The global wedding planning business is constantly growing. With an evaluation of $160.5 billion in 2020 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% from 2021 to 2030, now is a great time to get started. The wedding service market could reach $414.2 billion by 2030 at this estimation.
With so many engaged couples looking to tie the knot in style, the demand for professional wedding planners who can turn dreams into reality is booming. But the rewards of launching a wedding planning business go far beyond the financial. Helping create once-in-a-lifetime memories for clients can be incredibly fulfilling.
Through this guide, we’ll explain how to start a wedding planning business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, opening a business bank account, and more. Here’s everything you need to know to become a successful wedding planner.
1. Conduct Wedding Planning Market Research
Market research is essential to building a successful wedding planner business plan. To become a wedding planner you need insight on your target market, local market saturation, trends in venues and services, and more.
Some details you’ll learn through wedding planning services market research include:
- While weddings occur year-round, late spring and summer are peak seasons.
- Saturday is the most popular day, accounting for most weddings.
- Most events kick off either late afternoon or early evening.
- The majority of couples have a 12 to 14-month engagement.
- While the industry remains female-dominated, more men are entering the field.
- Offering foreign language services can be a competitive advantage.
- The typical planner handles 20 to 40 weddings per year and earns around $3,000 per wedding.
- The most successful ventures expand into additional wedding services like catering and rentals.
Despite the rise of wedding-planning apps and websites, couples value human creativity, knowledge, and support in planning their big day. For wedding planners who stay organized, develop strong vendor relationships, and provide top-notch customer service, the opportunities are endless.
2. Analyze the Competition
To succeed in the wedding planning industry, you must closely analyze your competition. Examine both local brick-and-mortar planners and those with an online presence in your region. Competitive analysis provides you with details on other successful wedding planners in your area. Learn more about competitors in the following ways.
- Research planners that seem to dominate the local market.
- Review their websites and social media presence.
- Gauge strengths like years in business, reviews and ratings, types of packages offered, and pricing structure.
- Search online directories and platforms like The Knot, WeddingWire, and Zola to analyze customer reviews and feedback for competitors.
- Look for common complaints you could improve upon or services not being offered that present an opportunity.
- Evaluate competitors’ digital marketing strategies.
- Research their social media engagement levels and branding across platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
- Conduct anonymous consultations as a “bride-to-be” to evaluate firsthand their processes, pricing, packages, and customer service experience.
Gauging the competition from all angles will identify service gaps, opportunities to differentiate, and areas where you can gain a competitive advantage in the local wedding market with the right positioning and offerings. Ongoing competitor analysis is key.
3. Costs to Start a Wedding Planning Business
Starting a full wedding planning business requires an investment. From startup costs to ongoing expenses, event planning requires tools, resources, venue connections, and more. Let’s break down costs further.
When starting a wedding planning company, you’ll need to budget for various one-time start-up costs. These include:
- Licensing and Permits – Obtaining a business license and permits can cost $50-$500 depending on your state and municipality.
- Business Registration Fees – Expect registration fees of $100-$800 to establish your business entity (LLC, S-corp, etc.).
- Insurance – Liability insurance will likely run $500-$2,000 annually depending on your location and coverage levels.
- Office Supplies – Budget $1,000-$5,000 upfront for basic office furniture, computers, printers, software, phones, and supplies.
- Website Development – Having a professional wedding planning website designed typically costs $2,000-$5,000.
- Branding – Logo design, branding assets, and branded templates can cost $1,000-$3,000.
- Marketing Collateral – Printing business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. will cost around $500-$2,000 to start.
- Training & Education – Wedding planner certification courses range from $400-$1000.
Once up and running, wedding planners also face ongoing operating expenses, including:
- Rent – Leasing a home office or commercial space costs $400-$1,500 monthly. For a more visible location, expect closer to $2,500-$5,000 per month.
- Utilities – Gas, electricity, internet, etc can run $200-$500 monthly for a small office.
- Phone & Internet – Basic business phone and internet will cost approximately $150 per month.
- Association Fees – Joining a local or national wedding association provides referrals and credibility for $200-$500 annually.
