your wedding planner salary will depend greatly on your location and experience — but Payscale reports the national median is $42,407 per year.

According to Orwat, here are some annual salary ranges wedding planners can expect:

  • As a side gig: $5,000-$10,000
  • As an experienced full-time planner in a major city: $75,000-$200,000
  • As a full-time planner in a rural area: $25,000-$75,000

Since she’s new to the game, Colhouer determined her rates by speaking with established wedding planners in her area. They charged $3,000-$5,000 per wedding, so she decided to charge $2,000 for her first one.

Now that she has a few under her belt, she charges $2,500 — and once she takes her side hustle full time, she plans to increase her rates again.

Should You Become a Wedding Planner?

Ready to dive in and create your own wedding planner job? Hopefully this post has armed you with enough information — and motivation — to get going.

Colhouer arranges plate settings for a styled shoot in Tampa, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

“If I were to start over from scratch, I would’ve encouraged myself to start this business earlier,” says Colhouer.

“I let my own fear and nervousness hinder me from starting what I’ve grown to love dearly.”

Because, although it’s hard work, wedding planners seem to truly love their jobs.

“Spending six to 12 months with a couple, then seeing it all come to fruition for a stunning celebration is unbelievably rewarding,” says Orwat.

Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.