Can you make a living planning weddings? Yes. As a self-employed professional, you can either charge a set fee for the wedding or a percentage of the total cost. Your income can be uncertain when you first start planning these extravaganzas, but as your reputation spreads and you gain more experience, your income can increase dramatically.
Of course, you will make more income on an elaborate, huge wedding, but several smaller and simple weddings will be less stressful when you are starting out and, when the separate income is added together, you will probably make the same amount of money.
Some agencies who track salaries report yearly incomes in the $50,000 range for wedding planners. One such agency, PayScale, currently reports these average hourly rates for the profession:
* California $28.00
* Georgia $27.50
* Massachusetts $20.64
* New York $15.00
* Louisiana $14.00
* Pennsylvania $10.23
* Texas $9.00
As with any self-employment, your success depends entirely on your creativity, reliability and marketing skills. There are online courses you can take to teach you the skills you need to plan the perfect wedding for your clients. Some of those courses will lead to certification as a Wedding Planner, which will give you more credibility with your clients and improve your professional standing with your colleagues.
What a professional Wedding Planner actually does is take on the details and responsibility of the event, relieving the bride and groom and their families, from the stresses involved. In turn, this allows them to enjoy the preliminary wedding events, like bridal showers and picking a honeymoon location.
There are lots of details you, as a Wedding Planner, need to know to keep things running smoothly and within the budget available. You will have to have a set of resources you can tap into to get the best service at the best prices, like reserving the church or chapel, catering the reception, ordering flowers, getting the wedding dress designed and ordered, selecting invitations and announcements, booking the music and hiring a professional photographer, among many other tasks.
It would probably be very good advice to start your career on small and somewhat inexpensive weddings. Giant extravaganzas can be very complex and time consuming to the most experienced Wedding Planner and you would be well-advised to start smaller and work up.
Some of the following tips should help you get started on planning a smaller wedding that will save money on several of the more expensive features of normal weddings. The bride’s father will love you for it.
The Wedding Gown
* The wedding gown can be expensive enough to break any budget. You can offer your client several options that are affordable and will still make the bride look like an angel as she floats down the aisle.
Renting a gown is becoming more popular every day. Think about it. The bride is going to wear it once and it was probably worn once before she rented it. It also avoids the storage problem for 20 years if the bride will not be saving it for her firstborn child to wear at her own wedding.
* If a member of the bride’s family is a good seamstress, suggest that she ask the family member to make the dress. Providing all the material and even paying the family member for the service will more than likely be less expensive than buying one from a bridal store.
* Another way would be for the bride to wear her mother’s wedding gown, if she saved it. You might want to check it carefully for any deterioration before the bride commits to wearing it. The mother is probably from a generation that thought saving her wedding gown was an obligation of the marriage and believed for several decades that her daughter would wear it at her own wedding.
Another budget-buster is the reception, but some planning with a true reality check can reduce your client’s expenditures here.
* Think smaller. Talk to your clients about how they can downsize the guest list. When the excitement of the coming event takes over, your clients and their parents will many times have a very long list of people to invite to the wedding and the reception after.
Many of the parents’ visions of the reception can resemble an extravaganza with hundreds of guests, munching caviar and drinking champagne all night long in a huge ballroom. If their budget will not cover the considerable expenses involved in their dream reception, your skills as the Wedding Planner will be well served here.
To start with, keeping the guest list small and only inviting close family and friends will save money and still provide the dream celebration your clients want. If your client hasn’t had a close relationship with college friends or neighbors from four moves back, don’t put them on the list.
Instead of renting the largest hall or club banquet room in your town for the reception, you have a couple of inexpensive options that might appeal to your clients:
* Check out restaurants in the area. Some have banquet rooms that they will either rent out or provide free if you use their services for the sit-down meal or the buffet.
* Consider suggesting that your clients hold the reception at their home. The party does not have to include a full meal. Catered hors d’oeuvres and a champagne fountain will set the festive mood your clients want.
* Weddings held in gardens or other natural settings are very popular and beautiful. There’s minimal decoration needed and the only expense might be for the minister, rabbi or Justice of the Peace.
* Not having a full bar will save a lot of money, regardless of where the reception is held. The champagne fountain mentioned above can also be combined with beer or wine if the clients want to provide additional libations for their guests.
