Becoming a wedding planner is the dream for so many of us! The glam. The emotion. The florals. The luxury. It looks so enchanting and fun. But how do you go about making your dream to become a wedding planner with no experience a reality?
Consider this your ultimate guide. In this article, I’m going to give you insight on how to become a wedding planner with zero experience. I’ll also share with you how to actually get some experience (you’ll need it at some point), and how to set up your own business as a wedding planner or wedding coordinator.
Meet The Wedding Planning Expert
But before we dive in, why should you even listen to me?
Hello there! I’m Olivia de Santos. I started in the wedding planning business with no experience when I was just 19 years old. I was attending college in the UK and took a part-time gig helping out a local wedding planner with her events. She did huge luxury weddings for High Net Worth Individuals, so this was the highest education I could ever receive. I didn’t think anything would come of it. I just wanted to try it.
After my first event, I was hooked. It opened my eyes to the creative possibilities of the wedding planning business.
When my boss went on maternity leave, I got the opportunity to helm the ship over the course of a year — designing and planning high-end luxury weddings. There were so many cool things I could do, at unique venues with talented vendors and incredible couples.
After ending my job as a wedding planning assistant with my first boss, I started working for a group of wedding venues in London. Before long I had the itch to become a destination wedding planner with the experience I had gained over the years and use the Portuguese language skills I had since childhood.
Today my work has been featured in multiple wedding publications – even Lonely Planet and the BBC. My business, Nulyweds, creates colorful destination weddings in Portugal. I’m now heading into my 8th (and final) year as a wedding planner.
It’s safe to say, I know the good, the bad, and the ugly of wedding planning. I started a wedding planning business from scratch with no experience. No spouse to support me. Just a solo-dolo twenty-something making a business in a foreign country on my own.
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In this article, I’ll give you the real tea of what it takes to start as a wedding planner with no experience. I packed this article with as many pieces of advice that I would’ve wanted to hear when I started.
So grab a coffee. Let’s talk.
Step 1: Get Some Wedding Planning Experience
Hold on. The title of this blog is “how to become a wedding planner with no experience” Olivia! You’re click-baiting me.
Here’s the thing. Wedding planning is far less glamorous than it may appear in the movies and TV shows you watch. It’s one of the most stressful jobs in the world.
I have no doubt that you deal with stress on the daily and handle it like the boss babe that you are. Wedding planning, however, is a different kind of stress that can only be experienced with experience.
You can’t do that from scrolling #weddings on Instagram. You need tangible, in-person experience to know that this stuff is actually worthwhile for you. Because the road ahead won’t be easy!
How To Get Experience With A Wedding Planner
The very best experience you can get is with an actual wedding planner. Some experienced wedding planners may recommend you intern with wedding venues too. We’ll talk about that next.
If your goal is to be an independent wedding planner who is hired directly by a couple to bring their dream wedding to life, it’s worth shadowing an independent planner so that you can learn the ins and outs of the business. The great news is most of us wedding planners would love an extra pair of hands!
When it comes to wedding season, we’re always flapping around to find assistants and interns that can help alleviate the pressure. Here’s what to do:
- For general on-the-day experience, join a Facebook group of local planners. Many wedding planners will place call-outs for helping hands when they need them. You can apply to assist a variety of wedding planners on their wedding days and learn how they run things.
- If you’re looking for more behind-the-scenes experience, you’ll likely need to contact a planner directly for a longer-term internship. This is well worth doing as most of wedding planning is done behind a desk.
- Research the wedding coordinator you’re approaching and send a professional, personalized email introducing yourself.
Note: We wedding planners are very busy people so it may take a while for us to get back to you! It’s best to enquire about interning to gain experience in the Winter or Spring months when things are quieter for us.
How To Get Experience With A Wedding Venue
Working at a wedding venue is a slightly different experience from working with an independent wedding planner. For one, you have fewer touchpoints with the couple. You’re not as close to them. This is because the interests of the events department at a venue lie in protecting the venue – not the couple. By that I mean, a venue coordinator is the advocate for the venue’s wants. Wedding planners advocate for the couple’s wants.
However, you’ll learn as you get into your wedding planning career that venues call the shots in many ways. You can’t have a wedding without a venue. So it’s good to know how they operate from the inside. This experience helps you to negotiate more effectively as a wedding planner if you know the inner workings of the venues you’ll be dealing with day in, day out.
- Choose a local wedding venue that you likely want to work with in the future. It could even be an unusual place like a bar or restaurant that does multiple different kinds of events. All of that experience is valuable and super fun! You haven’t lived until you’ve planned a Bar Mitzvah!
- Approach the venue in person or with a polite email offering your services as an intern. Say you are looking to shadow the events department with a particular focus on weddings.
Do You Need A Wedding Planning Course?
There are tons of wedding planning courses and certifications on the market. The fact of the matter is our industry is not regulated. There’s no such thing as “wedding planner requirements”. We have a few industry certifications but they aren’t legally required. It’s mostly a vanity metric. This means that courses could be teaching you anything but not be materially useful.
