A wedding planner seems to be the easiest job in the world. I mean, it must be for so many people to just throw it on their signature lines. Girl gets married? Instant wedding planner. Recommended peonies to your sister for her wedding? You’re a wedding planner too! To go all Oprah in this article, “You’re a wedding planner, and you’re a wedding planner, everyone’s wedding planner!!” Just add water, and boom: wedding planner.

This stuff is ridiculous now and the industry is saturated enough without these people running around claiming to be a wedding planner. It’s not fair to actual wedding planners, and guess what? It’s really unfair to those couples that are looking to hire a real wedding planner. Why? Because sometimes it’s hard to tell a Prada from a Canal Street Knock-Off. So, I’m going to make it a little easier for everyone right here, right now.

The following people are not wedding planners and need to stop pretending that they are. I’m blowing away your smoke and shattering your mirrors.

1. Recent Bride I hear this all the time! What made you want to be a planner? “I had so much fun planning my own wedding!” Forgive me for rolling my eyes. Of course you did. It was your wedding. Many people have fun planning their wedding and yes, some then decide they want to plan for others. However, the ones that are successful go on to actually learn something about the business. This doesn’t mean joining every wedding group imaginable, getting certified, networking and living on Pinterest. Those that are serious start by working for another company or someone else, and learning what they don’t know. Let me ask you this: would you drive over a bridge that was designed by someone saying “I’m an architectural engineer”, didn’t actually have a degree, but was really good with their Lego collection? While I don’t believe that certifications or degrees (though I have a handful) are necessary to be a wedding planner, I do believe in experience. After years in the business, I learn something new every single wedding I plan. Why roll the dice with a planner who only learned what she knows by planning her own wedding? Continuing education is important in this field, but actual education in the first place is step 1.

2. DJs Jack of all trades and master of how many? DJs are responsible for music. Planners are not responsible for music. As a planner, I like to work with my vendors and defer to them when it’s their area of expertise. But more and more, I am hearing about DJs offering their services as a “wedding planner”. I know not one DJ that is going to find your gown or know how to bustle it on the day of the wedding. I do not know any DJs that will do venue visits with you to discuss a possible flower installation on the ceiling, or what a good floor layout would look like in a blank space. I partner with DJs that can vibe with my clients and create a phenomenal party atmosphere. I trust them to work on the music with them and the timing of the evening with me. Not once did I ever ask a DJ what time the bride should start hair and make-up, because that is not their area. It might be tempting to let your DJ be your wedding planner, because it’s only a few dollars more, but don’t go down this road. Your money is better off set on fire.

3. Venue Coordinators You don’t need a planner, right? Have you heard that from your venue coordinator? How about “we handle everything”? It is not the job of a venue coordinator to handle the logistics of your first look including the timing and location. Nor is it their job to give directions to your rental company that can’t find their way. A venue coordinator is never going to be a point person for your vendors and guests the entire day of the wedding, especially if anything takes place outside their playground aka the venue. Many venues don’t like planners because many planners don’t know how to play nice in the sandbox and will be in the kitchen telling the Chef how to prepare the salad. The answer isn’t to not hire a planner, it’s to ask your venue for planner recommendations. If they don’t have any, then while you are interviewing planners, make sure you ask how they communicate with venues and vendors during the planning process. If a planner says that they put together a timeline without speaking to anyone, you need to run.

4. High School Prom Planner This person has planned their high school prom, their alumni dinner, and some baby shower for a friend. What do all of those events have in common? They were volunteer jobs. Things change when there is a paycheck on the line and money is the ultimate motivator. Most planners want what is best for their clients, but you can guarantee that they will really want what is best if they are being paid. Look, planning is fun most of the time, and designing a space can be amazing. However, money talks, and sometimes it says “you’re not good enough to do this for a living”. If you are serious about wanting a planner, then it’s best to find a professional and not a hobbyist. While many planners found out that this is what they wanted to do by starting out planning random events, a true professional will have a client roster full of clients that paid for their services.

5. Pop-Up Planner/Photo-Stealers This one is hard to spot….maybe the hardest, and that’s really sad. I, personally, am aware of people that have put together profiles on wedding websites using photos that don’t belong to them. These photos include tablescapes, florals, brides, full landscapes including tents, and more. Sometimes, to jump start a planning career, a planner will advertise using stock images. These images are available on the internet to be used in portfolios, and are perfect to grab the unsuspecting bride and/or groom. After all, it’s not very likely that a bride or groom will grab an image from a website and throw it into a google image search to see where it came from. However, I have seen images from vendors and venues that clearly were not theirs, and after doing a search, have found the same images on various famous wedding blogs (this is totally illegal and not the same as using stock images, by the way). These people are easy to spot because they suddenly appear, or “pop-up” on the scene and have countless reviews and a portfolio to rival any of their competition. But reviews can be faked and photos can be stolen. Again, this is a tough one for newly engaged couples to spot, so my advice would be to step back and even though what you see might excite you, do your homework and interview multiple planners until you find the “real deal”.

6. Wedding Websites Free venue assistance. Free inspiration. Free vendor matching. “Free” is appealing, especially when weddings can be so expensive. But “free” comes with a heavy price tag when you are drowning in bad advice given by people that have no experience as a wedding planner. Just because the wedding website you are signed up with is just that, a wedding website, doesn’t necessarily mean that the people working with it have a background in anything wedding related. Most of the time, you won’t know whom you’re speaking with, and a wedding is a personal thing. In fact, many of my clients have used the word “personal” when discussing what they want for the design and decor of their wedding. You can’t plan a wedding using some app, and there is a reason for that! For instance, I’m an accountant fan, not a Turbo Tax fan, because I like dealing with a real person that I know has real experience. Not saying that taxes and paying the government isn’t important or anything, but I’m pretty sure planning a wedding is right up there. Websites are great, forums are fun, but chatting through a computer or phone isn’t how you design the day of your dreams or get the real questions answered. Might be free, but it’s not worth it.

7. Your Friend, The Great Pretender I’ve been challenged, more than a few times, by the sister, maid of honor, mother, brother, father, sorority sister, best friend, you name it, that they knew better than I. I’ve been told by the sister that she would be developing the timeline and that’s why I wasn’t needed. To all of these challenges, I’ve shrugged my shoulders and walked away because those weren’t my clients. These brides were never going to hire a wedding planner because they already had a “planner” in their lives. Of course, when that friend went to try and negotiate a contract and never got a discount, or attempted to design something the bride saw on Pinterest but couldn’t afford, or failed at doing anything that a professional would succeed at, then I’m sure the bride wasn’t too happy. The point is, that person probably had another job, their day job, and that’s what they should be focusing on. Hobbies are cute, but while I love me some competitive karaoke and have some serious theatre experience under my belt (along with my AEA and SAG/AFTRA card), I’m not the next Beyonce or Meryl Streep. It’s ridiculous to think that any bride or groom would be getting the true “wedding planner” experience with their cousin that does it “on the side”.

Wedding planning is not easy, and the job can be viewed as something that anyone could do. The reality is, my job as a wedding planner is a real job that requires real work and real experience. There is constant education, and the wedding world is evolving everyday. Sometimes it’s not always easy to spot a good wedding planner from a fake one, but if the stitching is frayed and the zipper doesn’t zip, you might be holding a knock-off.

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