Event Planner Origin Stories: How To Become An Event Planner

August 31, 2020  |  by:

How do you become an event planner? Well, there are many paths to this amazing career. Take it from the event pros themselves. Becoming an event planner isn’t always a straight path. Some planners discover their love for the event industry in high school. Others find their calling later in life and make the career change. 

Throughout various interviews, I asked event pros about how they became event and wedding planners.

Become An Event Planner Through Work At A Venue

Desiree May of Leave it to May Events
Desiree May of Leave it to May Events

Desiree May is the owner and principal designer of Leave It To May Events, an event planning and design company in Delaware. She’s been planning events for well over eight years, and, in her own words, “loves everything about it.”

Desiree got her professional start working at a venue where she gained a wide range of experience. At the venue, Desiree helped craft events for nonprofits, corporate clients, and private events.

It was when Desiree was planning her wedding that she realized she had a true calling as an event planner. She knew she had what it took to become an event planner.

Desiree said, “I thought about hiring an event planner, but I thought, no. I got this. I know what I want. Vendors would say to me, ‘you are the most on-point bride ever.'” 

“They say when you plan your wedding, it’s basically like having a full-time job. I was working full time and also planning my wedding. When my wedding was over, I thought, oh my gosh, what am I going to do now? Even though I was still working at the venue, I wanted more. I wanted to work on events that I created under my own umbrella and wanted to do my own thing. To create something that was my own.”

“I took a few months brainstorming names for my business and finally Leave It To May Events stuck.”

From there, Desiree had her cousin create her first logo, and she took to Instagram. She posted photographs from a recent wedding she’d planned, and within a month had her first client.

Now, Desiree is an accredited event designer with a certificate from The Institute of Wedding and Event Design, and her business is growing each year.

Read more about Desiree May: How A Canceled Event Brought Out The Best In One Event Planner.

Become An Event Planner Through Marketing?

Claudia Rollin of Harlow & Dahlia Events
Claudia Rollin of Harlow & Dahlia Events

Claudia Rollin is the founder of Harlow & Dahlia Events, a wedding and event planning design firm specializing in events in Vermont, New England, and New York City. “A one-woman show that has been growing into an event planning company with more hands-on board ready to make your event or wedding just shine!”

I asked her how she got into event planning. 

Initially, Claudia worked in the corporate world as a marketing manager and director for bids. She explains how she worked on “different marketing components, one of which was corporate event planning. So through that, and through everything else that I was doing, what sparked my interest, what I enjoyed doing the most, was the event planning piece of things. I like to organize things.”

But it was about both organization and creativity. “I like to see things go from A through Z,” Claudia told me, “And come to completion. And there’s a lot of creativity in event planning. So I was able to utilize and come up with ideas for different events.”

But even with that, Claudia still grew into the wedding planning business naturally. In addition to corporate planning, she worked on friends’ weddings, helping out as a planner. 

“I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. I just didn’t know when or what. And then everything kind of clicked. The timing happened, and I decided to start this journey and create an event-planning business.”

“So I started small, just taking out a few weddings per year, and then that became very successful. So I decided to actually brand the business and truly become a full-functioning business.”

Want more insights from Claudia? Read How to Know When Your Wedding Planning Business is Ready to Grow.

It’s Not Always The First Path You Choose

Angela Garcia of Perfectly Bubbly Events
Angela Garcia of Perfectly Bubbly Events

I want to introduce Angela Garcia of Perfectly Bubbly Events

Angela was born and raised in the San Fransisco Bay area, where she graduated from Cal State East Bay. Initially, she’d planned on training to be a nurse, but when her best friend encouraged her to join the Disney College Program, Angela fell in love with events and the hospitality industry.

“My mom is a nurse,” Angela says, “so I tried to follow after my mom, but I also have the same mindset as my dad, who is an entrepreneur.”

Angela was doing the school’s red carpet events, orientation parties. “The Director of Hospitality said I had a knack for logistics and design. It prompted my interest in doing larger-scale events.”

In 2011, Angela was offered the role as an assistant to a wedding planner.

Angela told me about it. “I thought I have nothing to lose. I don’t even know if this is the right career path for me, but I interviewed with a full-service wedding planner and event designer. We clicked! When I told her that I was interested in doing weddings as well, she never once saw me as competition. She saw me as her little butterfly that was ready to sprout their wings and grow on their own.” The event planner who’d hired Angela as an assistant became a teacher. “I relied on her as my mentor when launching my business.”

