My blog series comes to an end with a post about money and how to make it work as a wedding planner full time. My last three blog posts have been about an interest topic – how to become an event or wedding coordinator and some hard truths I’ve learned along the way. My first post was about getting educated, my second post was about it being a very people-oriented job and the most recent one was about your job and vocation. Now I get to the nitty gritty.

Elegant wedding at the King Edward Hotel Vanity Ballroom

The stats

As glamorous as a wedding planner’s life seems, it is not easy to rely on it for a full-time income when starting out.

The jobs out there for a full-time salaried event planner with an employer are few, and only organizations/companies that are large enough to be able to afford and value a coordinator will hire for one. More event jobs out there are contracted than permanent (from my observations only, not a fact).

After getting my post-grad at Seneca for event management, it took me 6 months to find a job with my lack of professional full-time experience, and it was at an organization that I had volunteered in for many years. If I didn’t have that in already, I probably would not have gotten it!

For wedding planning it is a bit different because you can work on your own. The more effort you put into advertising, promotion and networking, the more jobs you should get (ideally). On the flip side, you can be an amazing planner with out of this world skills, but if no one wants to book you, then tough luck.

I think the statistic is about 20% (or less) of wedding planner are doing weddings full-time in Canada. With over 2000 coordinators nationally, that’s not a lot. That means that the other 80% are only doing it part-time, and to what extent part-time (two weddings a year? ten weddings a year?) likely varies a lot as well.

Simple math

When you are starting out in the business, I compare wedding planning to acting.. it is great to get a gig when it comes around, but make sure you have another job to pay your bills. Like any other self-employed business, if you don’t have clients, you don’t get paid. With so many automated bill payments these days, you can’t afford not to do work. That’s pretty scary!

It is simple math.

How much can one expect to make as a wedding planner?

Your service rate x how many weddings you book = your expected salary

You can also work backwards.

Your salary goal / Your service rate = how many weddings you need to book

You can start with a salary goal (or take your current day job’s salary if you would like to duplicate it). Take that number and divide that by how much you charge for wedding services currently. This is how many weddings you would theoretically need to book to at least duplicate your day job income. Is this a realistic goal for your current situation?

When you are starting out in weddings, you are charging prices reflective of that. It can be hard to visualize how you could ever do weddings full time charging the rates you are charging! The answer = you must raise your rates. The challenge is that clients don’t want to pay high prices for someone without the experience to back it up, so you do need to build up your experience and portfolio. Alternatively, you can take on volume – keep rates steady, but take on more weddings.

There is no way to say what an average salary of a wedding planner is for someone who works it full-time. I have no idea what my colleagues are making. But it all depends on how much you charge for your services and how many weddings you take on. You’ll have some minor expenses, but it is a business that has very little overhead, so it is all about your pricing x quantity of weddings.

It’s not that doing weddings full-time cannot be done, but don’t expect it to happen overnight, especially if you are just getting your feet wet. Set realistic goals for each year in business, have a marketing plan and put in 110% effort.

Don’t quit your day job

I started planning weddings on the side, while I had a day job as an event manager at a non-profit. It kept me quite busy, with work during the day, client meetings in the evenings and weddings on the weekend.

By keeping it as a side hustle, I did not have the pressure of booking every single wedding that came my way. If it was the wrong client for me or not a wedding I was excited about, I did not have to take it. I did not rely on it as my primary source of income. This allowed me to build my portfolio and build my experience at a pace that worked for me.

Once you jump on board full-time, you may not have that luxury to choose. That’s why I always recommend jumping in when you are already busy and have good clients booked. You won’t have the need to feel desperate and book whatever comes your way. This is one big benefit of starting off your business on the side, while you have another reliable income source during the day.

Ready to jump in?

I’ve learned a lot these past few years and I’ve made my mistakes. But honestly, it has been really rewarding too. I love being a part of someone’s most important day and I get to put to use my creative energies and take-charge attitude. I also enjoy owning my own business and the freedom that brings. It has been a blessing to do what I love and get paid for it. Who doesn’t want that right?

If you think you have what it takes and the freedom to ‘try out’ a line of work without the pressure of making money right away, go for it.

If you’re not sure if you should jump right in, try volunteering or helping as an assistant to get a feel for it before putting all your eggs in one basket.

This concludes my mini series on getting started in the business. Thanks for following along! I hope it sheds a little bit of light on this relatively new line of work.

Update: CNBC Calls Event Coordinators #6 on the top 10 most stressful jobs in America in 2012!


Also in this series:

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto event designer and event planner. If you have a brand activation, media launch event, design project, trade show or a special event, connect with her today to see how we can collaborate on your next project.