Our “So you want to be…” weekly series aims to help you in the process of choosing a career. We will be speaking to a practising professional to tell us what to expect in their field of work. This week, we speak to Cara McLaughlin, a 29-year-old wedding planner and founder of Mosaic Weddings, Cape Town, since 2011.
Sheilan for Live SA: What exactly does your job entail?
Cara McLaughlin: I plan my clients’ weddings from start to finish. I find their venues, photographers, make-up artists, flowers, decor etc. We work on their timelines, schedules and planning, making sure they keep within their allocated budget, and anything else they need from me to make sure their day goes smoothly.
Live SA: Did you do a course or study to do this?
Cara: I was a wedding photographer for four years, so I knew a bit about the industry. I realised how many brides were totally stressed on their day and I always ended up getting involved and helping. I am pretty good at planning ahead, so I did a course in Wedding Planning in 2011 at the SA School of Weddings and took it from there.
Live SA: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Cara: When I get a mention in a speech, or receive the nicest emails after the wedding, or a thank you gift. When my clients go above and beyond to let me know that they couldn’t have done it without me, that’s when I high-five myself. I adore my job and it’s really rewarding when my clients see that.
Live SA: Do things ever go wrong when planning a wedding? Can you perhaps share a bit on a nerve-wrecking experience?
Cara: Things go wrong all the time. I have had 56 cupcakes fall off their stand 20 minutes before the reception started, I’ve had very drunk groomsmen go missing before their speech, brides spilling on their dresses before their big entrance and wind completely ruining our outdoor plans. This has nothing to do with skills of a wedding planner, but it does take quick thinking to fix it before anyone else notices.
Live SA: These days, many young couples opt to organise their weddings themselves. What do you think of that and do you have any advice for them?
Cara: I think that is 100% okay, just make sure you have everything ticked off your list. Wedding lists can be really long and you don’t want to forget something important. I suggest setting a budget to make sure you don’t overspend. I have designed a free online workshop for people wanting to plan their own weddings, but just need a little advice. It can be viewed here.
Live SA: Most memorable wedding?
Cara: Gosh, that is a hard one. All my clients are special to me. They are the reason Mosaic Weddings is going into its fourth year. I love my overseas couples. I recently planned the wedding of the daughter of the Jordan ambassador – which I worked super hard on and was a major success. So for now I would say that rates quite high in my memory. Although, when people I have known for a long time ask me to plan their special days, that makes my heart smile and I remember those for years to come.
Live SA: Is this a well-paying job?
Cara: Yes it is, but not in the beginning. It all depends on your experience. You can’t start off and expect R20 000. Also, it all depends on what your client can afford and how big their wedding is.
Live SA: What personality traits should one have upon deciding to enter this field?
Cara: You have to be very organised. And I mean pedantic. You need to be pretty strong within yourself as you deal with a lot of drama and I think you also need to try and be understanding, especially to the bride. You might think she is going overboard or getting too stressed out, but this is her wedding day and sometimes your job is to listen while she gets it all off her chest.
Live SA: Any advice for young people wanting to become wedding planners?
Cara: Wedding planning is not all glitz and glamour, and don’t think it is like those reality shows you see on TV. Planning takes over your weekends, so if you are a party animal who likes their Saturday lay-ins, this is probably not the job for you. But I would suggest shadowing a planner during their busy season to see if you like it. Taking on the responsibility to plan someone’s special day is a huge task, so make sure you are up for it and understand what your job entails. Your clients will be your best advertiser if you do your job well. Treat them right and in return the sky will be the limit for your new business.
More info at the Mosaic Weddings website.