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Professionals Guide to Becoming a Wedding Planner

Becoming a full-time wedding planner could be your dream career, but what's really involved and what does it take to be successful?


wedding planner book

Ever wondered how to become a wedding planner?

If you’re planning your wedding and have found yourself to be surprisingly fabulous at it, or the big day is over and you can’t stop thinking about the number of guests that said, ‘it was the best wedding they’d ever been to’, or ‘you could be a wedding planner’.

If this sounds like you, then you might consider wedding planning as a career.

We’ve spoken to the experts to get the lowdown on being a professional wedding planner and gathered top tips for breaking into the industry.

Do you have the personality to pull it off?

It’ll come as no surprise that wedding planners need to be as organised Hermione Granger preparing for an exam on Time Management techniques. Wedding planners need to come with a can-do positive attitude and the ability to improvise under pressure, solving problems left, right and centre. As the job involves a lot of face-to-face interaction, the ability to relate to anyone and communicate with confidence is a must.

There are a number of not-so-obvious personality traits that can prove invaluable too:

Essential wedding planner characteristics include:

The ability to put yourself in the shoes of your clients is important, as is truly addressing their concerns and ambitions for the big day. The better you can relate to your clients, the happier they will be.

Whilst you got the job because of your expertise, the wedding is ultimately not about you. It’s their day, and great wedding planner knows when to listen and ensure that the client is at the heart of all decisions made.

Family dynamics can throw up challenges and so, often a wedding planner will find themselves mediating disagreements. Remember, you’re not a counsellor, but you should be able to offer solutions and generate compromise.

Taking organisation to another level, your operation needs to run like a well-oiled machine. Efficiency is key and this comes with practise. Streamlining multiple tasks and coordinating several vendors at once requires slick processes.

You have to be able remain focused at all times, no matter what unexpected event is throw in your direction. Everyone around you will be highly emotional, so you must remain a source of calm.

Weddings are detailed and there’s no escaping that. You must know everything about everything. From learning the names of all important wedding attendees, to knowing the fillings of each of the canopies. It is your job to pay attention to the finer details.

Everyone wants their wedding to be unique, which is challenging now more than ever due to the pressures of social media. You must be on the cutting edge and ahead of your time if the wedding is to feel like one of a kind when the big day arrives.

What are the essential skills required?

When comes down to it, a wedding planner’s job is taking on all not-so-fun tasks. Owning and coordinating a huge list of things to do so that the happy couple don’t have to. The role walks the line between creativity and execution. You’re expected to bring great ideas to the table, and deliver on them. A plethora of skills are needed to achieve this making you a jack-of-all-trade as well as master of some!

Essential wedding planner skills include:

You need to be as comfortable crafting clear and diplomatic emails as you are talking around inspirational themes from blogs and magazines. You need to be able to own the room as well as motivate, mediate and dictate, all depending on situation which arises.

Many couples will rely on you to set their budget and help them stick to it. It’ll mean making some tough decisions, managing expectations and keeping immaculate financial records as you go. Wedding planning services are usually required with bigger weddings so expect to be managing large sums of money.

Not only to secure business for yourself but to build relationships with suppliers to help couples get the best rates they can. Afterall, as an industry representative, you will be expected to know how to secure a good deal, and offer more value than just your time.

At the height of wedding season, between May and September, you could be juggling multiple weddings at one time, and it is necessary to give them all equal and full attention. Meanwhile, not forgetting your personal life! Work / life balance needs consideration too.

Weddings are all about style and sophistication, trends and themes. You will need to keep up with the industry and client expectations through magazines, blogs and broader cultural events. Being a wedding planner is as much of a lifestyle as it is a professional, after all.

Seems obvious, but it means knowing about colour theories, flower types, music genres, food and wine. There really is a lot to know, and in considerable detail. Furthermore, weddings are religious, so must be on point with your understanding of different cultures, traditions and beliefs.

