I've been an independent wedding planner in the UK for over 8 years now - I set up my first business when there were some heavy weight old school planners at the top and not many alternative options on offer. My aim was to shake up the industry and bring my eye for design into the world of logistical event planning... I positioned myself from the outset to cater for those who desired a more modern approach to luxury weddings. Less ostentatious, more quietly beautiful and with a heavenly experience for guests who were (even then) beginning to show a demand for more stylish concepts. Still timeless, still elegant, but unique and stand out from the crowd "wow".
Since then I have seen so many new planners come and go in the European market . Few have lasted the test of time, as they have slowly realised the role is one of the most stress inducing jobs you could possibly choose to pursue. It's not all glamorous networking, choosing pretty flowers and sipping champagne; turns out it is pretty tough creating and managing large scale events on momentous occasions for emotionally invested clients!
Whenever I have mentored or taught other aspiring and developing wedding planners, I have often explained that the job is almost like being a PA/interior designer/counsellor/project manager rolled into one. Whilst experience will help you rise to the top - the skills required are not easily learned. You've either got it or you haven't!
There is such a huge choice of wedding planner available now (even more confusingly, the style and price variations are huge!), and it's easy to see why couples find it hard to research and choose the best planner for their local or destination wedding.
I thought it would be actually be quite useful to list some of the reasons a career in event planning is stressful and difficult, so that it helps give some insight into the skills you should be looking for when hiring someone to support your big day. It also may help anyone considering moving into this area of expertise, before they start with a learning course or make a business plan.
1. TIME & DEADLINES
Whilst it's lovely to have a year or more to plan a high end large scale event, we often have to pull it all together in under 6 months. There are constantly deadlines for us to get things done by, and when managing multiple clients it's essential that you stick to them and ensure each couple have your full attention. It's why we never take on more than 5-10 full planning clients a year. The role is high pressured and reliant on you being organised, efficient and with attention to detail on the to do list.
It's no good coming up with different versions of the same concept over and over again. Or just picking a "theme" or colour scheme. The pressure is now really on to come up with unique design ideas, translate that vision to artists and vendors, and then execute it on the day. "Event design" is something a lot of people are moving into as a stand alone career, but it's actually an exceptionally difficult role and requires a huge amount of talent and vision. It requires budget management skills, research skills, detail planning, technical know how and so much more.
3. CAREER PROGRESSION
Lot's of the people I have mentored over the years come to me with the false idea that wedding planning will earn them money easily. It's actually still a hugely under valued and under paid role in the UK and in Europe in particular. To reach the top you need to be exceptional at what you do, and to advance your career it takes real determination and business acumen. Any planner who has been actively in business for more than five years probably has what it takes to go all the way. Most don't have what it takes!
4. HOME VS AWAY
We travel a lot, we stay in hotels a lot - and it sounds heavenly, but it can be exhausting and sometimes lonely. I personally surround myself with a team of vendors whom work together regularly and enjoy spending time away or on site with me, but it's tough being away from family and friends so much of the year, especially with your lack of weekend time in peak seasons! My clients are an extension of our Sorores family. We make ourselves available to them whenever we are needed, and we invest our heart and soul into our events. We commit so much of our lives to this because we truly adore what we do, we know how important the work is, and we love seeing it all come together.
5. IT'S A WORK OUT
Seriously... any really amazing event planner will tell you how physically demanding the role is when it's reached the installation, set up and management point. The entire process of planning an event is demanding and fast paced, the adrenaline and commitment to perfection drives you through the long days and late nights, managing a huge team of people who are all working just as long and hard as you are. We keep fit, we eat healthily and we look after our staff too.
6. FRONT FACING
The bit I adore about my role? The constant meeting of new people in different circles of life. You are dealing with insanely talented artists, emotionally charged & alcohol fuelled guests, venue owners, private land owners, entrepreneurs and hobby makers. There is a huge range of personalities for you to manage, consider, invest in and ensure are all happy. Sometimes they can be just a little demanding! To be a great planner you must be a great people person.
7. IT'S ON YOU
Anything goes wrong? It is the planner's job to fix it. I've often said to my assistants "it may not be our fault but it is our problem to solve". When mistakes are made, then all eyes will be on you. I have had all sorts of unpredictable situations over the years and it's absolutely imperative that you are quick thinking and solution focused.
It's not life threatening work but it is important, and extremely skilful. It requires so much within one role and when looking for your perfect planner it would be wise to keep all of the above in mind. It's no use being an incredible stylist if you panic when a storm hits and the lights go out, and however wonderful someone might be at logistical timeline planning, they still need to be able to deal efficiently and carefully with family politics and wayward guests!
Choose someone who can clearly handle it all effortlessly. Place great value on them, and invest wisely, because the best wedding planners are rare and wonderfully talented people.