If you’ve ever considered how to be a wedding planner, we’ve got some tips for you!
Men (some of them) have their fantasy football, women like planning weddings (not just their own) but, Fiona O’Brien asks, what about actually doing it for a living?
With lucrative celebrity glossies selling the ideal of a glitzy, extravagant wedding the romantics among us could be lured into thinking that being surrounded by white dresses and floral arrangements could be the dream career path. But aside from nitpicking over table favours for 200+ people and dealing with the infamous ‘Bridezillas’ what does it take to be a wedding planner?
The National Careers Service (NCS) (www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk) says: “Good communication skills and the ability the get on well with different kinds of people are something you will need in this job. You’ll also need to have good problem solving skills and be able to keep calm under pressure.”
Although they state that no formal qualifications are needed, some people come into the industry with a background in event planning, hospitality or catering. That is the case for successful Irish wedding planner Jennifer McGarrigle, who actually packed off to Dubai and co-founded an exclusive wedding planning business with partner Noora Sultan S Al Suwaidi.
Exquisite Events was founded by the Dubliner and Emirati after building up a network of contacts to become one of the UAE’s most sought after event planners. Now, they work with some of Dubai’s most elite families, including royals, and have built up such success for themselves that they are selective with the jobs that they book, to ensure they retain their reputation in planning the most exquisite events.
“We treat each wedding as our ultimate priority and always limit the number of events we take on each year in order to provide you with the highest level of service and attention,” says McGarrigle. “Every event that we work on is always completely unique and different. Some of our clients have a very hands-on approach, whilst others prefer us to handle everything on their behalf.
“As such, we don’t really like to promote set ‘packages’ and instead work with each client to create a bespoke quote based on what you actually need versus an existing package.”
With this glitz and glamour you could be forgiven to thinking that wedding planning could be a lucrative career to squeeze money out of the mega-rich who know no better. But going back to the NCS guide, you will need to work your way up and make a name for yourself before you can expect to pull in big money, with starting salaries from £16- £20k a year, with senior planners earning from £25k. However, this demands a heavy schedule, with long hours.
“You are likely to work long hours, particularly during peak wedding season (May to September),” the guide continues.
“Meetings with couples often take place in the evening and at weekends. On the day of the wedding you may work a 12-hour day, or longer.”
Sharon McKneel, voted Wedding Planner of the Year by weddingsonline.com in 2014, has used her online blog to give a feel of what her typical day entails. Often rising before 6 in the morning, she starts the day with a concoction made from her juicer, and the healthy start to the day is something she calls ‘invaluable’ as she starts checking her emails.
“It’s important to keep up to date with everything that is going on in the wedding industry. When celebrities get married, they set wedding trends for the following year,” she says. “Most of the time, the initial contact would be from the bride. Occasionally, I’d have a groom contacting me, telling me that the bride is getting stressed and obviously needs help, but she won’t ask for it.”
Some may also question why you would hire a wedding planner, isn’t the organising of your big day the fun of it all? But with many brides living here in the UK opting to marry in Ireland, it is sometimes essential to have the help of someone with local knowledge of wedding businesses.
That is why many of the top wedding venues and hotels in Ireland have fulltime employed wedding coordinators, who help with anything from the flower arrangements, to catering, to entertainment to beauty services for brides who may be in the dark otherwise.
For more information:
• UK Alliance of Wedding Planners www.ukawp.com
•¶ National Association of Professional Wedding Services www.theweddingassociation.co.uk
• Wedding Planners Guild UK www.weddingplannersguilduk.com
The work: As a wedding planner, your work might include:
• meeting couples to discuss their requirements and budget
• coming up with creative ideas and themes
• advising on wedding customs or etiquette
• preparing proposals and quotations for the work
• agreeing prices with suppliers such as florists, photographers, caterers and venues
• making sure couples are kept up to date with wedding plans
• keeping detailed records to make sure that costs stay within budget
• being at the venue on the day of the wedding to make sure that everything goes to plan
• researching new products, services and suppliers, through word of mouth, online or using social media such as Twitter
• dealing with paperwork, phone calls, emails and letters
• updating your website, blog or social media with recent events If you were self-employed, you would also spend time doing your accounts and promoting your business. You may be working with different couples and planning more than one wedding at a time.
(Source: National Careers Service)
Skills and interests To become a wedding planner, you will need to have:
• excellent organisational skills
• the ability to work on more than one task at a time
• good communication and ‘people’ skills
• good customer care skills
• problem-solving skills and the ability to deal with the unexpected
• excellent attention to detail
• the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
• sales and negotiation skills
• the ability to manage a budget
• administration and IT skills
• the ability to work as part of a team and also on your own initiative
• enthusiasm, motivation and an outgoing, approachable personality
• a confident and determined manner
(Source: National Careers Service)