Excel isn’t just for boring accountants and making pie charts. It will be your best friend. There’s loads of great alternatives too such as Google Sheets which is easily accessible so long as you have an internet connection, perfect for working away from your desk.

“Being able to work a spreadsheet is a must when it comes to budgets and schedules, but this is something that can be learnt on the job. Good English is vital as you are communicating on a regular basis with both your clients and suppliers.

The biggest learning curve for me has been marketing skills. With the world of Social Media, SEO, and Video Content taking over, in order to have a successful business it is important that you build skills in those areas. This is something that I continue to invest in, both financially as well as time.

As a wedding planner, you must possess first-rate administrative, organisational and planning skills, alongside the ability to multi-task effectively. Exceptional research and sourcing skills are also essential. The business skills required include setting up and managing a business on a daily basis; dealing with accounts, the bank and HMRC.”

Naturally, you will have certain strengths and development areas – everyone does. If you think you may struggle in some of these areas, that’s ok. Given time, experience, personal development, and above all, determination, anyone can master these skills.

What is being a wedding planner really like?

We’ve all seen the film The Wedding Planner, and believe us when we say there’s nothing glamorous about being a wedding planner in real life – and there’s definitely no Matthew McConaughey at the end!

Due to the nature of the job, wedding planners work long hours that include evenings and weekends. There’s no such thing as clocking in and out, nor typical holidays. Your clients will have their own unique measure of what constitutes an “emergency”. So, you have to be available for your clients at all times and expect random texts and calls at any hour. The fabled  “Bridezilla” maybe less common than you think, however the “Mumzilla” is a real thing. Those paying for the wedding can be the trickiest customers.

On the day, you have to wear many hats and be prepared to be pushed outside of your comfort zones. That could be dress sewing one minute, and pulling pints the next, handling a wedding guests meltdown, then asking the mother-in-law to stop table dancing. Whilst such incidents are rare, be prepared for anything.

Finally, you often have to play the baddie. From chasing vendors and complaining on behalf of the bride, to enforcing the rules of the day, and taking responsibility for mistakes made. The process can be emotionally intense at times, and high resilience is needed to see you through the toughest moments.

It’s certainly not all stress and bother! If you think you’ve got what it takes, the upside is how incredibly satisfying it is to bring together the most important, memorable days of many peoples lives.

“Being a wedding planner is highly rewarding and an amazing career to have, after all you are planning people’s biggest days of their lives!

There are some pro’s and con’s, but mainly pro’s. The fact what I love is no two weddings are ever the same and you get to work on some really interesting and creative weddings.

I have also been able to do things that I would never have usually been able to experience before such as plan destination weddings and attend industry events in the most luxurious spaces in London.

It’s not all cake and food tastings though. You have to be extremely organised, assertive and really able to think outside the box on behalf of your clients. You also have to manage your client expectations all the time.

I wouldn’t have it any other way though and I do really love my job!“

What do Wedding Planners actual do, day-to-day?

Most planners will coordinate around 10 weddings each year, give or take. To give you sense of what this involves, a typical week, month or year may include:

Agreeing services and packages, managing expectations and winning clients.

Sitting down with a couple to help them plan their budget.

Meeting clients and going over their ideas, bringing a creative element to the job, putting together mood boards on different themes.

From food and wine tasting, to listening to band demos, sampling table linens to venue visits.

Being on hand for important decisions such as picking the venue, agreeing the theme and creating the perfect menu.

Making sure the couple are happy and decisions are being made, while getting to know the wedding party.

Constant communication with a long list different service providers from cateers to photographers, bands to outdoor heating suppliers.

Securing dates and negotiation prices, making sure the venue is aware of their obligations.

Creating and distributing timelines for the service, photographs, speeches, food, DJs, bands and so on.

Either coordinating, or getting hands on, styling the venue yourself.