Wedding Planning Is A Calling

“So in 2013, my husband proposed to me, and we got married in 2014. It wasn’t until after our wedding that everybody started asking us questions. How did you book the church? Who were your vendors? And I just started giving advice. I love to help people.”

Then it got real. A cousin approached Angela in an official capacity. “He was going to propose to his girlfriend. And he told me, Angela, I want you to do the entire wedding, and I was like, “Wait, what? What? No.”

Angela offered to help out for free, wanting to do a favor for the family, but the cousin refused. He insisted on paying. 

It was that wedding that pushed Angela to strike out on her own. From working for event planners to launching her own event planning business.

“I didn’t learn any of this in school, so jumping on board to being a full-time event planner, I thought, ‘Whoa, this is really scary stuff.’ I had to rely on my mentors a lot. And I took a lot of rejection too.” 

It was hard work, but Angela quickly picked up a second wedding around the same time she was planning her cousin’s. And it took off from there.

Read Angela’s Tips For New Wedding Planners From An Expert

From A Hotel To Becoming A Wedding Planner

Giada Prini of Enchanting Weddings and Events
Giada Prini of Enchanting Weddings and Events

Giada Prini got her start in the hospitality space, working in a hotel. After becoming a supervisor and then a sales coordinator, Giada eventually moved to the corporate world, where she worked as an event coordinator. 

While Giada long dreamed of opening her own wedding planning business, she took her time, built experience, and recently launched her own company, Enchanting Weddings and Events

Giada says, “I have always been in love with great decors and details. I truly believe that every small occasion can be transformed into a great party! “

I asked Giada why wedding planners are so crucial to a special event.

“A wedding is a special occasion,” Giada says. “There are so many details involved, and clients don’t want something plain, so they come to a wedding planner. They need a professional to make their day special.”

Read Giada’s Day-of Coordination Tips.

From Photographer To Event Planner

Jean Rivers of Blue Llama Events
Jean Rivers of Blue Llama Events

Jean Rivers of Blue Llama Events got her start in the wedding industry as a photographer. 

“I actually began as a wedding photographer. My whole life, I grew up working in a dark room. I went to college, got my degree in photography, and did wedding photography. Back then, I don’t remember very many wedding planners at my events. And, I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, these people need help

“My skillset is being very organized and design-oriented. I was a good photographer, but I felt like I could do more for people. And I am a better event planner that I was a wedding photographer.”

Jean initially began planning corporate events, something she still does with Blue Llama Events. Still, she loves planning weddings and started by building on her experience as a wedding photographer.

Blue Llama Events offers a wide range of services, including corporate events, private parties, wedding planning and coordination, event design, and 3D printing (so cool!).

But there’s something that makes them even more special amongst event planners.

Blue Llama Events specializes in cultural events, both weddings and corporate events fusing multiple cultures and traditions. They’ve planned events showcasing many different cultures, including Indian, Pakistani, Jewish, Persian, Egyptian, and more. And that’s why I was so excited to chat with Jean.

“We are very good at multicultural weddings. We’re open to everybody. Clients come to us to give their guests a really unique, personalized experience, and we’re with our clients the whole way through. We’re good at problem-solving. We offer a lot of value because we run the whole gamut and can fix anything that might come up.”

The fact that Jean and her team are tech-savvy, have design backgrounds, and are experts in 3D design helps them fix problems, even before they come up. 

Read Jean’s Tips on Event Planning Across Cultures And Traditions

Become An Event Planner By Working As A Vendor First

MaKenna Stevens of Perfectly Planned Moments
MaKenna Stevens of Perfectly Planned Moments

I asked MaKenna Stevens, the founder of Perfectly Planned Moments, what made her become an event planner. “Well, I didn’t realize until I interned with a wedding coordinator, I already had a lot of previous experience. All my past work had unintentionally been in the wedding industry. Before interning, I worked for a caterer, a florist, and a wedding gown designer. I also had some experience in cake decorating. At one point, I worked for a rental company that also does wedding coordination.”

“I got a lot of really good experience from the internship because they did these massive Indian weddings that were multiple day events. When I eventually quit to start my own business, I started my business in California. I then moved to Oregon a couple of years later. So now, I service the West Coast and fly between States.”

Read MaKenna’s thoughts on Why You Need To Hire A Wedding Planner.

