I get a number of inquiries every month from people interested in getting started in wedding planning and wanting a job. Perhaps it is reality TV or just the growing industry itself, but it seems like everyone and their mother wants to be a wedding planner these days. If you are interested in the profession, here are a few more of thoughts and reflections on how to get started and what it takes in this series.
Flowers, fancy events, champagne and cupcakes… This is what you see in photos when it comes to weddings. The reality is that events and weddings is a small industry, it is hard work with long hours and it doesn’t always pay well when you start out. But hey, if you love it… there’s no better place to be.
If you are one of those crazies that thrive on details and you are wanting to get started as a wedding coordinator, you may have a few questions.
How does one get started in it?
Can you make a living from it?
Is it really for me?
For any aspiring planners, or just for curious onlookers, here are some of my honest and candid thoughts in this 3 part series.
The first thing you need is to get certified. The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada is the only place to go for this in Canada. It is an intensive weekend course with a test, with no yearly fee.
They teach you the how-to’s to get started, give you an overview of wedding and vendor basics and inform you of the business basics. A couple vendor guest speakers come in to speak about their specific industry as well (when I took it, we had a photographer and a DJ). After you get certified you get connected with all the coordinators in the country, with great online resources for certified planners only.
Some people take the wedding course to learn what the industry is all about (I don’t think this is a smart use of money.. can’t you just read about it online?).
Others take it knowing full well they want to do this as a job in some way.
Some come with experience and others with none.
Please note that this course is not something to take if you want to learn to plan your own wedding; it really is about the business of wedding planning.
Anyone wanting to get started and are serious about wedding planning, I always recommend this as a first step. Invest in yourself and learning.
Education is just the first step. The rest is all about experience.
Getting certified in wedding planning is like getting an undergrad in something like business. You must get your feet wet before you know if you really like it, and getting the undergrad does not guarantee you work (but hey, it is a good start!).
For me, I took this course as well as a post-grad in event design and event management at Seneca.
There are a number of colleges offering event planning programs. I don’t think it matters a whole lot which one you take, but what matters is that they provide you with practical experience built into the program. Event planning is an experience-oriented job, and without real-life events experience, your education isn’t all that useful.
I must stress that getting an education is only the first step, a means to an end.
Just like buying a camera does not make you a photographer and having a license of Photoshop does not make you a designer, getting a paper does not necessarily make you an event coordinator. What you do with the paperwork is up to you!
Come to think of it, in my events post-grad program there were about 14 people altogether. There was such a wide range of people taking that program. There were introverts who had never even volunteered in an event before and then there were people who had been managers at big companies who were looking for a career change.
A quick search on Facebook or Linkedin tells me only 2-3 of us are still doing events now. Not the best statistics, but those I expected to do events after the program are still doing it. That tells me that it is more about who you are than what education you get.
All in all, it is an experience-oriented line of work.
The most learning you will do is from getting your hands and feet wet, volunteering or helping with an event/wedding and running events yourself. Your experience will speak much more than what any program will teach you (though the education is an important investment into learning).
One good thing about my Seneca program was that it connected me with fantastic high-profile events around the city. I made connects and I got to try my hand at designing centrepieces, choosing linens and designing a room.
Still, after I graduated, there were big learning curves when I stepped into the industry of non-profit events and even bigger learning curves when I transitioned into weddings and owning my own business.
If you are interested in getting started in events or weddings, I always say (1) get educated and (2) get experience to build a foundation. Rome was not built overnight and neither will your budding event or wedding planning business.
Also in this series:
Rebecca Chan is a Toronto wedding planner and day of wedding coordinator providing sophisticated planning for the style-savvy couple. Whether you need planning assistance or wedding day coordination, Rebecca can help you create your dream wedding day. Contact her today, she'd love to hear from you.