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This article was written and published in July 2012 in response to an increasing number of enquiries received from people wanting to know how to be a wedding planner and how to get into wedding planning.
It may not be reproduced or copied, in whole or in part, in any form whatsoever without the author's prior written approval.
In order to know How To Be A Wedding Planner we first have to evaluate exactly What Is A Wedding Planner?
Wedding Planners are known by a variety of titles, from Wedding Consultants or Wedding Designers to Wedding Coordinators, Wedding Organisers or Wedding Assistants. Their primary role is to offer professional advice, guidance and assistance to their clients, the couple who are getting married.
You will often hear it said that “no two weddings are the same” and that “it takes, on average, 250 hours to plan a wedding”. This is because weddings are among the most complex and complicated types of events to organise and the skills a successful wedding planner must possess are both extremely specialised and at the same diverse and wide ranging.
I will start by briefly outlining a wedding planner’s main responsibilities. Be warned that the list is far from exclusive. A wedding planner’s primary concerns include:
It is frequently publicised that the number of marriages that take place each year are falling. The reasons for the decline are generally assumed to be due to fundamental changes in our society – for example increased divorce rates, the popularity of partners co-habiting, the fall in church attendance numbers and the cost of a first time house.
However this is not necessarily bad news for wedding planners or the wedding industry as a whole. There are still almost 250,000 weddings taking place in the UK each year. And the average cost per wedding in 2011 was in the region of £20,000, according to research undertaken by 2 leading UK bridal magazines (sources: You & Your Wedding / Brides Magazine).
Based on these figures, the industry is worth a staggering £5,000,000,000 (five billion/five thousand million)… Indeed when first presented with this figure and realising the number of zero’s involved, one might naturally question the accuracy of the average cost. After all, very few brides want a cheap wedding and could easily exaggerate their budget. However, even when taking such considerations into account, if we reduce it by a whopping 20%, the wedding industry in the UK is still worth £4,000,000,000. It’s simply enormous!
The wedding planning sector of the industry in the UK is relatively new. 6 years ago we estimated that only 5% of couples used a wedding planner. In recent years however this figure has risen significantly. As is so often the case we appear to be following on the heels of the USA where the majority of engaged couples employ the professional services of a wedding planner.
It is now conservatively estimated that somewhere between 10-15% of couples in the UK opt for the services of a wedding planner (primary source: UKAWP). This equates to between 25,000-37,000 weddings each year that need a wedding planner. And this figure looks set to double in the next 5 years as more and more couples realise the true value of a wedding planner.
I should point out that this steady increase is in part thanks to the work of The Wedding Association and the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners who have been pushing a strict code of conduct for wedding planners to abide by. However it is also due to the increase in the average age that couples decide to “tie the knot”. 20 years ago it was still common for couples to get married at 20 or 21 years old. Nowadays, this is almost unheard of and the Office for National Statistics proves conclusively that “30 is the new 20”, at least when it comes to getting married!
So when a couple does finally ‘get to the altar’, they do so only after they have established careers for themselves. And it follows that they then have larger disposable incomes. So naturally, when they do set a date for the Big Day, they want an engagement that is stress free and a wedding that is absolute perfection…
For many people wedding planning is a dream job that offers exceptional rewards, for instance flexible working hours; decent pay once established; the fact you are your own boss; low set up costs and low overheads if you work from home.
Given these facts, over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people wanting to get into wedding planning or wanting to know how to be a wedding planner. Yet it is a somewhat regrettable fact that 90% of the C.V’s we receive fail to make any impression whatsoever. Each week without fail we receive at least 15 generic template emails that are sent to 10 or more other wedding planning companies (sometimes at the same time!) by applicants that have not even been bothered to look at our website and find out just a little about our business.
And of those that do take the time to research our company and personalise their application, unfortunately most of them have not undertaken a reputable wedding planning course and also lack relevant experience. Yet applicants still expect to find a position simply by offering to work for free for a short period of time…
As we found out ourselves back in 2006-2007 the offer of free labour is unfortunately a ‘double edged sword’. The fact is it actually cost us money due to the time we spent having to train and assist applicants who were originally selected to do the assisting!!
