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How Not to Start a Wedding Planner Business
The BFF who has helped copious friends or family members to walk down the aisle may feel inspired to print up some business cards and hang out a virtual shingle. Even though this approach may have worked a decade ago, it no longer spells success in the cut-throat wedding industry. Instead, only the entrepreneur with an iron-clad business plan and background to match ambition can aggressively enter the field. Which steps should the would-be bridal consultant take?
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Understand the Business Requirements
Whether the professional is called a wedding planner, bridal consultant or event planner, the basic tasks remain the same. The planner takes initial ideas and dreams, turns them into reality, observes a budget, accounts for monies spent and negotiates meet-and-greets with friends and family members.
The entrepreneur who excels in this business is available 24-7 (as outlined by the 2006/2007 Occupational Outlook Quarterly(1)), has a strong organizational ability, accounting or business background and can deal with a wide array of personalities and temperaments. A successful wedding planner understands that – at least initially – there will be little free time and the business cannot be run as a sideline.
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Set Up a Business Plan and Fund the Venture
Competition in the field is fierce and a good approach to take is targeting a niche. Initially this niche may be confined to ethnic-, age- or socio-economic groups. In 2001, Entrepreneur(2) revealed that the most lucrative demographic to target was the professional female.
Since appearance is everything in the consultant business, the wedding planner must present a professional, trustworthy and knowledgeable mien. This includes an office that reflects this appearance. Subsequently, start-up costs may range from $2,300 to $9,200. If the entrepreneur must update a professional wardrobe, this cost increases.
Remember that zoning limitations may require the entrepreneur to rent an office space, which further raises the start-up cost of this business venture. Add to this the fees associated with incorporating the business, getting a city or county business license and also opening a bank account, and the odds are good that the real start-up costs will be significantly higher still.
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Cultivate Contacts and Network
Major players in a wedding are the caterer, reception venue, florist, photographer, baker, DJ, limousine service and dressmaker. Above and beyond these contacts, a wedding planner should become a visible fixture in the wedding industry through membership in the Association of Bridal Consultants(3).
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Is Specialized Training Really Necessary?
The Penn Foster Career School(4) offers an accredited independent study course for aspiring bridal consultants. It is a good option for a would-be entrepreneur with little hands-on business experience who may also be a little shy about breaking into the industry.
A seasoned business professional with prior corporate experience and a strong entrepreneurial temperament may be able to bypass this formal education. This entrepreneur should instead read up on the business and apply for permission to take the professional certification exam from the Association of Bridal Consultants without the formal education.
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Keep in mind that learning how to start a wedding planner business is the easy portion of the experience. Working long hours while concurrently trying to drum up more business adds stress to the actual hands-on execution. For the successful entrepreneur, the remuneration can be quite rewarding: Entrepreneur(5) suggests that charging up to 15 percent of the entire wedding’s budget is not unheard of, while other means of making money suggest a flat hourly rate ranging from $25 to $125.
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Photo Credit: “Tropical wedding flowers arrangement" by Jina Lee/Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tropical_flower_arrangement_wedding.jpg