Becoming a professional wedding planner can be a fun and fulfilling career. Maybe you have experience—with your own wedding, through favors for friends, or working as a wedding planning assistant. Maybe you're starting from scratch. No matter your background, building your own wedding planning business is a whole other ballgame. You're going to make mistakes. But with the right preparation, they'll be mistakes you can fix or weather. The most important thing is steering clear of fundamental errors that can tank your business before it gets off the ground. Below, you'll learn the four biggest mistakes you need to avoid as a new wedding planner.
Big Mistake #1: Inadequate Budgeting
A budget is not going to be number one on most couples' agendas, and that's why it has to be number one on yours. Clients rely on you to be thoughtful and methodical so that they can focus on being excited. And one of your most critical responsibilities is making sure they get the most bang for their buck. Talk to the couple together and early on—before the venue, the dress, and the guest list, if at all possible. Encourage them to come up with a realistic maximum they can afford to spend. Then talk about priorities. What matters the most to them? What do they care about the least? Write these priorities down. You can use them later to keep the couple on track as they make decisions. The other important thing you offer is knowledge of all the little expenses that your clients might forget to plan for—things that would send them over-budget if it weren't for your expertise. Build a comprehensive list of wedding expenses, add to it as you gain experience, and establish ballpark costs for your area.
Big Mistake #2: Not Having Backup Plans
Brides are paying you to worry so that they don't have to (as much). Planning for the worst case scenario is part of your job. Do it well and you'll get great word of mouth for saving the day. Do it poorly, and you might hear a whole lot of crickets. Some of the contingencies you need to plan for are obvious—if the ceremony is outdoors, you need an option for bad weather. Others may be things you'd rather not contemplate, like vendor no-shows, street closures, ruined dresses, or medical emergencies. But those types of last-minute disasters are exactly the kind of thing they're counting on you to plan for.
Big Mistake #3: Trusting Without Verifying
One of the best ways to deal with day-of emergencies is to make sure they never happen. Ask lots of questions, of venues, of venders, of your clients. Don't assume that the venue comes with certain amenities. Don't assume that services are included until you confirm. Don't assume the couple has thought about the "obvious." Don't assume something has been done just because someone said they would do it. If something hasn't been explicitly discussed, you need to ask. And then follow up. Be dogged about getting contracts executed. Follow up on any changes that were discussed but not committed to writing. Check in with the bride and groom on things they agreed to handle themselves. Get the details of any vendors that clients booked on their own and actively coordinate with them. Confirm that everything is on schedule before the point of no return. And then confirm again on the day. The sooner you know about a problem, the sooner you can pull the trigger on Plan B.
Big Mistake #4: Not Thinking Like a Business Owner
If you want wedding planning to be a business and not a hobby, you have to think about it like one. You have to:
- Know what types of services you want to offer, the specific limits to those services
- Price your services appropriately, be explicit about your payment terms (when, where, and how), and know what should trigger additional fees
- Get a signed business contract before you start any work (including vendor referrals and too much "advice")
- Carry business insurance and structure your company to limit personal liability
- Have a marketing plan to get your name out and attract the right clients
- Build a network of vendor relationships for different tastes and budgets
And those are really just to get you started. You can certainly go it alone and self-educate. But another option is to become a Trained Wedding Planner by taking a set of courses specifically tailored to the business. It's even possible to take your wedding planning courses online, so that you can pace yourself and work through the material on your own schedule. You'll build a solid foundation for your future with lessons on budgeting, client and vendor contracts, revenue channels, marketing, and a comprehensive knowledge of wedding planning details. Formal training is also a great marketing asset, and it can act as the first step in becoming a Certified Wedding Planner.
Helping couples plan the biggest day of their lives can be an incredibly rewarding career. It's also a business, with serious responsibilities and financial considerations. Educating yourself on the realities of the wedding industry and how to conduct yourself professionally will be crucial to your success.