Q&A :: Interest in the Industry

I was contacted last week by Marissa Dalton, a student at Oklahoma State University, who is completing an assignment for her Business Communications class that requires an interview with someone in your profession. She, like many, is interested in pursuing a career in the wedding planning business upon graduation. She’s headed in the right directions with the questions she’s asked and will hopefully be looking to gain experience soon to put her ahead of the game!

As I was answering these this morning I thought it might interest a few others, either looking to get into the industry, or already here. I know some of you might have some opinions of your own, and want to share experiences….comment away if you feel the desire!

Q: What made you want to get into wedding planning?

A: I started in sports and corporate planning during an internship in San Francisco with a sports PR/planning firm. I was moved from PR to event planning within the first week and worked for them for about 6 months. I basically got thrown into wedding planning with the venue I was working for in 2004. I was actually very leery about it because, at the time, I knew nothing about weddings!

Q: What combination of education, experiences and skills did you need to get your job?

A: I have a bachelor’s in Ag Journalism with a PR emphasis, so this was not my plan during school! I have my professional wedding planning certification, but the experience I had before was much more pertinent. I have worked in the event industry for about 13 years and have been wedding focused for eight. I worked for a local venue for four years before starting my own company, An Affair to Remember. I have been an independent wedding planner for four years now and in April will open a showroom which will expand my business to include linens and boutique event rentals, Ashley & Co. I will have a team of coordinators who will continue the planning portion of my business and I will also coordinate for certain packages. Skill absolutely comes in, but follows experience I think. You need to have a sense of design but often that comes after getting comfortable with the situation first.

Q: Of those (education, experiences and skills), what do you rely on most often?

A: Experience by far out weighs education in this business because you can’t be taught how to deal with most situations. You have to be flexible, professional, compassionate and direct. You learn with each client and continue to broaden your knowledge with style, trends, details and design.

Q: How important are professional/personal connections?

A: Professional and personal connections are incredibly important in this business. Both relationships create great word of mouth referrals and help your business grow. Wedding planning is a very personal time for your clients, so you become more similar to part of the family than a business connection. Professionally you need to know different styles and personalities of those in your industry to better help your clients and help those vendors build their business.

Q: What are the upsides to a job like this?  Downsides?

A: When you are in this industry you love it. You know immediately if it’s not for you, so those who stay have a true passion. I love being the guidance that makes the wedding come together and the calm behind the scenes that keeps things in track. One of the best things about what I do on a wedding day is that I get to watch the bride, groom and families relax and enjoy their guests. They are never working on their wedding day.

Some aspects that are harder to learn to juggle with this business are 1) weekend work and 2) personal time. The weekends are your prime work time, so you do miss out on certain things that go on during the weekends with family and friends. It’s a commitment that you have to make without being resentful. There becomes a very fine line with your business hours and personal time as well. If you use your cell phone for business you are always available and need to set boundaries with when and how you will respond to calls, emails and texts.

Q: What are some of the popular misconceptions about this job?

A: Being an actual wedding planner is not like the movie! Your days are long but you have to remain fresh throughout, your feet hurt by the end of 15 hours, and you probably do more physical labor than you ever imagined possible. But, like I said previously, if you are doing this type of work, you love it.

Q: How did you go about starting your own business?

A: I used my previous experience with local venues and vendors to start my business. After a total of seven years experience in Bryan/College Station I felt I was ready to make that step. I obtained a DBA to operate under and joined local associations affiliated with my work.

Q: Did you work under a wedding planning business before starting your own? If so what was that experience like?

A: The venue that I worked for before was not purely wedding focused. We did a large array of events, but I was able to turn the wedding program into a full service option which gave me the opportunity to gain more experience. The other events that I operated probably gave me just as much experience as the weddings!

Q: What would be one thing you would have liked to know about being in the  wedding planning business that you did not know before?

A: Actually, nothing. It’s not my personality to need to know all about something before I begin. I would rather start and form my own opinions as I go, and I think that everyone in the industry has a different outlook. Like I said before, the experience you gain for working with each client and event will continue to be different and teach you something new!

Q: What do you consider the future of the profession—in five, ten, twenty years?

A: I see wedding planning continuing to grow and become more competitive. Couples getting married now are busy and need that extra help to make sure they enjoy their wedding day and process. As more people use wedding planners, more will aspire for that career.

Q: What advice would you give someone like me?

A: However you can, gain experience! You need to know that this is an industry you want to be in and the only way to do that is to personally experience it. The experience will also make you much more marketable in future jobs and with future clients.

Good luck Marissa, with this class and your future endeavors! We would love to have you join the wedding industry and learn the insides and outs for yourself!