Start a wedding planning business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your wedding planning business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a wedding planning business?
One of the most exciting aspects of a wedding planning is that many planners start by working out of their own homes. This effectively sidesteps the need for an expensive monthly office lease, related utilities, and so on. Because of that, most of the costs involved in opening your business involve advertisement. It's important to have a highly professional-looking website, and either hire a professional or design it yourself. It's possible to set up good-looking website using templates you can buy and use for under $1,000. If you have to hire designers or others to help provide content, it may cost between $500 to $5,000 extra, though you can potentially do all (or most) of this yourself. Beyond that, it is worth establishing a social media presence on sites such as Facebook (this is free) and doing traditional advertising (newspapers, radio, and possibly television), which should cost between $1,000 to $5,000 depending on how you advertise and how much you advertise.
What are the ongoing expenses for a wedding planning business?
Another highly attractive feature of being a wedding planner is that there are almost no ongoing expenses. The various costs related to vendors for the wedding are paid for by the couple, and if you are operating out of your home or meeting clients at their own homes, the only real ongoing cost is your advertising. After the initial advertising push, you should probably spend less than $500 on advertisements each month, as your social media advertising and positive word-of-mouth, along with your website, will handle much of this for you.
Who is the target market?
In general, the best customers that wedding planners can have are those who are both flexible and realistic. Sometimes, customers may have their fixed ideas of a “perfect wedding” that do not mesh well with their budget or location. Therefore, customers who are realistic about how far their money can go and flexible enough to listen to alternative suggestions make for the best customers.
How does a wedding planning business make money?
On the most basic level, a wedding planning business makes money by charging money for the planning and execution of the wedding itself. However, there is great flexibility in how you charge customers. Some planners charge a flat fee, whereas others might charge a percentage based on the overall cost of the wedding. You may even simply charge clients by the hour. An additional way to make money is that some wedding planners also negotiate and receive a certain percentage of the amount that clients pay to different vendors (between ten and twenty percent). However, this effectively ends up making the different vendors cost more, so building a fee structure that doesn't seem like it has hidden costs may go over better with your customers.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you charge, and how you charge, is usually contingent on how much you have to do. For customers who merely want a consultation to help them with their own plans, charging between $40-$60 per hour is appropriate. For people who have their own wedding somewhat planned but want assistance finalizing the plan, conducting the rehearsal, and coordinating the day of the wedding, you could charge between $600 to $1,800 (variances typically reflect differences in regional economy and level of work involved for you). For a full-service package, in which you plan everything, coordinate with all vendors, develop the theme and décor, and help coordinate the day of the wedding, you may charge between $2,000-$10,000 (variances reflect differences in regional economy and whether the client is involved and helps out with anything).
How much profit can a wedding planning business make?
How much profit you make is mostly a matter of mathematics. For instance, many wedding planners only choose to do “full-service” packages, so you can essentially multiply the cost of that full-service package times the number of weddings you conduct per year. Thus, someone charging $5,000 per wedding and conducting 20 weddings a year could easily crack six figures, though you will likely be making less as you are starting out and establishing your name. Plus, more rural areas or areas with a slower economy will likely necessitate charging closer to the $2,000 for full-service packages.
How can you make your business more profitable?
To make your business more profitable, offer incentives or prizes to people who refer friends to you. Consider sponsoring monthly parties where you talk about how people can have a perfect wedding, and offer them a chance to win a nice door prize for attending. Aside from ideas like these, the best thing you can do is to do the best job possible on the weddings you plan and let positive word of mouth do the rest!
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your wedding planning business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain a business license. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Wedding planning businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. RocketLawyers Make your Free Wedding Planner Agreement clarifies clients expectations and minimizes the risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions in advance. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your wedding planning business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a wedding planning business
The key ways to market and promote have already been mentioned. You should use a combination of a professional-looking website, social media presence, and advertisements via newspapers, radio, and television. Flyers, business cards, and other print advertisements at locations like florists and hotels can also help to catch the eye of couples looking for a planner.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to using the advertisement methods above, you should run contests via social media where people can win things like dresses and discounts from your affiliated vendors. To add to the impact of such contests, part of the free entry should be customers writing sweet poems or stories about how they met their significant others. People get excited about the prize but quickly come to associate your business as a place that understands and cares about why people fall in love. This helps spread word of your business and its contests via traditional word-of-mouth advertising.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Wedding Planning Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is good for those who thrive on interactions with new people. It is also good for those who grew up playing “matchmaker” and get a thrill out of helping bring two lives together. Much of the planning business is visual, so those with a flair for design and/or a good eye for stylish clothing and skill at creating a unique atmosphere in any room will do very well.
What happens during a typical day at a wedding planning business?
The nature of a wedding planning business is that each day may involve different tasks. Some of those activities, however, include helping the couple set a realistic budget, taking the couple to different places in town that will suit their needs, and creating a detailed plan for pretty much every moment of the wedding. You will also have to call, email, and otherwise coordinate with various bands or DJs, photographers, caterers, florists, and any other vendors the couple may require. This requires a lot of contracts for the couple to sign, so much time will be devoted to walking them through the finer points of the paperwork. You may also help design and distribute wedding invitations and serve as a kind of liaison and supervisor of the various parties during the actual day of the wedding.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful wedding planning business?
Because of the nature of the work, a college degree in fields such as Public Relations or Communications can help you with the coordination of various different entities related to this job. Prior experience as an intern or other kind of worker that helped plan weddings can be invaluable. While there are certifications for things like wedding planning, they offer little to no practical, real-world experience.
What is the growth potential for a wedding planning business?
The growth potential for a wedding planning business is steady, though there can be variances according to region and time of year. Overall, though, about 6,200 weddings happen each day, and many of them are getting married for a second (or even third) time, so the market is steady. Weddings are more common in warmer months (the most popular month for weddings is June), and the costs of the wedding can vary, ranging from an average of just over $15,000 in Utah to just over $31,000 in Manhattan. Those differences can affect how much you get paid and when you are likelier to be busier.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a wedding planning business?
If possible, volunteer or get permission to “shadow” successful wedding planners in other cities in order to figure out how to make your own business highly successful. Try to get to know various vendors, hotel managers, and others you will work with as soon as possible in order to make your future business successful. Make sure that your website has a dedicated place for you to feature customer testimonials about successful weddings you've helped with before.
How and when to build a team
Most wedding planners start out on their own. This makes it easier to create a cohesive vision for weddings and to make sure everybody sticks to a set game plan. However, there will always be more weddings than you can reasonably work, so when you have more interested clients than you have time to serve them, it may be time to hire a partner or a team. While this can make things a little harder to organize, it does give you the flexibility of hiring people that are naturally better at some of the aspects of the job you are weaker at (such as hiring someone who studied graphic design and making sure they are in charge of creating invitations and wedding programs).