Most professional wedding planners work alone. Becoming a member of a wedding planner association is like being a part of a team.
4 Reasons to Join a Wedding Planner Association
Reason #1: Wedding Planner Networking opportunities
- Most wedding planner associations sponsor member events where you can connect with your peers, share and brainstorm ideas and get much-needed advice about what it takes to be a professional wedding planner.
- Looking for a wedding planning mentor? Your wedding planner association might have just the right person for you to work with.
- Give serious consideration to becoming a committee member or leader within your association. Even if you're a newcomer to the wedding industry, you have valuable information to share with others and once you do, you'll be considered an expert.
Reason # 2: Find wedding planner jobs and clients
Depending on which wedding planner association you join, member benefits may include help with finding more clients. Each association manages this benefit differently. Here are some methods:
- Inclusion in the association's membership directory or database – by making the directory public, potential clients are likely to find you
Providing local wedding leads – this gives members the opportunity to ‘bid' or contact prospects, who are looking for a wedding planner, directly.
- Use of the association's logo on your website and other marketing materials is equivalent to having a stamp of approval and is yet another way to help with how your wedding planning business is perceived by clients, vendors and the media.
As the owner of your own wedding business, your wedding planner association is a good place to find employees and/or interns who work a.
Alternatively, if you're looking for a job as a professional wedding planner, certain wedding planner associations provide their members with access to a job postings that may not be advertised anywhere else.
Reason #3: Information, Education and training for wedding planners
A good wedding planner association is a wealth of knowledge for both new and experienced wedding planners. Membership may include access to:
- Special wedding industry events and conferences
- Resources to educate members on ‘best practices' for the wedding industry
- Wedding industry data – global, national and local – perfect for business start-up
- Online webinars and classes throughout the year
- Breaking and relevant news about tools, products, software, services and more related to the wedding industry
- Member-only publications – magazines, newsletters, white papers, etc.
Reason #4: Wedding Industry discounts
Many companies for whom wedding planners are customers, will promote their products and services to wedding planner association members (i.e. YOU) with special rates and discounts which means more profit for you.
Wedding Planner Association Homework
As you consider your options for possibly joining a wedding planner association, it's important to do your due diligence:
- Ask for recommendations from others in our industry – wedding planners, professional wedding vendors – and existing and past wedding association members.
- Keep in mind that some wedding planner associations have protocols and requirements before accepting you as a member, so, get your paperwork in order.
- Membership association fees vary, but, most are reasonable. What can you afford? Special rates may be available for active students, so ask.
- Pay attention to the response time and level of professionalism you receive when researching a wedding planner association. Is there a telephone number listed? How quickly did someone return your call or reply to your email? Did you get a good overall gut feeling? The answers are indicators of what's to come when/if you become a paying member.
Wedding Planner Association List
There are several wedding planner associations to choose from; in fact, the following list of wedding planning associations is staggering!
- ABC – Association of Bridal Consultants
Has local chapters; Offers lots of professional development training options including in-person seminars; most-quoted and arguably the most well-known wedding planner association in the US. Various levels of membership available. Visit bridalassn.com
- AFWPI – Association for Wedding Professionals International
An international wedding association; Heavy focus on destination weddings and hosts fam trips (familiarization with a destination; usually reserved for travel agents) specifically for wedding planners. Website is slightly dated, though. Local chapters on west coast and (more recently in New York). Visit afwpi.com
JWI – June Wedding, Inc. Describes itself as an association for Event Professionals; offers extensive home study courses; requirements to join include: copy of business license and business referrals, proof of liability insurance; Must apply for training acceptance. Visit JuneWedding.com
- ACPWC – Association Certified Professional Wedding Consultants
Varying levels of membership fees. Focus on home study course. ‘Founded in 1990, by Ann Nola, the ACPWC is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of quality, professionalism, service, and integrity. Visit acpwc.com
- NAWP – National Association of Wedding Professionals
I couldn't locate a list of member benefits on the website; Judging by the association name, this appears to be for wedding professionals, not just wedding planners. Visit nawp.com
- AACWP – American Association of Certified Wedding Planners
A Dallas, Texas-based organization; offers several local (in Dallas?) member events; access to a preferred vendors list; members pledge to commit to a code of ethics; proof of wedding planning training required to join. Visit aacwp.org
- ILEA – International Live Events Association (formerly known as ISES – International Special Events Society)
Established association in the special events industry. Describes itself as the ‘principal association representing the creative events professional'; most of the ‘serious' wedding vendors in your area are likely to be members; hosts several member seminars and large ‘sparkle' events and produces the Special Events magazine; extensive member directory. Visit ilea.com.
