Who hasn't dreamed of being asked to jet-set with their clients to plan weddings in dreamy destinations like Santorini or Mexico? When I met my now-husband, Jason, I knew I wanted to help Americans get married in Barbados–where I packed up my life and moved to in 2014. I know firsthand the unique challenges of trying to become a destination wedding planner. If you are not based in the destination where you want to work right now, don't worry. I've been doing this for more than a decade, so I know it's possible. I've talked before on the blog about how to book destination wedding clients and elopements, but in this article, I want to dive even further into how to become a destination wedding planner.
Yes, I know all you care about right now is getting clients. I'll talk more about that later. Before we talk about marketing and sales, I want to make sure you are confident you can deliver what you are selling!
If you're like me (and most Type-A wedding planners I know), I know you need to be confident that you can do that service well before you start marketing. That's where The Planner's Playbook comes in.
I've designed The Planner's Playbook for wedding planners new to the business – less than five years – to share everything I know about planning, designing, and executing those magazine-worthy weddings (whether they take place in the US, Italy, or whatever other destinations are on your bucket list). I encourage you to come and join us inside–where we cover the art of destination weddings in detail.
Okay, now back to our blog post about how to become a destination wedding planner.
First, you need to make yourself a business plan.
If you've been following me for a while, you already know I love business plans. Seriously. Not to get too crazy about it, but I believe your business plan is an absolutely essential document in your business. You need to start your business off on the right foot. It's not the sexiest part of owning a business, but it is a crucial step on your journey to becoming a destination wedding planner.
And if you're adding destination weddings into the planning mix, you're definitely going to want to write a business plan to map out your destination brand.
As you start to build your business plan, you will think about the competitors in your space, what other companies are doing, what you want to do, and what will set you apart. Who is your ideal client, what destinations will you specialize in, and what unique services will you offer?
I'm not going to lie and tell you writing a business plan is easy. Almost every wedding planner I know gets stuck. The hardest part? Getting started.
So, where do you get started when writing a business plan, so you can rack up those frequent flyer miles as a destination wedding planner? If you don't have a business plan yet, click here for my free wedding planner business plan outline.
It doesn't need to be fancy, and this business plan outline is going to make it much easier for you.
And remember, a business plan should be a living document in your business. It's something you update a few times a year (or maybe often if you're scaling quickly). Your business plan will change and grow over the years, so don't get tripped up that you're stuck with this plan forever. You don't have to write this out in permanent black marker; you can make changes as you go. Stick to the vision, and be flexible in the method. This brings me to my next point…
What destinations do you want to specialize in and what kind of lifestyle do you want?
The world is big (in case you haven't noticed), and the quickest way to find your first set of destination clients is to specialize in a few locations. When it comes to destinations to specialize in, I usually recommend starting with a list of 3-5 locations to start. This will give you the chance to become an expert in those locations and market the heck out of them.
Don't worry, this doesn't mean you'll be limited here forever. You can expand to more destinations as you go. Having a profitable and sustainable destination wedding planning business is a marathon, not a sprint.
Other than just adding dream destinations to your wedding bucket list, think about what kind of LIFE you want. Maybe Thailand sounds dreamy, but the idea of hopping on a 30-hour travel journey (and rocking multiple layovers) leaves a lot to be desired.
I say this from experience.
Get really clear on which destinations will be easy and comfortable for you to travel to. Keep in mind the locations and cultures you love, too. You never know, maybe it'll take off and you'll move like me?
Once you decide what kind of life you want and what destinations you want to serve, you can start to think about the type of clients that would fit.
As someone who has been in your shoes, I know how tempting it is to say that anyone that is willing to pay you to get on a plane is an ideal client.
Been there, done that. Got the burnout cap to prove it. Being intentional about your ideal client from the beginning will save you many, many headaches in the future. After all, destination weddings are typically booked a year or two in advance. Trust me when I tell you two years is a long time to realize that you've overbooked yourself by working with anyone and executing weddings you don't care about.
