You can learn how to be a wedding planner without going to college or getting a degree. In this section, you will learn how to teach yourself wedding planning simply by observing, inquiring, listening, reading and then making it happen.
Places to go to learn
The most logical place to begin learning about planning weddings is to observe weddings themselves. It may sound obvious – but it’s the most critically important way to learn. So how do you find weddings to observe?
If you come from a large family, it should be easy, as you will be invited to attend a number of weddings anyway. Same goes if you have a large circle of friends. If this is not the case for you, ask everyone you know if it would be okay for you to tag along to any weddings they are going to, or if you can be their guest. Now is not the time to be shy!
If you even slightly know the bride and groom, ask if they would allow you to sit in on the ceremony only. This will not cost them anything, and in fact, they may feel flattered.
Bridal fairs and expos
One of the first events the newly engaged bride-to-be and her friends or bridal party will want to attend is a local bridal fair or expo. They are essentially a trade show for the bridal industry. Products and services showcased will include: wedding and attendant fashions (often exhibited via a fashion show) wedding planners, lingerie designers and retailers, beauty consultants, travel agents, florists, cake bakers, decorators, limousine rental companies, caterers and venue operators.
When you attend a bridal fair or expo, observe what booths, services or fashions generate the most excitement. Is one venue more popular than others? What honeymoon locale are travel agents booking most frequently this year? What baker, florist or designer is hot or in the news? Ask questions at every booth and keep as many notes as possible. Remember, you are teaching yourself and at the end of the day you will not receive notes to take home unless you create them.
When you come across a competitor’s booth (another wedding planner), at the very least, take a business card and brochure. If a website is not posted on the card, ask if they have one and note it on the business card. Jot down any great marketing ideas you observe and information on fees and services provided. Keep them together with the business cards in a file on your competitors.
People to speak with
As you prepare for your new career, look for opportunities to speak with and learn from brides-to-be and other groups involved in the planning and execution of a wedding. Here are some tips on speaking to different groups at bridal fairs and expos,
Use the bridal fair or expo as an opportunity to speak with as many wedding planners as possible. If you have not set up your business yet and are still in fact-gathering mode, you might act as if you are interested in possibly hiring a planner, and ask a few interview questions as you would if you were really planning on hiring one.
One of the best ways to learn about the business is to speak with vendors. After all, they are the experts in their field. For example, a florist could give you detailed information about all the flowers that are needed for a typical wedding (bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, flower arrangements for the ceremony and reception etc.), approximate costs, how far ahead to order, what is most popular with brides, and anything else you would need to know about wedding flowers.
One of the most efficient ways to meet as many brides-to-be as possible, one at a time is to visit bridal fairs and expos. Speaking with them can give you some insights into what brides are looking for, what they are experiencing as they plan their weddings and why they are (or are not) using a wedding planner.
Talking to brides who have just been married is also helpful. When you hear of someone recently married, ask if you can have a chat with them about the experience. Ask them what went right and what went wrong, what they would change if they could, and what they wish their wedding planner had done for them.
If they didn’t have a wedding planner, find out why. You will be asked why someone should use your services many times during initial consultations – this question can help you prepare. Ask them if/how using a wedding planner might have helped.
Celebrants, ministers, priests
If you can arrange meetings with a range of celebrants and members of the clergy, you will learn more about ceremonies than you ever could from a book. These people have seen it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. So ask them questions and soak up their experience.
Things to do
We’ve all heard the conundrum – no one will hire me without experience but I can’t get experience without first getting a job. Fortunately, you can get wedding experience before someone hires you to plan their wedding. Here are some possibilities.
Plan weddings for friends and family
Once you’ve attended a few weddings and followed the excellent advice you’ve learnt in this guide, you should be ready to start planning a wedding. Almost all of us have family, friends or acquaintances that are in the middle of planning a wedding right now. This presents you with a great opportunity to get your first ‘client’. Even if you can’t secure a paid arrangement, at least assist for free – the experience will be invaluable, and if you do it well, will provide you with your first reference, which will help you secure your next client.
