Ask Nancy: How to Get a Job in the Wedding Industry

20 July 2012

Dear Nancy, 

 I am a recent graduate of xxxx University and have always dreamed of working as a wedding planner or designer. During the last few years I've planned events several complicated and huge university functions and I feel that I would be a great asset to your company. My strength includes strong oral and verbal skills, attention to details, organizational skills and willingness to go beyond the job description..... I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding a position for your company. 

Willing to Work


Business Owners, Wedding Vendors alike, we've all had similar experiences, right?

Eager college student, fed up corporate executives, post wedding brides looking to start their dream job need our help to make that dream happen.

As much as I wish I could hire every applicant, the truth is jobs aren't as plentiful as one would think.  And paying entry level jobs in the event business are simply --- rather on the lower side of the pay scale.   Keep in mind that's my own issue and perhaps there are companies looking for more help out there who have ample payrolls.    Many of those that we do hire seem to be friends of colleagues or friends of friends using their connection to get a foot into the door.


If you don't have any connections and don't know where to start...what might make you the best applicant possible?

When seeking a job in the wedding industry, my advise is ---

Don't ask for the easy task like dropping in a wedding to help for a few hours. Do ask for wedding setup and be willing to start first thing in the morning before the trucks are loaded in and ask to stay till the bitter end.
Set up crew started in the early hours to set up for an event at the Four Season Silicon Valley

Don't be unprepared. Do research  on each company you are interested in working for.  Get a sense of the owner.    You can typically find an "about xyz(fill in blank)"  post on their blog or website.  Read it.  Seriously, read it.    I find that most people who send me emails send a generic statement. It's obvious that it's a standard note. If I see a generic email, I send a quick reply(typically with a thank you but we do not have a position note - which is true!)  and usually just file the resume.

Just the other day I was meeting with my bride who brought along her planner from NYC.  I didn't know anything about Annie Lee of Daughter of Design and quickly looked at her website where I learned that she was a fellow Cal Bear alumnus.  She's a SoCal girl with a big sis  and a mom who are all big interior design mavens.   More importantly, I perused through her portfolio which was filled with colorful and interesting wedding details that were classic, sophisticated, and well crafted.

My point --- you can learn much from exploring someone work, reading their bio, and seeing their thought process that can give you a leg up when trying to get into this industry.

Don't send long emails listing all your desires, hopes, wishes. Do be personal, professional, and direct.   Keep it simple and straightforward.  Being short and sweet.  Be straight with your potential boss.  Save the details for when you get that chance to meet them face to face.

I once had an applicant tell me how dedicated, excited and thrilled she was about an opportunity to work for me.  When I talk to her on the phone, she told me how hard she worked.  She said her one strength was her hard work ethic.  She also said that she is known for not being lazy and always being on time.

Well, she missed her interview.  

She didn't even call me.  I called her and she said she felt sick for a few days and forgot about our interview.  Really?  Not even an email.  Not even a phone call telling me she was sick and wanted to reschedule.

And let me tell you, I rarely schedule an interview first thing in the morning for things like this so that someone always has that chance to catch me if they need to change our meetings.

Did she get another chance?  No!  I know this is incredibly harsh.  I know I must be completely lacking, borderline unsympathetic, right?  Honestly, when someone sends me pages of stories of how good they are, well, I expect them to make their interview and walk the talk.  So don't over play how good you are unless you plan to follow through.  

Do Follow Through
There is nothing worse than not following through.  If you send someone an email, leave them a Short Message the next day or a couple days later. This doesn't mean you have to hound them every day with more emails.  Give them time to think about it and follow through after sending an email.

Do Practice Patience
You might not get a call back or a returned email.  Give it some time.  And if the message is a not right now but perhaps in the future.  Make sure in 6 months to follow up again.

Do Go to some network function
If by chance there are some network functions that you might see vendors at, try to see if you can volunteer to help.  There are many local network organizations for event planners and industry individuals including WIPA, ISES, NACE.  Find a friend to go with you if you are nervous so that you are not alone.  Call their board to see if you can get on an email list.

If you want to meet florists, try calling City College of San Francisco.  Ask for Steve Brown who is the head of the floristry department.  Ask him if any designer is looking for a volunteer help.  You wouldn't believe how many floral designers may need a volunteer at the last minute for a large gala.

Whatever it is, don't give up.  Don't leave your dreams behind.

Now, should you get the opportunity to work for someone for even one day, what should one do?

Be willing to do anything even the most mundane task.  
Trust me, I managed a multi million dollar division for Banana Republic.  And when I worked for Pico Soriano as an entry level floral assistant, I scrubbed buckets.  I cleaned flowers.  I swept the flowers. I would pick up flowers at the market and gently put them in my BMW 3 series coupe even though I didn't have a cargo van.
Setup people doing a mundane task like setting up dessert props

Be willing to learn your task and also the tasks and jobs of others around you.
I can't tell you how important it is to perfect your tasks but also learn through observation what others do.  The words that I hate more than anything else is "you never taught me that".  Well, sometimes no one tells you how to clean a dirty bucket but I'm sure a college educated person can figure it out.  

No one tells you how to wrap a bridal bouquet but I'm sure if you do a little research on your own by going on the internet, you can easily get an idea of how to do it. Which leads me to the next to do....
Here is photography Kevin Chin helping out the Event Design team during a setup

Be willing to try.
i can't tell you how many interns are suddenly scare of heights.  I can't tell you how many people are afraid of making mistakes.  I can't tell you how many people can drive and have a license but suddenly don't know how to reverse park a van into a loading dock.  I can't tell you how many people refuse to spray paint vases.

I never did any of these things.  Climb a ladder to hang a floral chandelier.  Drive a cargo van.  Or spray paint gold metallic branches.  But I was willing to try.  It makes you a better designer.  It makes you a more skilled person.  I makes you fierce.

Of course, if you have fear of heights, you have fear of heights.  And you should tell your future boss that you won't climb a ladder.  But at least tell them ahead of time.

Here are setup people pressing a linen. 
Be a Team Player.
This is of course the hardest thing for new hires.  Once the novelty of wedding work hits and you think you know it all, it's easy to start bossing people around.  After working a few weddings, you think you are a pro.   Just remember, a wedding is composed of a team of vendors.
A team!  Not one person.  Not one entity.  Success happens when there are many stars but they all align.  It's like baseball, you need many position players to make a team.  There's only one manager managing a team.  But a team has to work together to get something accomplished.

At the end of an event, remember all the pluses and be thankful.  Let your team leader, manager or the business owner know that you like what you do.

Good luck to all of you out there.  I'm living the dream and I know you can too.

Photography by Kevin Chin

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1 comment:

Erika said...

I really enjoyed this blog posting! I've had very similar experiences with applicants and interns. What a resource!

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