How I Started My $750,000 Wedding Officiant Business

Joining our entrepreneur interview series today is Alan Katz, owner of one of the largest wedding officiant companies in Southern California, and possibly the US.

Key statistics:

Gain: $750,000 per year

Founder: 1

Staff: 5

Independent contractors: 37

Started: 2003

Meet Alan Katz

I grew up in So Cal in a nice middle class family. I had a normal upbringing with the traditional norms of going to school, getting a job, getting married and living a happy life.

I knew I was a little different from others growing up. I was stupid, scandalous, nerdy and never lived up to the standards of normal life.

I made my TV debut at the age of 16 with a comedy act on the Gong Show. I had hoped my life would go that way, but unfortunately it returned to the “norm”.

I always knew there was something there, but I couldn’t find it. I got married and had two children, got divorced and this is where my life took a turn.

I dreamed of a life where I could make people laugh. I started singing telegrams, doing celebrity impersonations, being Santa Claus and doing extra film work.

I excelled at this and even made a living for a while. To supplement my income, I drove a limousine. It went well. Then during a doctor’s appointment they discovered I had thyroid cancer. I decided I would fight it and beat it, and I did.

But that really got me thinking. Why am I here? I wanted to make a difference in this world. I just didn’t want to just be one of those nameless people who disappeared from existence. So I started formulating a plan, but it had no direction.

Until one day my best friend asked me to be the Officiant at his wedding. This would be the day that changed my life forever. Using the words we designed together, I put my own Alan spin on the ceremony, stepped up to the microphone and rocked.

After the ceremony, many guests came up to me and told me it was the best wedding ceremony they had ever been to. My friends told me that I should quit my job and do this full time because I had found my calling.

So I listened. I’ve set up a website where I talk about changing the narrative of boring weddings to make them fun and romantic. It started to catch on. I started booking weddings. Some great, some flops, but all the while I learned what made couples happy.

I got to the point where I had to decide to quit my limo job and focus on this business. I was watching the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the leap of faith scene.

I realized that if I didn’t make that leap, I would never achieve my goals. So I stepped off the edge. 20 years later….I run the largest, most popular and most amazing wedding catering company, serving almost 2000 weddings a year.

Can you describe your wedding officiant business?

Great Officiants is the largest company of its kind in So Cal, if not the US. I have over 30 officials consisting of ministers, priests, rabbis, bilingual, non-denominational and cosplay officials.

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I’ve put together the place that wedding planners, venues and other wedding suppliers can rely on when they’re asked, “Do you know a good Officiant? They can say, “I know a great Officiant.” The company is versatile.

In addition to moving to a location (hotel, backyard, golf course, etc.), I expanded my activities. I opened a boutique wedding chapel with 30 indoor/outdoor seats and founded a Beach Wedding Design company that plans and executes weddings on the beaches in So Cal.

We became authorized agents of the District Secretariat to issue marriage licenses to our couples to bypass the District Secretariat. We have created an elopement department for quick and easy weddings. We have created Memorial Celebrants for commemorations/funerals.

I still do the singing telegrams and I don’t make as much money as I like doing it. And recently we established our cruise line division, where we perform the ceremonies on cruise ships in port before they set out to sea.

We stand out in the industry because we have broken the norms of what a ceremony should be. We showed that weddings don’t have to be boring and that we can make it fun and romantic.

I market this constantly on social media, at networking events, and through extensive (and expensive) advertising. When I go to industry events, I dress very colorfully to stand out in the crowd.

Although I have never read the book The Purple Cow, the concept of ‘Safe’ ideas are not safe at all; they are boring and will be ignored like normal colored cows.

Rather, it is the risky ideas, the over-the-top ideas that will be noticed and have a chance to survive.” I am the “Purple Cow” in the wedding industry.

Once my company grew and I hired more officers, my source of income changed. Not only did I make money from the ceremonies I did, but I also made it by collecting the money to book the other officials.

I became, for lack of better words, “An Officiant Booking Agency”. I receive the booking for the officiants, receive the balance and work directly with the couple once booked.

How did your company grow from solo ceremonies to providing thousands of ceremonies annually with a team?

