I’ve been planning events as my own business for a little over a year now. (Informally for others for many years.) First things first: I love it. It is a lot of fun and very rewarding, plus I’ve had several really awesome clients who I now consider friends.
Now to the rest! As far as a certification goes, I don’t think it’s worth the time or money. One reason for this is the fact that there is not one program or set of best practices that is recognized by the industry as a whole. There are lots of good programs, and there are certainly some certifications and organizations that are more popular than the others, but nobody seems to really agree on what every good event planner should know. As a general rule (this applies to my actual day job, too), I steer away from certifications that won’t be universally recognized as beneficial. Second, my clients could not possibly care less if I’m certified. Most don’t know what goes into it, so they definitely don’t care about the type of education you have as long as they feel like you’re creative, organized, calm, and extremely competent. If it’s not going to make me extra money and get me more clients, I’m not wasting any of my hard-earned cash on it! (This is not to say that I think there isn’t anything to be learned from those programs. I just don’t think you get a lot of financial return on your investment.)
As far as the actual job goes, it’s crazy hard work. I worked 17 hours for a wedding this past Saturday, and it was one of the easy ones. This was in addition to all the other hours I’ve spent with this couple planning and reassuring and rehearsing, etc. I sat down for maybe a total of 30 minutes all day. I am fairly strong and have a weird amount of endurance, but I feel completely destroyed after every wedding for at least a day. The difficult ones leave it hard to walk for a few days. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. And I’ve not heard a single other planner disagree with that. Wearing good shoes (ALWAYS sneakers – cuteness is not the key) helps a little, but you’ll still feel like crap the next morning.
Some of this depends on how you structure your services, but the best coordinators will spend the entire day, from set up through tear down, at the wedding. You’ll be in charge of making sure all the decor gets put where it should, directing vendors who are often divas (not all, but a lot of them), calming the nerves of your clients and their family/friends (the mothers are usually more stressed than the clients), bussing tables if there’s no serving staff, moving furniture, making sure licenses get signed and contracts are upheld, etc.
Every planner offers different things as far as the lead-up and planning stages go, so it’s harder to comment on that, but that part is actually really fun and awesome. It’s when you really get to know your clients and help their vision become something awesome, and it makes the actualy wedding day so rewarding.
A few more tips:
- Know that it will take a very long time to get a good client base set up. The amount spent on weddings is actually trending down right now, so it’s harder to get business, and most people think of a planner as definite luxury. You really have to fight for your clients.
- You’ll need to either pay someone to build a site for you, or you’ll need to learn to do it yourself. I recommend the latter cuz I’m not rich and most other people aren’t. It’s not that difficult if you’re computer savvy, and it allows you to tweak your online presence whenever you want until it’s just right.
- Advertising in the wedding industry is expensive. A lot of vendors look down their noses at it, but start on Craigslist. It’s free, and I’ve gotten a lot of quality clients there.
There are a million other things I’d tell you, but this is already ridiculously long. PM me if you’d like to know more! Good luck!