How to Become a Wedding Planner: Everything You Need to Know
Wedding planners oversee nearly every aspect of wedding day festivities to create an unforgettable celebration for their clients.
It sounds dreamy, but it’s really hard work.
It takes intensive planning, organization, scheduling and coordination to pull off a major live event with dozens — if not hundreds — of guests.
There’s no specific path to become a wedding planner and no formal education is required. Networking and hands-on experience are key.
Ready to dive in and learn more about how to become a wedding planner?
In this guide, we explain what a wedding planner does, their average salary and how to get started in this fast-paced industry.
How Much Does a Wedding Planner Make?
The national average salary for a wedding planner is $43,500 to $47,500 a year, or about $3,262 per wedding.
Indeed estimates the average hourly rate at $20.42 an hour.
Here are some annual salary ranges wedding planners can expect, according to experts:
- As a side gig: $5,000-$10,000
- As an experienced full-time planner in a major city: $75,000-$200,000
- As a full-time planner in a rural area: $35,000-$75,000
Your specific wedding planner salary depends largely on your location, training, experience and if you work independently or for an agency.
Angelina Colhouer of The Apostolic Wife got started by planning and designing her own wedding. When she was new to the business, Colhouer determined her rates by speaking with established wedding planners in her area.
They charged $3,000 to $5,000 per wedding, so she decided to charge $2,000 for her first one.
Once she had a few weddings under her belt, she charged $2,500.
What Does a Wedding Planner Do? Roles and Responsibilities
If you work as a wedding planner, no two days are the same. Flexibility is key.
Wedding planner job duties often include:
- Answering calls and emails from clients
- Negotiating and securing contracts with vendors
- Creating wedding day timelines
- Hiring a caterer
- Finding a venue
- Scheduling a band or musician for the wedding reception
- Selecting wedding invitations
- Cake tasting
- Picking out floral arrangements
- Managing invoices, taxes and other business tasks
You’ll also have to plan and attend many events — so it’s imperative you’re OK working evenings and weekends.
Don’t expect it to be easy, either. The job is “demanding both physically and mentally,” says Debbie Orwat, founder and chief inspiration officer at Planner’s Lounge, a community for event planners.
Still, the hard work is rewarding: Wedding planners seem to truly love their jobs.
“Spending six to 12 months with a couple, then seeing it all come to fruition for a stunning celebration is unbelievably rewarding,” Orwat says.
Angelina Colhouer talks to guests about her wedding planning business at a bridal expo in Tampa, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder
How to Become a Wedding Planner: Education, Certification and Training
You don’t need a special college degree or certification to become a wedding planner.
While a college degree isn’t required, majors like business, communications, public relations, hospitality management, marketing and event planning provide a helpful foundation.
Certifications aren’t required either, but they can help you look more appealing to potential clients and provide useful information on how to become a wedding planner.
Organizations like the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners, the Wedding Academy and Lovegevity’s Wedding Planning Institute all offer courses for certified wedding planners.
These courses typically last two to three months. Upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate, a letter of recommendation and a professional designation.
Cost varies widely, from about $700 to $2,500 and up.
A wedding planner certification may be worth the cost if you’re just starting out in the industry and don’t have much experience in event planning or hospitality.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Wedding Planners
Formal education isn’t required, but it’s essential to learn as much about the wedding planning industry as possible if you want to succeed.
Here are a few ways to brush up on your wedding planner skills:
- Watch webinars
- Read articles and blog posts about the wedding planning industry
- Listen to wedding podcasts
- Attend workshops and conferences
- Explore local networking events and meet-ups
- Check out industry studies like The Knot’s Real Weddings Study and Brides.com’s American Wedding Study
Many of these resources are available online, so it’s easy to start growing your knowledge at home.
It’s also smart to join a professional wedding planner organization, like the Association of Bridal Consultants or the Association for Wedding Professionals International.
Networking is essential if you want to become a wedding planner. Professional organizations are a great way to meet vendors that you can enlist for upcoming events while fostering relationships with other wedding planners in your area.
How to Get Experience as a Wedding Planner
More important than degrees or certificates? Experience.
Whether it’s an internship at an agency or simply planning a wedding for free, acquiring in-person experience is key to a successful wedding planner career.
Interning or working as an assistant is grueling work, but you’ll get to learn the ropes alongside a seasoned professional.
If you can’t score a wedding planner job right away, search for other positions in the wedding industry. For example, work for a caterer, florist or decorator.
“You’ll have the opportunity to work at many different venues, see how different vendors work and experience a lot of weddings,” Orwat says. “It’ll also give you an idea of how physically demanding it is to work weddings.”
You can also try applying at hotels, resorts and country clubs since these places often double as wedding venues.
Should You Work for a Wedding Planning Company or Go Solo?
