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Wedding Planner jobs
What's it really like?
When Erika Unbehaun met the love of her life in 2007, she left her successful legal career in the United States to begin a new life in the UK and pursue her childhood dream of making other couples' dreams come true.
Today Erika now runs her own successful event planning company in London - FlutterFly Events – and has never looked back! Here she reveals how she landed her dream job…
I’ve worked in law most of my career life which is pretty much the polar opposite of wedding planning! I’ve always had a creative personality, which is imperative for a wedding planner.
I remember when I was finishing university I met with a career counsellor to take a career test. My results? Wedding planner neared the top of the list!
From that point I started planning weddings in Colorado as a side job and I knew immediately that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
In late 2007 I moved from America to the UK after getting married to a wonderful German man. Immediately upon arrival, I was hired by leading investment bank, Goldman Sachs, to plan and execute large corporate events and conferences. I enjoyed it but I took the plunge and decided to follow my dream and open my own business, FlutterFly Events.
The UK is now my permanent home so I've focused on setting only the highest goals for my wedding planning business here in London.
I love planning weddings because you get to work with a variety of different people and personalities, plus, you must keep abreast all the latest fashion trends!
Although I work for myself, I see vendors and venue managers as colleagues since I work closely with them in the run up to the big day.
A good vendor will go out of their way to turn dreams into realities so working closely with them is a must to ensure all elements of the wedding will come together in a seamless string of events.
I also love cake so going to the cake tasting appointments are always fun!
The worst part of the job is when something does go wrong. This could be anything from the wrong colour napkin ring at the reception to the caterer not showing up!
Fingers are pointed at the planner regardless of whose fault it may be.
It's emotionally difficult when that happens but a wedding planner has to learn to develop thick skin and not take things personally in these types of situations.
I would advise all aspiring wedding planners to seek relevant experience before lacing up the wedding gown and pinning on the boutonnières.
This can be accomplished by contacting the event department at a hotel that caters to weddings, an established wedding planner, a bridal association or even a food caterer so you can watch the day as the event unfolds.
I also recommend taking some wedding planning courses and gaining a relevant qualification and professional designation. People do judge and they’ll be much more relaxed knowing their in the hands of someone who is well-trained.
I also recommend that people visit wedding blogs on the internet and take advantage of free articles that can be downloaded on websites - I have some free vendor questionnaires on my website Flutterflyevents.com and watch videos on wedding planning.
My favourite blogs are:
Wedding planners are some of the happiest people in the world. We run our own business, set our own schedule and get to work with a variety of great people and personalities. On top of that, we get to make a couple's wedding day dreams come true!
Also known as...
A wedding planner is a professional event planner who will use expert knowledge of the wedding industry to plan a couple's wedding.
This role can include planning every event from the engagement right up to the honeymoon, including pre-wedding parties and post-wedding lunches.
A wedding planner's primary goal is to feed inspiration, advice and support to the couple while planning a seamless string of events that culminates in an exceptional day for family and friends.
Love may be in the air but in reality, the average wedding takes a staggering 250 hours to plan.
A wedding planner can cut this time in half for the couple. Even more importantly, they can use their established relationships with reputable suppliers to get the best deals, at the best prices, for the big day.
Due to the emotional nature of a wedding, a wedding planner acts as a neutral and objective professional to stave off stress, pressure, and arguments, ensuring the couple enjoy their engagement.
The job begins with an initial consultation where a couple will describe their wedding dreams, likes and dislikes, list any special requirements and talk through a preliminary budget.
From this consultation, the wedding planner then sets about turning these dreams into a creative reality.
A wedding planner will have been to hundreds of weddings and have seen it all. They will know which suppliers to work with and which suppliers to avoid.
They are trained to know what type of wedding gown suits every body shape, how the colour wheel works for themes, what the best time of the year to take a cruise is, and hundreds more details that prevent upsetting mishaps for the happy couple.
Wedding planners also use negotiating skills with the suppliers for the wedding to get the best discounts, deals and/or upgrades during the contract phase.
Although the wedding planner assists in styling and theming the event, they never take over. Final decisions are always left to the client as a wedding is an emotional celebration and must be a reflection of the couple’s personality.
Working as a wedding planner is a time-consuming profession but one of the most rewarding and varied jobs in the market.
The benefits are that most wedding planners own their own business, set their own schedule and work with a variety of clients.
However, the hours are long since effectively most planners run two businesses: 'wedding planning' and the 'business'. Planners also often work seven days a week as most weddings tend to take place at the weekend.
Wedding planners also spend a lot of time travelling as, after a busy week, they may need to drive 200 miles to dress the venue late Friday night for a Saturday wedding or drive out to the country on a Thursday for a weekend wedding.
However, despite the dedication required, most wedding planners will testify that there is nothing more satisfying then seeing a happy bride as she walks into the reception venue for the first time.
Every wedding planner will find their own way to charge for their services and, depending on location, salaries will vary.
In the UK, a wedding planner could start off earning between £16,000 and £25,000. An established planner could make £30,000 - £70,000 and a high end planner with an impeccable reputation could make £300,000.
There are no formal qualifications required to become a wedding planner; however, since a wedding will be the most important, and expensive, event in someone’s life, they will want to commission someone with real credentials.
A wedding planning certificate is a great selling point and can be undertaken online through a reputable Wedding Planning School such as QC School of Wedding Planning.
As a wedding planner you will need:
If you’re going to start your own business you will need to be competent in areas such as:
You will also need computing skills such as the ability to use word processing and data management programmes such as Microsoft Excel.
There are tons of free services for business start-ups, however, so take advantage of the free seminars and events and be sure you make an appointment with your local business advisor.
Using the Internet is a great advantage as the web is a great tool for wedding inspiration. For example, there are free trials of great tools such as Perfect Table Plan so you can plan the table and seating plans for the event.
The wedding industry is female dominated but some of the country's leading planners are male.
The job can be strenuous. For example, it may require carrying stacks of chairs from one room to another, decorating high areas at the venue in fairy lights for example, and carrying wedding gifts back and forth from the ceremony to the reception and then from the reception to the car park.
The work location varies constantly. Client meetings usually take place in a convenient and public location such as a coffee shop or hotel lobby, and vendor meetings usually occur at the vendor’s location so that a planner can work with their products and see what they have to offer.
A background in events is very beneficial to the job but not necessary.
If you are interested in breaking into the industry then it would be worthwhile to try and team up with an established planner for a summer to get some work experience.
Learning from an experienced planner means you can see what works and what doesn't without ruining your reputation from day one. It is advisable to work at a couple of events before deciding to go out on your own.
Most wedding planners are self-employed but there will often be vacancies as an administrator or assistant in a wedding planning or event management company.
Starting off as a wedding co-ordinator in a venue such as a hotel would be a great start to a career as an independent wedding planner.
Working for the Designer Wedding Show, an exhibition for the wedding industry, will help ease you into the industry and connect you with suppliers.
Confetti is a large wedding retailer throughout the UK which could provide a good base from which to break into the wedding industry.
If you are an experienced planner looking for a change, you may want to consider specialising in one particular field of wedding planning such as Nautical weddings or Novelty-themed weddings.