Top Online Wedding Planning Schools (Bridal Consultant)
Planning a wedding can be a monumental task. The stress of coordinating an extravagant event with so many moving pieces can prove to be too much for the bride, groom or the family of both to do on their own. Wedding planners can take the weight off of the wedding party’s shoulders and do a lot of the leg work and coordinating for them.
As with other event planners, states do not currently require statewide licensing or credentialing for wedding planners or bridal consultants. Because much of what is required of a wedding planner involves marriage and business regulations and law, some wedding planning courses are available entirely online or through distance learning.
While wedding planners are just one subset of event planners, not all event planners can be wedding planners because knowledge is needed of various laws surrounding weddings, marriage licenses and officiating at weddings. Some wedding parties are turning to wedding planners to plan not only their wedding and reception, but also consultation for sending out invitations, picking out wedding bands and planning both the engagement party and the honeymoon. As a result, some schools, such as the Longevity’ Wedding Planning Institute, offer classes in wedding jewelry.
US News & World Report does not provide rankings for event planning programs, but does list leading undergraduate business programs, based on a survey of deans and senior faculty at schools accredited by the Association to Advance College Schools of Business. Management skills may be important in planning weddings with multiple vendors. US News & World Report named the following as among the leading management programs, according to the 2012 survey mentioned above:
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor
University of Pennsylvania
University of California--Berkeley
Another aspect of business studies, entrepreneurship, could be of interest to individuals intending to open their own wedding planning companies. In 2012, US News & World Report listed the following as among the leading entrepreneurship programs:
Indiana University --Bloomington
University of Pennsylvania
Courses for event planners
Aspiring wedding planners may consider taking classes at an event planning school. Wedding planning schools may require only a high school diploma in order to enroll; interested students can ask schools about prerequisites. Classes offered by design and planning professionals, such as Preston Bailey, are a possible choice for wedding planners looking to build a network.
Silvia Oppenheim, founder of Le Concierge SF, posts online excerpts from her book Event Planning Careers, with a note that Champlain College and Grand Valley State University feature event planning programs. She suggests that would-be event planners take a business course to learn how to create business plans and budgets.
Courses with a focus on wedding planning
As with all event planner specializations, a wedding planner often must play part HR manager, part interior decorator, part PR specialist, part project manager and part director, or the big day can turn into a big mess. A venue must be picked and paid for, interior designs and decorations drafted and purchased, caterers hired, food selected, permits signed and field, and a cake – don’t forget the cake – needs be designed. If the wedding is expected to be more religious in nature, or more non-traditional, the list of pre-wedding preparations can grow.
Wedding planning courses can cover contract negotiations and contract law, in addition to classes in interior design and bridal fashion. Also, wedding planning requires some business acumen as well as an understanding of state and federal regulations pertaining to a marriage. As weddings can also involve people who may have been previously married and married in other states – and because some wedding planners may be expected to file the marriage paperwork – many wedding planning programs cover the marriage license and marriage law in addition to regulations regarding food services.
Because some weddings are still religious ceremonies in nature, wedding planning courses and certifications in wedding planning provide education in “traditional” wedding traditions and ceremonies both local and from around the world. Classes can also focus on the wedding dress and the dresses of bridesmaids or what constitutes wedding jewelry.
In addition to planning the wedding months in advance, wedding planners and consultants also work with location vendors and floral providers to provide the day-of decoration. This includes ordering flowers in bulk and arranging them, setting up lights and sound systems, and coordinating with staffing agencies to provide food servers and bartenders.
Courses in floral decorating could be useful for wedding planners as the skill may potentially lessen the demand for florists and help keep billing costs down. Some wedding planning programs offer floral design classes either as addendums to course completion or as continuing education.
Many wedding planning schools and programs offer courses through affiliate schools but also through online courses and distance learning. The length of time to complete a course varies from student to student; however, some wedding planning schools have a maximum time limit following the date of enrollment for a student to complete their distance programs. Many schools require students to enroll in an internship following completion. The Longevity Wedding Planning Institute (LWPI), for instance, may provide a six-month internship to students who pass their programs.
LWPI offers certifications such as Wedding and Event Planner (CWEP) and Green Wedding Planner (CGWP). Both credentials are awarded after successful completion of the voluntary programs and both signify their holders are not only prepared to plan weddings, engagement parties and the associated events, but also to do it while being “green” and limiting single-use decorations.
These certifications may also count toward membership advancement in the Association of Bridal Consultants, which offers classes to those looking to enter the wedding consulting business and the trademarked titles of “Professional Bridal Consultant” and “Master Bridal Consultant” to the association’s members. The ABC requires its members to have continuing education in the bridal and design worlds as a condition to membership.
Career outlook for event planners
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific data for wedding planners, it does include these occupations in the data for meeting, convention and event planners (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS expects employment of meeting, convention and event planners to grow 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all U.S. occupations.
According to the BLS, 9 percent of meeting, convention and event planners in the U.S. were self employed in 2010, and the job may involve long hours and irregular schedules (BLS.gov, 2012). The national median salary was $46,020 per year as of May 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). O*NET Online reports that in a survey of event planners, 44 percent said an associate degree or some college experience was required for employment as an event planner, while 48 percent believed a bachelor’s degree was required.
Learn more about wedding planning programs from online schools and colleges
When researching online colleges and universities, make sure to verify that the schools that interest you are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or by another accrediting agency that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools.
In addition to accreditation from nationally and regionally recognized accrediting agencies, be sure to verify that certifications are offered from institutions approved by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The institute also offers a searchable list of approved programs.
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