Today's bride is too busy to plan her own wedding, and what was once expected help from family members is now often unavailable, because they live in other cities or are very busy with their own careers.
Wedding planners have incredible flexibility in their days, and most planners work out of their homes. It is a career that is easily integrated with child rearing or caring for elderly parents. Most of the work is done over the telephone, and appointments at churches, reception venues, and with the bride usually can be scheduled at convenient times. However, being at the weddings to be sure all the details are carried out and to calm the nervous couple means that wedding planners will have to work on weekend evenings.
Here are ten steps to getting started in your new career:
- First, think about the different elements of a wedding the planner must arrange: venues, themes, flowers, food and refreshments, clothes, photography, honeymoons, and other aspects of the wedding. Most people have had some experience in one or more aspects of these facets of a wedding and most wedding planners have converted a job as a florist, caterer, photographer or travel agent into a larger and more exciting career as a wedding planner. If you haven't had one of these careers, perhaps you'll want to start off looking for a job as an assistant to a wedding planner, or a job in the events planning department of a non-profit organization. This will help you develop the skills you'll need to be a successful planner.
- Make a list of the elements of the wedding. Find a number of vendors for the various elements you will not provide yourself. Interview them and decide which ones you want to use in your future weddings. See if you can get a discount for referring them on an exclusive basis. You may also be able to work out an exchange of references - you'll scratch their back if they scratch yours.
- Find ways to use your talent in helping friends and acquaintances plan their weddings. If you already have a career as a florist you can get paid for your floral work, but also offer to assist the bride with the rest of the wedding, first as an additional free service, then gradually offer to do these services for a fee. Or if your talent has been a hobby, offer to help your friends with their own or children's weddings. Perhaps you can volunteer to assist brides at your church with their weddings to gain experience. After doing several weddings on a voluntary basis, which you must document with photographs, you are ready to put together your own portfolio and begin your exciting new career.
- Put together a portfolio of your experience in wedding planning. Go to a good stationery or gift store and buy an attractive photograph album. Do not skimp on this purchase, because this will be part of your first impression. Brides will want to see that you are organized and know how to do things with style. Also write a narrative of your background in weddings, without mentioning that much of your history has been on a voluntary basis.
- Get permission from your friends to use them as a reference, and ask them not to mention that you helped them for free. After the wedding is over, and the friends are grateful for your assistance, tell them you are getting started in your new career as a wedding planner, and ask them to refer you to their friends who are getting married. Word of mouth will always be your most important source of new business. You may ask your friends to mention your name in their wedding announcements as the wedding planner. Mentioning that they had a wedding planner will impress their friends and you will get free publicity.
- Talk to local places of worship and catering halls about their weddings; particularly ones where you have a personal connection. Give your business cards to the wedding coordinator or whoever talks to brides about using the space for a wedding. These people may refer you to the brides long before they think about hiring a wedding planner. Try to get a list of future weddings from them, and send the bride a letter and a brochure.
- Consider having a brochure printed - it can be an inexpensive tri-fold brochure in black and white, or a more expensive printed piece with color photographs. I suggest you start with the inexpensive version, but be sure to use attractive and easy to read fonts, as well as a nice layout to make your brochure present the right image. Your local copy center can assist you with this project. After you have been in the field for a while you can have a more expensive brochure printed, featuring the weddings you have done.
- Have business cards designed and printed - these are inexpensive and easily obtained at your local copy center. You should then give them out liberally to anyone you might meet at events, grocery stores, and even at friends' weddings.
- If your city has a bridal fair, get a booth and advertise your services. You will be exposed to a large number of future brides, some of whom are just starting to think about their weddings, and who probably will be overwhelmed at the fair by the number of decisions to be made. These brides will be glad to find someone who can help them plan the perfect wedding.
- Consider advertising your services in the yellow pages as well as in carefully selected publications. Advertising is very expensive - only buy ads in publications which future brides and their families are likely to read or consult when they are thinking about getting married. You'll want to choose local publications rather than national magazines.
As you start your new career, be patient. The telephone is not likely to ring the first moment. Your business will probably be small the first year, but it will grow each time you do a wedding. Ask every bride you assist to mention you to anyone who talks to her about her wedding. Be sure the brides and their mothers all have a supply of your business cards to give to their friends. You may consider paying them a referral fee for each new client they send your way. From every wedding you coordinate successfully you will probably get three new customers. It won't take long before you'll to hire assistants to handle the volume of work you have!