Part 1 of 3. Who can be a Wedding or Event Planner?
The DIY revolution has inspired us to feel empowered that we can do anything. Just watch any of the reality shows to see every day people taking charge of their lives and saving a little money by making their own baby food, landscaping their yard, and turning to WebMD to find out what ails them. While I do not discount the profound influence of this revolution, reality TV does not always show you the complete story or what happens later. Sure, your yard looks great for the first week or even the first season until you realize you bought the wrong plants for your climate, did not install the right type of dripper system, or found you planted the tree too close to your house which will crack your retainer wall and foundation.
When it comes to planning a Wedding or Event it amazes me the number of people who claim to be a Coordinator or Designer after planning a birthday party for a friend or their even their own Wedding. Just this past week I saw the outcome of a “would-be” planner when the mother of the bride realized their mistake and admitted “you get what you pay for” after blunders that an experienced planner would never have allowed. This is not even limited to just planning the event. Uncle Jerry bought a new camera with all the bells and whistles and is now somehow qualified to be your photographer. Another bride and her family spent countless hours thinking they were saving a few dollars making their own décor and linens. After purchasing all of the items, making the linens, and then spending fifteen hours the Wedding weekend installing and breaking it down was it really worth running ragged when you could have hired someone else to do it while you enjoyed the time with friends and family? Gone are the days where society valued skilled craftsman who had to intern for years with a master in the field in order to become successful.
Unlike other professional fields like law, accounting, and medicine the Wedding Industry does not have nationally recognized certifications monitored by boards and requiring study, practical experience, and competency. There are a few colleges, universities, and organizations which offer different types of certifications or degrees but, similar to the governing bodies that regulate them, they are not all the same. One well known national company specializing in Weddings offers a Wedding Certification which merely consists of reading a binder of materials and taking an online exam. This does not make you the next Preston Bailey, David Tutera, or Mindy Weiss. If you listen to the stories of many of the top planners you will realize they all made mistakes and had to start at the bottom working their way up.
As Las Vegas is the number one location in the world for Weddings and a huge destination for conference and events, there seems to be a larger number of these “would-be” planners. But they are not all created equal or able to adequately plan your event. In selecting a planner there are some key questions to ask:
Do they have a business license and insurance? There are a few reasons for this. First, would you use a car mechanic or accountant who is unlicensed? Think of all the things that a coordinator is responsible for when planning a special event including property and personal safety. Would you want to entrust one of the most important days of your life to someone who has not shown their dedication to their role. Especially if you are paying them you want to make sure you have recourse in case anything goes wrong. Also, most venues will not allow this person to step on their property without these important documents. What happens if this person gets injured or in the course of their direction for set-up and coordination causes damage to personal property or guests? From some of the recent occurrences in the news it goes without saying the implications of not hiring a licensed professional.
What type of education/certifications do they hold? You may have performed in your high school band but that does not qualify you to be the conductor of an orchestra. Anyone who says event planning is easy probably hasn’t really planned an event. There are a lot of factors and logistics that need to be considered and, if they have not covered all of them you could end up with a lot of devastating issues. I have even met a few in the industry to claim to be planners and you can easily tell with the chaos the day of an event that they are not qualified for the job. Just the production schedule for the evening alone can leave you without flowers (as I have seen at a recent event) or enough time to have photos if the planner is not aware of all of the factors for planning. Planning an event involves understanding budget allocation, menu planning, contract negotiation, vendor relations, local ordinances, seasonal availability, trends, and on site logistics of pulling together a variety of individuals. Learning all of these could take years and online information is not always as accurate as you would like.
What experience do they have? Experience is very important not just in their given trade but related fields. For instance, they may be a terrific band or DJ, but if they do not understand the important of the production schedule and cooperation with the Caterer you may end up with cold food or losing thirty minutes of your reception time. Event worse, hire the wrong photographer and you may never be able to recapture your Wedding moments because they were not able to manage the group in a timely manner. Get referrals from a variety of other professionals as well as previous events they have worked on.
Trust me when I say I can tell you enough horror stories from well-meaning unqualified people who can make your event go awry. From fallen Wedding cakes, lost photos, missing flowers, exhausted families, and brides in tears I have been witness to so many things that a tenured Wedding or Event Coordinator could have helped avoid. If you ever see the shows of Wedding bloopers where the bride falls in the pool or catches on fire you can bet that a real Coordinator would not have taken precautions and helped planned to avoid those types of mishaps. So while Aunt Jenny or your friend may have the best of all intentions in helping you, the concept of “saving a few dollars” can never replace the experience of a seasoned professional who will give you the peace of mind (and time!) to enjoy your Wedding day.
Look for Part 2 - The Myths of Wedding Planning Guides