How to become a wedding planner

Are you organised and personable, with a love of special occasions? Discover how to marry your talents and passions with our guide to becoming a wedding planner

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:
  • Scarlett Cook

Getting married is one of the most special, and memorable days, in someone’s life. Although of course the happy couple are centre stage on the day itself, there are many people that contribute to the day’s celebrations.

And none more so than the wedding planner, who can be responsible for everything from finding the perfect location, to hiring a florist and organising the table plan, and more. So why might you start your own wedding planning business, and how can you make it happen?

Whether you’re starting from scratch, or looking to put your expertise gained working for an events business or another wedding planning company to use in your own business, we can help you.

We’ll guide you through the entire process, covering the types of wedding planning services available (and how to price them accordingly), a broad range of concepts to choose from, and how much you could expect to earn as a wedding planner.

With 20 years’ experience of supporting small businesses, Startups.co.uk has significant expertise in helping people embark on their professional journeys. Plus, we feature insights from experienced wedding planners.

But why is wedding planning so appealing for would-be entrepreneurs?

The average UK wedding cost £32,273 in 2018. This is a considerable jump up from the 2009 average, which stood at just £20,020, according to data published by Statista.

With the average spend on weddings being above inflation, wedding planners are finding themselves with bigger budgets to work with, and so could potentially charge higher fees for their services.

And with Statista research also showing that people find guest list management to be the most difficult aspect of planning a wedding – followed by budget management, and then knowing the next steps – such pain points suggest that there’s plenty of opportunity for a wedding planning business to flourish.

However, it’s important to note the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry as a whole, and factor in the effects that restrictions and lockdowns may have on wedding planning overall – potentially for many years ahead.


Wedding planning and COVID-19

The wedding industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19, with restrictions on when and where weddings can take place, and how many people can attend.

At the time of writing, weddings aren’t allowed to occur in England, due to the current lockdown. While this is in place until 2 December 2020, it’s unclear exactly what the future will hold.

While there could be additional full lockdowns, and thus more cancelled or postponed weddings, news of positive developments in the search for a vaccine has offered the industry – and many others – a glimmer of hope.

While we’ve outlined the current rules, the Gov.uk site offers the most up-to-date and official guidance on marriages and civil partnerships and COVID-19.

The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) has also compiled a coronavirus (COVID-19) support section, which features a list of resources to help those working in the industry.

the wedding coordinators

Zeleka Nadine and Maria Semedo, co-founders and wedding day coordinators at The Wedding Coordinators Ltd, advise: “Pause, postpone, evolve. This has been our Covid mantra.

  • Pause: Take time to reflect as a couple/service
  • Postpone: If couples have decided to postpone, we support them – contacting suppliers, venues and guests to ensure all are kept informed and updated
  • Evolve: For most 2020 couples, they are now planning an evolved version of the wedding they intended to have

“We now provide new services for smaller weddings, from virtual weddings to micro weddings, for couples wanting to go ahead regardless, and of course mini-monies as a stop-gap until a larger intended event can take place at a later date.

“We have also created a non-legal dispute resolution service to support couples in amicable negotiations with venues and suppliers to reduce the financial damage that the pandemic has caused for couples and businesses alike.”

pearline events

Natasha Grant, Pearline Events, comments: “This year, all my clients have postponed their weddings until 2021. I have supported them through this difficult time and offered advice. I have been flexible to accommodate their new dates, whilst ensuring that their suppliers are available too. I have also changed my payment terms so that couples can pay in more instalments.”

While this is a hugely challenging time for wedding planners, there is some hope on the horizon.

This is because 71% of couples with weddings due to take place before the end of January 2021 have opted to move the date further along in that year, or to get married in 2022. This is according to a global study published by The Knot Worldwide in October 2020.

And, of those that have decided to postpone their event, 90% have picked 2021, with the most popular months being October, November, or December.

Looking at the UK in particular, it was found to be the country where it was most common for couples to reschedule their wedding.

Although 25% of UK couples are planning to be wed before holding a postponed reception, it’s still the preference for most to have both the ceremony and celebrations on the same day.

Plus, only 5% of couples in the UK intend to cancel their wedding, compared to 9% globally.

So, from these figures, it looks like 2021 could be a busy year for the wedding industry.

Meera Majithia, Carriages Weddings & Events, says: “There will certainly be more demand during peak summer dates in 2022 (I don’t think brides are rushing to get married in 2021, given the uncertainty).