It also means that, generally, couples don’t care about your education in the wedding planning field. It’s not a necessity, nor is it even sought after.
In my 8 years of wedding planning, not one couple has asked me if I have any wedding planner qualifications. Hands-on experience is all that truly matters to couples – even better if you can prove your wedding planning experience with testimonials and imagery.
Hands-on experience with the trials and tribulations of managing an event is the only true way to figure things out. This is one of those jobs that your experience in the field only expands your knowledge and capabilities.
That said, I will say that wedding planning courses do help you with something that shadowing alone can’t. That’s learning the business side of wedding planning.
We sell a very unique product as professional wedding planners. We work closely with a couple for 12-24months on crafting their dream wedding. In theory, we won’t get many (if any) repeat clients in the lifetimes of our careers. So running a wedding planning business is a completely different ballgame to running an average service business.
If I think about how I run my business as a writer, and how I run my business as a planner – it’s like chalk and cheese. So if you want to learn some event planning basics, and a great deal of business knowledge, a reputable course may be worth looking into.
Here are some wedding planning resources and coaches worth following:
Planner’s Lounge – Wedding planner qualifications platform. Great for resources and tools about wedding coordination.
Candice Coppola – Expert wedding planning coach. Great for learning the basics of how to become a wedding planner
Elisabetta White Consulting – Expert wedding planning coach. Great for aspiring destination wedding planners.
Evolve Your Wedding Business – A podcast for learning the ins and outs of the wedding industry. This isn’t specific to how to become a wedding planner but the host often has guests who are wedding planners. Many of the lessons will be relevant to you at all stages of your business.
Step 2. Figure Out The Type of Planner You Want To Be
When you picture how to be a wedding planner, you probably imagine Jennifer Lopez in her grey suit, walking fast and talking down a walkie-talkie. But what if I told you that’s only one kind of planner? There are different types of professionals that all fall under the “planning” umbrella.
Here’s a shorthand:
The Full Wedding Planner/Bespoke Wedding Planner
Jennifer Lopez in the movie The Wedding Planner was a bespoke wedding planner. This is also what I do. I meet couples at the very beginning of their planning journey. They only have a bag of ideas and maybe a rough sense of location.
By the end, I have found a venue, booked suppliers, logistically planned the day, designed it, styled it, and then run the event itself. It’s a close relationship that I build with my couple for 12-18months or so. Some planners book clients as far out as 36months before the wedding.
Becoming a wedding planner is very fulfilling because you get to see the wedding take shape from beginning to end. You have a tight relationship with the couple. You also have more of a say in the design and flow of the wedding day. Your couples count on you for solid advice that you’re happy to give.
The con is that everything is your fault. Everything. The buck stops with you. You’re the responsible party from beginning to end, so you have to be skilled at fighting as many fires as you possibly can. You can only learn those wedding coordinating skills with practice and experience.
The On-The-Day Wedding Coordinator
On-the-day coordinators are wedding planners that a couple hires just to assist them on the day of their wedding. They have largely planned the wedding day themselves. They just need a helping hand on the actual day.
This is an invaluable service for couples. They’re hugely grateful for the extra help and the ability to delegate all of the tasks to you. You can work with more couples this way as you’re less involved in the planning process.
Being a day of wedding coordinator is tough without prior involvement in the planning process. Couples have some strange ideas about how to plan a wedding day.
I once heard of a wedding day that had a super early ceremony and then a 4hour gap while the bride napped. For context, she was pregnant. But there was no thought as to what the guests would do during these 6 hours. They weren’t fed, or entertained during this time at all. This is the kind of strange thing you can encounter if you’re just hired to run a wedding day that the couple has planned.
The Package Wedding Planner
Package planners are often affiliated with venues or a group of suppliers. You essentially advertise weddings at a fixed price for a certain amount of guests. That price includes everything the couple may need:
- Venue hire
- Wedding registration
You’ll need to form alliances with all necessary parties to create a package price.
It’s a good option for destination weddings or budget-market weddings. Because everything is already neatly packaged, you have less legwork to do for each wedding. You can use the same suppliers over and over again. This is one of the easier ways to become a wedding planner with no experience. The less variation between each wedding, the easier it is to recreate for couples.
Weddings can be a little samey if you work with packages. You have less variety in the suppliers you work with. Your services also won’t appeal to really high-end clients if that’s your target market. High-end clientele want a highly personalized, bespoke wedding in every aspect.
The Venue Coordinator
Remember I said that working within a venue is slightly different? As a venue coordinator, your main job is to represent the venue and be a liaison for the couple.
Usually, you will only have a say in the catering (if the venue offers catering), furniture (if the venue offers furniture), and how the venue is used logistically. You’re less involved in the styling, details, flow, and character of the day.
If you are a mainstay at a venue, there are definitely some great perks. For one, you are employed by the venue so you have a solid income. No stressing out about when the next client is coming in.
