How to become a destination wedding planner: That’s a good question! Today, I’m sharing how I personally became a destination wedding planner, but I also included things to consider if you are thinking this might be the dream job. It really is a dream job by the way. It is also one of the most stressful jobs in the entire world (because – airlines lol). And I will always be completely upfront with you about what you are in for if you do choose to pursue this as a career.
This post was originally published in 2019 but has been updated in 2023.
Before we jump in, gor all things destination wedding planning, we have created this 100+ page guide for you to deep dive into. It would actually be INCREDIBLY helpful if you are thinking of becoming a destination wedding planner because, really, we cover everything. Grab your copy here!
I Became a Travel Agent FIRST.
On my road to destination wedding planning, I became a travel agent first. I always knew I wanted to specialize in destination weddings though. If you are considering this as a career path, you can become a destination wedding planner two ways: the first (and I think easiest) would be to become a travel agent and then book the destination wedding travel components. For this, you help couples choose a resort and sort through wedding packages, but then they usually do the actual planning with the resort. Some travel agents are very hands on when it comes to this process and some are not so it really depends on your style. You have more flexibility if you choose to start your own business as well.
How to Become a Destination Wedding Travel Agent
If you do choose to become a travel agent: you can apply to be hired by an existing travel agency (the places you see at the mall – expedia, flight centre, etc), sign up as an independent contractor through a host agency or open your own agency. Opening up your own is expensive so most who want to start their own business choose the independent contractor option. Just be careful because there are some MLM travel agencies that are frowned upon in the industry (be weary of anyone who wants you to sign up under them. You can read more about host agencies here: www.hostagencyreviews.com
How You Get Paid as a Destination Wedding Travel Agent
If you work for a store-front, you may get paid hourly, a % of commission made, or a mixture of both. Keep in mind the commission is likely going to be a smaller amount than if you are on your own, but they really are providing most of the clients by having a storefront. If you choose to become an independent contractor, you will get paid a higher % of the commission earned but you are going to be responsible for finding your own clients (most of the time). You may also choose to charge a flat fee on top of the commission earned for the wedding. Although I don’t do this, that is part of the joy of running your own business! You have more control over how you want to get paid.
Or, Become a Wedding Planner First.
The second way to become a destination wedding travel agent/planner (if you don’t want to become a travel agent first OR at all) would be to start your business as a wedding planner and offer destination wedding planning. The couple and their guests would then book their own travel OR you partner with a travel agent who does not want to be involved in the wedding details.
Clientele hiring for this service is usually going to be higher end though so you are going to have to “prove yourself” a bit more first. You may need to start with local weddings, friends & family, or destination weddings that are close to your home town. Wedding Planners may choose to charge a flat fee or a percentage of the wedding budget.
Destination Wedding Travel Agent vs. Destination Wedding Planner
I talk a little more about the differences between a destination wedding planner and a destination wedding travel agent here. Really, you can choose what you want to do when you own your own business. For a while, we offered both services but in 2023 we decided to niche down as a team and focus our efforts on the travel side of things instead of pursuing full-service destination wedding planning!
Learning How to Become A Destination Wedding Planner
The most important quality to have is to ALWAYS be learning. I personally got a bachelor degree from the University of Alberta before I opened my business. I majored in psychology (and it does come in handy every now and again) but a bachelor degree is definitely not a necessity! What is DID teach me though was how to work HARD and how to be RESOURCEFUL.
Other than formal education, I also had about a million jobs while I was in university. If this isn’t a tell tale sign of an entrepreneur, I don’t know what is! And I have learned a LOT about customer service and it has served me so well. One of my favourite memories was during a “pre-shift” meeting at earl’s on New Years Eve. I remember it so clearly. My manager at the time gave us all some serious real talk.
I know we do this everyday. I know you may have your own NYE plans after this. You may have something going in your life. Let’s just remember that for some of our customers – this is their big night out. Some of them don’t get a chance to go out all the time and this is THEIR New Years. Let’s do everything we can to make it as special as possible for them.
I think I will carry this lesson with me forever. It’s ALWAYS about the client. It’s ALWAYS about making their experience with me as special as possible. And every side job has taught me something new so even though it isn’t formal education – the experience as been invaluable.
The reason this industry is full of AMAZING and AWFUL (real talk!) travel agents is that you need to be SUPER SELF-MOTIVATED to get Education. Although I got basic education from my host agency, I did a majority of training on my own. A few examples of courses I took (and paid for!) are the DWHSA Romance Travel Specialist Course (I also followed up with their DWHSA Bootcamp this year) and we are still a part of The Planners Playbook membership today!
On top of a few SOLID courses, I have probably watched over 1000 webinars from my computer. Many suppliers have trainings as well (Sandos Smart Agents, AMResort Master Agents, Royal Caribbean WOW Specialist, etc). I attend as many industry events that come to Edmonton as I possibly can. I also TRAVEL as much as possible so I can personally see hotels & destinations that I sell. If you really are planning on starting your own business, please be prepared to invest in yourself. I am not even counting all of the business specific training I have taken!
Find a mentor. On top of trainings, one of the most invaluable things I did for my business was find a mentor. Learning how she does destination weddings was more valuable than anything I could have learned myself online. Business happens in real time so find a mentor you trust and who is willing and happy to help. Be grateful for them too because this industry can be crazy and they are likely very busy.
Becoming a Destination Wedding Planner in 2023
Embarking on a career as a destination wedding planner or a destination wedding travel agent is a thrilling yet challenging journey. While there are multiple paths you can take, such as starting as a travel agent or diving straight into wedding planning, the core of the profession remains the same: it’s all about the client’s experience. The world of destination wedding planning may seem glamorous, and indeed it has its moments, but it also demands a deep commitment to learning, understanding client needs, and constantly adapting to the ever-changing travel and wedding industry.
Remember, whether you’re helping a couple choose the perfect resort or orchestrating a breathtaking ceremony on a secluded beach, your ultimate aim is to create unforgettable memories for your clients. As with any endeavor, the foundation built on continuous learning, both formal and informal, combined with a passion for service, will set you on the path to success in this dynamic profession. If you’ve ever dreamt of playing a role in someone’s ‘big day’, then this might just be the career calling out to you. Dive deep, stay resourceful, and most importantly, cherish every moment of the journey! We will be cheering you on as you do!