To have a successful career as a wedding planner you must be creative, calm under pressure, a brilliant organiser and never miss a deadline
'Wedding planning sounds like a fun, glamorous and exciting career and often it is. But it's not an easy job to do. You need to be highly driven and determined in order to succeed,' explains Sam Ketterer, director, Absolute Perfection Wedding Consultancy.
What do wedding planners do?
As a wedding planner you'll be responsible for organising weddings and ensuring that the day runs smoothly, as well as acting as a calming influence on your clients.
Professional wedding planners offer several levels of service, such as:
- Full wedding planning - organise every last detail of the wedding.
- Partial wedding planning - be responsible for some aspects of the wedding while leaving others to the clients.
- On-the-day management - provide support on the wedding day itself.
On a typical full wedding project, you'll start by discussing your clients' initial ideas and budget, then make a proposal setting out what you can do and how much you'll charge for your services (a fixed fee or sometimes a percentage of the total cost of the wedding).
Once you're hired, you'll draw up a masterplan that sets out everything that needs to be done and by what deadline.
Tasks will include coming up with possible themes, suggesting and booking a venue, and negotiating with suppliers such as photographers, florists and caterers - always bearing in mind the amount of money your clients have set aside.
It's vital you have a comprehensive knowledge of venues, products and suppliers, so a lot of travel and background research is required.
In the run up to a wedding you'll need to be prepared to work long hours, including evenings and weekends - especially in the spring and summer when you're likely to have multiple projects ongoing. You'll also attend on the wedding day to oversee the logistics.
The reward is to see the happy couple enjoying their big day thanks to your planning and organisation.
Wedding planners are often self-employed and, in this case, you'll have additional administrative tasks such as your accounts and promoting your services, usually by creating and maintaining a website.
Do I need specific skills and qualifications?
There are no particular qualifications required to become a wedding planner - it's much more important to gain experience. You won't be hired to plan somebody's wedding if you don't have a history of successfully organising events.
You may be able to get some experience by planning your own wedding or those of friends and family. Another option is to search for local wedding planners and ask them for work experience or opportunities to shadow them.
While not essential, an academic background in hospitality and event management will help you develop the right skillset. Find out about event management courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level. If you choose the university route, get involved in societies and clubs and be proactive in organising their events.
For specific tutoring in wedding planning, short and online courses are available through organisations such as:
- Absolute Perfection
- QC Event School
- UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP)
- UK Academy of Wedding and Event Planning
'If you intend to be self-employed, look for courses that include modules on setting up and running a business' recommends Sam. Learn more about self-employment.
You'll need to have these key skills if you want to be a successful wedding planner:
- Calm under pressure - your clients will expect everything to be perfect. They may take some of their stress out on you, or a supplier might let you down at the last minute. You'll need to able to deal with all of this in a professional manner.
- Communication skills - you'll have to advise your clients, but also listen to them. It's their day, not yours, and your job is to ensure everything is as they want it.
- Creativity - whatever the theme or style favoured by your clients, you'll have to be creative and stay on top of the latest trends to put together a wedding to remember.
- Strong research skills - 'it's your job to meet the brief of your client and so it's important that you know where to look for all the weird and wonderful requests you will have to meet,' explains Sam.
- Entrepreneurial spirit - you'll usually be responsible for marketing your services and growing your business.
- Good with money - as well as managing your own finances, you'll be given responsibility for spending someone else's money. Staying within the budget you've been given is essential.
- Organisational skills - juggling the many different elements of a wedding isn't an easy task and you'll need to be able to stay on top of it all. Not only that, but you're likely to have more than one wedding on the go.
- Time management - there's no stricter deadline than a wedding day, so it's vital that you can get things done efficiently and effectively to the highest of standards.
- Tough negotiation skills - 'being able to haggle down the price with suppliers and venues will ensure you get the best prices and keep your clients happy,' says Sam.
'The best wedding planners possess a broad skill set. They tend to be outgoing, personable characters with good empathic skills,' adds Sam.
How do I get a wedding planner job?
Many wedding planners are self-employed, so it's not unusual to set up your own practice early in your career.
However, wedding planning companies do exist and often advertise vacancies on their websites - alternatively you can send a speculative application. Your first job could be as an assistant wedding planner. Search the internet to find relevant companies in your area.
Sam suggests trying to get some experience to help you land a job. 'Offer your services to a local wedding planner or wedding venue, just to get your foot in the door. Show them what you can do and before long, a permanent position will be yours for the taking.'
You'll typically earn around £17,000 to £20,000 when you first start out as a wedding planner, rising to between £20,000 and £25,000 with some experience, according to the National Careers Service. Once you build your reputation and get even more experience, you can earn more.
Find out more
- See what the hospitality and events management sector has to offer.