How to Become a Wedding Consultant

Income and Billing

Charges for wedding consulting services vary widely. Typically, consultants charge by the hour or by the package. Some consultants will charge up to 15 percent of the total wedding cost, but this is a more common practice in larger cities where disposable income is higher and there are more top-level female executives footing the bill.

According to Ernst, preparation-planning fees, which include everything except wedding day coordination, usually range between $2,000 and $4,500, depending on whether your business is in a rural or metropolitan area. Full production coordination, which includes everything from early planning and budgeting to wedding day activity coordination, will cost an additional $1,500 to $3,000 on average.

According to the wedding consultants interviewed for Entrepreneur's Bridal Consultant Startup Guide, full production package rates ranged from $1,000 to $5,000. The higher prices were found in the largest metropolitan areas, where one consultant even offered a $10,000 "concierge" package for the bride who wants to do nothing more than verbally approve the consultant's selections and write checks to pay the suppliers.

To arrive at a price for your wedding packages, Gerard J. Monaghan of the Association of Bridal Consultants suggests using this formula to come up with an hourly rate:

(amount you want to net annually) � 50 weeks � 5 days a week x (factor of 2.5 for expenses) = per diem � 8 hours = hourly rate

The SBA says the average service industry pay rate is $25 to $125 per hour. Where you price your services in this range depends on what your local market will bear.

Billing

Of course, to obtain all that lovely remuneration, you have to bill your clients regularly. Most of the wedding consultants we spoke to bill incrementally. Typically, they require payment for the consultation on the spot, then expect monthly payments for weddings that are planned over a very long period of time (like 9 months to a year). Weddings that have a shorter lead-time may be billed in two installments: one at the time of the contract, and a second final payment no later than 30 days after the event.

Cancellations aren't uncommon in this business, and Loreen C., the consultant in Michigan, tries to keep hers to a minimum by refunding just half of the deposit if the cancellation occurs within seven days. After that, the deposit is forfeited. "I have to do that because I might have turned someone else down for the same date," she explains.

Some of the wedding consultants we spoke to have merchant accounts, which allow them to bill their clients' Visa or MasterCard accounts. Julia K., the wedding consultant in Texas, points out that credit card fees can be very high for the merchant (that's you), but they're a necessary expense if you want to be paid on a timely basis. But if you haven't been in business very long, a merchant account probably isn't necessary just yet.

Smart Tip
Always provide a written contract that spells out your responsibilities and payment terms, since under the Uniform Commercial Code, contracts for the sale of services or goods in excess of $500 must be in writing to be legally enforceable. Even if your bill will be under $500, it's a good idea to have a written contract just in case a dispute arises.

How to Become a Wedding Consultant

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