How To Become A Wedding Planner

How To Become A Wedding Planner

A Path To A New Career In 6-12 Months!

Updated June 2022, First Published 2007.  With drive and determination, it is not difficult if you want to become a wedding planner. You do not need any specific qualifications or even licences. In fact you could set up a wedding planning business and start advertising for clients as soon as you have read this post! However, as in any other industry, you will need a diverse set of skills and attributes, plus an informed understanding and knowledge of the business if you are to build a successful career as a wedding planner. We will discuss these skills shortly, but before we do, let’s examine the steps that most people take on their journey to becoming a wedding planner.

Having tutored and trained dozens of successful wedding planners over the years, the vast majority follow the same tried and tested path into the industry:

  1. Enrol on a specialist training program
  2. Seek opportunities to practice your new skills
  3. Offer your services to local couples for free
  4. Build up a portfolio and some references
  5. Set up your own business or apply for jobs

Most people choose to become wedding planners after organising their own wedding, or helping to plan that of a family member or friend. They fall in love with job and decide to change careers. With little or no experience, specialist training is therefore essential. There are lots of wedding planning training courses to choose from, all easily found online. However, they do vary quite considerably in quality, content, depth and price so it is important to conduct some thorough research before you enrol. Most are online or distance learning courses and take 6-12 months to complete if you work full time and study 1-2 evenings a week. Typical costs for a reputable Level 3 or Level 4 course are between £750.00-£1,500.00. 

Whilst training, you should seek out wedding planning opportunities to put your newly acquired skills into practice, for instance:

  • Offer to help to anyone you know who is getting married. 
  • Expand your reach by networking on forums, offering free advice and assistance to local couples 

By the end of the season you will have built up a portfolio of images from weddings you have worked on plus some references. It is then up to you to decide whether to set up your own business or apply for work in an established company.


the wedding planner

Wedding Planning Career Routes

Wedding planners have a choice of two career paths. The first is to set up your own business, either self-employed or as a limited company. Alternatively, you could seek employment within an established business.

Now you may be surprised to know that the quickest and easiest way to become a wedding planner is to set up your own business. In fact, most planners in the UK are self-employed. This is because the wedding planning industry is still quite young and as such, there are not many companies employing more than a few full-time staff.  

If you do intend to seek employment, it is wise to consider expanding your job search to include local wedding venues, event companies, large local caterers and florists too. Popular weddings venues such as hotels, country houses and wedding barns will offer the greatest chance for you to land a job as a wedding planner, albeit working for a venue as an in-house wedding planner or coordinator rather than an independent wedding planner. The role of an in-house coordinator is similar to that of a wedding planner and will still provide you with some excellent wedding planning experience for your C.V. But the roles are not the same. If you would like to know more about the differences between the two, click here to read the post. 

Local event companies are also worth approaching, as are larger local catering firms and florists as some offer full wedding planning services. Suitable vacancies frequently arise within these larger establishment, especially during peak season April-October & December.

TOP TIP: The offer of working for free for a week or so may give you the chance to get your foot in the door

Skills & Attributes Of A Wedding Planner

The best wedding planners have some exceptional analytical skills. They are highly organised, practical and creative individuals who thrive under pressure and communicate well with people from all walks of life. They are positive, professional and often self-assured. Let's take a closer look at these essential skills and see how they may be applied to a wedding planning on a daily basis.

Organised

There may be a hundred separate tasks for you to undertake for each wedding you organise and there will be times when you are heavily involved in 5 or more weddings, managing separate briefs, timelines and schedules, all at various stages of design and development. Reviewing terms and closing a deal for one client with a luxury venue; sourcing table linens and guest transportation for another; drawing up a contract for a new client; putting together a shortlist of bands for yet another client - it's all in a morning's work! And every day your tasks will differ. So, for each wedding you plan, you need to be able to see the bigger picture and at the same time remain focussed on all the countless finer details. Careful organisation and planning are key to ensuring you work efficiently and effectively.

Bear in mind that if you are self-employed, have a young family to care for and a busy social life to live, it is even more important that you are well organised. Alongside your wedding planning duties, you'll also be responsible for growing your business, taking care of sales, marketing and PR; social media and managing the accounts. Being highly organised helps you manage your time effectively and live your life to the full.

Communication

Planners are outgoing people with good empathic skills. You must be able to communicate and relate well with people from all walks of life, from the young glass collector to the Father of the Bride who might manage a high-profile law firm or the client who trades in the City and pays your fees.

Bear in mind the phrase 'people buy from people'. This is especially so when couples are looking for a wedding planner to work with. Consider the choice a potential client has between 2 planners, both with excellent experience, portfolios and similar quotes. They will undoubtedly select the planner who they feel most at ease with or they feel had the best personality. Indeed how you communicate and how personable, professional and presentable you are can be the difference between winning or losing a client, or even business failure or success.

Clients are likely to view you in a variety of roles: as an advisor, a counsellor, a negotiator, a manager, a trouble-shooter, a friend. Suppliers will see you as the client's representative and some will also view you as a colleague or friend. To be successful, all these roles require excellent communication skills.

