How To Become A Wedding Planner
How To Be A Wedding Planner
This post (first written in 2013 and updated Jan 2020) examines the following topics:
- What is a Wedding Planner?
- The Role of a Wedding Planner
- Finding Jobs in the Wedding Industry
- Training & Courses
- A Day in the Life of a Wedding Planner
What Is A Wedding Planner?
Wedding Planners are known by a variety of titles, from Wedding Consultants or Designers to Wedding Coordinators, 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.
A wedding planner’s primary concerns are as follows:
- Providing the bride and groom (the clients) with unlimited professional advice, support and guidance on any and all wedding related matters.
- Managing the client’s wedding budget as well as overseeing its division to cover the fees of their chosen wedding services and suppliers. It is paramount that a planner must ensure the budget is adequately and appropriately allocated according to the client’s particular needs.
- Sourcing and shortlist suitable ceremony and reception venues, as well as wedding party and guest hotels and even restaurants, bars, clubs should the client want to extend their wedding celebrations over a long weekend.
- Sourcing and shortlist suitable wedding services and suppliers, from the photographer to the evening’s entertainment, right down the charger plates or tea candles.
- Negotiating contracts (fees, discounts, complimentary services, terms and conditions) with all venues, services and suppliers and subsequently managing venues, services and suppliers throughout the engagement as well as on the wedding day.
- Providing a wealth of creative design and styling ideas and options in order to enhance the senses of the wedding party and guests on the day, from colours and themes to sound and lighting and taste!
- During the wedding planning process a wedding planner will draw up a time-line that outlines the order of tasks to undertake during the engagement. The planner will also compile an 'on the day' schedule that details the order of events on the wedding day (to the minute!) and then work tirelessly to ensure that the schedule is adhered to on the day itself.
- Other tasks are likely to include: unlimited 24/7 telephone and email support to the client and their wedding party; acting as first point of contact for the client for all wedding suppliers; copywriting and proofing the stationery; providing professional advice on all legal matters relating to the wedding ceremony; providing accurate advice on wedding traditions and etiquette, guest list and RSVP management; guest concierge services, including drawing up a guest information guide outlining transport and accommodation options to the wedding; project managing the stag and hen weekends; honeymoon coordination and management and drawing up back up plans to deal with any unforeseen problems that might arise.
(To get an idea of the extensive range of tasks a wedding planner must manage, take a look at the following post: A WEDDING PLANNING TIMELINE).
There are approximately 250,000 weddings taking place in the UK each year. And the average cost per wedding in 2019 was in the region of £25,000, 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. However, even if we accounting for exaggerated or inflated claims and reduce it by 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. In 2005 it is 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 coming years as more and more couples realise the true value of a wedding planner.
This steady increase is in part thanks to the work of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners who have been pushing a strict code of conduct for wedding planners to abide by. 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. 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…
Finding Jobs as a Wedding Planner
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 guide applicants who were originally selected to assist us!!
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.
Set Up Your Own Wedding Planning Business
Wedding Planner Courses
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.
- Research is key. The more research you undertake the better your knowledge and understanding of the wedding planning world you are about to enter.
- Business skills - setting up and managing a business on a daily basis; dealing with accounts, the bank and HMRC for instance.
- Naturally, in order to establish your business you need to be competent in marketing and advertising.
- Negotiation skills are another essential attribute for a wedding planner. You need to be able to get your client the best possible deal from a wedding venue or wedding service/supplier. This often requires a somewhat ‘hard nose’ and a willingness to push the boundaries even if you don’t necessarily feel comfortable about doing so.
- You should be proficient with a range of computer software (MSOffice, Photoshop, Wordpress, Illustrator for example).
- You should possess an outgoing, personable nature with good empathic skills. You must be able to communicate and get on with everyone at the wedding – from the lowly glass collector to the Father of the Bride who might manage a high profile law firm in the City.
- And be able to display a creative and artistic flair with an eye for detail.
- Not forgetting the ability to keep calm under pressure, think on your feet and thrive on stress.
- Oh yes, and a positive, professional, 'can do' attitude…
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.
The Alternative Route
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. We also offer placement opportunities to strong students. Click AP WEDDING PLANNING COURSES for further details.
A Day In The Life Of A Wedding Planner
It's a Thursday in May and I'm currently focussing on 3 full coordination clients whose weddings take place in the next few months.
Some early online research into new American wedding stationery suppliers, then finish sourcing 6 piece jazz bands located close to Edinburgh.
Get into the office and answer overnight enquiry emails.
Phone calls to the preferred 3 jazz bands to check availability, fees and request demo cds for client. Then draw up email for the client with shortlist of bands and links to sound clips online.
Phone call to update same client on band status and confirm that their caterer has agreed to reduce the champagne corkage fee.
Email to advise another client that they need to issue a bank transfer in order to confirm the booking and the services of their chosen magician.
Start sourcing a selection of venues based on a (new) client's particular requirements. Wedding not until next year, location Italy.
Phone call with (same new) client to discuss her thoughts on the wedding dress she tried on yesterday and for her feedback on the shortlist of videographers.
Phone call to a dress shop in town to try to secure a last minute appointment for a client wishing to try on a wedding veil. Seems she had been told the earliest slot was Friday week. Thankfully manage to get a drop in slot at lunch time the following day. Call client to confirm.
Answer new general email enquiries received this morning.
Start sourcing a supplier who has some ornate silver candelabra in stock to hire out. And some suitable battery operated candles - naked flames not permitted by venue.
Add suitable new venues to database.
Lunch - a sandwich - eaten whilst clicking through a variety of online resources looking for some new creative inspiration.
Meet with a new photographer who seems suitable for a client, in order to review his portfolio and make final judgement on whether or not to book an appointment for him to meet a client.
Respond to a client’s call to say that she’s close to tears because of the continued delays with the stationery (she sourced the stationer herself!). Then, donning the ‘impartial mediator’ hat, call the stationer to find out what exactly has happened and attempt to confirm a delivery date that the client will be satisfied with.
Phone call with a wedding venue to try to close the deal on whether they will agree to reduce the number of bedrooms a client must take and instead accept a higher minimum spend on food and drink.
Prep work for a consultation tomorrow with a potential new client who wants to get married in Italy. In essence, reviewing suitability and compiling a small selection of images of wedding venues that they could consider. Also ensuring the consultation file is up-to-date.
Answer new general email enquiries received this afternoon.
Review the terms and conditions of a contract sent through for a venue search client from a venue and forward onto them with recommendations on how to proceed.
Started early today so signing off now to spend time with the family - hopefully that is, unless something crops up before I’m asleep…
UK Alliance of Wedding Planners
Office of National Statistics
You & Your Wedding Magazine
National Careers Advice Service