The 2020 Guide To Event Planning Associations

April 29, 2020  |  by:

We’ve compiled an up-to-date comprehensive guide to Event Planning Associations, including their fees, social media sites, and descriptions.

But why should you join a professional event planning association? What are the membership benefits and opportunities? And indeed, how much does membership cost? Well, read on, and we’ll go over it all. 

Why Should Event Planners Join An Association?

Joining a professional organization for event planners, or any event planning group should be beneficial to you and your career. In exchange for the annual fee, you ought to be receiving value beyond a badge on your website. So, in evaluating any membership, try to look for the following opportunities.

Training and Certification programs. Membership in event planning associations should grant you access to career development programs. These should include advanced courses, certifications, and industry-specific insights.  

Benefits Programs. Event planning associations should be working to create a membership program that includes benefits like perks, software deals, and discounts with businesses that serve the event planning industry.

Membership Directories and Networking. One of the best reasons to join an association is the ability to expand your network. You should have access to a broad network of event industry professionals, whether in the form of a directory with contact details, warm introductions, or live networking events.

Volunteering. Many event planning associations give back to the community. And while it might be through fundraising drives or in-person volunteering, associations should be organizing activities that nourish your soul as well as your business.

Mentorship. We’ve heard from so many planners that they learned a lot from their mentors. And so associations and groups offer experienced planners the opportunity to impart insider knowledge to newcomers. At the same time, the newbies get to learn from those with years of experience.

So, if your association isn’t offering you all, or most, of the above benefits, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Or at least getting involved with the event planner association and launching these programs yourself. 

And without any more preamble, here’s a big ol’ list of event planner associations with some of their own site’s descriptions. 

The 2020 Guide To Event Planning Associations

1. The Wedding International Professionals Association – WIPA

WIPA is a not-for-profit event planning association for leading wedding professionals in North America and soon around the world. Launched in 2008, WIPA currently has chapters in Atlanta, Colorado, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Utah.

Their membership fees are $225 for inexperienced planners and $300 for those more experienced. They also offer memberships to students and corporations.

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2. The National Association for Catering and Events – NACE

Established 60 years ago, the National Association for Catering and Events is the go-to resource and community for catering and event professionals nationwide. With more than 40 chapters across the country and 3500 members and growing, NACE empowers catering and event professionals by providing them with industry-leading education, tools and resources, and a vibrant community to learn and grow from.

NACE’s membership fees are $415 for experienced planners and $255 for young professionals. They, too, offer student and corporate memberships as well as non-profit rates.

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3. Meeting Professionals International – MPI

Meeting Professionals International is the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide. Founded in 1972, MPI provides innovative and relevant education, networking opportunities and business exchanges, and acts as a prominent voice for the promotion and growth of the industry. 

MPI has a global community of 60,000 meeting and event professionals, including more than 17,000 engaged members and its Plan Your Meetings audience. It has More than 70 chapters and clubs in 75 countries worldwide.

MPI offers membership tiers from $295 to $465 at differing levels of access and membership to local chapters.

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4. Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors – International – AACED-I

The Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International consists of over 1,400 campus professionals who design, market, coordinate and plan conferences and special events on the campuses of colleges and universities around the world. Since 1980, ACCED-I has increased the visibility and enhanced the stature of the collegiate conference and events profession.

They offer individual membership for $375. The AACED-I has a broad range of other memberships, including corporate, alumni, associate, and student.

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5. The International Live Events Association – ILEA

ILEA is a community centered around celebrating all aspects of live event production and management. This enables our members to deliver the very best work to their clients through collaboration, thought-leadership, and idea-sharing.

ILEA members include event planners/producers, caterers, meeting planners, decorators, audio-visual technicians, convention coordinators, entertainers, educators, journalists, photographers, hotel sales managers, and more.

About 56% of their members are event planners, producers, and coordinators. The rest is made up of varying event professionals in catering, decor, and other service providers.

Their membership dues are $499 for individual planners, $399 for non-profits, and $50 for students. Inexperienced planners can get a membership at $300.  

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6. Academic Event Professional – AEP

For more than 12 years, the Academic Event Professional conference has offered a forum for sharing best practices and exchanging ideas to help develop and hone professional event skills in an educational environment. With a program designed by academic event planners for academic event planners, AEP provides an invaluable experience where both seasoned planners and newcomers alike can learn from their academic peers.

The AEP is really more of a conference, but we felt that it applies here. Keep your eye out for upcoming meetings.

7. Event Services Professionals Association – ESPA

ESPA is dedicated to elevating the event and convention service profession and to preparing members, through education and networking, for their pivotal role in innovative and successful event execution.

For 30 years, ESPA has been the only association and voice representing event service professionals from CVBs, hotels, and convention centers from across North America.

ESPA’s membership is aimed toward organizations, beginning at $720 per year and going up from there. However, they do have individual memberships starting at $225.

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8. Green Meeting Industry Council – GMIC

As far as I could tell, the only active chapter is the North California one. The GMIC-NC facilitates monthly events where they leverage their sustainable industry knowledge to guide and motivate event organizers towards a sustainable, climate-neutral world. 

They’re actively seeking volunteers and don’t seem to charge for membership.

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9. Corporate Event Marketing Association – CEMA

CEMA is a thriving community of corporate event marketers. We serve all senior-level event marketers in a corporate environment. CEMA members engage in person through educational and networking opportunities offered each month around the country. CEMA Study Tours are our most popular professional development opportunity, providing behind-the-scene knowledge sharing about industry events.

