No business is an island. And that may be particularly true of the wedding industry, where no one business can handle all of the details needed to make a truly special day for the bride to be.
There is the dress shop, the tuxedo store, the caterer, the bakery, the reception hall, the florist, the beautician, the jeweler, and the limo service.
The list goes on, since there are dozens of different businesses that can cooperate and collaborate to make a great day for a bride and groom, and great business for themselves.
It’s in the spirit of collaboration that traditional competitors have come together in recent years, to network not with the brides and grooms, but with each other. The Bridal and Special Events Industry event will be held on Tuesday, July 27, at 6 p.m. at the Trenton Marriott. Cost: free for up to two representatives per company, with a $10 charge for additional representatives. Call 609-689-9960, ext.14.
“We want to give the attendees a chance to meet fellow colleagues and other top professionals in the wedding industry to see how they can collaborate with each other,” says Erik Kent, one of the founders of NJWedding.com, an online depot for wedding planning and consultation.
Along with NJWedding.com, other event sponsors are Joe Tortorello from WeddingZone.net; David Ciccolella from WedAlert.com; Tom Chillemi from Brides.com; Gary Paris from Contemporary Bride Magazine; and Bill Lippolis from Bridal Expo Inc.
Kent co-founded NJWedding.com with his wife, Beth, and in fact their own wedding was the inspiration for their business. “We met while we were both at Rutgers and got married in 1994,” he says. The two were communications majors at the university, and after college Erik got a job in marketing while Beth worked in bookkeeping. But the fun they had had planning their own wedding remained on their minds. “We wanted to work together, we just weren’t sure how at first,” he explains.
A trip to Boston in 1995, where two friends were planning their own wedding almost exclusively using a new tool at the time — the Internet — was the catalyst for an idea. “We came home from that trip and went online and registered the name NJWedding.com,” he says. They officially opened their business in 1996, at first using the old-fashioned method of going door-to-door to businesses in Union and Essex counties to talk local businesses into advertising online.
Cooperation, not competition. Today there are about a half-dozen online and paper magazines devoted specifically to the New Jersey wedding industry, but Kent isn’t worried about the competition. “There are about 50,000 weddings in the state of New Jersey each year. There are so many businesses in the wedding industry that need to advertise. That’s enough business to go around for all of us. The industry is so big, we work with each other, not against each other,” he says.
He wants to spread that philosophy to every part of the wedding industry. That why the six companies began coming together a few years ago to offer networking events specifically aimed at other wedding industry businesses. They hold about three events each year in different areas of the state and average 200 to 300 attendees at each event.
A challenging time. Even with all of the weddings taking place yearly in New Jersey, the past two and half years or so have been a challenge for the wedding industry. Many couples have put off their weddings because of the economic downturn, and those that have continued with their plans have been spending less. In 2009 the average price for a wedding dropped $6,000, according to a report at CNNMoney.com.
But there is good news. Kent is seeing an increase in the number of weddings being planned this year. “People are starting to scramble to get contracts for a hall in the next six months,” he says. The catering hall is often the first business a couple will contact. They must reserve a date for the location before moving on to book other resources such as a DJ or band.
Another piece of good news for the industry is that the first of the “echo boomers,” or Gen Y, that large group of children born to the baby boom generation, is now in their late 20s and they are starting to get married. They are the largest generation since the Baby Boom, and that means an increase of weddings in the next decade as more and more members of the generation comes of age.
Social networking in the industry. One important thing for people in the wedding industry to be aware of is that Geny Y brides and grooms are internet-savvy. Brides these days are sharing information with each other online. “Parents aren’t paying as much as they used to and the couples themselves are paying more and planning more,” Kent says. “They are online looking for discounts and sharing that information on the wedding blogs,” he says.
That means the savvy wedding professional should be online, too, not just with a website, but with a blog, a Facebook site, and a Twitter account to get in on the wedding buzz and let brides know about their services.
The new emphasis on wedding blogs and social media in the industry means that if a business does a great job (or a terrible job) at one wedding it will be discussed not just by a few of the bride’s friends, but possibly by thousands of brides on an online wedding blog site, as well.
No matter how a wedding business advertises, the key word, says Kent is professionalism. “It doesn’t matter what your service or what price point you are at, you need to be professional. This is the couple’s big day. You want to offer services that will help them to remember it that way.”