The formal wedding service requires a professional photographer who will create a beautiful album to record the special day and preserve the memories to relive as they wish. If you create a relationship with several photographers as you build your career, you will know which one to hire for your client’s purposes.
The rest of the celebration can be recorded by all their friends and relatives with a digital camera in their pockets. Some clients put disposable cameras on tables for anyone to use. Have a decorated basket nearby and visible to give your guests a place to leave the cameras when they go home.
The Wedding Invitations
Newly engaged couples can go way overboard on their wedding invitations and your task, as their Wedding Planner, is to suggest ways for them to save money on this expensive item.
Those engraved invitations with the ribbon attached or the edges cut into curvy designs are expensive. The same effect can be achieved with a good card stock and one of those edge cutters used for scrapbooking. The necessary items can be found in any good craft store and some stationary stores. They come with matching envelopes, too. The actual text can easily be printed with a good inkjet or laser printer.
One way to make homemade invitations special and very personal is to order stamps from the US Post Office with the couple’s engagement picture on them.
Consider suggesting that your client include making her own thank you notes and, even the place cards, if you are including a sit-down reception for their wedding. Once again, a good laser or inkjet printer can do the fancy fonts and include a picture of the couple to make them personal. The thank you notes would stand out if they were sent with a wedding picture on the stamps.
It is not necessary to buy fancy floral arrangements and pay for the floral designer’s time and expertise. Simple flowers arranged beautifully in clusters or cascades can be created by either the bride’s family or a crafty friend. They can be delivered to the church by you or by friends.
If you are building your business, create some relationships with flower vendors and provide that service to your clients. They will be delighted at the savings and the vendors will love you for the business.
Depending on the time of the year, the flowers can be picked from the bride’s own backyard or from a friend’s yard. A few inexpensive vases, some ribbon and both the wedding and the reception will be beautifully decorated while not breaking the family’s budget.
A few flower arrangements can attractively set off a buffet table or on the tables at a sit-down dinner. Think about several weddings you have attended as a guest. How many flower arrangements do you really remember? During the entire wedding ritual, most of the guests were focused on the bride and groom; weren’t they?
A simple floral bouquet can be easily arranged from flowers out of a garden with the stems wrapped in a ribbon that complements or matches the bride’s gown. When you toss the bridal bouquet before you leave the reception, you will be tossing out a truly personal memento of your wedding and not one that was exorbitantly priced.
Any flowers left over can be scattered in the bride’s hair to make her even more beautiful as she walks down the aisle.
The Wedding Cake
There’s lots of tradition around the wedding cake, including saving a piece to be eaten on the first anniversary of the wedding. The top layer of the cake is normally put aside before the cake is cut and frozen to preserve it. Some bakers have been making a top layer that is a light fruitcake. It freezes well and thaws better a year later.
Wedding cake history can be traced as far back at the Roman Empire and the traditions have gone through so many changes between now and then that there is no comparison.
Today’s “traditional” wedding cake practices can be anything the couple wants them to be. Some have abandoned the white wedding cake and substituted frosting colors and decorations that reflect the bride’s choice of décor or the color of the bridesmaid dresses.
The multi-tiered cake is not an obligation and can be a heavy drain on a limited budget. Friends can make the cake for the reception or something else can replace the cake entirely, like a wedding cake made of frosted cupcakes stacked in layers. The cupcake wedding cake is becoming very popular, not only for economy, but for it’s novelty and the range of cupcake flavors that can be offered.
As the Wedding Planner, you will need to have a list of different and affordable wedding cakes to give the couple choices. If no one in the family or set of friends can make the wedding cake, you will also need a list of economical bakeries.
Lists – How To Plan A Small Wedding
When you first begin to work as a Wedding Planner, you will be buried in details that can only be managed if you know how to make ordered lists. Over time, you will probably create your own templates on your computer and be able to print out a complete set of templates whenever you book a new wedding.
Your templates will be your “spare brain” and will keep you informed of what needs to be done and when, along with favored vendors, the services they provide and what their fees are.
Your templates should include the following information:
* A reasonable timeline for all activities concerning the wedding from start to finish. That should include preliminary details, like scheduling the bride’s appointments for fittings, reserving the banquet room or restaurant for the reception, booking the chapel and anything else that needs advance scheduling.