Their membership fees are split into two categories. Client-side (planners), and Industry Partner (suppliers, vendors). The costs are $325 for an individual planner and $496 for a smaller vendor. Their corporate prices at $995 and $1,000, respectively. They also offer Premium memberships ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

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10. International Association of Venue Managers – IAVM

Representing public assembly venues from around the globe, IAVM’s 6,800+ active members include managers and senior executives from auditoriums, arenas, convention centers, exhibit halls, stadiums, performing arts centers, university complexes, amphitheaters, and fairgrounds. IAVM’s mission is to educate, advocate for, and inspire public assembly venue professionals worldwide.

Their membership fee for an individual is $495, with a $150 initiation fee. 

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11. International Association of Conference Centers – IACC

IACC is a global community of passionate people and companies delivering innovative and exceptional meeting experiences. IACC venues rank in the top 1% of small and medium-sized meeting venues in the world for creating unique events, meetings, and conferences.

I was unable to find any details about their membership fees. Still, they seem to have a full range of benefits and professional development.

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12. International Association of Exhibitions and Events – IAEE

Organized in 1928 as the National Association of Exposition Managers to represent the interests of trade show and exposition managers, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events is the leading association for the global exhibition industry. Today IAEE represents over 12,000 individuals in 50 countries who conduct and support exhibitions around the world.

IAEE’s membership begins at $579 but has lower-cost options for students, faculty, and others. 

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13. Student Event Planners Association – SEPA

The national association appears to have closed down, but local chapters remain active. 

14. Professional Convention Management Association – PCMA

PCMA was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Professional Convention Management Association and previously operated from Birmingham, Alabama. Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has 7,000 members and an audience of 50,000 across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. With 17 chapters and activities in 30 countries, we are the global leader in business events.

Their membership fees are $360 for both corporate in-house events planners and for “agency” planners. Suppliers can purchase a membership at $485, and students can join for $25. However, as of this writing, they have incredible discounts on their fees. 

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15. American Planning Association – APA

The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities for all by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and resident empowerment, and providing our members with the tools and support necessary to ethically meet the challenges of growth and change.

More than 40,000 members from 90 countries and 47 chapters throughout the United States. They have 21 divisions that embrace a wide range of planning.

Their membership fees were opaque, and I was unable to include them in this list. My guess is that the costs are in line with the other organizations mentioned in this article.

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16. International Congress and Convention Association – ICCA

ICCA is the global association leader for the international meetings industry. They specialize in the international association meetings sector, offering data, education, communication channels, and business development and networking opportunities. Since its establishment in 1963, ICCA represents the world’s top destinations and most experienced suppliers specialized in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, and comprises of over 1,100 member companies and organizations in almost 100 countries and territories worldwide. 

For suppliers, the New Member Package: Entrance Fee EUR 1,996.00 + Membership Fee EUR 3,130.00. Their Annual Membership Fee is EUR 3,130.00.

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17. National Coalition for Black Meeting Planners – NCBMP

The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), founded in 1983, is a non-profit organization dedicated primarily to the training needs of African American meeting planners.

The organization is committed to the improvement of the meetings, conferences, exhibitions, and conventions they manage. Members of NCBMP include meeting planners from numerous business, civil rights, church, and fraternal organizations. Associate membership is available to individuals who represent hotels, convention bureaus, city government officers, airlines, and other suppliers who offer services to the meeting and convention community.

Since its founding, NCBMP has made a significant impact in the hospitality community by identifying the sizable purchasing power and impact of the African American convention.

Their fees for planners and academics are $225, $400 for suppliers, and $125 for students.

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18. Society of Government Meeting Professionals – SGMP

The Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) was founded in 1981 and is the only national organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to individuals who plan and execute government meetings.

Government planners’ fees are only $55, while contractor planners’ dues are $140.

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19. American Association of Certified Wedding Planners – AACWP

The American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACWP) is a professional organization for trained or certified wedding planners. The organization provides support, resources, and networking for wedding planners, as well as professional development, certification, and continuing education.

AACWP began in 2007, created by wedding professionals who saw the need for an organization dedicated to the education of those seeking to become wedding planners, and to elevate those already in the field through certification and continuing education. 

The annual dues are $195 for planners. Corporate memberships start at $495 for 3 members and scale at $158 per planner. 

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20. Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants – ACPWC

The ACPWC is a comprehensive training and certification program for those who dream of becoming Wedding and Event Planners. The ACPWC philosophy is “education through practical training.” They provide an opportunity for mentoring and internships upon graduation through their post-graduate program.

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21. Association of Bridal Consultants – ABC

Since 1955, the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) has provided educational and networking resources to uphold the premier standard of wedding consultation. The unwavering principles of the Association of Bridal Consultants allows certified and experienced professionals to create a cherished and relaxed wedding experience for brides- and grooms-to-be.

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22. National Association of Event Planners – NAEP

The National Association of Event Planners is your one-stop for all the information regarding event planning associations dedicated to wedding and event planners. 

23. Association of Wedding Professionals International – AFWPI

AfWPi is an international community of wedding and special event professionals, providing marketing resources and exposure to members, education opportunities, and support for the wedding industry.

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24. National Association of Wedding Professionals – NAWP

The mission of the National Association of Wedding Professionals is to support, enhance, and connect wedding professionals throughout the United States and the greater wedding industry through continuing education, professional development, and increased commerce through marketing and referral.

Membership dues are $250 with an additional $150 for a premier listing as a featured member.

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A Closing Thought

There are many other websites, organizations, meetups, and courses that you might consider, and that we’d even recommend. However, I’ve chosen to leave out some places whose sites appeared non-functioning, unclear details, or were commercial operations rather than event planning associations. It’s absolutely possible I’ve missed some, and I’ll be happy to update this list with any suggestions.

If you’re ever unsure about event planning associations, event planning software, or organization, just reach out. I also recommend reading Event Planning 101: A Guide For New Event Planners in 2020 featuring Jenna Phillips. 

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