You also get to know the venue inside and out. That comfort and security can help manage the more wild aspects of wedding planning. You can handle almost any emergency with your team. You have a company to fall back on.
Venue coordinators oversee a huge number of weddings a year. It could be 50-200 in some places. It depends on the venue you choose to work for. That means you have less of a relationship with each of your couples.
The Destination Wedding Planner
Do you want to travel the world and plan weddings? With destination wedding planning, you can!
A destination wedding planner works with couples from around the world to plan a wedding that is outside of their home country. You can choose to work in multiple countries or specialize. I chose to specialize and base myself in Portugal.
One of the perks of being a destination planner is it is slightly easier to book clients. It’s very natural for couples to seek a wedding planner when they look to plan a wedding abroad. They really value your services. You also get to work with a wide range of different clientele, with different cultures and backgrounds.
The downside depends on your skillset. Different countries have different ways of working. It can be frustrating if you’re used to American efficiency with people responding to you in 24hours. That’s not going to happen in Southern Europe for example! You may also need to brush up on your local language skills. I wouldn’t recommend becoming a destination wedding planner with no experience. It’s going to be much easier to learn how to become a wedding planner in your local area first. I did this for 4 years in the UK before moving to Portugal.
Step 3. Setting Up Your Wedding Planning Business For Success
I could write an entire extra blog about how to set up a wedding planning business. It’s even more complex depending on the type of wedding planner you want to become.
Here’s a very brief overview of where you should start:
- Build Your Connections
As a wedding planner with no experience, your network is your most important resource. You can’t build a wedding alone. Your connections to good venues, top suppliers, and even other planners could make or break your business. You want to affiliate yourself with as many great professionals in your area as possible. The wedding industry is very collaborative. Look for Facebook groups and in-person networking events to start building your name.
- Define Your Ideal Couple
Who do you want to work for? What kind of wedding are they looking to create? What budget are they likely to spend on that wedding? What are they looking for in their ideal wedding planner?
If it’s helpful, create actual client avatars of your ideal clients. That way you have a reference point of who you are marketing to when the time comes.
- Create a Professional Website
You must have a professional-looking website to attract potential clients. It’s not enough to have a popping social media. You need a platform that you own and can optimize for SEO. Luckily, there are so many accessible ways to create websites. I don’t recommend hiring someone to build you a website until you start making money. You can use easy template-driven platforms like Squarespace or Wix to build something simple yourself in the beginning.
- Start Blogging
Jenaae will surely tell you the importance of blogging as a vehicle for your business. Blogging literally changed my trajectory. Writing detailed, informative, engaging blogs meant that my website was showing up on page 1 of Google.
The trick is to answer the questions your ideal clients are likely to have. Put yourself in their shoes. What are they concerned about at the beginning of their journey?
It might be hard to feel like an expert if you’re trying to become a wedding planner with no experience. So dig deep into the aspects that you do know. Think about the things you’ve learned shadowing wedding planners and venues. Think about the questions you had when you started out. The more specific the issue, the better.
- Pricing Your Services
Your pricing will completely depend on the type of planner you are and how many weddings you intend to do per year. Your niche in the market will also dictate your pricing.
It’s really difficult for me to give you a ballpark as a beginner. My suggestion would be to be mindful of the amount of experience you have. At the same time, don’t be so cheap that you scare away potential clients.
The typical wedding planner charges 10-15% of the couple’s overall budget with a minimum fee. It’s perfectly natural to start on the lower end and increase from there as you feel more confident.
- Marketing Is Everything
You could be the best wedding planner in the world. It means absolutely nothing if no one knows who you are!
Luckily wedding content does gangbusters on the major social media outlets. Instagram and Pinterest are the two hubs for weddings.
Pro tip: One of the best ways to introduce yourself to the market is by creating a styled shoot. It’s one of the fundamentals of how to get into wedding planning. This is when you create a wedding design and source the perfect suppliers to bring it to life. Most suppliers will do this for free in exchange for images and a potential feature in a major wedding blog.
A styled shoot will give you imagery of what you’re capable of, connections within the industry and hopefully some free PR when you get the shoot published.
Here’s one I did recently for my own wedding blog to give you an idea.
- Get Familiar With Insurance
You may not need insurance before you start working. Once you book your first clients, it’s worth exploring your options for insurance. As I said, the industry isn’t regulated. It’s not illegal for you to operate without insurance.
Professional liability insurance and personal indemnity insurance, however, can help prevent any legal messes if you accidentally injure someone on a wedding day. It’s to protect you and your business. As you get into wedding planning, you’ll learn that weddings can be pretty hazardous.
I’ve never had a claim against me in all my 8 years, but I’m protected in case it does happen.
Final Thoughts: Jump Right In!
I know that was a lot to digest! Becoming a wedding planner is not a fast or easy process. It’s going to take determination, passion and patience to book your first clients.
Take it from me as someone with very little support system when I started and a big dream – you can make it. Spend time learning the ropes and you’ll discover just how fulfilling wedding planning is as a career.
Keep pushing forward and good luck!