- Software Subscriptions – CRM, invoicing, project management, and email marketing software will cost $100-$300 monthly.
- Insurance – General business liability insurance ranges from $30-$150 per month.
- Advertising – Paid ads and sponsored posts on wedding platforms will run $500-$2,000+ monthly.
- Credit Card Processing Fees – Transaction fees of 2-4% will tally $100+ every month.
- Continuing Education – Ongoing training courses and conferences average $500-$2,000 annually.
- Taxes & Accounting – Expect to spend $300-$1,000 monthly on bookkeeping, payroll services, quarterly taxes, and annual accounting.
Careful planning and realistic budgeting for both start-up and ongoing costs are imperative to launch and sustain a successful wedding planning venture long-term. Adjust estimates to suit your specific business model and location.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
When starting a wedding planning company, the legal structure you choose is an important decision. The four main options—sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation—each have pros and cons to weigh.
A sole proprietorship is the simplest, with pass-through taxation. However, the owner is personally liable for debts and lawsuits. This substantial risk makes a sole proprietorship ill-advised for wedding planners.
Forming a general partnership allows multiple owners to share control. However each partner is also personally liable for the actions of the other, and partnerships can be complex to establish and dissolve.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company (LLC) provides personal liability protection like a corporation without double taxation. Profits and losses pass through to the owners’ tax returns.
LLCs also allow tremendous flexibility. Wedding planners can start as sole owners and easily add members later. Overall, an LLC offers the best pass-through taxation benefits and liability protections for this industry.
C-corporations limit owner liability but have complex regulations, including double taxation of profits. An S-corporation offers pass-through taxation but limits ownership to 100 shareholders. Unless wedding planners plan to raise funding and issue stock down the road, an LLC remains preferable over incorporating.
5. Register Your Business For Taxes
Once you form your wedding planning LLC, the next vital legal step is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
An EIN acts like a social security number for your business. It uniquely identifies your company for tax and reporting purposes.
While sole proprietors can use their SSNs, having an EIN is crucial for liability protection with an LLC. It also allows you to easily open business bank accounts and apply for any required licenses and permits.
The good news is applying for an EIN is free and fast directly through the IRS website.
Simply go to IRS.gov and navigate to the EIN Assistant. Answer a few questions about your LLC and owners.
The site will then provide your EIN immediately. The whole process typically takes under 10 minutes.
Just be sure to have your LLC documentation handy. The IRS will ask for your official name, address, and filing date.
You’ll also need to provide owner information, including legal name, SSN, and address. For multiple-member LLCs, list the primary owner first.
Once you have your EIN, submit it when applying for any business licenses, permits, bank accounts, and insurance plans required in your state and county.
You’ll also need to set up tax accounts with state agencies to collect and remit any sales tax on your services. Registering for sales tax certificates is typically done through your state revenue or taxation department website and incurs minimal fees.
6. Setup Your Accounting
As a busy wedding planner, it can be tempting to put bookkeeping and accounting on the back burner. But meticulous financial records are crucial right from the start.
After each event or consultation, log all income and expenses – from venue deposits to flower arrangements. Using accounting software like QuickBooks can automate the categorization and tracking as transactions flow through your business bank account and credit card.
Hire an Accountant
Consider partnering with an accountant from the outset. For roughly $300-$500 per month, an accountant can handle tasks like monthly reconciliation and bookkeeping, freeing you to focus on events.
At tax time, your accountant can prepare and file returns, guide tax planning, and assist if you ever face an audit. Expect fees of $1,000 or more for annual tax prep. But armed with meticulous records, your likelihood of audit decreases.
Open a Business Bank Account
To simplify accounting, establish a dedicated business bank account and credit card. Reserve your finances for non-business spending. Cleanly separating expenses avoids commingling funds and eases reporting.
Apply for a Business Credit Card
Apply for a business credit card to keep wedding-related spending separate. Issuers will request your EIN and business documentation to determine approval and credit limits.
7. Obtain Licenses and Permits
Starting a wedding planning company involves more than just forming a legal business entity. Check the U.S. Small Business Administration for federal licensure. The SBA also offers insight into state and city permits through its local search tool.
