Hi, congrats on making your decision!
Let me just say that as a bride-to-be in the middle of planning her own wedding, I definitely look for membership in a professional organization. There are too many "planners" out there who are fly-by-night and don`t have any credentials. That`s extremely scary. As a bride, I need to have full and complete trust in your ability to plan my day. You get a good measure of trust instantly simply by having those little letters on your business card and website. Definitely get certified. Keep in mind that the average bride has heard a few horror stories about horrible planners - from tv shows, other brides, message boards, etc. (I even have a horror story of my own.) You need a bride to have so much trust in you that she`s willing to pay you $2000 or more to plan her wedding. Certification and a professional image to instill trust are key.
I think the website/business card steps need to happen simultaneously. If you can, get listed on the big sites like The Knot and Wedding Channel and whatever local websites have directories of wedding professionals. Online was THE first place I looked to find my vendors. I tried The Knot first (caters to a slightly more educated, upscale crowd), then WC, then because neither of those sites had any listings for my area (Mississippi), I googled to find MS wedding sites. I found 3 of my vendors solely online.
The other thing is to definitely go to bridal shows. We brides live for them!
I`ll be happy to be a sounding board for any of your ideas.
"Whether you think you can or you think you can`t, you`re right."
paraphrased Henry Ford