The Hospitality Industry Is A Great Pathway To Becoming An Event Planner.

I spoke with Andrew Wright, the owner of Axis Events, based in Bath, UK. Andrew originally got into event planning when he was working in hotel management. He trained with the Savoy Group in London. After working in Saudia Arabia for a few years, he returned to the UK, where he worked as the Business Development Director for a company called Milburns, which specialized in catering in historic buildings. 

“We catered in places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts. We opened Shakespeare’s Globe and put the restaurant in St. Paul’s Cathedral, the National Railroad Museum, York Minster. My role with Milburns was to look for contracts and help put the tenders together. After we secured the tenders, I’d promote the daily catering. But the main part was to promote events and parties.”

When Milburns was later taken over by a larger company, Andrew found himself out of a job, which proved just the impetus he needed for taking the step of starting his own company, Axis Events, which is well known in the UK from Glamorous Award ceremonies, Grand Balls, wedding and venue management. Axis Events are also known for the charity work it does with organizations that recently coordinated runners for a local charity for the Bath half marathon.

Andrew discusses How Table Art’s Centerpieces Light Up Event Decorating.

Table Art

How The Theatre World Led To Planning Events

Todd Harper of Woodland Events
Todd Harper of Woodland Events

For Todd Harper, the owner and lead planner of Woodland Events, an event planning company based in Minnesota, the drive to tell each couple’s story has its roots all the way back from when he worked in theatre, specifically in stage and production management.

Todd was in theatre for ten years when he realized he’d gotten to a place in his career that had placed him further away from the audience than he was happy with. With a yearning to get back to storytelling and making an impact on people, he became interested in event planning.

“In addition to doing stage productions, part of my experience in theatre was also managing large events — parties, galas, and the like. There were even a couple of big dance parties that had around 3,000 guests. I realized that event planning was very similar to doing theatre, and I knew that it was something that I could do, and do well,” Todd explains.

After doing some research into the industry, Todd decided that starting his own business would bring him back what he had been missing for so long — working closely with people to make something magnificent happen.

“After I started my own business, I knew I had to find a niche. I remembered the joy I saw from the audience when I was in theatre. It suddenly dawned on me — what better way to see that joy and the immediate impact it has on the people I’m working with than in the world of weddings?”

And so Todd got to work. Starting with smaller events and a focus on weddings, and after a move from California to Minnesota, Woodland Events was born.

Todd explains why Storytelling In Events matters.

Sometimes, You Just Need To Dive In

Ashley Griffith of Grit City Weddings
Ashley Griffith of Grit City Weddings

I asked Ashley Griffith, who founded Grit City Weddings, how she became an event planner in Grit City, AKA Tacoma, WA. She said it was a mix of opportunity, serendipity, and being in the right place at the right time.

“I’ve always been that person who just sort of stepped into that role of wedding coordinator whenever it needed to be filled. I had it happen a few times where we were at a wedding, and everything was just falling apart. One time, we had flown across the world to get to Thailand. We’d spent a week or two traveling around, and then we arrived at the wedding. The coordinator that the couple had hired was at the bar getting drunk! People were trying to bring out the cake, and they were asking the bride if she wanted to serve it. I told them not to bother her and that I’d handle it.”

When Ashley coordinated her friend’s wedding last June, her husband told her she should think about seriously getting into the wedding planning scene. 

“I said, ‘I hear what you’re saying; I should quit my job and start a business and just do this, right?’ And he was like, ‘No, no! I meant as a side gig!’ But I did,” Ashley affirms. “I didn’t quit my day job, but I did start this little business.”

A Big Decision

When she took a twelve-hour road trip from Tacoma to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Ashley says she decided to get into wedding planning in a real way.

“On both legs of the drive, I had time to think through whether this might be a good fit. I stopped halfway to sleep at an Airbnb, and I was looking up what might be available. I found out that the web domains’ Grit City Events’ and ‘Grit City Weddings’ were both available, and I thought it must be a sign. So right there, in that Airbnb with its really crappy WiFi, I created a shell of a website and signed up for a business license. It was so fun!”

Take it from Ashley, It Takes Grit To Survive Your First Year As A Wedding Planner.

You Can Become An Event Planner

Yes, you can become an event planner, no matter your background or story. But take note from all these fantastic planners above, the best event planners love a challenge. And they love getting it done, no matter what life throws their way.

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