“The consequences will simply mean that suppliers won’t have many available dates, and I think we may start to see a shift towards more mid-week weddings and off-peak weddings to accommodate the demand.

“Planners will need to inform clients beforehand if they don’t have a long enough time lead, and warn couples that decisions may need to be made more quickly with regards to certain elements.

“I also think it’s important for planners not to overload themselves so they can manage their workload effectively.”

However, while these are promising signs, it’s important to note that the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing – making it difficult to predict exactly what the wedding industry will look like next year, or beyond.


Write a wedding planning business plan

You’re likely to have loads of ideas about how you want to run your wedding planning startup, and a business plan is the perfect way to capture all of these in one place. Begin by following the steps below:

1. Personal bio

  • Highlight your background, along with your work and education history
  • Outline your motivation for starting a business in this sector. If you’ve got any relevant previous events/planning experience, include it here
  • List your contact details

2. Business summary

  • Include a short description of your business
  • Provide a concise explanation of your idea and model, along with your mission and future visions for your company
  • Your business's USP
  • Outline your financial and staffing strategies – although many wedding planning businesses are one-person operations, so the latter may not apply

3. Service information

  • Describe the services that your business will offer, e.g. full/partial/day-of wedding planning
  • Expenses, pricing, and selling details
  • How you see your business growing
  • Address any legal necessities you’ll need to adhere to, such as data protection or health and safety
  • Indicate the insurance you’ll need to start your business – find out more in the dedicated insurance section below

4. Market

  • Your assessment of the market and its size
  • Any demand, e.g. if you’re starting up your own planning business after helping friends or family with their weddings, or other people have been asking you to plan their wedding
  • Refer to your customer profile. This is the standard couple you’re trying to reach – the type of wedding they would like and their budget, as well as more broad information like their interests and spending habits

5. SWOT analysis

  • This stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Offer a complete overview of your business
  • Identify where you might be advantaged/disadvantaged, as well as any leverage you might have (e.g. contacts in the wedding industry), along with possible challenges

6. Competition

  • Direct competition, i.e. other wedding planners
  • Indirect competition, e.g. services that allow people to plan their weddings themselves
  • For each competitor, you’ll need to know their general information, what their available products/services and prices are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses
  • You can then compare them in a table of competitors – see the relevant section in our business plan template page for an example

7. Revenue and expenditure forecasts

  • A cashflow forecast should include the financials for both pre-launching and the first month of business
  • Include figures from sales, as well as any cash or loans you may have for the business
  • Outline your anticipated costs, like marketing, equipment, and insurance, as well any travel expenses
  • Say if you’ll be taking a salary, and how much it will be
  • Include your balance, i.e. how much you open and close the month with (you can find an example on the template page linked to in the previous step)

Additional information

While the above are the key steps for writing a business plan, you should also:

  • Calculate the minimum amount of earnings you’ll need from your business to cover your living expenses
  • What you’ll do in case your business fails, including how you plan to pay off any debts

Nadine and Semedo state: “Invest the time in doing this, even if you do not require investment. Instead of a business model, we used a business model canvas. This allowed us to see any changes or new areas of focus at the change of a post-it note.

“Either way, this point of reference is essential in keeping you focused and accountable, allowing you to strategically plan your next steps, alongside what is or isn't working.”

Grant adds: “In the UK, April to September are the key months when couples normally hold weddings as the weather is nicer. You need to think about how you will manage your business during the quieter months, with fewer clients.

“I see this as a good time to market myself, visit venues and suppliers and work on the systems/processes of my business. You can keep referring to your plan as your business grows and adapt it when needed.”


Florists are just one of the suppliers you’ll need to work with as a wedding planner

Do market research

If you want to go far in the world of wedding planning, you’ll need to understand how to successfully position your business. This means knowing which planning services you want to offer, who you’re targeting, and what will set your business apart from the competition.

Type of service

  • Full service – complete planning of the wedding from the beginning, right through to the day itself
  • Partial service – joining the planning process during the last few months in the lead-up to the wedding, assisting with final preparation and day-of logistics
  • On-the-day service – specific planning assistance in the run up to, and on the day of, the ceremony and reception, and any related events or activities
  • Combination – it’s also possible to offer a range or mixture of the above services

Target audience

Think about the type of couple you want to work with and market to. For example, think about the type of venue they would choose (such as a marquee or a stately home).