Creative

Design and creativity are key elements that will help you to transform a blank canvas or venue space into the perfect wedding location that the client has dreamt about. Likewise, a little artistic flair and a good eye for detail will help to ensure that you deliver the WOW factor that all your clients want to achieve. If you are not especially creative you will need to use your resourcefulness to seek out innovative creative ideas and concepts for your clients.

Research

Research is key to establishing a reputable wedding planning business. Your research brought you to this post and it is further research that will help you to take your next steps towards becoming a wedding planner.

As a planner you will be researching and recording information on new venues and suppliers and reviewing all the latest styles, trends, developments, ideas and concepts. By doing do, you will be expanding your own specialist knowledge, providing your clients with a better service and enhancing your business all the same time. 

Troubleshooting

Weddings = stress at some stage, for the clients, their families and friends to their suppliers and of course you, since one of your primary functions is to minimise stress and troubleshoot any problems that arise. The ability to keep calm under pressure, comprehend, assess and swiftly resolve any unforeseen problems that might impact on the clients or their wedding is one of the most valuable skills a wedding planner can possess. 

There are countless potential problems that may occur during the wedding planning process: the invitations might be printed on the wrong card stock; the bride might have fallen out with the chief bridesmaid or is finding a supplier rather tricky to deal with; 20 guests rsvp's might be late; the venue might have closed down; the photographer calls in sick on the day; the bus to transport guests to the reception breaks down or the wedding cake is knocked off the table. Troubleshooting, problem solving and conflict resolution are all in a day's work for a wedding planner!

Other Useful Business Skills

Financial Management

With the average couple spending iro £21,000 on their wedding in 2022, many wedding planners are often responsible for managing multiple client's budgets of £40,000-£60,000 or more. You'll need to know how best to break down a client's budget into its constituent parts; understand price points; negotiate prices with suppliers; ensure deposits and payments are made on time; issue invoices and receipts; stay within budget and of course maintain accurate records. 

Being self-employed, most wedding planners then have to manage their own business finances and accounts. First class financial management skills are therefore essential.

Negotiating

Having confidence in your negotiation skills is another vital attribute for a wedding planner to possess. You must be willing and able to negotiate hard for your client and get the best possible deal from a wedding venue, service or supplier, by persuading them to lower their costs and/or enhance their services. Wedding planners are always negotiating, from agreeing a level of service and fee with the client to negotiating terms and fees with the client's venue and suppliers. Successful negotiations depend on you being able to build a good rapport with those you are negotiating with, understand the value of a service and knowhow and when to make demands and concessions or when to walk away.

Sales and Marketing

In order to develop and grow your business you'll require some sound ideas on how to advertise and market your services to potential clients. You may have the finest wedding planning services in your city but if people cannot find you, or your advertising copy is poorly written or your website is clumsy or slow to load, then your business is dead in the water. 

And unless you have great reserves of cash, you need to be able to carefully manage your marketing budget and ensure every pound is spent wisely, for instance by tracking leads, monitoring advertisement response rates and conversions. A basic understanding of how to market your business can be enough to ensure you receive a steady stream of potential new clients.

Conclusion

There are many more skills besides these that will help you to establish yourself as a wedding planner. For example, you should be proficient in a range of computer software from MS Office & Adobe to a selection of specialist wedding design and planning programs. You must be able to show good leadership skills and be decisive, dependable or willing to step up and take control when the situation arises, for instance if a member of the client's wedding party is being unreasonable or the client is making unfair demands. Team management skills are also beneficial, especially when working onsite at a wedding and you want to bring the best out of all your suppliers and ensure they provide the best service they can. 

All these essential wedding planning skills can quite easily be acquired or refined through practical experience in the workplace or in a social environment or through self-education and training. Our advice to all you aspiring young - and not so young! - wedding planners who lack experience or training is to start researching and enrol on a reputable wedding planning course. Ideally you should choose one that teaches you all you need to know about setting up and running your own wedding planning business. There are several decent courses in the UK and we happen to run one of them. You can find our more information on our website.

Useful Resources:

AP Wedding Planning Academy 

UK Alliance of Wedding Planners

National Careers Advice Service

Prospects

Office of National Statistics

Wedding Industry Facts & Figures

Some background facts and figures for you:

  • ONS data shows that 235,000 couples got married in the UK in 2018
  • the average cost of a wedding the UK in 2021 was iro £22,000 (sources: You & Your Wedding Magazine, Brides Magazine & Bridebook)
  • The wedding industry is therefore worth a staggering £5,000,000,000 (five billion pounds) to the UK economy
  • 15-20% of couples hire a wedding planner (source: UKAWP)
  • That's 35,000-47,000 weddings annually that using a wedding planner
  • We estimate there are approximately 2,000 full and part-time wedding planners operating in the UK, each working on 6-10 Full Coordination weddings & 8-12 Partial Coordination wedding per year.
  • Average income for an established wedding planner is £22,000-35,000, depending on location and experience.