Going to cake tastings, finding the perfect dress, picking out a colour palette, choosing your first dance song… Even the simplest wedding requires a lot of planning, so it makes sense to enlist the help of a professional.
A lot of people think of wedding planning as a dream job. After all, you’re basically putting on one big party, no? But behind the scenes, it’s a lot more than just confetti and tulle. At a basic level, wedding planners are there to coordinate and help you organise your big day, but their responsibilities can massively vary.
Between budget, RSVPs, venue hunting and making sure the couple are happy, it’s often a stressful job. We caught up with wedding planner Charlotte Nichols to find out what being a wedding planner is really like.
How long have you been a wedding planner?
Unofficially, since I got married myself in December 2013. It turns out I had a bit of a knack for it and completely fell in love with all things weddings. I had just emigrated to Canada six months earlier, and after my own big day I took to helping out family and friends with weddings and events in the years after. I then officially set up Charlotte Nichols Weddings when I returned to the UK in 2017.
What are your responsibilities?
Where do I begin? I think it would be pretty impossible to write a job spec for a wedding planner, as there really is no one-size-fits-all. My role can really vary quite considerably, depending on the wedding and the type of couple I’m working with. I work with couples in a number of different capacities. Sometimes it’s just giving them a kickstart with their planning and helping them to unleash their creative vision; sometimes I am a constant through the entire process, managing each and every aspect of the wedding; and sometimes I am just there for the final few weeks and on the day itself, managing the setup, logistics and being the point of contact should any issues arise.
My key responsibilities for a full planning job typically include: managing the budget, creating a bespoke design concept to perfect the event look and feel, sourcing and managing a team of expert suppliers, putting together creative briefs for all visual suppliers, creating an event schedule and then being there on the day and often the days either side to manage styling, setup, suppliers, logistics, hangovers, the clear-up and everything in between!
Why did you choose to become a wedding planner?
It definitely came firmly into focus when I started planning my own wedding and thought, I’m actually quite enjoying this. Many of my family and friends mentioned it to me after the event but I am not sure that I took it seriously enough at the time. I had just finished working as a teacher and was about to relocate to Montreal with my husband so it wasn’t really the right time to be thinking about establishing a new business. I was working in the marketing and events space during my time in Canada but following the birth of my daughter, I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to suit me going back to a 9-to-5 job. That’s when I revisited the idea and started to seriously think about making my love of event planning more official. So many aspects of the job suited my skills and experience that it really did feel like a match made in heaven when I actually took the plunge.
While on maternity leave, I completed a course in wedding planning and design (yes that does exist!) at the same time as setting up the business, branding and website – all of which meant I was ready to go by the time we moved back to the UK.
How much do you earn?
It varies considerably from year to year, because what I earn varies hugely from wedding to wedding. The nature of what I offer means I work with my couples in a number of different capacities, whether that be working on the day of the wedding itself to take the weight off their shoulders, or whether I am there for the year-long lead-up where I take on the management and planning of the entire event. I can earn anywhere from £1,000 to £10,000.
What are your hours like?
Incredibly unpredictable. Not least because I have a 3-year-old toddler so I have to manage my work around her, nursery drop-offs and other mum duties, but I also work with a number of couples who are living abroad in different time zones. Juggling is the name of the game. Those different time zones usually entail calls first thing in the morning or late at night. My UK-based couples are often busy professionals, and for them catching up has to take place at the weekends. So one thing wedding planning definitely isn’t is a predictable – it’s not a work lifestyle for everyone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How long does it take to plan a wedding, and how many hours go into it?
Planning a wedding from beginning to end can take anywhere from 250 to 400 hours depending on the complexity and duration of the event. For example, some weddings that are held at venues where many of the suppliers are in house will be less time-consuming than a three-day weekend dry-hire wedding venue or marquee wedding where there are considerably more logistics and a greater number of suppliers to manage.
What do you love most about your job?
The people. Meeting such a wide array of wonderful people – from the couples I work with to the suppliers that become part of the team. Playing such an important role in the most important day of your couple's lives to date is such a privilege; it is incredibly rewarding to see all the hard work come together on the day.
There are some incredibly unglamorous sides to the job and an early morning wake-up call the day after the wedding is probably the worst part – mopping floors, cleaning cutlery and stacking hundreds of chairs. What we do for our couples, hey?
What do you love the least?
The clear-up! There are some incredibly unglamorous sides to the job and an early morning wake-up call the day after the wedding (when you’ve probably been on your feet until the early hours) to return to the venue and ensure that everything is returned to how it was found is probably the worst part. I have regularly ended up mopping floors, cleaning cutlery and stacking hundreds of chairs…what we do for our couples, hey?
What’s the worst moment you can think of?
Once, the catering team decided to pack up and leave an event at around midnight, leaving me with a room full of dirty crockery, cutlery and glassware to clean up after a dinner with over 150 guests… Not fun.
Most tear-jerking thing that has happened during one of your weddings?
It doesn’t take much to turn on the waterworks and I get pretty emotional at almost all of my couples' weddings. Particularly as you have been with them throughout the whole process and often formed a friendship along the way. The speeches always pull on the heartstrings too, and if there has been a special tribute to a friend or family member that is no longer with us, it always feels like an incredibly emotional moment.
Have you ever worked with a difficult bride?
This is probably the question that I get asked most but in all seriousness, I honestly don't think I have ever worked with a bridezilla – at least not yet anyway! I think it is one of those myths that doesn’t really hold true, or perhaps I have just been incredibly lucky so far, and that experience is still to come. I think that more than anyone, brides have the best understanding as to how much work goes into pulling off a wedding, and when you’re dedicating yourself to ensuring they have the wedding of their dreams, they are mostly grateful and just glad that they haven’t had to do it all themselves.
How about the grooms – have you encountered a difficult one?
In my experience, the grooms can be as involved as the brides, if not more so. They want to know and understand exactly what it is they are paying for and that usually means they have many more questions and require much more clarification than you might expect.
People assume that the life of a wedding planner is all colour palettes and cake tasting, but it certainly isn’t all glamour.
Biggest misconception about the job?
People assume that the life of a wedding planner is all colour palettes and cake tasting, but it certainly isn’t all glamour. There is a huge amount of (often tedious) logistical and procedural work that is involved, as well as endless admin, spreadsheets and antisocial hours. Luckily, I have a marketing and numerical background (I used to be a maths teacher) so I am very happy to be stuck in a spreadsheet. For me, the upsides of the job and the joy and celebration that I am so lucky to be a part of definitely outweigh the tedious side.