How to become a wedding planner and hit the ground running
If you’re organized, creative, and have volunteered to plan every party since you were a kid, you might have thought about how great it would be to plan events professionally. Pair that with the fact that you might have already helped more than a few friends plan their weddings and you could be seriously considering it. But, as much as you want to jump headfirst into the deep end, the part of you that always thinks ahead wants to make sure you have all of your proverbial ducks in a row (you are naturally organized after all). So today, we wanted to help you map out what you need to make that fun and fulfilling career choice a reality by walking you through the steps it takes to start a wedding planning business. From making sure you’re filing all the necessary paperwork to building a brand that attracts your dream clients, grab your to-do list and take all the notes you need to get your business off the ground.
“How do I start a wedding planning business?”
In the moments after you decided that becoming a wedding planner was what you wanted to pursue, you likely asked yourself, “How do I start a wedding planning business?” And you’re not alone in wondering this—many successful wedding planners don’t have a background in business and started searching for answers to the same question. Lucky for you, you’re here reading this article and we’ve already mapped out most of your first steps for you.
If you want to start a wedding planning business, read this first.
The piece we linked covers a lot of the fundamental tasks you need to take care of as you start your own business in the wedding industry. From making sure you’ve completed the necessary filings (to make sure your business is legit) and what’s important to have in your contracts to our favorite small business software and marketing tips to get you started, the article is more than worth the read (and a bookmark for future reference).
Invest in your education
While you don’t have to get a 4-year degree, it is still important to invest in your education because there is so much to being a professional wedding planner (read: it is very different from planning a family member or friend’s wedding). You need to know how to onboard your clients, run a ceremony rehearsal, and create a wedding day timeline (just to name a few)—so investing in an educational course, workshop or certification is highly recommended.
Pro-tip: WeddingPro Educators Lindsay Longacre and Heather Hoesch put their 20+ years of wedding planning experience to work and created the Planner Life Academy online course for wedding planners. If you’re looking for a great way to learn from home and get tons of templates to build your business from, this course is it.
In addition to learning how to become a wedding planner in a more traditional sense, it’s important to get some hands-on experience before taking on clients of your own. You can ask more established planners if they are looking for interns or day-of assistants or simply ask to shadow them to see more of what goes into a successful wedding day.
Create a business plan
A business plan is a fundamental document for any wedding business, and it is one that often gets overlooked since most pros in the industry didn’t go to business school. But you don’t have to (nor should you) skip this important step in planning just because you don’t know where to start! A business plan is simply a document that describes what you do as a business, outlines your business goals as well as how you plan to achieve them—and you should learn what goes into creating a 5-year plan for your business before diving into anything else.
Pro-tip: You might realize there are people you need help from as you work to start a wedding planning business and reach your goals. Here are 8 business resources you need to have on speed dial.
Define your ideal clients
Once you’ve spent time thinking about your business goals and have started to plan out what you need to do to reach them, it’s a great time to start defining your ideal clients. Sure, you might be in the phase of business where you’ll book just about any couple who comes your way (truthfully, this is where most pros start), but having a clear understanding of who your clients are now and who they will be in the future will help you plan for growth and success. Block some time on your calendar to create client avatars for:
- The couples you want to attract and book as your clients in your first 1-2 years in business
- The couples you want to grow into booking more of (these details will be tied to the goals you have mapped out for about your 3rd year in business)
- The couples who are your most ideal client—nothing says you can’t book ideal clients right out of the gate, but for many new wedding planners, it is something they have to grow into
Creating your packages and price your services
Because weddings take months (sometimes more than a year) to plan, it can be overwhelming to develop your service packages and price them to be profitable. The good news is that there are 4 common types of wedding planning services, and your job is to mainly define what yours will include:
- Full-service wedding planning
- Partial wedding planning services
- Wedding management
- Wedding coordination
How you price your services will depend on your market and will be influenced by your experience. You should learn more about these pricing strategies before finalizing yours, and while you might want to set your prices a bit lower because you are just starting out, don’t start so low that you are undercutting others or making your path to higher prices a longer one.
Pro-tip: Your pricing is fluid, and you should review it every year. Here are 4 reasons to raise your prices annually.
Build a brand and name your business
A lot of people are tempted to start their business planning with branding, but the truth of the matter is, you have to know what your business is doing and who it is doing it for before you can build the right brand for it. The good news is—this is the part of becoming a wedding planner that is fun for a lot of folks. You’ll want to start by coming up with a business name, purchasing a domain for your website, and securing your social media handles once you’ve landed on “the one.” From there, you might consider filing for a trademark on your business name in order to legally protect it. Which brings you to the creative part of the branding process:
- Familiarize yourself with the brand archetypes to help you define your brand’s personality (in a way that complements what your couples are looking for in a wedding planner)
- Work with a professional graphic designer to create a brand that is unique to you and speaks to your potential clients
- Create a set of brand guidelines so your brand is being displayed consistently
Build your portfolio and create marketing materials
If there was one part of the how-to-become-a-wedding-planner equation that perplexed people, it would be this. Because you can go through all of the steps we’ve just talked about only to feel stuck over the fact that you don’t have a portfolio or images to market your new business with. No need to stress—there are solutions to this problem. The first is to know that your portfolio includes so much more than just photos from weddings you’ve planned. It also includes your design boards, sketches, client reviews, and certifications—all of which you can use to build your wedding planner portfolio. The second thing to know is that coordinating a styled shoot as you go to launch your business is a strategic thing to do and a great way to set yourself up with images that embody your brand and speak to your ideal clients.
Pro-tip: Be sure to read this piece about styled shoots to help you pitch them and protect yourself accordingly.
Book your first client
Learning how to become a wedding planner and start a wedding planning business is a true labor of love—and you start to reap the rewards when you book for first clients. And, while some new wedding planners book family and friends to start, advertising with The Knot and WeddingWire is a great way to start building your brand and establishing yourself as a trusted professional. If you want to complement the marketing efforts you are taking with an advertising strategy that can connect you with couples looking to hire a wedding planner just like you, simply fill out this form and we’ll help get you started!
Photo Credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock.com