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Say "I Do" to a Career as a Wedding Planner

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 2.3 million couples tie the knot each year. This romantic ritual is also a billion-dollar-a-year industry, costing couples an average of $27,000 for a trip down the aisle. This cost usually includes costs for a venue, DJ or band, florist, videographer, photographer, wedding gown, tuxedo and more. For many brides and grooms-to-be, the stress of planning such a complex event can be too much to handle at such an exciting and life-altering time. To ensure getting "hitched" goes off without a hitch, many couples turn to a wedding planner for assistance.

Here comes the wedding planner

Wedding planners, sometimes called consultants or coordinators, work directly for the event hosts. A wedding planner typically provides one of three levels of service to the bride, groom and/or their families:

  1. Comprehensive level of service, where the wedding planner organizes the entire event.
  2. Partial level, where the bride and groom make some arrangements and the wedding planner takes on the rest.
  3. Day-of services, which involve assisting several days before or just on the day of the wedding.

Working as a wedding planner, whether freelance or for a company, takes a commitment of time and energy. Experienced planners may spend 100 hours or more organizing just one event. This includes devoting a significant amount of time to meeting with your clients at times that are convenient for them--usually before or after the typical nine-to-five workday.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics currently does not collect earnings data for wedding planners, but industry sources report that wages vary according to the fees established by the individual and the services being provided. The BLS does compile earnings data for meeting and convention planners, and reports a mean annual wage of $48,060 a year.

While there are no formal training programs required to become a wedding planner, online wedding planning schools can give you the edge you need to excel in this competitive industry.

Online wedding planner programs

Certificate programs are available for those interested in pursuing a career as a wedding planner. Be sure to ask how long the program has been operating, how many graduates they have had, what percentage of graduates are currently working in the field, and if they can share student references. The Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants (ACPWC) offers a professional training and certification program for wedding consultants that is registered by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Online wedding planner programs feature convenience and flexibility by offering the option of designing a course schedule that fits within the demands of your personal and professional responsibilities. There is no need to worry about a traffic-packed commute, and online-based programs can be quite affordable.

Once enrolled in a wedding planning online program, you can expect to take classes in developing pricing structure, creating a budget, time management, communication and relationship building. Following completion of a program, you may go on to pursue certification with an organization such as ACPWC.

Business tips for wedding planners

You have completed an online wedding planning program. Now what? Following are some suggestions to help you succeed in this competitive industry.

  • Market yourself. Potential customers will not know you are available if you do not establish yourself in the marketplace by promoting your name and/or business. Invest in developing a website, consider advertising in local bridal publications or securing a table at a nearby bridal expo, tell family and friends to spread the word about your services, and network. Word of mouth and recommendations from past clients and industry leaders carry a lot of weight.
  • Make sure you develop contracts that protect both you and your clients. Working with an attorney is the best way to ensure you are legally satisfying the needs of your business and your consumers.
  • Do not keep brides and grooms waiting. Do your best to return all calls and emails the same day they are received. If you are not going to be available for an extended period of time, leave an out-of-office message so current and potential clients are not left searching for you or waiting for a response.
  • Keep your promises. Weddings are stressful events. One of the last things brides and grooms need is to be worrying if you will follow through as planned. By establishing a pattern of trust from your first interaction, your clients will be confident in your ability to help make their day special and memorable.

If you're well-organized, energetic, intuitive and love a party, consider a career in wedding planning.