When I started getting bigger, I couldn’t handle the volume of business, so I started looking for others to take care of my surplus.

I started my first real company, So Cal Officiant. It flourished. I kept adding more officials and it excelled. I went to wedding industry seminars and learned from the best professionals how to run a successful wedding business.

At every seminar I brought nuggets and put them into practice. I also learned to “be the expert,” so I started speaking and teaching about success as a speaker. That gave me great credibility in the industry.

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I was now “The Expert” and industry people trusted me and my wedding concepts. I got bigger and better. But then my good friend, one of my officers, and I had a falling out and I removed him from the company.

He got a lawyer who falsely claimed he owned half the company. Although it was a false statement, it led me to personal ruin.

I hired a lawyer and fought it, and we realized the best way to fight it was to file bankruptcy.

Little did I know, that one act freed my soul and allowed me to rename myself, get rid of debt and rid my life of this menace forever. I became Grand Officers.

Can you share insights into your revenue growth over the years?

As the company grew, so did my profits and subsequently my prices. I found a good place where I was not the cheapest and not the most expensive. I make my money by taking the commissions for the officiant bookings and the design costs for the beach weddings.

As bookings increased, so did my income. I moved from my first chapel/officer location to a much nicer and larger facility with more offices and better parking and a great neighborhood.

That raised my status even further. Even though we are top dollar in the industry, I still needed to keep the bookings coming in and if we priced ourselves too high we would lose market share. That’s why we chose quantity over higher fees to keep the commissions coming in.

For my official contractors, it’s easy for them that we do all the work to get them in and they deliver the products. They are great at it. The business end is the hardest part. The ceremony is the best part and we are the stars of the show.

My biggest competition isn’t the other companies, it’s the friend or uncle who has never done a wedding and can get the couple for free.

The old saying that you get what you pay for has never been more true than this scenario. In most cases they are bad and can ruin weddings (even if they started out this way).

So it is my job to also educate industry professionals and couples about the folly of this option. One of the most important aspects of success is reviews.

I am known as “The King of Reviews”. I have more reviews than any other executive in the industry and get more every week.

It’s kind of snowballing, more weddings, more reviews. I tell my team to perform their ceremonies as if the owner of YELP is standing there watching you (I know it doesn’t work that way, but you get what I mean).

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What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs just starting out?

Newcomers should do their research before starting. My success story is an anomaly.

I had no idea what I was doing at first. I should never have been successful. But I had the drive to make it work no matter what.

So I learned from the experts. I read books like ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World: by Og Mandino. And it showed me the way.

I decided to do it differently than everyone else, but with the foundation of working concepts that drive others to be successful.

If you’re ready, take that leap of faith.

What are the essentials for starting this business and the estimated initial investment?

To start a business, you need to research the legal aspects of starting a business in your area. Talk to an attorney and an accountant to learn all the legal and financial aspects of getting started, such as Corporation vs. LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship.

Are you going to work from home or rent a space? Website development and advertising. Creating a social media presence will grow as you do more business. Learn how to be the expert. But don’t fall into the same standards that others have.

Create your own world around you. Through your authentic self, but also create a newly developed personality that will lead others to see and respect you.

It won’t happen overnight. It took me twenty years to reach this level of success. I still have to go out every day and do it day in and day out to keep up my image.

The moment I stop, others will be there to catch my thunder.

If your gut tells you something, you should listen to it. Go where you are valued, appreciated and where you can make a difference.

Know your value and redeem it.

How have your public speaking and industry awards impacted your business?

By portraying myself as the expert, I differentiate myself from my competitors. As I said, this makes me the go-to person for advice and expertise and has given me the ‘fame’ that makes me desirable.

I’ve also become a bit of a TV celebrity. I am wanted for TV shows and the news. With my influence in the industry, another focus is publicity for news and entertainment channels.

W=I was the officiant for the most famous 90 Day Fiancé, a reality show called Spouse House, a guest spot on the Kelly Clarkson Show because she was obsessed with me.

We have been chosen to cater many celebrity weddings such as Brittany Spears. I’m currently on a new HULU show called The Prank Panel (Episode 1). You can see this and more on my As Seen on TV page.

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