Being there on the day to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Obviously, this will vary depending on the requirements of the job, but suffice to say, there is never a dull moment, and always something to check, re-check and check again!

How much can a wedding planner earn?

A wedding planner in the UK and Northern Ireland is expected to earn on average between £17,000 and £25,000 a year whereas Payscale.com reports a wedding planner in Ireland is estimated to earn an average of €25,131 a year. These figures are all approximations and can vary depending on whether you work for a company or for yourself. Of course, top end wedding planners can earn significantly more.

Employed vs. Self-Employed - Which is right for you?

Many people assume wedding planners are self-employed, which is not always the case. There are larger, more established teams which you can apply to. Obviously, there are pros and cons of being self-employed or a hired member of a team and those pros and cons will depend on the individual. For instance, having more independence may appeal more to one person over another who prefers being a part of a team.

Self-Employed Wedding Planner

Self-employed wedding planners have the luxury of a flexible working schedule but it can be difficult to build up a portfolio without any experience.

More Flexibility

Will Take Time To Grow & Earn

Higher Earning Potential

Advanced Skills Needed in Both Planning & Business

Creative Control

Managing Own Business & Accounts

Hugely Rewarding

Generating Own Clients

Responsibility & Accountability

Employed by a Wedding Company

Learning the trade in a wedding planning company will have more rigid hours but would provide you with valuable experience and a guaranteed pay cheque at the end of the month.

Regular Pay

Competitive

Team Work

Unpaid Voluntary Work

Shared Responsibility

Hard to Get a Well Paid Role

Not Having To Run a Business

Supporting Not Leading

Valuable Experience

Not Being Full Wedding Planner

“Before I launched Tree of Hearts, I held a managerial job in the travel sector. Following my life-long passion to start a wedding business meant giving up my secure position and taking a step into the unknown.

Managing a wedding company takes passion, self-belief, and a dedication to quality. You’re helping people plan one of the most important days of their lives, so you need to make sure your product lives up to their dreams. Passion for the wedding market helps you to stay in touch with current trends, while still offering alternative and traditional options for those seeking something different. I think variety is key in any wedding business, as every couple has unique tastes that they want to bring to their wedding theme.

Self-belief is key for any self-employed person, no matter what sector they work in. You need to take measured risks when opportunities arrive, which can take a lot of courage. You also need that strength to push through the barriers and keep going when things get tough. If you’re hiring a team, your motivation will inspire them and help the company reach its goals.

Becoming self-employed meant some adjustments to my work-life balance. I had greater control over my schedule, which meant I could spend more quality time with my family while making up the hours during periods when they were busy, such as during after-school clubs.

However, to be a successful self-employed business owner, you also need to develop motivation and discipline. It’s up to you to make the most out of every hour you spend working and plan new business goals as the company develops. Learning how to prioritise and delegate takes practise as well, but these are vital skills necessary to keep your workflow running smoothly. You need to be prepared to put in that extra effort, and you have to be prepared to make some sacrifices along the way.

The instability of becoming self-employed can be challenging, especially during the first months when you don’t know what sales you’ll generate. The insecurity, in combination with the fact that you’re risking your own money, can make you cautious. This might mean you find yourself missing out on some opportunities. You also miss out on some of the benefits of being employed, such as paid holiday leave.

I think it’s important to keep in contact with your customers when you’re self-employed and managing your own wedding business. As a smaller enterprise, your increased workload means it’s easy to lose sight of the impact your services are having. Taking time to read through reviews and engage with your loyal customers will remind you of your successes and push you onwards. That’s one of the most wonderful things about the wedding sector – seeing beautiful photographs from your customers’ special days and knowing you played a part in making it happen is incredibly rewarding.”

What are the educational requirements for becoming a wedding planner?

Firstly, don’t worry, if you don’t have any qualifications to speak of, building a good portfolio will be what sets you apart from the crowd.

