Generally speaking, the wedding planning certification industry is unregulated, which means that a lot of businesses exist to promise a path to an independent wedding planning career. “Start your own wedding planning business.”
A google search on wedding planning certification generates more than 581,000 results, so how can people know whether they are obtaining education and certification from a reputable source?
First, understand it’s important to have as much education as possible before pursuing any profession. In this case, that means a wedding planner must have a level of expertise to handle or manage several functions that are hired to plan and/or execute a wedding: catering, photography, venue contracts and more.
And many careers will help prepare someone to take that next step and start their own wedding planning business – most of which have their own educational expectations, and having a degree will be an advantage.
But what about wedding planning certification? Who offers this and how can you obtain it so that it helps differentiate your business?
What is AACWP?
The American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACW)) in Dallas, TX, was founded in 2006 by seven Dallas wedding planners, and has expanded to include the central region of the country – and intends to serve as a national voice for wedding planning certification and expertise.
AACWP is a 501(c)(6) professional organization whose membership is open only to trained or certified wedding planners. AACWP conducts monthly educational meetings and annual certification training seminars/courses. Members are required to earn 4 hours of continuing educations credits each year to maintain certification. AACWP is governed by a board of 8 wedding planners who are elected from its membership.
For those who wish to pursue a career in wedding planning, they should take a course from a legitimate organization. AACWP is governed by wedding planners and outlines several beliefs about he profession:
- Wedding planning needs to be done by trained and certified professionals.
- Better public awareness must exist to explain the difference between a certified wedding planner and those without training or certification.
- Ongoing education and networking for certified wedding planners is needed.
- Any organization formed for wedding planners should not be a for profit entity, but rather an non profit association of certified wedding planners.
AAWCP Expectations for Wedding Planning Certification
Taking a weekend course or a two year course does not qualify a student for certification. Just like many professions a student needs experience, hopefully under the guidance of a well trained and seasoned expert, according to Shari Johns, president for the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACW) and owner of As You Wish Events , a Dallas wedding and event planning firm. Most good certification programs require mentorships or experience before certification is granted. AACWP certification requires:
- Successful completion of an approved educational program.
- Proof of planning and directing 3 weddings over a 2 year period of time
- Successful mentorship completion (2 weddings with a certified wedding planner)
- Proof of business license, business telephone and a marketing plan.
- Proof of contracts with at least two national wedding suppliers.
- Verification of wedding planning services from two brides and two wedding professionals. The weddings must have been directed within the past 12 months.
Beware of Quick Wedding Planning Certifications
There are many different organizations promising to offer online learning, e-books and certification. These organizations frequently promise certification and a quick path to the profession. How can someone determine if they are looking at a legitimate program for wedding planning?
“A quick path to certification is dangerous for the public and a disgrace to legitimately certified wedding planners,” Johns warns. “It takes years to hone the skills of a wedding planner and the initial education is only the first step in a fairly long process. For someone who is looking for a legitimate course in wedding planning, check references, read all the materials offered and be sure there is a hand on mentorship program available.”
Johns has been planning weddings in the Dallas/Fort Worth wedding market since 2001 and is a Master Certified Wedding Planner. Her philosophy is to create a day "as you wish."