How to become a wedding planner
With the wedding industry booming, Startups has compiled a step-by-step guide to starting a wedding planning business
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What is a wedding planner and who is it suited to?
A mix of an organiser, troubleshooter, designer, diplomat and much more, a wedding planner’s precise role is difficult to define. Your job will be to help couples organise the wedding day of their dreams, which means calling a rich mix of skills into play.
What you can be sure of is it is a growing industry. Ubiquitous in the USA, more and more brides in the UK are also seeking the assistance of wedding planners as services become ever more complex and their free time becomes increasingly scarce. A recent poll conducted by You and Your Wedding found that 11% of brides would consider hiring a planner to help with the process; with around 240,000 marriages taking place in the UK each year, it is a large and potentially lucrative target market.
Many people come into the business having planned their own wedding beforehand and caught the bug – but this is by no means a prerequisite for starting up. In fact, whilst you may have organised an unforgettable ceremony for yourself, you should be aware that planning weddings for multiple people at once, dealing with disparate demands from multiple brides, grooms and suppliers, is a whole different story.
“You need to be very organised,” explains Bernadette Chapman, director of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners and founder of her own wedding planner business, Dream Occasions. “I’ve regularly had situations where two brides with the exact same name want a very similar wedding, around the same time of year – it can be difficult to keep track!”
Indeed, whilst event planning experience is always good preparation for becoming a wedding planner, Chapman believes that experience of an office environment is even more beneficial. “I would say 80% of the job is administrative – only a very small percentage of the job is creativity,” she explains. “PAs and secretaries, in particular, make very good wedding planners.”
Key to this is the ability to think on your feet. Weddings are often huge, complex events, and whether it is a traffic jam on the M25, poor weather, or a supplier not turning up, things will inevitably go wrong. “You need to be very logical, and have a plan B at all times,” says Chapman.
And whilst administrative and organisational skills are key, just as important is the ability to connect with people on a human level. Weddings are a stressful time, and the ability to put people at their ease and allowing them to trust you will be a vital skill. “You will have to be a mix of a new best friend, councillor and PA to the brides you work with – sometimes all three at once,” explains Chapman. “You will also take on a diplomatic role at times, as there is normally some private information you need to take into account when working out arrangements for the wedding – perhaps the bride’s father is an alcoholic, or there is bad blood between certain members of a family.”
Not only will you be dealing with an exacting bride, you will have to negotiate and build relationships with a huge range of suppliers, including photographers, venue owners and florists, so it pays to have networking experience and a level of commercial acumen. “Communication is incredibly important – personally, I believe it’s the key skill,” argues Andrea Swift, regional director for the UKAWP and founder of Cheshire-based planning business Fabulous Day. “Ultimately, planning a wedding is a team effort between you, the suppliers, the venue and the bride. You need to be confident – you will often have to give people instructions who you have never met before.”
Whilst wedding planners are popularly viewed as female, Chapman says she has seen an increasing percentage of male wedding planners setting up in the last few years – so if you’re a man reading this, by no means rule it out. “The grooms are traditionally left out of the planning process, so finding a niche like that could prove to be really valuable.”
As you will see in our ‘earnings’ section, becoming a wedding planner is no route to riches; the first couple of years will be particularly difficult, and because they are traditionally one-person ventures, you are always limited in the work you can take on.
The real rewards lie elsewhere; it is an especially flexible venture which you can fit around other commitments, and you get the chance to be intimately involved in what is the high point of many peoples’ lives.
“My passion is weddings – I was excited about the industry from the offset,” explains Andrea Swift. “Weddings mean such a lot to people. You really feel privileged to facilitate what is always a special day.”
Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.