There was a time in my life when I dreamed about being a wedding planner. My dream may or may not have been inspired by so many viewings of Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner and TLC’s A Wedding Story that I’m embarrassed to even tell you the real count, but regardless, I was convinced it was the job for me. I even went as far to research what type of credentials one would need to become a wedding planner.
What other career could combine my great love for planning, three-ring binders, and all things romance?
As luck would have it, my career as a wedding planner did not pan out, much like my imagined romance with Matthew McConaughey. But perhaps even better for me is the fact that I can still get the chance to live vicariously through two real-life wedding planners, Andy Schank, 30, of Midwest Weddings and Meagan McPhail, 27, of Mitten Weddings, who spilled the beans on what the gig is really like.
Event planning just seems to be a skill that some special people are just born with.
“I always has a passion for weddings and people,” explains McPhail. “When I was in college, I was a bridesmaid at a very high-end and well-known hotel in metro Detroit, and I fell in love with the planner coordinating the wedding. I even did school projects on her job that included business cards with my name on them. Ten years later, I serviced a wedding at the same hotel. Needless to say, everything has come full circle, and I have accomplished my ultimate goal.”
Schank grew up under a mother-aunt partnership in catering and event planning and says from a very early age, he was immersed in the industry, watching strong women who made it work with ease. “I remember watching my mom put all she had into every event—the planning, the cooking, and then, all of those long hours setting up and serving at the events,” Schank says. “I always admired her dedication to each wedding, making sure that every detail was thought out.”
Bridezillas actually aren’t that common, but their relatives often act up.
Believe it or not, both Schank and McPhail agree that bridezillas at every wedding are an unfounded myth.
“I’ve been lucky to have very few bridezillas,” admits McPhail. “My most common ‘zillas’ are usually family members paying for the wedding. Difference of opinions when paying for a wedding can be a challenge!”
Schank hasn’t had many bridezilla run-ins, but the moms are a different story. “I always seem to encounter mom-zilla,” he says. “I had to learn pretty early that it is her day as well and to make sure that I devote some attention to mom too.”
And the drama doesn’t stop there.
“Let’s just say that alcohol can do some crazy things to people!” Schank notes. “From a bridesmaid diving into a 3-foot pool and being rushed to the hospital to the mother of the bride leading table dancing! Just when I think that you have seen it all, you are reminded that you haven’t.”
McPhail confirms that gig can feel like a perpetual roller coaster. “You wear a thousand different hats!” she says. “If a bartender didn’t show up or a bridesmaid is have a meltdown over her dress not zipping up, you figure out how to fix it or become the guidance counselor.”
At the same time, it’s a ton of work.
Being a wedding planner isn’t about just cake-tasting and picking out romantic venues with the happy couple. “I think that most people would be surprised at what happens behind-the-scenes that most people don’t see,” Schank explains. “Being a wedding planner takes a lot of time. We need to properly plan the day and ensure that every vendor is informed and has all of the details that they need to be successful. Our days could last anywhere from 10-19 hours, and you have to have a willingness to jump in and solve problems that you never thought you would have to. I have had to bartend, sew a gown, secure a cake that was going to collapse.”
Even though unglamorous at times, the dream gig depicted in The Wedding Planner isn’t entirely unrealistic.
“I am a big fan of Jennifer Lopez as a wedding planner,” says Schank. “There are many similarities between the movie and ‘real life.’ The movie is certainly romances the industry, but there are some pretty fun perks to the job. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that this is a job: talking about color palettes and picking out table linens!”
Wedding planners really can predict how long your marriage will last.
Well, kind of. Both McPhail and Schank wouldn’t say if placing bets on how long a couple will last is common practice in the industry. But McPhail did admit that her job has taught her a thing or two about being hitched.
“Marriage is all about compromises,” she says. “I think couples that are willing to make small sacrifices for each other during wedding planning will have a happily ever after.”
And what has Schank learned? “Never fall in love with the groom, even if he is Matthew McConaughey!”
Duly noted. But still, darn.