The Realities of Being an Independent Wedding Planner

A wedding reception hall.

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Starting a wedding planning business can lead to a rewarding and creative career, but it takes the same sweat equity as building any other service business.

The reality of the wedding planning industry is that it is not glamorous—but it can be fun for the right person, according to Marsha Ballard, former president and secretary for the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACW) and owner of Stardust Celebrations Corporation in Dallas, Texas. She describes the work as physically and mentally demanding with between 12 and 20 weddings to plan annually.

Work, Hours, and Pay

Wedding planners serve as the point person who must bring together all of the required professionals to execute a wedding event. That includes having ongoing and working relationships with people like the venue managers, catering managers, musicians and/or DJs, ceremony officiants, florists, photographers, furniture and linen rental companies, and more. And, of course, they must successfully market themselves to brides and grooms and their respective families.

Hours can be long, and because of the nature of the business, working weekends is a necessary reality. It can be a good job for someone who likes to be on the go, as much of the work involves meeting with vendors and potential clients at various locations. Potential clients often are only available to meet during the evening, so keep that in mind too.

The median pay for professional event planners was about $48,000 as of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Ballard says wedding planners should realistically expect to work 50-60 hours per week to earn that kind of income.

Business Realities and Credentials

Being an independent wedding planner also means running your own business. This includes tasks related to promoting yourself, invoicing and billing clients, attending networking events, maintaining business relationships, bookkeeping, and so much more. As your business grows, you may need to hire assistants to make sure everything gets done.

Because you'll spend a lot of time in your car, going from meeting to meeting, make sure you have the tools to be able to keep up with your business responsibilities while on the road. That means you'll need a good laptop computer and/or tablet, and you should expect to spend a lot of time on your phone.

Certification is not necessary, but earning a Certified Wedding and Event Planning (CWEP) certificate can add to your credibility and marketability. It also helps when getting started if you have a bachelor's degree in meeting and event management or another hospitality-related field.

The Right Personality for the Job

The best match for this job is a people person who is detail-oriented. The vast majority of time is spent coordinating and planning with clients and vendors, and organization skills and good time management are musts as many details must come together for weddings to go the way clients would like them to go.

Being a wedding planner is very much a balancing act between being the person in charge behind the scenes and acting as support, emotional and otherwise, for the engaged couple throughout the process. A wedding planner must be efficient, calmly confident, and capable of managing a client's needs, wants, and expectations.

You also need to be willing to be accessible and available, sometimes 24/7. Especially as a wedding date approaches, clients may be dealing with a lot of stress and will want to reach out to you to make sure even the smallest of problems are being handled. If you can handle those kinds of demands calmly and with patience, that might be one of the best signs that wedding planning is right for you.