Anyway, nowadays therefore, unless you are extremely fortunate, in order to break into this industry it is essential that you have at least undertaken a reputable wedding planning course and ideally possess some solid wedding planning experience. Although for those that lack wedding planning experience, previous general events experience can assist you in landing your dream job, but do bear in mind that the actual day-to day job of wedding planning is very different to working in general events. After all, a wedding is an extremely personal, emotional and dare I say it… often stressful event for all concerned and especially so for the wedding party (bride, groom, immediate family and close friends).
Once you have completed, or better still, as you are completing a wedding planning course you need to seek out practical opportunities to put your training into practice. The easiest way to do this is by offering your wedding planning services freely to members of your family or friends that happen to be getting married. Accept any wedding planning opportunities that come your way, even if you think they might be too small or even too large for you to handle. It is this practical, hands-on experience that will help you to establish a foothold in the wedding planning industry. And naturally, the more weddings you have worked on the better your understanding of what a wedding planner’s job entails.
So, if you lack either wedding or events experience, education is the key and for most people it the first step to success onto the wedding planning ladder. After all, without it, you are stuck in a classic catch-22 situation: no experience > no job / no job > no experience.
By far the easiest and most popular way to become a wedding planner is to undertake a decent wedding planning course and set up in business on your own. This is because more than 90% of wedding consultancies in the UK are small 1 or 2 man bands who have little need for an extra pair of hands. That is not to say vacancies do not arise within wedding planning companies. Only that competition is fierce for the positions that do crop up and as we have seen, wedding experience is practically a prerequisite if you are to land such a coveted job.
Take heed though, as in any industry, the route of self-employment is not for the faint hearted and a diverse set of skills are required in order to succeed in running your own business. As a wedding planner you must possess first rate administrative, organisational and planning skills, alongside the ability to multi-task effectively. Exceptional research and sourcing skills are also essential.
A selection of additional useful attributes is below, in no particular order. You will see that many of them are skills that are transferrable from other careers and most people possess the majority of them, to varying degrees.
Of course it doesn’t stop there. You also have to be extremely driven and focused. Unless you go into business with a friend or family member you will be working on your own for much of the time. And it goes without saying you have to love the job because there is no 8am-6pm in the wedding planning industry. Be prepared to work long, hard hours, particularly during the first couple of years when starting up. If your background is in the City – those long and lazy lunch breaks or the Friday afternoon in the local bar will be a thing of the past…
And once you have mastered all these skills, you must then be realistic. We see many new wedding planners start up each year yet few manage to make it to the second year of trading simply because they fail to set realistic, achievable or practical targets for themselves. Most want to run before they can walk. It takes time and a huge amount of effort to set up and grow a business, in any industry you care to consider.
For an alternative route into this industry one should consider applying to local wedding venues (hotels and country houses for instance), for a position as an in-house assistant wedding planner.
Failing that, you should consider contacting local catering firms or even large, local florists. Many catering firms and some florists offer a full planning service and may be looking for an extra pair of hands during peak season or on Saturdays.
Vacancies frequently arise within such establishments and as long as you have completed a wedding planning course or have some wedding planning or events experience the offer of working for free for a short while is often enough to get your foot in the door and allow you to demonstrate your aptitude for the job.
Our advice to aspiring young wedding planners, who lack experience or training, yet dream of entering this industry, is to undertake a reputable wedding planning course. Simply get on google and type ‘wedding planning courses’ for a shortlist of options. Request brochures and then carefully evaluate course content and structure. Look for one that is in-depth, up-to-date and designed and written for the UK industry. And also ensure it covers all you need to know in one single course rather than having to enrol on (and pay extra for!) a beginners, intermediate and advanced level.
There are a few decent courses out there that you could undertake and we run one of them. Click wedding planning courses for further details.
It's Thursday 3rd May 2012. I'm currently working with 3 clients with weddings taking place over the next 4 months. Planning process is on track for all three, (just about!).
Sam Ketterer, Senior Wedding Consultant at Absolute Perfection Wedding Consultancy, London. UK
National Association of Professional Wedding Services
UK Alliance of Wedding Planners
Office of National Statistics
You & Your Wedding Magazine
National Careers Advice Service