- UKAWP – UK Alliance of Wedding Planners
Operated by UK-based wedding planners, Bernadette Chapman and Sandy Moretta; promotes the idea of hiring a wedding planner in the UK; has a strict entrance requirement; members agree to a code of ethics; offers various levels of membership with point system. Very professional and informative website. Visit ukawp.com
- AAWP – American Academy of Wedding Professionals
By purchasing the AAWP wedding planning course, you become a member; focus seems to be on certification; founded by Deborah McCoy. Visit aa-wp.com
- IAPO International Association of Professional Wedding Planners
Created by folks behind the FabJob series. Members get a discount on the IAPO (Int'l Association of Professional Organizations) wedding planner certification course; the rather low-priced membership includes a newsletter and a host of other 3rd-party discounts; doesn't seem to offer local chapters. Visit iapcollege.com/program/membership-wedding-planners/
- INSTITUTE OF WEDDINGS
Primarily offers courses and certifications; mentions a trade association that includes an international referral service, access to a business support center, and a newsletter that provides industry info; doesn't seem to offer local chapters. Visit instituteofweddings.com
- WPAA – Wedding Planning Association of Australia
Provides support to anyone who has completed a wedding planner certification course from any Australia-based course provider; maintained by an advisory board, members get online advice. Visit wpaa.net.au
- ABIA – Australian Bridal Industry Academy
An Australian organization founded since 1997 ‘to protect the bridal customer and promote the bridal supplier'. Visit abia.com.au
- AAWEP – Australia Academy of Wedding & Event Planning
More of a certification course than an association. Kylie Carlson mentioned in episode #305 is Executive Director. Visit aawep.com.au
- EPA – Event Planners Association
For event and amusement (think amusement rental, inflatable games) professionals. Members get access to in-house law firm, in-house insurance agency, marketing specialists and more; limited local chapter events. Visit eventplannersassociation.com
- NACE – National Association for Catering and Events
Offers an extensive directory of its members and host several member events — offline and online — and has several local chapters. Different membership levels available and a great way to connect with the true wedding pros in your area. [I completely forgot to include NACE during the episode, sorry.] Visit nace.net
By no means is this a complete list of each and every wedding planner association.
If you're a wedding specialist, find out if there's a niche wedding association out there that's tailored for the type of wedding that you plan.
I'm happy to update this list, just send me your suggestions either in the comments, below or via the contact page. 🙂
Which Association Should you Join?
So, which wedding planner association is right for you? And, is joining one even necessary?!
As a new wedding planner, I found one of my first paying clients from one of the leads I got as a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) and that wedding paid for my annual membership dues. I also developed a clear business plan with the help of the ABC Professional Development program, ‘Weddings as a Business' course.
Richard Markel, the brains behind Association for Wedding Professionals International (AFWPI) is so approachable and helpful, that being a member of that association was a no-brainer for me early on in my career. Unfortunately, because I live on the East Coast of the US, local chapter meetings were not an option for me (then) as almost all of the member events happened in California.
I joined ISES when I moved to a commercial space. For some reason, I thought that only then (moving my business away from home) was I ready for ‘the big leagues'. That belief couldn't be further from the truth. I met so many local wedding professionals at the member meetings. And even though it was all rather intimidating at first, it pushed me to do better as a business owner.
Don't confuse wedding planner certification companies with wedding planner associations. The lines can get a little blurry. A wedding planner association finds strength in numbers with a goal of enriching and advancing the common interest of its members – professional wedding planners – with in-person networking opportunities, ongoing professional development and training, and meetings and conferences that allow you to cross paths with others in our industry.
Joining the right wedding planner association is a good investment for your future as a professional wedding planner.
But, whatever you do, don't be a silent member! Join a committee within your association, attend local chapter meetings or offer to start one if one isn't available, and then encourage others in the wedding planning industry to do the same.
Now it's your turn. Which wedding planner association are you a member of? Which wedding planner association is missing from this list? Please share freely in the comments below. It's always great hearing from you.