I was on the way in to London last week when I read this tweet by a fellow planner:
“Sounds harsh but just cause someone planned their own wedding does not mean that they r now a professional wedding planner. That wd make every 1 1”
Now, aside from being a grammatical victim of Twitter’s 140-character limit (we’ve all been there), this statement bothered me. My first instinct (I’ll admit) was to take offence. Even though the Utterly Wow cogs were already whirring back in 2011 when I trained with the UKAWP, I didn’t officially launch the business until after my own wedding in May this year. Were they directing that tweet at me? Had I done something to offend this particular company?? Once I’d accepted it was more likely to be a swipe at the general competition rather than a personal attack, I was able to consider the sentiment behind the tweet more carefully and the reasons it really troubled me, and it is with the utmost respect to the company/person involved that I feel compelled to formulate some sort of response.
My overwhelming feeling towards this statement is that I just don’t agree with it. Why? Because- newsflash- anyone can become a wedding planner. Whether we like it or not, this is one of the few professions that does not require years of studying or relevant qualifications. Training is good, of course. Experience is even better. But whether the joy of planning your own wedding propelled you towards a change of career or you were creating timelines and negotiating contracts in the womb, anyone with the ambition and the necessary skill set can build a website, gain their first client and call themselves a ‘professional wedding planner’.
Perhaps if the tweeter had swapped the word ‘professional’ for ‘experienced’ or ‘accomplished’, it wouldn’t have troubled me so. But I’m not entirely sure what the use of the word ‘professional’ was meant to mean. We’ve already established that you don’t need to have any specific qualifications to enter this industry, so what exactly makes a ‘professional’ wedding planner? Someone that appeals strictly to professionals? Or acts professionally in their conduct? Is getting paid to provide the services of your profession enough to qualify you as a professional? Or does one have to have worked in the industry for years, or gained membership to a mystical club for Planners Who Were Doing This Way Before They Were Engaged in order to be regarded so. Which is what the tweet above implied.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and I for one can’t think of a better basis for launching a career as a wedding planner than the planning of one’s own wedding. I shout about my own wedding in my portfolio because I am jolly proud of it, but more importantly, because I’m open about the fact that my business is relatively new and therefore it’s a valid way to show off my creativity and styling abilities.
Perhaps I’m reading too much in to this. Perhaps this was a perfectly justified tweet aimed at someone in particular who is pretending to have more experience than they actually have or is claiming other people’s weddings for their own. (It happens.) Perhaps the tweeter truly believes and stands by what he or she said, and of course they have every right to feel that way. But to me, this public statement was a little mean-spirited and, dare I say, unnecessary. This is an industry FULL of entrepreneurs and creatives whose own weddings have kickstarted new careers. Stationery designers, florists, photographers, cake makers… it happens across the board. A wedding can be an inspiring and life-changing event for many. We enter a new chapter of our lives once married, and it is only natural for a reevaluation of one’s career and future goals to happen at such a pivotal time. No-one should be begrudged for that, surely?
In general, the UK wedding industry is a hugely supportive one. Networking events, industry meet-ups, Facebook groups; if you have a new wedding-related business there are a whole host of ways to make friends within the industry and feel supported/valued. I attended the UKAWP Mix & Mingle night a couple of weeks ago which saw 60 wedding planners have a great time together on the Thames, and on Friday I met with a lovely planner who launched at a similar time to me to have lunch and compare notes. It would be very easy to feel threatened in situations like this but what would be the point in that? By supporting the ‘competition’ you have someone to recommend if an enquiry comes in for a date you can’t do, and vice versa.
As Kat from Rock N’ Roll Bride said very recently, A Little Bit of Competition Never Hurt Anybody. Competition shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing; it should be the stimulus to push yourself and your business and to keep the creative juices flowing. We cannot appeal to every bride and groom out there and nor should we try to. Embracing our uniqueness, knowing our target markets, trusting our instincts and abilities, and not comparing ourselves to others are surely better ways to grow our businesses than by poo-poohing others. Or, instead of all the ramblings above, I could have just directed you to read Kat’s very eloquent post. It would have saved me an entire afternoon.