So how do convince family and friends to let you assist in planning their wedding? This is where your ability to market yourself comes in. If you have done your homework – research, setting up systems getting to know all of the aspects of your role as wedding planner – you will be more confident when it comes to persuading them of your professionalism and commitment. When you meet with them, explain the benefits of having a wedding planner, and how you can help them save time and money. Be prepared for any questions that might arise and be ready to share some ideas with the couple.
If a couple are not so keen to entrust all of the wedding plans to you, remember the smallest service you provide may assist you in getting future wedding planning work.
When you are dealing with people you are close to such as family and friends, it’s important to remember to be as professional as possible – even if your future sister-in-law drives you crazy with her ‘Bridezilla’ behavior. Remember – this is not your wedding, and if she wants to have a goth-style wedding, it’s her prerogative. You can gently steer her towards something subtler, but in the end, it’s her wishes that count. Just don’t get into an argument – after all, you don’t want to blow your professional cover on your first outing as a wedding planner!
Let the couple know in advance that you will want some photographs of the wedding for your portfolio (a collection of samples to show future clients). After the wedding, you can also ask for a letter of recommendation.
Learn from a pro
If you have the opportunity, spending time with an experienced wedding planner can be a tremendously valuable learning experience. Imagine being present during client consultations and vendor meetings and even more importantly, having the opportunity to attend real weddings to see how it all comes together.
The added bonus is that they might be open to bringing in a partner or hiring additional staff sometime in the future. If you get along well with people and are able to show what a valuable asset you’d be, you could be a shoo-in for a permanent position.
One way to learn from a pro is to volunteer your services. A busy wedding planner might be able to use help with tasks such as running errands making decorations, staffing a booth at a bridal fair etc. Depending on your schedule and the wedding planner’s needs, you could offer your services free of charge for a few months.
Get a part-time job
Another good way to get related experience is by taking a part-time job with a company involved in the wedding industry. Even if the job doesn’t focus on wedding planning, it may give you an opportunity to learn more about weddings. For example, you could apply to work at a reception venue, or for a caterer. Module 6 covers the many career opportunities in the wedding industry, and how to apply for a job.
What to read and watch
The public is fascinated by weddings. So it’s not surprising that the media (television, newspapers, magazines, movies, books and the internet) provides us with plenty of coverage of weddings – both real and fantasy. Here are some places you can access information and ideas.
If you visit your local newsagents, you’ll find a range of bridal magazines. The most popular bridal magazines include: Bride Magazine, Real Weddings, Modern Wedding, Studio Brides, Cosmopolitan Bride, Masters of Weddings, SHOP Weddings, My Perfect Wedding Planner and White. Many cities also have local magazines. Most bridal magazines are jam-packed with helpful how-to articles, ideas and advertisements. Pick up a selection of magazines from your local magazine store, visit their websites or browse them for free at your local public library.
Among the film classics that feature a wedding are Fiddler on the Roof, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Hello Dolly!, High Society, Love Story, The Sound of Music and Steel Magnolias. More recent wedding flicks include: Wedding Crashers, Monster in Law, The Wedding Date, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Runaway Bride, The Wedding Planner, It Had to Be You, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Internet and Wedding Blogs
The Internet is a great source of information, but it can be overwhelming. Just type ‘wedding’ into you search engine and literally hundreds of millions of sites come up. Below is a short list of recommended sites. Many have checklists and some offer interactive wedding planners that can be used to keep track of the wedding budget, timelines, guest list, gifts etc.
Bookstores carry a range of books on weddings, but it can be costly to build a substantial library. For a low-cost alternative, check out your local library. Here are some books worth keeping an eye-out for (and which you can order through Amazon – new or used).
Make your personal success plan.
Write down all the ways you can and want to go teach yourself wedding planning.
What places can you visit in the next 3 months? Who are the people you can talk to? What are the things you can do? What will you read and watch to become an amazing wedding planner?
Note: This assignment ISN’T REQUIRED for certification but for yourself, to help you become a fantastic wedding planner as soon as possible.
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