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How to Start a Wedding Planning Business

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Weddings
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Wedding planning is, without a doubt, an exciting field.  If you're interested in becoming a wedding planner, you probably have a passion for the romance and beauty of weddings, and may have even planned your own.  If you want your wedding planning venture to grow into a successful career, a solid plan and strong business acumen are essential.

Consider Learning the Ropes as an On-Site Coordinator

There are two major routes you can take when you are just starting out.  Of course you can jump in with both feet and start your own business,  but there's a lot to be said for gaining experience by working as an on-site event coordinator for a reception venue or catering company.

Learning the business while employed by someone else is a great way to get started in the wedding industry.  For many venues and caterers, event coordination is an entry-level position, allowing you to gain experience in a stable work environment without the inherent risks of business ownership.  You'll also have the opportunity to work alongside a variety of wedding vendors, from bands to photographers to cake bakers.  Most importantly, you'll be exposed to a wide variety of weddings and events.  You'll learn the many wedding protocols and traditions and will perform many of the essential tasks of a wedding planner, such as creating event timelines and managing the vendor team, before you venture on your own.  On-site wedding coordination is a viable career path that may serve your interests well.

Starting Your Own Wedding Planning Business

If and when you do decide to launch your own wedding planning business, there are several steps you should follow:

1.  Get your feet wet with education and good, old-fashioned hard work.
There are several professional associations that offer educational programs and even a type of accreditation in the wedding planning field.  While these in no way guarantee your success, they can be helpful to you in learning more about the various aspects of running a business.  Some of the more popular associations and programs are the Association of Bridal Consultants, the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, June Wedding, Inc., and Weddings Beautiful Worldwide.

As for hands-on experience, you may be fortunate enough to have numerous friends and family members who are ready and willing to allow you to plan their weddings and include them in your portfolio.  More likely, though, you'll need to start out by assisting other, more established planners with their events.  Many experienced wedding planners feature a "careers" or "internships" section on their website -- if not, just email them and ask if they'd be willing to accept your assistance on an event for free!

2.  Make your business legitimate and legal.

Consulting with an attorney is always a smart idea when starting a company of any kind.  He or she can provide invaluable advice when it comes to determining which business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation) will work for you, as well as  registering your business in the state of your choice.  He or she can also review documents you plan to use in your business, such as your client contract.  Alternately, a site such as LegalZoom can guide you through the process of establishing a legitimate business.

3.  Develop a company image that reflects the style you want to convey.

Wedding planning is all about style.  Brides are, in essence, trusting your eye and your ideas to make their wedding beautiful.  Therefore, your company image, from your business name to your logo to the colors and fonts you'll use in your marketing, must demonstrate great style and attention to detail.  Perhaps you or someone you know is acquainted with a great graphic designer who can help bring your image to life.  Otherwise, a site like 99designs is a great way to have logos, cards, stationery, and even websites created for a relatively modest cost.  At the very least, you'll need great-looking business cards and a smartly designed website.  Brochures and print ads can come much later.

4.  Create a marketing strategy that's low on cost, high on returns.

Savvy business owners know that, in this day and age, the way to reach brides is online.  Many wedding vendors are having great results advertising on WeddingWire and on the more prestigious local sites.  If your business will be serving a particular niche -- such as ethnic weddings, "indie" brides, or eco-conscious brides -- you may do well to target your advertising to sites and blogs that cater to that clientele.  Having a great website that has been properly optimized for search engine rankings will also drive prospective brides to your company.  Finally, be wary of large-scale "bridal shows."  These are exorbitantly expensive and usually have a very low rate of return for wedding planners, since planners don't really have a tangible service to display like caterers or dress shops do.

5.  Realize that your success is dependent upon building relationships.

Investing your time and energy into developing bonds with the other wedding professionals in your area is worth the effort.  You'll be creating referral sources for new business and gaining a sense of which vendors are professional, reputable and worth referring to your own clients.  Joining your local chapters of the National Association of Catering Executives and the International Special Events Society will put you in direct contact with venues, caterers, photographers, videographers, florists, officiants and more.  You can also contact wedding vendors directly to set up lunch or coffee meetings.  You'll find most wedding professionals are eager to build their networks and learn more about other service providers in their area.
As a wedding planner, you'll be an artist, a juggler, a referee and a visionary.  It's extremely hard work, but by starting your business the right way and operating it well, you'll be rewarded for many years to come.

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