How to Prepare for a Career in Wedding Planning

Job experience and professional certifications can make all the difference

A wedding planner
••• Jetta Productions/Getty Images

Wedding planners come from all walks of life. While that doesn’t mean getting started is as simple as printing some new business cards, it does mean that with hard work and the right skills, a career in wedding planning is possible no matter your background.

In fact, according to Marsha Ballard, former president and secretary of the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACW) and owner of Stardust Celebrations Corporation, there is not necessarily one field of work or study that produces the most wedding planners. So whether you've just graduated from school or you are looking for a career change, consider whether or not you have the skills necessary to become a successful wedding planner.

Work Background

So you know that you're interested in wedding planning, but you're not sure where to start. If you're looking to get a feel for the industry and develop some of the skills necessary to become a wedding planner, you might want to be on the lookout for certain job opportunities. Which opportunities? For that question, I turn again to Marsha Ballard for answers.

One of the best ways to get started in the business is to work as an assistant for an established wedding planner. Who better to learn from than from a successful planner him or herself? That's not the only way to get your feet wet, though. The banquets department of a large hotel can serve as a good training ground to learn the expectations of the reception component of a wedding, according to Ballard. Other ways to gain experience involved in any kind of event or banquet planning capacity or even working for a vendor who frequently handles weddings. Such vendors might include florists or cake decorators, among others. 

Education and Certifications

The right educational background also can prepare individuals for a successful career as a wedding planner. A bachelor's degree in meeting and event management, hospitality, or tourism management can provide useful knowledge and skills while also increasing your marketability and credibility with potential clients. A degree specific to the field isn't the only option, though. Ballard suggests that degrees in other useful fields also can be beneficial. Since being an independent wedding planner involves running a business, degrees in accounting or business administration also can come in handy.

A Certified Wedding & Event Planning (CWEP) certificate also is a good idea and, like a degree, can add to your marketability. Numerous organizations offer courses and certifications that typically involve attending a class or multiple classes in order to earn certification. AACWP offers courses that last from one day to one week, costing $400 per course.

People Skills

All the experience and all the education won't be a substitute for being a good people person. While some of that comes naturally, it's also a skill that can be cultivated and developed through experience. When working as a wedding planner, you'll be seeing clients through planning for one of the biggest days of their lives—and they're going to count on you to have all the answers. They also might be coping with a lot of stress and pressure, especially as the wedding draws near, and you need to be able to handle even the most difficult clients with grace.

Additionally, a big part of the job is working with vendors, which requires negotiating with a lot of different individual businesses, from venues to DJs, and more.