Consider how they’d approach the celebration overall – would they maintain or break traditions? You’ll need to have an idea of what their budget would be, too.

You should also build a more complete picture of your target couple outside of their wedding, such as what their interests are, and how they like to spend their time.

Nadine and Semedo say: “Dive straight in. When I started my wedding planning business, I did not conduct any research into how I could stand out or how I would make a difference.

“It wasn't until I experienced every side of wedding planning, from full to partial and on-the-day coordination, that I realised where we could excel and have the most significant impact, as well as the kinds of individuals and couples whom we wished to work with.

“That's how The Wedding Coordinators were born – organically! Play to your strengths and passion.”

Concept

Sustainability and vegan/vegetarian menus are two key wedding trends in 2020.

Major wedding sites like Hitched and Confetti, along with fashion magazine behemoths Vogue and Elle, have all included one or both of these themes on their wedding trends for 2020 lists.

With this in mind, you could look into developing partnerships with vegetarian and vegan caterers and cake-makers, and make this a key aspect of your business.

And with Bridebook exploring what the post-quarantine wedding trends are likely to be – including the rise of virtual attendance at weddings – you could also consider positioning your business as a specialist remote wedding planning service.

Not only would this be a practical service to offer during the pandemic, but it’s also another opportunity to incorporate sustainability into your wedding planning business.

Majithia states: “A lot of planners tend to already work remotely, as they’re not really based near their suppliers or couples. The key difference now is that face-to-face visits can’t go ahead.

“So my advice would be to stay in constant communication with your suppliers and clients so they know that you’re thinking of them. It can be so easy to lose touch when weddings have been postponed – but if you keep everyone in the loop then you’ll be able to pick up where you left off more easily.”

More general concepts to consider include:

  • Destination – planning services for overseas locations
  • Faith/cultural traditions – planning for specific faith or cultural requirements
  • Luxury weddings – high-end celebrations with big budgets
  • Theme – planning for a particular historical style or time period, e.g. 1920s, retro

Once you’ve identified your niche, this will help influence how you brand your business. This ranges from the colours and fonts you use on your marketing materials, to the name and slogan of your business.

Grant advises: “It’s important to find your niche in this business – you can’t appeal to everyone. Find out where your couples hang out, such as specific Facebook groups, wedding blogs; wedding directory forums. Read the comments to discover what sort of things they talk about, and what they need help with when planning their wedding.

“Identify wedding industry businesses that inspire you and potential competitors – look at what they provide and consider what services you want to offer that may be different. Find out where you want your business to fit – for example, I specialise in planning and creating elegant, colourful weddings for multicultural couples in London and the South East.

“Also, get some experience by supporting another wedding planner at a wedding – the exposure will be invaluable.”

Even the smallest of details, such as table decorations, require creativity and organisation – two key skills that wedding planners will need


Is wedding planning a profitable business?

In terms of salary, you can expect to earn in the region of £17,000 to £25,000 per year as a wedding planner.

Full service

For full planning services, your fee will be a percentage of the couple’s overall budget for the wedding, with 10%-15% being a common amount.

However, you should set a minimum fee too, which will apply when working with couples who have lower budgets.

Partial service

When charging for this type of service, there are two approaches: agreeing on a set amount in advance, or providing a package.

With the first option, a price will be created following a consultation with the couple, where you find out exactly what they want your help with.

From there, you can provide an amount for the services that you agreed on, with anything that falls outside of this scope incurring additional charges.

Or, you may wish to create one or several packages, offering a combination of various services with predetermined prices. An on-the-day management service could fall into this type of pricing structure, for instance.

Majithia comments: “I think it’s important to do market research and understand what sort of service you’re looking to offer, and how much time you have to dedicate to the business.

“You need to account for travel, meetings, emails, and other admin tasks, as well as the actual hours you spend working on the event day itself.

“Planners often feel pressurised to lower their rate in order to secure business, which in reality can mean they’re not earning a lot of money at all, given the amount of time they’re spending on each event.”

Profitability

You’ll need to factor in the time and resources it costs you to get set up in business initially, as well as the period of time up until you start making a profit.

You should also account for any downtime in between weddings, as well as the winter, which in the UK is a less popular season for getting married.

Location is also key: wedding costs can vary throughout the UK, with London and southern England often accounting for the most expensive celebrations – something that's likely to affect planning prices, too. But, you’re more likely to be able to charge higher fees, and profit from a higher percentage amount of the overall costs.