If you want to train towards becoming a wedding planner, a typical qualification to gain is in Event Management, however, this is not always required when looking for a job in the industry. There are a number of academic paths you could follow and what you learn will likely be invaluable throughout your career. For this reason, it’s always wise to have a focus on upskilling yourself.

Other relevant degrees and qualifications include:

  • PR & Communications
  • Hospitality Management
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Hotel & Restaurant Management
  • Accounting & finance

There are also, all kinds of relevant short-courses you could attend including:

  • Catering
  • Event Promotion
  • Weddings & Ceremonies
  • History & Culture of Wine
  • Negotiations & Agreements
  • Concert & Event Production
  • Hospitality law

The transferable skills gained in any of these qualifications should put you in an advantageous position when looking for work or starting your own business.

We asked Susie from “Inspired By Susie Evans” for her opinions on education vs. experience:

Courses vs experience - which is more important?

“Experience will always win hands down as nothing beats hands on work experience. It’ll help if you have gained experience and skills organising your own wedding or weddings of family and friends or through jobs like event management, catering or hospitality such as hotels or outside caterers. Other experience which will really help is through public relations and project management jobs.

To ensure you start with a solid grounding and understanding of what is involved in becoming a successful wedding planner, it is key you complete a course. It is common that people think it is a glamorous job and they soon realise how much work goes in behind the scenes and they struggle.”

What qualification do you recommend?

“One that I highly recommend is The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners as they are the leading industry body for the UK wedding planning market. However, do your research by evaluating the course structure and content. See what courses are available and have the best reputation for where you are based.

My advice to aspiring young wedding planners, who lack experience or training, yet dream of entering this industry, is to undertake a reputable wedding planning course and go out there and get any experience you can!”

Susie Evans | Inspired By Susie Evans | Twitter: @inspiredbysusie

What experience is needed to become a wedding planner?

If you would like to become a wedding planner it’s really important to get experience. This needs to be both the planning experience as well as on the day wedding experience. The two vary so much and it’s so important to get hands on experience as well.

Sharn Khaira | Desi Bride Dreams

The challenge when starting out in any career is trying to gain experience while no one will hire you for your lack of experience. It’s a catch 22 faced by many young professionals. Unfortunately, when you are starting out as an event planner, you should expect to work for free.

Working pro-bono doesn’t have to mean quitting your job and living on beans while you slog your guts out at a full-time internship for a year (unless you want to that is!). If quitting your salaried job for an internship isn’t an option, ask a local wedding planner if you can volunteer on a casual basis at weekend weddings. If anyone you know is getting married, ask if they would be willing to let you plan their wedding free of charge. They get an additional helping hand and you get some valuable experience and hopefully a glowing testimonial, it’s a win, win situation!

Similarly, there is some crossover between a wedding planner and a venue stylist, so honing your creative skills under the guidance of an experienced venue stylist will look great on your resume.

It’s certainly not all stress and bother! If you think you’ve got what it takes, the upside is how incredibly satisfying it is to bring together the most important, memorable days of many peoples lives.

“William has almost 10 years experience working in video production and I’ve learned everything on the job. You don’t need formal training to have a career in the industry, but you do need to be passionate and want to constantly develop your trade. Each couple and wedding is different, this allows us to experiment with different styles and techniques. It means that there’s no limit to what we can do creatively especially with new trends emerging daily.”

Jess Graham | I Will Video

How do you apply for a wedding planning job?

There is stiff competition for entry-level wedding planners, so you’re going to have to be proactive. A good way to gain experience is to approach hotels and inquire to see if they are hiring for their events and banqueting team. Try to beat the summer rush, start applying from March / April.

Event planning is a creative industry so if you want to break into the competitive market with little experience, you’ve got be creative about it.  There will likely be a handful of event management companies in your area and a quick Google search will get you started. It’s really important that you research each one and offer a tailored application with a cover letter addressed to the company owner.

