Becoming a Wedding Planner: How to Set Your Rates
Thinking of becoming a wedding planner? Then you’ll need to know how to properly set your service rates! Luckily, QC Event School tutor, Mwai Yeboah, is here to help with 5 awesome tips to get you started!
With over 15 years of industry experience, Mwai is the proud owner of Love, From Mwai. In addition to the countless awards she has received over the years, Mwai has also written and published her very own book about wedding planning.
Becoming a Wedding Planner: The Value of Proper Pricing
Today, I’m so excited to talk about a topic that is often seen as taboo: pricing.
When you’re just starting out as a certified wedding planner, finding pricing that’s fair to both parties (i.e. you and your couples) can sometimes feel difficult. After all, your rates still need to accurately reflect the value you bring to the table! While there’s no set answer to how much you should charge, there are some questions you can ask yourself when establishing your rates. This way, you can ensure that you’re thinking about things in the right manner.
So, let’s take a look at my Top 5 must-ask questions. In my opinion, these are the key questions you need to consider before setting the prices for your business!
Becoming a Wedding Planner: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Your Rates
1. How do I want to structure my pricing?
Before you begin to think about the specifics of pricing, you should start by understanding how you want to structure those prices. There are a few different ways you can structure things:
This is where you speak to a couple and then develop a completely custom, from-scratch quote based on their distinct needs. The main pro with completely custom pricing is that it allows you to account for every single thing a couple will need. Thus, you can ensure you’re not undervaluing yourself, which can sometimes happen with set-package pricing. One of the cons, however, is that custom pricing makes it difficult to let potential leads know how much you charge. In turn, this could mean having phone calls with clients, only to find out they aren’t actually able to afford your services.
Set package pricing means you’re associating a very clear, set “price-tag” with each of the services you offer. Coordination costs X. Wedding planning costs Y. Wedding Planning and Design costs Z.
As you can see, it’s pretty simple and straightforward! However, the one con is that there is so much nuance in wedding planning that packages can’t really account for. One coordination couple may take 10 hours of work, while another may take 60. One wedding-design couple may need only a small space designed, whereas another may have an incredibly expansive venue with multiple settings that each need their own design. You can always try to account for and mitigate this by having a maximum number of hours that are included with each package. But actually enforcing those boundaries, of course, is often easier said than done.
Base Rate with Add-Ons and Upgrades
This option allows you to set base “starting at” rates for each of your services. At the same time, it also requires clients to pay for additional planning hours, tasks, or upgrades that fall outside of this base rate. I tend to like this option because it’s a very happy medium between the 2 other options mentioned above.
It allows you to clearly communicate your “starting at” prices on your website, which helps to filter out under-budget leads. Simultaneously, the upgrades and add-ons then allow you to account for the nuances of different situations. As a result, you can ensure that you’re not giving away extra hours or out-of-scope services for free. The key here is to ensure you’re clearly communicating (on your website, in your sales materials, and definitely in your contract) what exactly that base-rate includes – and which items will be charged as add-ons or upgrades.
2. What is the average cost of a wedding in my area?
Once you become a wedding planner, you’ll quickly realize that there’s no set guideline for what you “should” be charging for your services. The reason for this is because the events market is vastly different, depending on location.
Want to truly set an accurate, effective price? Then you’ll need to understand what people are paying for their weddings in the area(s) you want to plan events in! This will give you the most accurate idea of the budgets you’re dealing with. From there, you can then work backwards in order to understand what would be a fair price for wedding planning for couples in those areas.
3. What is my competition charging, and where do I fall on that scale?
After you’ve taken a look at your local events market, it’s time to research the other wedding planners in your area. Let’s say that the most successful competition in your area is charging a certain amount of money for their planning package. Logically, you (as a brand-new certified wedding planner) probably don’t want to price your services higher than that.
This isn’t to say that you need to undervalue yourself. I’m not recommending that you charge an extremely low rate simply because you’re new. On the contrary, you still have plenty of value to bring to the table! You should be properly compensated for this! All I’m saying is that you do need to understand what sort of current prices couples will be seeing as they shop around for a wedding planner.
4. What is my actual time investment?
When first becoming a wedding planner, it’s tempting to want to set your prices pretty low. The thought process behind this decision might be so you can start getting work and signing couples as quick as possible. But it’s important to understand how many hours you’ll actually be spending on an event. After all, if you left a previous job because your hourly pay rate was too low to support your family, you obviously need to make sure you’re paying yourself more than that as a wedding planner.
Here’s what I recommend: sit down and come up with a fictitious “average planning scenario” for each of your services. Let’s say we’re talking about 60-day coordination. In this case, write down every client interaction, every vendor interaction, every email, every mile you’ll drive, every meeting, and every shopping trip you can imagine. Then, add up those hours. Next, take the specific amount you’re thinking of charging for that service and divide it by the total hours you’ve come up with. This will give you your average hourly rate.
Does that feel too low? If so, you need to bump up your pricing!
5. How much will it cost to become a wedding planner and run my own business? What additional expenses could arise?
From business insurance to the monthly fee you’ll be paying for accounting software or website hosting, every certified wedding planner needs to have a clear idea of what their business expenses are each month. This will give you an idea of your break-even point. From there, though, it’s important to consider additional expenses that could arise – both as it relates to your business and the events you plan.
For example, if a couple wants a dance floor set up in an untraditional area outside, there might be additional day-of labor costs that’ll need to be passed onto them. If their ceremony venue is in a completely different place from their reception, you’ll have to work with and drive to 2 different venues throughout the planning process.
What does that cost you as you think through that hourly rate you determined in Question #4? Are you renting an office space? If so, is there a chance the rent will rise next year? Are you planning on sending thank-you gifts or welcome baskets to your couples? If so, what will those cost?
You absolutely CANNOT set strategic pricing without first having a clear and constant understanding of what it takes for you to run your business and produce events!
Becoming a Wedding Planner: My Final Thoughts
Overall, when you’re first starting out, pricing can be a moving target. This is perfectly acceptable (in fact, it’s expected)! You may find that the prices you set during your first season in business were too low or too high, and need to adjust accordingly. The important thing is that you start from as informed of a place as possible. From there, you can then allow the actual work and experience to shape any future adjustments you make.
Here’s to planning with passion and purpose – and setting prices that truly reflect the value of your incredible skill-set!