Majithia continues: “It’s important to understand that the wedding industry is a place where bookings are taken a year or more in advance. Therefore, you may not be earning money right away, and will need to successfully manage your cash flow.”


How much does it cost to start a wedding planning business?

You should account for the following costs – especially insurance, which is essential. We’ve provided a short guide to standard costs:

InsuranceVariable – offered on a quote basis depending on your requirements
Website- Website builders: £0-£24 per month
- Web designer: £200-£1,000
Branding (e.g. website and social media images)Photographer: £50-£100 per hour
Design (e.g. business cards, leaflets or other marketing material) Graphic designer: £20-£30 per hour

Equipment

Wedding planning requires minimal equipment, some of which you’re likely to already have – but if you don’t, we’ve offered a guideline to the average prices.

Essential equipment includes:

ItemPrice
Laptop£700
Smartphone (suitable for business use) £11-£20 per month for a contract
Printer (and paper supplies)- £50-£300 for inkjet printers
- £150-£500 for laser printers
- Paper costs vary
Internet connection£21 per month for a 24-month contract

The additional, non-essential equipment that you may benefit from having includes:

ItemWhy?Price
Scanner/photocopierFor uploading contracts etc.- Scanners: £50-£300
- Photocopier: £150 approx.
TabletFor showing designs or ideas£50-£1600
CarTo easily access countryside weddings, for exampleVariable, depending on type, model, and preference

Majithia advises: “You should budget for at least a couple of thousand pounds to cover insurance, the creation of a website, possibly some professional branding shoots, and basic marketing.

“Having said that, you can literally get going with a laptop and insurance if you’re able to get some good leads through word of mouth.”

Financing your wedding planner startup

Starting a wedding planning business is often a low-cost launch: you don’t need to have premises to work from, and as it’s often a one-person operation, you don’t have to recruit staff in order to launch it.

With that in mind, it may be possible to use your personal savings to get started. If you do need financial assistance, then you could consider a bank loan.

Also, you might need a business bank account to ensure that your personal and business finances are separated accordingly.

Another option could be setting up a wedding planning franchise, in which you have a licence to run a local branch of a bigger planning business.

Grant states: “It is important to have some finance when starting a business, such as savings, a grant or a loan. Starting a small business has costs involved, particularly at the beginning. My business startup costs were approximately £3,000, which I financed through savings. You may also have to plan that at the beginning you may not be able to pay yourself a salary.”


squarespace wedding website builder

Squarespace offers dedicated wedding templates to choose from, all featuring Squarespace’s signature stylish, design-oriented approach

Best website builders for wedding websites

More and more couples are making their own wedding websites. As a planner, you can tap into this trend by creating sites on your clients' behalf, using one of these easy-to-use website builders:

1. Squarespace – our number one choice. With a strong emphasis on design, Squarespace’s wedding templates are charming, elegant, and carefully crafted – just like a dream wedding!

2. Wix – Favoured by wedding and website professionals alike, you can quickly and easily create a wedding website with Wix using its drag-and-drop editor.

3. Joy – a free, dedicated web builder for wedding websites, with a range of themes and layouts to choose from.


Marketing your wedding planner business

Social media

  • Build a potential customer base easily, and interact with your community quickly
  • Choose platforms with a strong focus on visuals and imagery
  • Instagram – for sharing images and short video clips
  • Pinterest – the go-to site for wedding planning inspiration

You can use these platforms to find customers by posting a selection of wedding inspiration, and any examples of your work, in order to build a following.

Ideally, your followers would share your content within their networks, helping you to reach even more people. And when they’re ready to choose a planner, you can be top of their minds!

On the best ways of marketing a wedding planning business, Nadine and Semedo advise: “Networking, directories, Pinterest and Instagram – and I would say in that order.

“Networking with suppliers and online B2B communities will help to build your supplier list and create long-lasting relationships to support your journey.

“Directories such as The Noire Wedding Edit are fantastic for driving traffic to your business with customers who are considering your services.

“Pinterest as a visual search engine, and again great at streamlining wedding planning couples to your content, whilst Instagram is excellent for building communities of interest and engaging directly with brides during wedding planning.”

Grant continues: “Some of the most important ways are networking, social media, and directory listings. Reach out to like-minded suppliers in the industry to build relationships, as you never know where your next client may come from.

