Everybody loves a wedding – but have you ever thought about organising weddings for a living? There’s a huge demand for wedding planners across the UK, and if you’re interested in starting your own business, it’s definitely a profession worth checking out.
So, first thing’s first: what exactly is a wedding planner?
Simply put, a wedding planner is an individual who helps organise a wedding. This could include coordinating the entire day from start to finish, just the ceremony and reception or even just one specific aspect of somebody’s big day. Anyone can learn to become a brilliant wedding planner, although you will need to develop a certain set of core skills to succeed.
According to the National Careers Service, a typical wedding planner’s salary ranges from £17,000 to £25,000 per year. That being said, the amount you earn will depend entirely upon the type of business plan you’d like to implement. You could choose to work as a wedding planner for a specific venue or company – but if you opt to start your own wedding planning business, you can decide whether you’d like to charge a fixed rate, hourly rate, a percentage of the total wedding cost or something entirely different.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Before you start thinking about what you’re going to charge, it’s worth walking you through all the basics of how you should set up your wedding planning business. So to help you get started, we’ve developed this Rapid Guide that will walk you through all of the basics on how to become a wedding planner.
- Training and qualifications
- Setting up shop
- Getting insured
- Rules and regulations
- Top tips
Training and qualifications
Unlike some professions, there are actually no specific qualifications you’re legally required to obtain in order to become a wedding planner in the UK. That being said, it certainly helps if you’ve previously gained experience in particular sectors.
A huge number of wedding planners opt to go to college or university, and typically study to gain qualifications in subjects like:
- Event management
- Project management
- Public relations
But just because many wedding planners have pursued a degree or college qualification doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to do so, too.
Another way you could gain experience could be to look for work as an employee for a wedding planner or an existing event management company.
Even better, you can receive sector specific training from highly experienced wedding planners. Organisations like the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) – which is the UK sector’s leading body – has been training wedding planners in the UK for over 13 years, and offer a range of training opportunities across the country. You can enrol in one-to-one training sessions, workshops and webinars that are designed to help first-time wedding planners get started.
You can also apply for membership of the UKAWP, which will help you stand out as wedding planner who has gone above and beyond what’s needed to start a professional business.
Membership guidelines of the UKAWP include the following commitments. You will be expected to:
- Respond to enquiries within 48 hours
- Respect client confidentiality
- Disclose any suppliers you have a vested interest in
- Pass discounts and/or commission onto clients
- Ensure your Public Liability insurance is up to date
- Never give client details to any third party not involved with the wedding
- Respect copyright from fellow wedding professionals
- Represent each client fairly and honestly
- Use legally sound business contracts with clients
You could also arrange training with organisations like the UK Academy of Wedding & Event Planning, which offer a range of online courses you could take in order to obtain a broad understanding of the industry and what you’ll need to do in order to succeed. Before you go enrolling in any courses, it’s worth noting that there is no official or government-regulated accreditation you need to obtain to become a wedding planner. These courses and training opportunities are only to benefit you, and to let your clients know you have worked hard to develop industry insight and learn about best practice.
So, beyond optional industry training, what are the sort of skills a successful wedding planner needs?
As you might imagine, no two wedding planners are alike – and so many of them have got different skills and qualities that make them shine. Yet by and large, as a wedding planner you should at least strive to develop the following basic skills:
- Organisation skills
- Communication skills
- Customer service skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- An ability to work under pressure
- Sales and negotiation skills
- Budgeting skills
If you’ve got all of those skills, there’s no reason you can’t become a professional at planning weddings.
Setting up shop
Fortunately, setting up a wedding planning business can be incredibly affordable. There aren’t a huge number of start-up costs involved, and there are plenty of ways to cut corners while you’re trying to get started.
In terms of overheads, most wedding planners start their business from home – which means you’ll benefit from not having to pay any commercial rent or mortgage. You also won’t increase your own personal utility costs by much, and so your day-to-day operating costs shouldn’t amount to much.
Instead, your initial costs should be focussed on the sort of business basics you’d expect any new company to have. These include things like:
- A computer (if you haven’t already got one)
- A printer and scanner
- A business phone or phoneline
- Web hosting
- Business cards
- Insurance (we’ll get to that in a minute)
By and large, the biggest expense you can expect when starting up your business is going to be marketing. Not only will you need business cards, but you may find it useful to print out various types of marketing collateral, such as fliers, brochures or leaflets.
To succeed as a wedding planner in the 21st century, you’ll also need a website. If you’ve never created a website before, don’t panic: it’s actually pretty simple. With the help of freemium platforms like WordPress, you can create a simple, drag-and-drop website using a range of free templates. You can even purchase a unique domain name to make your website stand out, which often costs less than £10 per year.
In terms of digital marketing, you’ll also want to set up a formidable social media presence across a range of platforms. Because weddings are so visual, wedding planners tend to post (with permission) videos and photographs from weddings they’ve helped to plan to showcase their work and engage with potential clients. Fortunately, social media is generally a free outreach tool – although you can pay to expand your reach through sponsored posts.
