Learn How to Start a Wedding Planning Business

What does it take to become a successful wedding planner?

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Wedding planning can be an exciting field. If you're interested in this type of career, you probably have a passion for romance and for the beauty of weddings. You might even have planned your own wedding. But a solid business plan is essential if you want to begin a wedding planning venture that will blossom into a successful business.

Consider Learning the Ropes As an On-Site Coordinator

Learning the business while you're employed by someone else can be a great way to get started in the wedding industry. Of course, you can jump in with both feet and start your own business, but a lot can be said for gaining experience working as an on-site event coordinator for a reception venue or catering company.

Event coordination is an entry-level position with many venues and caterers, and it allows you to gain experience in a stable work environment without immediately taking on the inherent financial risks of business ownership. You'll also have an opportunity to work with a variety of wedding vendors from bands to photographers to cake bakers as you're exposed to a wide variety of weddings and events. Weddings involve many protocols and traditions, and you'll perform most of the essential tasks that a wedding planner is responsible for, such as creating event timelines and managing the vendor team. 

On-site wedding coordination is a viable career path that might serve your interests well, but if and when you decide to launch your own wedding planning business, consider following these five steps.

Get Your Feet Wet With Some Education

Several professional associations offer educational programs and even accreditation in the wedding planning field. Although accreditation won't necessarily guarantee your success, at least by itself, these programs can help you learn more about the various aspects of running your own business.

Some of the more popular associations and programs include the Association of Bridal Consultants, the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, June Wedding Inc., and Weddings Beautiful Worldwide.

As for hands-on experience, you might have numerous friends and family members who are ready and willing to allow you to plan their weddings if you're fortunate. You can include them in your portfolio.

Otherwise, you'll have to start out by assisting other, more established planners with their events. Many experienced wedding planners feature a "careers" or "internships" section on their websites. Otherwise, just email or call them and ask if they'd be willing to accept your assistance on an event...for free. That usually catches their attention and increases your chances for an affirmative response.

Develop a Company Image That Reflects Your Style

Wedding planning is all about style. Brides are trusting you, your eye, and your ideas to make their weddings beautiful. Your company image from your business name to your logo to the colors and fonts you'll use in your marketing must demonstrate great style and attention to detail. 

Maybe you or someone you know is acquainted with a great graphic designer who can help bring your image to life at a nominal cost. Otherwise, websites like 99designs offer logos, cards, and stationery at a relatively modest cost. Some even create websites.

At the very least, you'll need great-looking business cards and a smartly designed website to start out. Brochures and print ads can come later.

Keep Realistic Financial Goals

You know where you want to go. Now you have to get there. Make sure you have sufficient cash on hand to cover startup costs.

CNBC named wedding planning as one of 27 businesses you can launch into on $1,000 or less in 2018, but many estimates come in higher. You might be better off planning on investing $2,500 or more. At a minimum, you'll need a computer, software, and office supplies and this assumes you can network and market your new business at virtually no cost.

CNBC puts the median pay for wedding planners at $19.89 per hour as of 2018. That means at least half of all planners earn more than this. Not bad, even for an investment of $2,500 or more.

Create a Marketing Strategy That's Low on Cost, High on Returns

Savvy business owners know that the way to reach brides these days is online. Many wedding vendors get great results advertising on WeddingWire and on prestigious local sites.

If your business will be serving a particular niche—maybe ethnic weddings, "indie" brides, or eco-conscious brides—consider targeting your advertising dollars to sites and event planning blogs that cater to that clientele. Otherwise, having a great website that has been properly optimized for search engine rankings will also drive prospective brides to your company.

Finally, be wary of large-scale "bridal shows." These tend to be exorbitantly expensive and they usually have a very low rate of return for wedding planners because planners don't have a tangible service to display the way caterers or dress shops do.

Make Your Business Legitimate and Legal

Consulting with an attorney is always a smart idea when you're starting a business of any kind. He can provide invaluable advice when it comes to determining which business structure will work best for you, whether that's a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or a corporation. In any case, you'll want to register your business name with your state. 

An attorney can also review the documents you plan to use in your business, such as a client contract, or can help you create them. 

Realize That Your Success Depends Upon Building Relationship

Investing your time and energy into developing relationships with other wedding professionals in your area can be well worth the effort. You'll create referral sources for new business, and you'll get an understanding of which vendors are professional and reputable and which might not be worth referring to your own clients.

Consider joining local chapters of the National Association of Catering Executives and the International Special Events Society. They can put you in direct contact with venues, caterers, photographers, videographers, florists, officiants, and more. 

You can also contact wedding vendors directly to set up lunch meetings or get together for coffee. You'll find most professionals are eager to build their networks and learn more about other service providers in their area.

Is It All Worth It?

As a wedding planner, you'll be an artist, a juggler, a referee, and a visionary. It's extremely hard work, but you'll be rewarded for many years to come if you start your business the right way and operate it well.

And the rewards can be significant. Consider that about 2.4 million weddings took place in the U.S. in 2016. It’s a thriving, multibillion-dollar industry. Even at the worst of times and in a bad economy, love isn’t likely to go out of style or become unpopular. ​