So, you want to be in the wedding industry? It’s a strong sector of the economy, worth over £10 billion a year. The ‘Bridebook Wedding Report‘ estimated that the average cost of a wedding was over £30,000 and rising annually at close to 12% a year, mainly due to a focus on personalisation.

You’ll no doubt hear about how hard it is, how competitive it is, how saturated the market is. It’s true for almost every industry, though, and it doesn’t mean you can’t bring something to the wedding market through quality and effective business preparation.

The wedding business is unique; you’re asking someone to trust you with what they may deem to be the biggest day of their lives, but every wedding business has to start somewhere, so we’ve put together a plan to cover before starting a business in the wedding sector. First though, you should decide what you kind of business you want to be. Are you:

1. A whole new idea in the wedding industry?
2. Buying an existing wedding business?
3. Franchising an existing wedding business?
4. Distributing an existing wedding-oriented product not currently in the UK market?

The point of asking these questions is to make you think about whether there’s a way to become self-employed in the wedding industry without accepting all the liability and risk of starting a new company. Here’s a simple step-by-step plan of how to get started.

Define your business in a concise pitch

You’ll be spending a lot of time giving brief, concise and effective explanations to potential business partners and clients, and ‘We’re in weddings’ isn’t good enough when someone asks what your business does; you need an explanation which doubles as a pitch. ‘We provide bespoke tipi hire for weddings and special events in Cheshire’ is a very different statement than: ‘We do wedding hire’.

Do your research

Extensive research is required for any business to succeed, no less so than in a space so crowded as the wedding industry. Research your market and learn:

Who, if anyone, is already doing what your business will do?
Will they compete with you in your market (and is your market clearly defined)?

This will allow you to work out what your unique selling points are, and what will allow your business to stand out and compete.

Find potential partners – get networking!

The wedding industry is a word of mouth business, so building a network early on will be a huge advantage to you. There’s no shortage of conventions, expos and networking events to get into, and everyone getting married or knows of someone who might get married is a potential avenue of business for you. Go out and find them!

List of UK Wedding Exhibitions

  • The National Wedding Show – 4 events nationwide (Olympia London, NEC Birmingham, ExCeL London, EventCity Manchester).
  • Perfect Brides shows – 7 shows around the country, the main one being the ‘UK National Midland Wedding Show at the Ricoh Arena.
  • The Un-Wedding Show – These events are aimed at ‘modern brides’ looking for something different to the traditional matrimonial celebrations. They look tom feature the ‘coolest independent wedding suppliers’.
  • Most Curious Wedding Fairs – Indie, style-focused exhibitions across the country.
  • The Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza – brings together selected UK wedding suppliers.
  • Brides Ip North – Luxury bridal events and industry parties across Yorkshire, the North West and North East
  • Chosen – Three wedding fairs a year (Oxford, Bristol, London) “…celebrating the best contemporary designers, service providers and vintage aficionados”.
  • The Big Welsh Wedding Show – One Spring and one Autumn show, both held in Cardiff. “For stylish couples looking to take their wedding planning to the next level.”
  • The Scottish Wedding Show – Held at the SEC Glasgow. Features over 200 suppliers

Write a business plan

There are numerous places to find a guide on writing a business plan, and it should form a vital part of you clearly understanding more about your own business and its path, not to mention securing stakeholders, and potentially, investors.

Before writing the plan, try to define problem areas that you think you can solve better than existing wedding businesses and can execute better than your competition. For example, write down the top three things that always go wrong at weddings and that potential customers would pay to avert. This is how you can stand out, or ‘differentiate’ in business speak, and is often the key

Complementary businesses

Much additional value can be generated in a wedding business if you get the accessories offer correct. Weddings being such a personal event, there is often ample scope to upsell on the little individual touches and add-ons. It can also help you to maximise early growth and form pathways into new partners or clients.

Cover your bases.

Investigate all the taxes, insurance, liability, VAT, patents, and more that you’ll need to be aware of in order to ensure your business is legally compliant. Read our guide on registering a company here to make sure you can trade legitimately. Go here for advice on registering a website domain name.

Get started – and test, refine, test, refine!

If you have a physical product, start by selling through online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, where you can gauge what works and gather feedback through your first customers and their reviews.

If you are offering a service, such as planning, be sure to get your organisational skills honed to perfection. You might consider attending courses in event management and perhaps even people management, since your diplomatic and mediation skills will be tested to the max. A good place to go for advice on this sector of the wedding industry is the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners which also runs coaching and training sessions.

Once you’ve planned, you can focus the bit you’re really in this for: Delivering quality wedding services.

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