Think you already know your ideal client? Let's go a little deeper than what they wear and their favorite food. What are their pain points when it comes to planning a destination wedding? What do they want more than anything? Why are they hiring you? If you're not 100% clear on your ideal client, you need my ideal client cocktail.
The Client Cocktail is a 4-part training series that will help you book magazine-worthy weddings. It's all my secret strategies for calling in the best clients (yanno, the ones who pay the bills and have fun, beautiful weddings).
Now that you know what you really want (and what customers will help you get there!), it's time to get yourself educated.
If you are still reading this, it's safe to say you take education pretty seriously. There is a TON of free information on the internet, and in my humble opinion, you're reading some of the best! Hehehe.
Start with as much free information as you can find, but eventually, you should plan on making an investment. After all, you are going to start commanding a pretty hefty fee for your services (read more about wedding planner pricing strategies here). If you want people to invest in you, you need to invest in yourself.
If you really want to fast-track your destination wedding planning business, go grab the secrets of the people who came before you.
Even though I think you need to invest in yourself, I don't want you to go buy the next ten things you see on Facebook. My best advice would be to find 1-2 mentors who already have the business you want and start there. Too many voices and opinions will leave you stuck with what to do next. Let's be honest – there isn't just one way to become a destination wedding planner (or run a destination wedding business).
If you are looking for more than just “marketing help” – and trust me, there is plenty of that on the internet – make sure to check out The Planner's Playbook. I designed it with three pillars in mind to help you plan, design, and execute the dream weddings you'll be booking soon enough!!
I truly believe marketing needs to come from an authentic place, which means that “fake it till you make it” only works to a point. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer that we all start somewhere (and that imposter syndrome is the WORST), but taking a little extra time to invest in your education now will improve your marketing (and customer experience!).
Feeling confident, yet? Let's book you some destination wedding couples!
Okay, I know this is what you really came for. But honestly, once you have done the foundational stuff above, marketing comes easy (really!).
First, update your website and make it clear you book destination weddings now. Say it loud, say it proud. People won't know unless you tell them.
Next, start creating content around what your ideal client is searching for (on Instagram, your blog, or wherever you love to market!).
Think about the destinations and venues you want to serve, and talk about them. Talk about what you would do in different tricky destination wedding situations (AKA: why they need to hire you). Share what inspires you about destination weddings to begin with. You see where I am going here, right?
Make your marketing easier by establishing your content buckets! This has saved me a ton of time in my marketing endeavors, so I have a whole article on content buckets here. The strategy is incredibly effective and helps you save a ton of time!
Go forth and network! Get your booty out there and meet people in the destinations you want to serve. Let them know that you're coming in hot, bringing fabulous clients. Work your network and make some new friends. You never know when a referral might get passed your way…
I know I say this all the time, but this is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to be consistent with your marketing in order to see a return on your efforts. It's tempting to give up after a few weeks (or months) with no inquiries but trust me when I say that your efforts won't be in vain. You can't really “become a destination wedding planner” without clients so keep at it. If you want more marketing help, we have tons of resources on the blog here too!
Wow – that was a lot! Here's a quick recap on how to become a destination wedding planner:
- Start your business plan
- Download my free course on launching your wedding planning business
- Decide what you want (out of life and business!)
- Find & Define your Ideal Clients
- Get yourself some wedding planner education (like the Planner's Playbook!)
- Tell people about your destination wedding biz
- Market your new service everywhere
- Network your booty off
- Book your first client!
Ready to thrive as a destination wedding planner in 2024? Make sure to jump on the waitlist for The Planner's Playbook!
Explore More Wedding Industry Resources
- How to Book Destination Weddings And Elopements In Your Wedding Business
- How Much Should You Charge As A Wedding Planner? Learn How To Figure Out Your Wedding Planner Pricing
- How to Start a Wedding Planning Business
- 8 Free Ways To Market Your Wedding Planning Biz
- 5 Online Wedding Planner Tools You Need to Use
- 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Wedding Planning Business
- How To Get Wedding Clients When You’re Just Starting Out
- How Do I Write A Wedding Planner Business Plan?
- How To Build Your Portfolio As A Wedding Planner When You’re Just Starting Out