When my lifelong dream of teaching kindergarten didn’t turn out as planned, I was faced with an identity crisis and a tough decision. I could keep teaching - a career that was causing a quick and unhealthy burn out - or I could pursue a different career. As a teacher, I was drawn to logistics, organization, and planning, while my creative side felt at home creating art, designs, and beautiful aesthetics. I am passionate about working with people, and especially with people who I can serve and support. I answered a calling and started as an associate wedding planner part time with a local event planning company while continuing to teach. I loved every minute of it, and realized rather quickly that this was more than just a part-time, passion project. I knew then that I wanted to pursue this new career with everything I had and turn my part time planning job into full time.
Experience Is Essential
The first step I took in my wedding planner career was to get real, quality experience - this was essential for me. I wanted to understand the behind the scenes processes and learn from experienced professionals before I set out on my own. I worked as an associate coordinator for an established company, learning the ropes of professional wedding planning and acting as a lead planner for couples, without having to worry too much about business ownership. I was able to get ample practice selling my services, marketing myself, refining my processes, and designing and executing weddings. It was because of this opportunity that I was able to eventually leave my teaching job and take the necessary steps to pursue wedding planning full time, and for that I am so grateful.
Investing In Myself
After planning part time for a couple of years, I decided to invest in some professional learning. I knew that if I wanted to go full time with wedding planning, professional development would provide me with the skills necessary to do so. I chose to a workshop, and I had no idea at the time how much of a positive impact it would actually have on my business. While I loved honing my styling skills during the hands-on portions of the workshop, the practical business lessons I learned kick-started my transition into owning my own business and planning for the transition from teaching full time to planning weddings full time. I felt like I learned years of business lessons in only one week, and was able to start creating a practical and realistic plan for the future. I never took a business course in college, but the workshop allowed me to feel confident that I had enough business acumen to be successful. It was during this time that I realized wedding planning could be not only a passion project, but also a profitable career.
Saving For Security
Going full time with my wedding planning business, even though I had experience, was a slow growing process! It was important to have money in savings to support my family and myself during the growth period. My husband and I saved as much as we could, and when I actually left teaching, I took a part time job to support us in the transition. That situation wasn’t my forever plan, but it was an important step to making sure I could continue to invest in myself and my business while I wasn’t making a ton of money from the business in the beginning. Mapping out your budget and saving up enough for 3-6 months of expenses is a good rule of thumb, and I would say the more, the better.
Putting Myself Out There
I am an introverted and reserved person, so putting myself out there felt uncomfortable. However, going to networking events, reaching out to connect with vendors I admire, and asking for support from former clients were imperative to my success in going full time with my business. It took a lot of extra hustle at the beginning to spread the word and let people know about my transition. Some of the most fulfilling friendships and valuable relationships I have made came from stepping outside of what felt safe to me and building those connections. Almost everyone I have connected with has been overwhelmingly supportive and helpful.
Celebrating The Wins
When I first stepped out on my own without the security of a steady paycheck, life was hectic, scary, and difficult, and at times it felt impossible to stop and celebrate the little wins. The stakes felt a lot higher, so my focus wasn’t always on what was going well! I did my best during my transition to find joy and celebrate each step, whether small or large, in order to stay focused on why I was doing this in the first place.
Remembering My Why
The journey to going full time in my business wasn’t easy or smooth, but it was completely worth it. Many planners and wedding industry professionals are incredibly passionate people - a couple’s wedding is quite likely the most emotionally significant day that they will have experienced so far, and we are responsible for bringing that vision to life (and ensuring they enjoy the process). This is a huge responsibility, and keeping that in mind helps me stay focused on my “why” and propels me forward. Whether you are planning part time in addition to your full time job, stepping out to pursue planning full time, or established in your full time planning career, remembering why you started in the first place makes the tough times easier and the good times so much sweeter! When a couple welcomes me into their engagement season and wedding day, it is an unbelievable honor. The journey to doing what I love every day has been one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of my professional life so far.