First, secure a general business license from your city or county. These licenses allow businesses to operate within a jurisdiction and levy annual fees based on company size and industry. In some areas, a home occupation permit may be required if you’ll work from home. Expect to pay $50-$500 for these basic permissions.
Next, many regions mandate that wedding planners carry a surety bond of $5,000-$25,000 or more to protect clients financially in case of disputes or failure to provide services. Shop specialty brokers to find an affordable premium.
If you plan to sell any food or beverages during planning sessions or at events, a food handling permit is also often compulsory. These ensure proper food safety precautions are implemented. County health departments oversee the application process.
States with sales tax will require wedding planners to complete tax registration. You’ll need to charge applicable state and local sales tax on your services and remit collected amounts periodically. Fines can result in non-compliance.
Some regions mandate that wedding pros carry commercial auto insurance if they utilize vehicles for business purposes. Make sure your policy covers any accidents that occur during client meetings or events.
8. Get Business Insurance
Even with an LLC, wedding planners face substantial risks from disputes, accidents, natural disasters, and other losses. Having proper insurance coverage is crucial to protect your company should the unthinkable occur.
For example, imagine a reception venue unexpectedly closes before a booked event. Without event cancellation insurance, you could face six-figure out-of-pocket costs. Or what if a client slips and falls at a wedding, threatening to sue you? Liability insurance can be a lifesaver.
Other risks like lost deposits, vendor no-shows, contract disputes, and damaged equipment can also spell financial disaster without insurance to reimburse you.
To get covered, start by speaking with business insurance brokers like CoverWallet.
Describe your business model, location, number of events, liability risks, and assets. They will tailor a policy with key protections like general liability, event/weather cancellation, equipment coverage, and more.
9. Create an Office Space
Having a professional office space lends credibility when meeting with clients and provides room to handle the administrative aspects of orchestrating events. But the right option depends on your budget and workflow.
A dedicated home office works for sole planners. Expect costs of $100-$500 for basic furniture and upgrades like soundproofing. The ability to deduct mortgage and utility costs helps offset taxes. However, hosting clients in your residence may seem less official.
Coworking spaces like WeWork offer stylish, modern locales to meet clients starting at $300-$600 monthly. Open layouts facilitate collaborating with other small business owners too. However, you’ll lack private office space and the flexibility of being home.
For planners working closely with retail vendors, securing space in a bridal shop or event venue can provide built-in referrals. Renting a few hundred square feet would run $800-$2,000 monthly. But retail spaces limit flexibility if you change focus.
Leasing traditional office space in a business complex enables branding your suite as your own. Expect monthly rents of $1,000-$5,000 based on location, size, finishes, and terms. Hiring staff is easier with dedicated space but costs are higher.
10. Source Your Equipment
From decor to technology, wedding planners need certain equipment to successfully coordinate events. Here are the top options to acquire the necessary items for your new company:
For the latest models and reliability, purchase new equipment from retailers like B&H, Amazon Business, and WebstaurantStore. Invest in a fast computer, high-quality printer, long-range walkie-talkies, and wireless microphones to start. Expect costs of $1,500-$5,000 to outfit your office.
Save substantially by buying gently used equipment from other planners or vendors. Check industry forums, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay for reliable deals on printers, lighting, furniture, and AV equipment. Budget $500-$2,000 for essentials.
Rather than buying specialty items like chiavari chairs or tenting, renting allows flexibility. Platforms like RentMyWedding and Rentals Unlimited offer everything from linens to lounge furniture, with free delivery. Pay per rental with no long-term commitment.
Leasing business technology through companies enables access to new equipment annually with maintenance included. While monthly fees add up, you avoid large upfront costs. Use leasing for key tech like computers, printers, and photo booths you want to update regularly.
11. Establish Your Brand Assets
Crafting a strong brand is crucial for wedding pros to stand out in a crowded market. By investing in branded assets upfront, couples instantly recognize your company as professional, polished, and trustworthy.
Get a Business Phone Number
Start with an official business phone line using a service like RingCentral. Choose a custom toll-free or local vanity number clients can easily recall.