You’ll also want to ensure you’ve got access to a reliable car or vehicle, and budget in petrol to cover the mileage you may need to drive to reach venues and clients.
Another crucial aspect of setting up your new wedding planning business is creating a portfolio of your work. Beyond your own marketing efforts and networking, the best way to sell your services will be to showcase what you’ve achieved through a portfolio (both online and offline). This can admittedly be a little bit difficult to create without much experience, and so you could try including things like:
- A photoshoot from a mock wedding you’ve staged.
- Testimonials from friends or relatives for whom you have helped organise an aspect of their weddings.
- A list of any courses or industry memberships you’ve obtained.
- A sample of a wedding timeline you’ve developed.
From a business perspective, you may also want to consider registering your business as a limited company. If you choose to form a limited by shares company, your business will become its own distinct legal entity in the eyes of the government. That means you’ll be granted ‘limited liability’, and you will only be liable for company debts up to the value of your shares. That will protect your personal finances if your business does not succeed or if it runs into financial obstacles.
If you’d like more information on limited companies and why you may want to consider setting one up for your wedding planning business, consult our blog.
Your job as a wedding planner is to ensure that your clients have the best day of their lives. But when you’re coordinating a big event, sometimes things can go awry. When they do, you may end up getting blamed for a mistake – and so you’ll want to protect yourself with insurance.
The types of insurance you choose to take out will depend largely upon the type of work you’re carrying out in the industry, as well as the types of events you’re planning. Yet by and large, most wedding planners will have at least one (and potentially all) of these types of insurance:
Professional indemnity insurance
Professional indemnity insurance protects you if a client tries to sue you because they think you’ve made a mistake or have been negligent in some way.
Public liability insurance
Public liability insurance will protect you against any compensation claims that are made by a member of the public who claims they have been injured on your property.
Employers’ liability insurance
Employers’ liability insurance is a legal requirement for most businesses that choose to employ staff. This will cover any claims an employee could end up making if they’re injured or become ill due to work.
That list is by no means exhaustive – it’s just the start. You may also want to explore products like business contents insurance, too. When in doubt, do your research and take your time before taking out insurance.
Rules and regulations
Because the wedding planning industry as a sector is more or less unregulated by the government, there aren’t many statutory regulations you must follow beyond the sort of rules you’d be expected to observe as part of any other sector.
Bearing that in mind, your top regulatory concern will simply be to ensure you’re compliant with the statutory filing and reporting requirements that go hand-in-hand with forming a limited company.
If you’ve opted to form a limited company to protect your business, you’ll need to fulfil several legal obligations on a regular basis. Those obligations largely include simply keeping government bodies like Companies House and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) up-to-date on what’s going on at your business.
As company director, you will be legally responsible for carrying out the following legal duties:
You must send an annual confirmation statement (or an annual return) to Companies House at least once per year.
- You must prepare and submit financial accounts for Companies House.
- You must notify Companies House if there are any changes to your company details.
- You must file Company Tax Returns and annual accounts with HMRC.
- If eligible, you must pay Corporation Tax.
Not sure what this all means? Don’t worry. We cover all of these filing requirements and much more on our blog.
Once you’re happy with your level of training, have set up shop and are aware of the legal regulations you’ve got to observe, you’re ready to start planning weddings. It’s an incredibly rewarding profession, and it can be a lot of fun, too.
But before you start booking venues and ordering around videographers, we’ve got a few basic tips to help you on your way as your business evolves and grows:
Be prepared to work weekends
If you haven’t already, you need to constantly bear in mind that weddings are generally on weekends – and go into the early hours. Moreover, most of your clients will likely be working normal, nine-to-five jobs – and so will normally expect you to be available to meet or have a chat in the evenings or on weekends.
Your top marketing tool is word-of-mouth
At the end of the day, no brochure or sales pitch beats a gleaming review from person to person. After your clients have tied the knot and settled into married life, politely encourage them to write a review online, or pass your details on to any friends or colleagues they know who are considering getting married.
First impressions are everything
As a wedding planner, couples are pinning the successful execution of their big day entirely upon your shoulders. If you want to win business, you need to present yourself as a professional who is neat, organised and business-savvy. If you can’t impress a client as part of their initial enquiry, they’ll often take their business elsewhere.
Broaden your network
Even after you’ve established a rhythm and business processes that seem to work for you, you should always be looking for opportunities to learn more and expand your professional reach. That means joining professional associations, attending industry conferences and getting your name out there to the types of industry professionals – such as photographers or caterers – that you will need at your beck and call to plan the perfect wedding.
The bottom line…
So, we’ve given you all of the basics you’ll need in order to obtain optional qualifications, set up shop and shop around for insurance as a wedding planner. But this guide only covers the basics. As a new wedding planner and a new business owner, you’ll have plenty of burning questions about getting started or trying to further develop your business – and we’re always happy to help.
If you have any questions, our knowledgeable team members are always on standby to offer you assistance. Simply get in touch by tweeting us at our Twitter handle @RapidUKOfficial and via our Facebook Page.