Is it necessary to be certified as a professional wedding planner?
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The simple answer to that wedding planner certification question is no.
Currently, there is no governing body that oversees the rules and requirements for you to plan weddings for others for a fee. If you decide that you’re ready to start your career or business as a professional wedding planner, you can get started this week!
So, why do so many aspiring wedding planners spend inordinate amounts of money on becoming a certified wedding planner?
There are several possible answers to that question. And it really depends on what your personal situation is. But, here’s my take:
New and aspiring wedding planners are indoctrinated to believe that wedding planner certification is essential and that being certified will set us apart as ‘truly’ professional wedding planners and without it you’re not as serious about what you do; even when that person is well-versed with wedding etiquette, rites and traditions.
You’re Good Enough!
I believe that many of us become certified wedding planners because we need confirmation that we’re good enough to plan weddings. It’s more of a feel-good thing. We believe that by being certified we are ‘on our way’.
What’s interesting is that most of your potential clients are less concerned about your certification. Other wedding planners, on the other hand, will often waste no time to raise the topic.
If you are completely clueless when it comes to weddings, then, wedding planner certification may be the fast-track to you getting the information you need.
But, when someone is considering planning weddings for a living, it’s usually (although not always) because they have some sort of firsthand involvement with putting a wedding together. It’s not a completely new experience.
The truth is that most of us who are passionate about weddings likely know more about weddings than the average person out there. It stands to reason. When you’re excited about a topic, you’re thirsty for information and are forever learning more.
And, thankfully, all of that nuptial knowledge is just what you need to get going as a professional wedding planner.
Wedding Planner Certification Truths
If you decide that wedding planner certification is the route for you, be sure to ask solid questions beforehand. Find out:
- If the school accredited (basically a quality assurance check by a governing body to ensure that certain standards are being met)
- If there’s a clear curriculum. There’s no point paying to learn info you already know
- From graduates and former students how they’re applying what they’ve learned in during the certification process in their everyday life as a wedding planner.
And to be fair, I hear from several Weddings For a Living readers and listeners who are happy that they made the decision to become certified. As with anything, there are diamonds in the rough. But you have to be committed to the process and disciplined to complete wedding planner certification coursework and assignments without constant pats on the back and reminders.
Just be careful (and realistic) with wedding planner certification courses that pack tons of information into a short space of time (e.g. ‘get certified in a weekend’).
Don’t assume that being a certified wedding planner is an automatic ticket to success. Your clients are savvy and can easily see what type of wedding planner ‘certification’ you received.
Remember, just as easily as you can make the decision to plan weddings for a living–with or without previous experience– someone else can create an online wedding planner certification course. It’s a bit like the Wild West out there.
Studies say only a very small percentage of people who have completed a non-credit learning course, session or seminar, will take what they’ve learned and paid for and actually apply and use that knowledge to accomplish their goal. Immediately after the conclusion of the training or course there’s a great sense of accomplishment and achievement. But, again, only a handful will use that knowledge to actually become independent professional wedding planners or [insert a popular side business, here].
Hands-on wedding experience will always trump wedding planner certification. Always.
— WeddingsForALiving (@WedForALiving) May 31, 2015
Instead of Wedding Planner Certification…
There is nothing more important in your wedding planning career than actually working on weddings. Why? Because it’s that professional think-on-your feet, I’ve-got-the-local-wedding-inside-scoop, I’ve-been-in-that-situation-before type of wedding experience that your clients lack and desperately want access to.
So, seriously consider these (less wedding-y) alternatives to wedding planner certification:
- Take a business class or two – so you’ll be in a better position to run your wedding business as a true, profitable business
- Meet with an SBA or SCORE representative – to get ‘real talk’ advice about being a successful entrepreneur in your field in your neck of the woods
- Focus on getting hands-on experience and working a few weddings with local professional wedding vendors (not necessarily wedding planners) – because this is what your potential clients want access to.
Each of these suggestions will help prepare you for life as a professional wedding planner.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe that wedding certification is even the issue, here.
The issue is confidence and our need to be validated as being good enough to plan weddings for others.
So, my friend, worry less about wedding planner certification and put your energy and passion into actually working on weddings with your clients.
