Working as an Event Planner

Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2006

I am hoping I can find someone on this wonderful network who can offer some insight into the wedding/event planning business.

In my previous life(before being a stay at home mom for 4 years), I was a retail inventory planner and buyer. So, I do have an organized mind as well as an eye for beautiful things and I LOVE planning...

When I get started on a project, I am obsessed with it, but enjoy it so much. Planned my own wedding in 2000(the whole thing by myself, no family involved and hubby left it up to me), and those were some of the happiest months of my whole life... carrying my binder around, scouring the internet, visiting site, vendors, etc. Did the same thing for a European vacation the following year, and now that my son is about to turn four. I am planning his birthday party with a pirate theme and finding myself obsessing over even the smallest details.

I think this is my calling because it is something I truly love. My dilemma is that I thrive on the planning, organizing, etc, but am NOT good with the actual day of the event coordination. I have never been a ''johnny on the spot'' problem solver. I need time to think things through and respond to them, and I've never wanted a job where I am solely responsible for a ''life and death'' situation(ie doctor, pilot, lawyer)..not that a wedding snafu is life or death, but it is potentially one of the biggest days of two peoples' lives, and I don't want that resting on my shoulders.

So, is there such a job that only does the up front planning and not the ''day of'' stuff? If so, any ideas how to break into the field...certification at a community college help or just go and work for someone and get on the job experience, etc. Do I try to start my own business or work for someone else?

To make things a little difficult, we have recently left the Bay area and so I'd have to start over as I don't have any contacts here in the business.

Any advice comments would be so helpful. Thanks. PS.I still love reading BPN newsletters and miss the wonderful camraderie of the community there. I'll plan your party but don't invite me!

I also loved planning my wedding and thought that I could do it as at least a part-time career. I never followed up on it (having another career I like and now a kid) but the way I thought I would break into wedding planning was to plan a wedding for an acquaintance, at a special beginners rate, to see if I really enjoyed it/was good at it. I would do that before investing in any classes. As for your apprehension about the day of--I think most wedding planners are there and take on the role that in the absence of a wedding planner is usually played by the mother of the bride. You would be in the best position to do that, having made all of the plans and knowing what is supposed to happen. There is probably a market for only the ''before'' stuff but the selling point would have to be a lower cost, I think. I think that if you are such a great planner, you just make a back up plan too so no biggies can occur, and you will be a great wedding planner anon

I've been with an event company for the last couple of years. I don't think there's any educational thing you can do that makes sense to qualify for this. What you posted here was very persuasive -- you could build that into a great cover letter/ phone pitch. Since you don't like the stressful on-the-day work, I don't see your own business working. But you could be a valuable employee for a larger event firm. I'd just contact firms in your area -- big caterers and event/wedding planning companies, and give your pitch. I bet you'll get a job, then you can move up from there. Lots of people can handle the on-the-day crises but not the details, so you have a great asset. Good luck! anne

After 9+ years in the industry, I can tell you that are expected to be on location for events. In the 100's of events I've worked on (as the planner or as the venue coordinator dealing with an event planner), I've NEVER had an event planner not be at an event. If a client is paying you & shelling out thousands on vendors & a venue, they expect you to be there to deal with issues since you are the one that knows all the details & did the negotiations. I'm currently the events mgr for a special events venue, and that's a job where you don't have to be at every event as you have on-call house managers. But I'm still the one they call when there's a problem at 12am in the morning. My cell is always on.

There's too much detail to delegate it all to someone who's just at the event. You say you don't want the responsibility of a couple's big day resting on your shoulders, but even the pre- planning is that sort of responsibility. You're directing them on how to spend their money, so if they're not happy with choices made, then it comes back to you. You also have to be part psychologist as you deal with all sorts of people.

No matter how well you plan, there are always last minute issues. One of the questions I asked when hiring event coordinators for a company I worked for was tell me about an unexpected problem during an event & how you handled it. All the planners I know, me included, love the on your feet problem solving. Go to & search for event jobs, and you'll usually see that as part of a job requirement.

As for getting your feet wet, it's hands-on experience that counts. There are special event planner associations that have workshops & are good for networking: ISES (International Special Events Society) or MPI (Meeting Planners Int'l). Or get a job as a House Mgr at a venue that does special events, or work in the events department of a hotel, venue or company. A lot of big companies, like Charles Schwab, have their own in- house event planning departments that plan special events, national and international meetings, etc. You can meet event planners that sometimes need on call help with event planning, and that will get you a lot of valuable experience. anon