Experience is the best teacher out there. Don’t get me wrong, online education is a great way to start your wedding planner career, but nothing beats learning on the job. The problem is that when you’re new to wedding planning, experience can be hard to come by. Most wedding planners get into the business after planning their own wedding. And though, technically, this is considered “experience,” the day was about them and what they wanted.
Wedding Planner Experience
When you have to plan someone else’s wedding day, there’s a whole new skill set that has to be cultivated. It’s about learning how to manage human behavior—brides and vendors alike—how to manage mental exhaustion and the pressure of “getting it right.” Many newer wedding planners have confided in me that they believe the lack of experience is holding them back. So how do you get wedding planner experience when you have none? Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
1. Friends and Family Events
What better way to get started than helping out a friend or family member with their event? It doesn’t matter if it’s a party or a wedding—so long as you get professional pictures of your work, this could be a great opportunity to elevate your entry-level status.
Be warned, though, that working with friends and family can be a little tricky sometimes. I often hear things like “being taken advantage of” and “not taking my advice” when new planners work with those who are nearest and dearest to them. The best way to avoid this—even if you’re doing it for free— is to have a contract in place that spells out the expectations and terms for each person involved.
2. Local Community Events
Volunteer to help out with a local event! Look to see if your community is holding any events and ask if you can be a part of the project. Most community events are on a larger scale, so this experience could be really eye opening. This is also a great opportunity to see how an event works without the pressure of “getting it right.”
3. Do a Styled Shoot
A styled shoot is like a mini wedding. There are lots of moving parts, making it great practice. Plus, bonus, you get pictures for your website and portfolio! If you want to feel confident doing a styled shoot, check out the Styled Shoot Workbook for a complete how-to guide.
4. Work for a Wedding Vendor
When I first started out, I worked for a catering company. They knew I was just starting out as a wedding planner. This is how I got exposed to all the things that could happen at a wedding.
I learned so much about the catering side of things during this time. It gave me the inside scoop so I could confidently discuss meal planning with my clients, which, in turn, helped them see the value of hiring a professional (yay, no hiring family members). I also got to meet a lot of other wedding vendors at each wedding. Because they saw my work ethic in action, those vendors started to refer me.
5. Assist Another Planner
Another great way to gain experience is by asking if you can help out a fellow wedding planner on the day of a wedding. Don’t feel defeated if you email a wedding planner and they don’t respond. That is just how the industry works. But I recommend giving it a try anyway, because you will never know the outcome unless you put yourself out there.
I suggest seeking out newer planners who have been in business less than three years. Most of the well-established wedding planners will already have their assistants in place. Make it clear you’re only looking to help out on the day of wedding and willing to work for the industry standard (minimum wage or maybe a few dollars more). Here is an email template to test out:
Hi XX, Let me say that I love your (something you love about their company). I’ve been following you for a while now and enjoy seeing your (a certain piece of content). I’m a fellow wedding planner looking to assist other wedding planners day of. From my own personal experience, I know how hard it is to find good help to assist on the day of a wedding, and I wanted to put my services out there. I follow direction well, understand the importance of a well-managed timeline, and live by the motto “community over competition.” I would love to treat you to coffee next week so you can get a sense of who I am and if we’d work well together.
Lack of experience will only hold you back if you let it. Go ahead and do some research today to find out which one of these five ideas will get you some experience. I know it’s scary, but I believe you can do it!