Mentioned in this Episode
SBA – the Small Business Administration is a US government agency providing support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Visit sba.gov to learn more.
SCORE – the Service Corps of Retired Executives a non-profit association that helps small businesses to get off the ground. Visit score.org to learn more.
Wedding Planning Institute – the wedding planner certification organization that I, Debbie, was an instructor for. Visit WeddingPlanningInstitute.com to learn more.
Listener Talkback Line – I’d love to hear from you. Call me, Debbie : + 1 202-681-2126
Weddings for a Living is on iTunes – Subscribe to the show (and feel free to leave a review) on iTunes. Visit WeddingsForaLiving.com/itunes to learn more.
I became Certified as a Wedding Planner before I opened up my business. I thought the class was very beneficial and I like having that piece of paper to show that I am a Certified Wedding Planner. I think every bit of knowledge that you can obtain is helpful in starting up your business. And of course, every single wedding you do, is also a learning experience!
Thanks for writing (first outta the gate!). I agree. Every bit of knowledge helps. But, besides ‘having that piece of paper to show’, care to elaborate on the specifics? How, exactly, has certification been beneficial for you as a wedding planner?
I ABSOLUTELY think being certified is worth the cost and hard work. It shows that I abide by a code of standards, which makes my clients who don’t know me personally more at ease. It also shows that I have been trained at my craft, and that I belong to a viable profession. I think it’s important to take certification seriously because we want our clients to take US seriously.
But, here’s the thing: because, wedding planner certification is unregulated, no ‘code of standards’ exist within our industry. So, what’s the measuring stick? Or, the benchmark? It’s so subjective.
I’m truly happy to hear that you found value in being certified. But, as I mentioned in this episode/post, several wedding planner certifications are NOT comprehensive, at all. How, then, are we, or our clients, expected to ‘take certification seriously’?
Hi sis, certification for information purpose is Good. But, to be perfectly honest it’s not necessary, you can go online now and just about Google anything you want to know. The course I took in my local city wasn’t that expensive, it was a 6 to 8 week course. I wouldnt advise anyone to take a one day course its to much infomation. By all means if yoI’ll considering taking the course please make sure you it cover enough of basic information. Pricing, contracts, etc if nothing else.
I’m with you! For need-to-know wedding planning information, wedding planner certification may be just what a newbie wedding planner needs. My concern is when individuals believe that they’re unable to move forward in this industry without it.
And, of course, you’re right. Pricing your services and contracts are an integral part of running any successful business. If your wedding planner certification course hasn’t equipped you with that level knowledge, then what, exactly, have you been ‘certified’ to do?!
Thanks so much
Thank you. I have a degree. I have been a Hilton banquet manager and worked as a banquet manager at a venue/Inn/hotel that specialized in weddings. I have coordinated several weddings for friends and family but as I make my transition from gift shop owner to wedding planner I thought I needed a certificate. I have been anwsering the questions you have posted about what makes a good planner. I can do this. I think if I see down the road that I need a piece of paper then I can go that route. But I am honestly already doing it. I am currently planning a wedding for 600 guest and because of my Hilton banquet manager experience I know I got this… With or without a certification.
Now back to planning the reception…
Thanks so much for comment.
Yep! If you’re in the midst of planning a wedding for 600 guests (wow!), your firsthand experience is priceless and, in my opinion, trumps a wedding planner certification course.
I LOVE that you’re simply getting on with it.
Like you said, later on, go for wedding planner certification to satisfy your soul, if you choose to. As for right now, keep going and then PLEASE let us know what you learned and how that gargantuan wedding day turned out. 🙂
I have been certified since December, and still have no idea how to get started–I believe the investment was totally worth it, because I learned so many things I didn’t know and met some amazing people—The business aspect was well covered, but seems Greek to me—I will be attending the Wedding MBA conference/workshop and hopefully get more insight/ideas on how to really get up and going—I want to start part-time (1-2 events a year) and cater to budget(under 25K)/diy brides–I’m a crafter/diy’er and would love to use this to my advantage
Thanks so much for your feedback. Another vote for certification. 🙂 It’s great that you’re continuing on with your wedding industry knowledge and networking continues at this year’s Wedding MBA.