Don’t worry if there are no jobs currently advertised, make yourself known to the directors and ask about internships. Don’t harass them, but make sure to check in around once every three months.

It’s certainly not all stress and bother! If you think you’ve got what it takes, the upside is how incredibly satisfying it is to bring together the most important, memorable days of many peoples lives.

“The best way to do this is reach out to wedding planners and let them know your passion and how you can help them. I would always keep it professional and ensure that you send across a professional looking CV as well.”

Sharn Khaira | Desi Bride Dreams

How do you start your own wedding planning business?

“Starting a wedding planning business requires hands-on experience and a lot of hard work. To ensure your business is consistently growing, that hard work needs to be very goal-oriented; whether that means pushing yourself to build on how many weddings you do a year, or personal goals like brushing up on particular business skills.

The best thing I did when I started my own wedding planning consultancy was to create strong business relationships with other wedding professionals in my area. This meant that we could mutually recommend each other, something which is important in an industry which relies on word-of-mouth and also allowed me to gain invaluable knowledge.

 

Making yourself a known expert in your industry is central to being successful, so you need to be in it for more than the money. I have an inappropriately large binder full of wedding trends throughout the years, my recommended wedding suppliers in the area (and all relevant information about their services), and templates for all things wedding related- which I constantly revise and revisit in order to make sure it’s on brand and relevant to my demographic.

Lastly, you need to know how to market yourself. You will not get very far if you try to market your business to every single type of couple ever- your brand will just feel very confused and amateur. Find your niche and make sure everything you put out rings true to that brand and your demographic. Play to your individual strengths and just have fun with it. It will take a while, but trust in your craft and soon the clients will come.”

Setting up your own business is not to rushed into, however, it’s achievable in time. There are plenty of business start-up schemes out there which can help get you going. But be prepared for hard work, additional training and to be pushed outside your comfort zones.

Self employed wedding planners have to juggle clients, bringing in new business and all the admin that comes with issuing invoices and keeping on top of the financial side of the business. You need to be organised and capable with budgets.

Therefore, attending evening classes and courses in business management is highly recommended before branching out on your own.

The upsides to being a self employed wedding planner is being able to work for yourself, liaising on a one-to-one basis with clients and essentially running your business in a style that works for you.

Advantages

Disadvantage

Working for Yourself

  • Being your own boss means you can work to your own schedule, and around your other commitments.

Can Be Lonely

  • While calling the shots is great, sometimes it’s nice to spread the load, work with others and gain their input.

More Control

  • Of course, clients ultimately make the decisions, however, you are free to create weddings as you imagine them, without seeking management approval.

Huge Responsibility

  • Not only are you responsible for your clients weddings, but also responsible for your own business and income. It’s all on you.

Rewarding

  • Nothing is more satisfying then a job well done and knowing that all your hard work paid off.

Higher Risk

  • No longer a cog in the machine, you have to rely on yourself to make things happen, gain new clients and deliver on the events.

Higher Earning Potential

  • Assuming your business is profitable, you can pay yourself appropriate sums.

Increased Pressure

  • An increase in risk and responsibilities leads to increased pressures, so be prepared.

Important steps for setting up a wedding business.

  • The first step is to find business name and register it with Companies House.
  • You might need to look into buying Public Liability Insurance as some venues won’t let you operate there without it.
  • There’s also ongoing business admin such as keeping on top of your expenses and making sure you save tax for your yearly returns.
  • Once you’re up and running you might want to look into your SEO by creating a good website and developing your social media platforms.
  • The next step is to experiment with different methods of promoting your business such as trade shows, suppliers lists or paid ads.

“One thing that really worked for us was opting to Wedding Shows. It was a financial risk but it paid off and we gained an excellent return on our investment. I’ve also recently started working with a PR agency called Boxed Out PR who specialise in promoting small/medium sized businesses. Not having the pressure of self-promoting has freed me up to develop my product and service.”