I want to first preface this post by clearly stating that I am not a professional wedding planner, by any stretch of the definition. I've never planned a wedding (besides my own) and I have no desire to learn all the ins and outs of becoming a professional coordinator. In my opinion, I honestly don't think I have what it takes to become one. I often stand in awe of the magnificent feats of design and inspiration that wedding planners engineer on a regular basis, and while I would love to be able to create such nuptial masterpieces for a client, I respect the fact that I just don't have the creative insight in me to do so. Most people don't. Great wedding planners are a special breed. They don't just "see" the "big picture", they systematically break it down to the purest level: form and function. It's this one element that that truly helps distinguish the difference between a professional wedding planner and a wedding planner.
Professional wedding planners don't create events, they create atmosphere.
With that being said, this brings me back to the main reason I was inspired to write this blog post. The other day, I was chatting with a fellow wedding industry insider about the saturation of wedding coordinators and planners in the current bridal marketplace. We both agreed that everywhere a bride turns, someone with a pretty website or business card is marketing themselves as a "professional" wedding planner. One interesting question that arose was: What qualifications does a person have to have to establish themselves as a "professional" planner? Does a certification from a wedding course or organization instantaneously transform someone into a pro? Is is the total number of events that they have helped coordinate over the years? Is it the total amount of years they have been part of the bridal scene? Is it the volume of awards and accolades they've received from their peers in the industry? We were both perplexed. Both of us just sat silently sipping our drinks wondering how a person decides take it upon themselves to begin distinguishing themselves a "professional" event planner. We finished our drinks, parted ways and both felt an uneasy feeling inside for not coming to an agreed conclusion. I was truly bothered by not knowing the answer.
The next day, I took it upon myself to proactively contact a few fresh faces in the wedding planning world and ask them if they considered themselves a professional planner or not. I was surprised how quickly EVERY single one of them answered a resounding "Yes" or "Of course" when approached. I then proceeded to ask them why they thought so, and they answers provided were quite alarming:
"... because my last three events went smooth and there were no big disasters".
"... because my pricing is probably higher than most competitors".
"... because my wedding planning blog gets of 100K of visits per month".
"... because I have a ton of positive ratings on WeddingWire".
"... because every single bride has sent me a thank you note after her big day".
"... because my mother was an event planner and therefore I'm a pro".
My heart quickly sank. Is this what the newcomers in the wedding industry actually feel makes a competent event planner? Are we basing the integrity of the entire coordinator service off of pricing and thank you notes?
So instead of letting that topic of conversation end, I decided to take the most common sense approach: I'd consult others directly in the industry.
So my question to all you wedding planners, eventistas, coordinators and consultants is: How long have YOU been a "professional" wedding planner and what minimum qualifications do you think a person should have before attaching that elusive "professional" label to their title? Not only is it a viable question, but I feel it's start to creating a soft standard that others in the event business should qualify themselves against before calling themselves a professional wedding planner. Being a wedding professional is an earned privilege, not a right. It's time to stop lying to your brides... and to yourself.
Together, we can advance the wedding industry.