Waiting too long may require rescheduling that might interfere with the travel arrangements made by the out-of-town guests or make finding a caterer difficult, to name only a couple of serious possible problems.
* After your templates are printed and initially filled out, you need to make a preliminary wedding budget and include the fees for your services. As the director of this event, you will be spending the money and have a responsibility to provide records when requested.
* The actual wedding ceremony should be painstakingly detailed to ensure that all aspects are taken care of in advance. Leave nothing to the last minute.
Have the bride and groom choose their wedding date as soon as possible. Everything needed to be in place for that date has to be scheduled and confirmed before any other plan can be completed.
Decide upon the wedding site, church, chapel, garden, park, etc. Make that decision specific. Get the details of the church or chapel, the address of the garden and the phone number of the relative or friend who owns it or permission of the agency controlling the park.
Book and confirm the minister, rabbi or Justice of the Peace who will be performing the wedding ceremony.
Start selecting the music with the couple for the actual ceremony. Include the music for the reception and book who will be providing it…disk jockey, small band, etc.
Send the couple to get the marriage license. For their book of memories, see if a friend or family member will take a few photos of this necessity.
One thing you might consider is using your own digital camera and recording most of the less dramatic events of preparing for the wedding, like getting the marriage certificate, making or addressing the invitations, trying on wedding dresses.
A CD or DVD given to the couple after they return from their honeymoon will serve two important purposes.
1. They will have something to remember all that went into the ceremony that will not be included in the normal wedding album.
2. When they share the CD or DVD with their friends, some of whom might be contemplating their own wedding, your name and contact details will be prominent.
Referrals are what will build your business. Subliminal ads, like on the CD or DVD label and at the beginning and end of the photos might bring you some business. At the very least, your unexpected gift after the excitement that goes with any wedding, will be remembered by the bride and groom.
The wedding ceremony rehearsal needs to be scheduled as soon as possible. It normally takes place a night or two before the actual ceremony (after work) and can be easily forgotten in the rush of last minute details. Additionally, the church or chapel might be previously booked by another wedding party.
Some have a small dinner party in a restaurant after the rehearsal. If your couple is planning one with their bridesmaids and groomsmen, make the reservations as soon as possible and confirm a few days before the rehearsal.
Make sure that everyone knows who will be in the wedding processional and the recessional and what to do. Practice it with the actual music, if possible, so it looks graceful during the actual event. Never forget that you are creating life-long memories for the couple.
The wedding reception has its own set of details to schedule and set in motion.
1. You need to determine the time of day for the reception. Be sure to allow enough time for the photographer to take the album photos after the ceremony and for the newly married couple to travel from the church to the reception.
2. Make sure the place for the reception is set up, decorated and stocked. It would be a wise decision to check with the restaurant or hall about a week before the wedding to check details and to discuss any changes in the menu or times with the manager. A phone call the day before the event wouldn’t be a bad idea.
3. Normal wedding reception activities need to be scheduled and coordinated so they feel like a natural progression before the couple leaves the reception.
Those activities can include the receiving line, the first dance, cake cutting, tossing the bouquet, speeches and toasting from the best man, parents or friends.
How To Find A Job In The Wedding Industry
There’s over a dozen different industries that might be interested in hiring Wedding Planners or consultants, if you were interested in working with companies.
Resorts in popular vacation spots are becoming sites for destination weddings and would have the need for a Wedding Planner. This would be a way to work and enjoy all the amenities available in some of the world’s most beautiful spots.
Hotels almost anywhere, even in your current location, are always sites for weddings or receptions in their banquet rooms and many might need a Wedding Planner or Event Coordinator to keep their wedding parties from becoming a disaster.
Churches and synagogues might be on the lookout for someone to handle the weddings being scheduled at their churches and temples. Distributing a well-designed flyer at each facility might get you referrals, if not an actual job. Make sure to include some business cards with the flyers.
Finally, do not forget to leave your business cards with local bridal shops, caterers and florists. These businesses handle some aspect of the wedding preparations every day. They would be good reciprocal referrals for your services. If you, in return, used their services in the wedding planning, it would be a Win-Win situation for all involved.