How to Succeed in the Wedding Business
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
We’re in prime wedding season with June and July being the biggest months for nuptials. If you’re in the love business, you’re probably wondering how you can capture a bigger slice of the massive wedding market.
Weddings are a glamorous and exciting business, but like a frazzled bride the industry can have its economic ups and downs. Nevertheless, with sweat equity, creativity and ingenuity, it is possible to succeed in the wedding business.
This is a great time to be a wedding entrepreneur. The wedding industry has grown to a $40-billion-dollar-a-year empire, and the average American wedding costs just under $30,000, according to a recent survey by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com.
Brides are willing to spend more on weddings, despite the economy. Today, more than half of weddings that take place now employ the services of a wedding consultant.
That’s good news for wedding entrepreneurs because it means the industry is rebounding after a recessionary economy. If you’re well-organized, creative and driven and have the patience to deal with brides who can be demanding, then wedding planning may be the right business for you.
Not sure where to start? Well, here’s some advice from two highly successful wedding pros:
Plan to Wear Many Hats
Planning and executing one of life’s most important milestones can be fun and exciting, but ensuring that the big day goes smoothly can be quite a juggling act, according to Denise Bonds, owner of Windermere Elegant Weddings, a Chicago-area wedding-consulting and event-planning business.
An independent wedding planner often must bring together all of the required vendors to successfully pull off the wedding, including the caterer, musicians, the ceremony official, photographer and more. In addition, one must wear many hats in the business.
“You are the bookkeeper, the marketing person, the answering service and the clean-up person,” says Bonds. “You have to stay on top of everything to keep things going.”
Bonds has owned and operated Windermere Elegant Weddings for seven years and has more than 15 years’ experience in the wedding-planning business. A former teacher, Bonds started planning weddings as a hobby for friends. She decided to launch her own business after a couple paid her a handsome sum to coordinate their wedding.
“The groom handed me a large check. That’s when I realized that I can make money at this,” Bonds said. “The planning part of the business is fun, but I love seeing it all come together. The most rewarding thing is to see a wedding turn into a marriage.”
She has not looked back since. Today, Bonds has an impressive roster of clients that include NFL players, top executives, political figures and even President Obama, for whom Bonds coordinated a fundraiser.
Networking and aggressive marketing, including tapping into social media, have been instrumental in the growth of Bonds’ wedding planning business.
“I have to get out there and network. It’s important to get noticed,” she said. I also have a Facebook business page and I use Pinterest and Instagram. Today’s brides are looking online to find you.”
Find an Overlooked Segment of the Market
Consider Chris Easter. He started TheManRegistry.com in 2008 and it now has become one of the leading online gift sites for grooms. Easter became inspired to start his company after noticing a void in gift options for grooms while shopping for his soon-to-be brother-in-law.
“There wasn’t anything as far as barbecue grills, tools and tech gifts,” said Easter who is based in Los Angeles. “We researched the idea and decided to take the idea of everything the bride would want to know and create a website for grooms.”
Within two year of launching TheManRegistry.com, Easter saw his profits increase by 300% and new registrants to his site grow by 75%. Easter believes the reason his site has taken off is that it targets a segment of the market that largely has been overlooked – grooms.
“A lot of people see this industry as a gold mine. They think it’s going to be fairly easy to make money,” Easter said. “You have to know the business. You also have to have an angle.’
Although it’s important to have an angle, wedding entrepreneurs must also diversify their services for continued success, Easter said.
“When the volume of weddings goes down, you have to be creative to sustain your business during the peaks and valleys of the year,” Easter said. “We have branded ourselves as a general gift business for men. It’s a whole secondary part of the business that’s just icing on the cake.”
Work Creatively within Client Budgets
One final key piece of advice from Bonds and Easter: listen to your clients and respond accordingly.
“It’s important when the person says to me, ‘I really want this wedding, but how can I make this work within my budget?’ It’s my responsibility to let you know how you can stay within your budget by changing some things,” said Bonds. “Maybe you can’t afford a horse and carriage, but you might use a horse and carriage as a backdrop for your pictures.”