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
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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)
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
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
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.
Sustainability and vegan/vegetarian menus are two key wedding trends in 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
|Insurance||Variable – 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|
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:
|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:
|Scanner/photocopier||For uploading contracts etc.||- Scanners: £50-£300
- Photocopier: £150 approx.
|Tablet||For showing designs or ideas||£50-£1600|
|Car||To easily access countryside weddings, for example||Variable, depending on type, model, and preference|
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.
Marketing your wedding planner business
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Business interruption – to protect a premises against fire or flood, as well as stolen equipment
- Home business insurance – if you’ll be working from home
- Employers’ liability – this is required if you have team members
- Car insurance – to ensure your car is covered for business use (if applicable)
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!
- Gov.uk guidance on marriages and civil partnerships and COVID-19 – government information for marriages and civil partnerships in the UK
- Association of British Wedding Businesses coronavirus (COVID-19) support
– a list of resources to help those working in the industry manage the impact of the pandemic
- UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) – an industry body that was founded to promote professionalism in the wedding industry. It offers membership, training and coaching services
- Hitched – a wedding website aimed at couples. Wedding planners could use it to find information on venues and suppliers, as well as general wedding inspiration
- The National Wedding Show – a UK-wide wedding fair