It’s a jungle out there, and we’re not talking jungle-themed weddings — which sound kind of cool. More than 2.1 million people were married in the U.S. in 2012, and the average wedding now costs more than $25,400, according to The Wedding Report.

This is excellent news for anyone who has ever wanted to break into the business. But it also means many people are already out there trying to break into a crowded industry that spends $47.2 billion annually, according to IbisWorld, an industry research organization.

So how do you gain experience, get the word out about your business as inexpensively as possible, and stand out from a very competitive crowd?

  1. Start small

If you are just starting out, consider helping your friends with their weddings. While this may not get you a paycheck, it will give you valuable experience. You’ll be working with people you know, and if all goes well, you’ll have great photos and testimonials for your portfolio.

  1. Think bigger

Don’t know anyone getting married? See if a local wedding business owner needs help and offer to assist. You may also consider a part-time position or internship for a larger organization, like hotels, resorts or churches in your community which might have a wedding department. This will help you get to know local vendors and assist brides planning their big day from start to finish, including learning how to handle last-minute adjustments, which is where good vendors can really shine.

  1. Join an association

Referrals are a big part of the wedding industry, so joining a local or national group may help you get to know others in your field. Some groups meet for lunch or dinner every month, some publish newsletters or have sites and others put on “members only” shows which are not only great for future brides but can help fellow members learn about everyone’s services. Vendors also often have cards or fliers available for other members. The Library of Congress recognizes hundreds of international, national, state and regional wedding associations, some for weddings in general, some for specific sub-sectors like videographers, gown specialists, DJs or caterers.

  1. Promote yourself as a wedding expert

Contact your local paper to see if they ever need an occasional wedding columnist, or a local TV station to see if they ever need anyone to be interviewed about weddings. Then, you can include this experience for your own portfolio as a way to stand out from other wedding professionals.

  1. Stand out by giving back

The wedding business is all about networking and building a positive reputation so not only will brides-to-be contact you but other vendors may pass on your name. Find ways for both groups to like and remember you. For example, send flowers or thank you notes to anyone and everyone, from potential future clients to vendors who helped make your last wedding a success.

  1. Use social media

Create a blog, Facebook and Pinterest page, sharing your insight or spotlighting your real weddings. This could be a good way to exchange information with fellow wedding bloggers or follow the pages of other local vendors. Many wedding bloggers also like to include lists of bloggers and vendors they like, or share posts about local weddings or vendors.

Which of these strategies have you used for your wedding business?

About the Author: Luke Horton is a property manager from Arkansas.

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