Design a Logo
Work with a designer to create a memorable logo that captures your brand identity. Outline fonts, colors, and icons you love. Looka makes custom, affordable logos tailored to your vision.
From your logo, develop cohesive brand assets – fonts, colors, patterns, graphics, and photography styles that reinforce your look across platforms.
Print Business Cards
Print professional business cards, folders, and branded welcome packs from Vistaprint. Hand these out at in-person consultations and include them in client welcome gifts. Carry cards at industry networking events.
If securing office space, install external signage so couples can easily locate their workspace for meetings. Match signage font and colors to your logo.
Buy a Domain Name
Register a domain name that aligns with your brand for a custom email address and website. Check availability by searching Namecheap before settling on the perfect name.
Design a Website
12. Join Associations and Groups
Joining regional organizations and online communities provides invaluable connections in the wedding industry. Surround yourself with fellow pros who graciously share advice and referrals.
Seek out established local associations like the Association of Bridal Consultants that offer training programs and networking. Attend association conferences to gain formal instruction and mingle with experienced planners eager to help newcomers. Regional groups also share job leads and vendor recommendations.
Attend a local wedding or small business meetups and trade shows to make connections. Use Meetup to find regular gatherings of industry peers in your city. Exchange ideas in person and partner with photographers, caterers, and venues eager to work with up-and-coming planners.
Dive into Facebook Groups like the Wedding Planning Support Group. In national online groups, glean advice from thousands of planners across the globe. Post questions and browse extensive idea libraries 24/7. Review how other planners handle challenges.
13. How to Market a Wedding Planning Business
Implementing an ongoing marketing strategy is essential for wedding planners to continually attract new clients. While you’ll rely heavily on referrals at first, also focus on digital and traditional tactics to expand your reach and visibility.
Leverage your personal and professional network to spread the word that you’ve launched a wedding planning company. Offer discounts to early customers who provide testimonials and referrals. One glowing recommendation on your website or reviews can influence many couples.
For digital marketing:
- Run Google Ads campaigns so your services appear at the top when local couples search for wedding planners. Target keywords like “affordable wedding planner [your city].”
- Create Facebook and Instagram ads showcasing your services. Target newly engaged demographics and location. Feature great photos of events you coordinate.
- Start a YouTube channel sharing wedding planning tips and vendor spotlights. Include a strong call-to-action to subscribe and book you.
- Write blog posts about wedding trends and planning advice. Optimize posts for SEO by including relevant keywords couples search for.
- Send email newsletters with wedding inspiration, vendor sales, and promotional offers to stay top of mind. Provide value and specials to subscribers.
For traditional marketing:
- Design professional flyers and menus to display at local bridal shops, florists, venues, etc.
- Partner with venues, photographers, caterers, and bakeries to cross-promote one another. Offer referral fees.
- Sponsor local bridal shows and events related to weddings. Have an eye-catching booth and network.
- Advertise on radio stations and podcasts popular with your target brides. Focus ad copy on the experiences you create.
- For planners with retail space, utilize signage, window displays, and curb appeal to attract foot traffic.
Consistently investing time and budget into marketing expands your visibility and client base. Track results to double down on the most effective tactics over time.
14. Focus on the Customer
Providing an incredible client experience is crucial for wedding planners. Your business depends on referrals and reviews. Just one poor customer service interaction can deter dozens of potential clients. Some ways to improve customer focus as a wedding business include:
- Respond promptly to all inquiries with thoughtful guidance.
- Set clients at ease during the planning process, resolving issues quickly.
- Check in frequently as their big day approaches.
- On the wedding day itself, ensure everything flows seamlessly behind the scenes.
- Greet guests with enthusiasm. Resolve any emergencies discreetly without the couple knowing.
- Post-wedding, follow up to get candid feedback.
- Send anniversary gifts and incentives for reviews. Deliver photos and videos promptly.
- Couples have endless planner options for their most important day.
- For example, notice when a bride seems stressed and provides a shoulder massage.
- Surprise couples with a favorite bottle of champagne.
- Handwrite thoughtful notes demonstrating your care.
With close attention and personal touches, you create delightful experiences and invaluable word-of-mouth referrals. Consistently wowing couples must be a top priority.