If you’ve worked in event planning or project management — or have experience running your own business — you might be well suited to work as an independent contractor or pick up freelance gigs as an event planner.
On the other hand, if you’re a fresh college grad or don’t have much experience with event planning, it makes more sense to join a wedding planning agency first.
After all, you can always start off at an event planning agency to gain experience and then launch your own wedding planning business down the road.
Deciding whether to go solo or work for other event planners totally depends on you, your preferences and your experience level.
How to Start a Wedding Planner Business
Ready to strike out on your own?
Starting your own business isn’t easy. It’s more than brainstorming cute names for your company and designing stylish business cards. You need to ensure your wedding planning business is well thought out, properly registered and legally compliant.
Many self-employed wedding planners start their own company as a part-time side hustle before building it up to a full-time career.
If you decide to launch your own business, here are a few tips:
- Invest in a professional website.
Your website is your storefront. It needs to wow potential customers while showcasing your rates, experience and contact information in a clear, accessible format. You can create your own wedding planner website for free using sites like Wix or hire a professional to design it for you.
- Get good at social media. Platforms like Facebook and Pinterest can quickly broaden your reach and put your business in front of potential customers. Use these expert tips on marketing your business on social media.
- Decide what services to offer. Most wedding planners offer different packages (with different price ranges) to clients. Full-service packages are the most expensive option, while day-of planning services are the least expensive. Some wedding professionals also offer consulting services by the hour.
- Create a business plan. Write down your goals and map out why you think your wedding planning company will be successful. A good business plan should include the services you plan to offer, a sales pitch, a list of direct competitors and your anticipated fixed and variable expenses.
- Educate yourself. Take online courses, attend wedding planning conferences and look into industry groups and networking events. You may even want to consider hiring a business coach.
- Prepare for upfront costs. When Colhouer started, she needed to pay for an LLC, styled photo shoots and a promotional video. Other potential upfront costs include business cards, social media ads and other marketing costs.
- Get legal stuff squared away. Some wedding planners operate as sole proprietors, but if you plan on hiring employees, you’ll need a different business structure, such as a limited liability company. You’ll also want to register your company with the state once you decide on a business entity and name.
- Get a business bank account and credit card. Keeping your business finances separate from your personal finances is important — especially when tax time rolls around. You’ll need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service first. You can apply for one online in a matter of minutes.
Strengthen Your Marketing Skills
Getting your name — and company name — out there is critical if you want to attract new clients and grow your wedding planning business.
You can hand out business cards at bridal trade shows and schmooze with the owners of local bridal boutiques.
But in 2023, a few digital marketing skills can really help you pull in new customers.
Try these marketing tips to promote your wedding planning business:
- Step up your social media game. You should create a strong presence on social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn. Post often, engage with followers and utilize hashtags to expand your audience. Share photos from your events, testimonials from couples and trending wedding-related news.
- Start blogging. Writing posts on your own website or submitting guest posts to other wedding websites is a great way to gain exposure and establish yourself as an expert wedding planner.
- Leverage reviews and testimonials. Aside from price, reviews and photos are some of the biggest selling points for couples. Make sure brides you’ve worked with have an easy way to leave reviews about your services on Google and Facebook, and include the best reviews on your website and social media accounts.
- Get media mentions. Getting featured in a local or national wedding publication is huge. Be proactive, reach out to media outlets and pitch them unique story ideas about your business. Highlight what makes you different and newsworthy.
- Ask the publication to include a backlink to your website or social media profile. Backlinks from reputable sources can boost your website ranking on Google and increase your traffic.
What Skills Do Successful Wedding Planners Need?
In addition to training and experience, it just takes a special kind of person to be a wedding planner.
According to industry pros, here are some key traits shared by the best wedding planners.
Organized With an Eye for Detail
Juggling dozens of weddings — and multiple vendors for each one — requires you to be on the ball, all the time.
“We live to solve problems, keep everything on time and manage 20-plus vendors without breaking a sweat,” Orwat says.
You won’t just need to communicate with vendors and brides before and during the event; you’ll also need to deal with guests in a chaotic environment.
You need to be a good communicator who can lead, listen, navigate challenges and delegate under pressure.
Patient and Empathetic
Brides want their weddings to be perfect, which means they are often demanding.
There might be a lot of family drama going on as well.
“If you can handle stress and keep your cool, then this could be a good career choice,” Orwat says.
On wedding days, you’ll be on-site, on your feet (with a smile!) for up to 15 hours straight.
“Many of us choose this career because we thrive on the excitement, the challenge and the madness that happens on the wedding day,” Orwat says.
Great Budgeting Skills
It’s your job to pull off the perfect event without breaking the bank.
Every couple has a budget, whether it’s $10,000 or $100,000. You’ll need to know how to make a dollar stretch, find killer deals and responsibly manage money.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. She focuses on retirement, investing, small businesses and taxes.