“Use social media to share your brand and connect socially with people. It is also a great tool to use to direct people back to your website. Additionally, aim to get yourself listed on the type of wedding directories that your clients would use.”

Website

How?

  • Website builders – while the ones listed above are suited to designing wedding sites for couples specifically, there are also a range of website builders for small businesses to choose from
  • Hire a developer – to make a custom site that’s designed just for your business

Why?

  • A website is a key part of marketing your business
  • It offers so much more than a place to store your contact information – although that’s important too
  • An ‘About Me’ section lets people know more about your working style
  • An image gallery showcases the weddings you’ve worked on
  • Testimonials – reviews from previous clients help to add credibility, and can also assist other people in deciding if you’re the best planner for their wedding

Business cards

  • Share contact details easily
  • Reflect your brand – what you as a planner can offer specifically
  • Consider the font, design, and even the shape as ways for you to express your approach

Word-of-mouth

One of the best ways to reach more people is through a heartfelt word-of-mouth recommendation.

This mainly falls on the couples you work with to spread the word. However, you can help with this by organising amazing weddings, and asking for testimonials afterwards that you could then use on your website.

Wedding shows

Although many wedding shows have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, it’s still useful to think about whether exhibiting at such an event could be right for your business in the future.

You could consider a big scale event, such as The National Wedding Show, to reach as many people as possible.

Or a local/regional fair, like The North West Wedding Show, might be more suited to your business – especially if it ties in with your target audience and market.

Alternatively, you could exhibit at a show based on your niche. For example, both the Chosen Wedding Fair and A Most Curious Wedding Fair are aimed at creative couples who are looking for alternatives to the traditional wedding items.


Regulations

While you may find yourself typing ‘how to become a certified wedding planner’ or ‘how to become a licensed wedding planner’ into a search engine, just be aware that these terms are slightly misleading – strictly speaking, there aren’t any requirements for becoming a wedding planner.

Training

There aren’t any regulations to meet or specific qualifications that you need in order to become a wedding planner. That being said, having previous events management experience can be beneficial.

While it isn’t a requirement, it’s possible to take a wedding planning course to help you understand the key aspects of the business.

The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) has been running training since 2004. It offers a selection of courses, including one-to-one and online training, as well as courses for planning marquee weddings specifically.

Majithia says: “You don’t necessarily need a certificate – drive, enthusiasm, and on-the-job experience can often be enough.”

Insurance

Generally, wedding planners will need the following types of cover:

  • Professional indemnity – to protect against mistakes (e.g. you book the wrong supplier), errors, or negligence
  • Public liability – in case of injury or property damage relating to a member of the public

In addition, you might consider the following, depending on how and where you choose to run your wedding planner business:


Wedding planning myth-busting

Majithia says: “Wedding planning is often seen as a very glamorous job, when in reality it includes very long, unsociable working hours, tedious admin and is both physically and mentally draining.

“You need a lot of perseverance to keep going at times, and be sure to always carry a pair of flats – high heels on the job are just not practical.”

Nadine and Semedo add: “That it's glamorous, easy and fun. As a wedding planner or coordinator, you are a swan – graceful above water, but paddling frantically to keep everything afloat.

“Weddings are not an easy profession, and you have to truly love it to succeed. Yes, it can be much fun but if you're not passionate, the rays of light won't help you to sail through the wedding day fatigue, late guests and aching feet.”

Grant comments: “Yes, some people think our job is all about the pretty! It is so not. Being a wedding planner involves a lot of work behind the scenes, long hours and constantly solving problems to design, plan and manage a beautiful wedding.

“It is not an easy job and yet it is so rewarding when you see everything come together; your clients have an amazing, memorable wedding and are so happy.”


Next steps

Becoming a wedding planner offers you the opportunity to be a part of an incredibly special occasion. To ensure that you, and the happy couple, have the best chance of having a great day, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.

While watching the ceremony and the guests enjoying the celebrations are often the culmination of wedding planning, you’ll need to be prepared in order to offer these services.

This includes having the essential kit, such as a laptop and a smartphone, as well as having  the appropriate insurance policies in place too.

Plus, you’ll need to be highly organised to be able to coordinate so many different elements in what can be a challenging but rewarding process. And as COVID-19 continues to have a major impact on weddings in the UK, now more than ever, it’s important to have a passion for weddings themselves.

So, do you feel ready to become a wedding planner? If your answer is yes, then now it’s up to you to put these steps into action – good luck!


Useful links


Scarlett Cook
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