» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

Photo by Kat Ma Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Hartford

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Society Room of Hartford for our WeddingWire Networking Night Hartford!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a classic venue in downtown Hartford! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and tips on working with millennial couples, presented by Associate Director of Customer Success, Megan Hayes!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

» Summer in the City with WeddingWire: See the Recap!

Hundreds of NYC wedding professionals enjoyed a tropical oasis in Manhattan designed by BLB Events in partnership with WeddingWire at our Summer in the City event. Guests mingled and networked their way through the evening in the modern event space (PUBLIC Hotel) with a spacious terrace. We couldn’t get over the way that our bright, tropical event looked with the city’s skyline at sunset, and the warm up-lighting (Dash of Class Platinum Entertainment) made the inside just as scenic!

BLB Events placed a heavy emphasis on incorporating florals and potted plants (Bride & Blossom) into the design —. including gorgeous arrangements throughout the space and fresh florals tucked into a wooden geometric bar and large macrame curtain (Patina Rentals). Guests enjoyed the floral studded macrame curtain as a photobooth backdrop (sharingbox, Bride & Blossom), fit with a millennial pink velvet couch and banana leaf printed pillows. Check out the gallery (Use the code: yT*2u) After a snapshot in the photobooth, guests also were invited to get palm readings and mini-manicures. On the terrace, guests indulged in a fruity specialty cocktail “The Royale”, and boozy ice cream (Tipsy Scoop) —all while listening to custom mixes by Jason Jani & SCE Event Group.

A huge thank you to all of our partners for making this event not only possible, but a huge success:

Venue: PUBLIC Hotel
Planning: BLB Events 
Florist: Bride & Blossom
DJ: Jason Jani & SCE Event Group
Rentals: Patina Rentals
Lighting: Dash of Class Platinum Entertainment
Photo: Steven Rosen Photography
Photobooth: sharingbox
Ice Cream Cart: Tipsy Scoop
Palm Readings: Tarot Society
Manicures: ManiCare

Check out more of the details from our fun-in-the-sun event captured by Steven Rosen Photography.

» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» Networking Etiquette for Conference Season

Photo by Catherine Lea Photography

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

We’re in the business of people. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this. Conference season is no different – from speaking to spectating to traveling and anything in between, we’re constantly sharing our expertise, chit-chatting with the flight attendant (maybe even calling down to the hotel desk to ask for another sleep mask?), and networking with all of the pros we get to reunite with from across the country.

Networking itself is an amazing way to maintain professional relationships and market yourself in the industry, especially when a rare in-person opportunity comes along in the midst of exchanging emails on top of emails. Putting in that face time is crucial! That being said, let’s dig into the etiquette of networking, namely during conference season.

Be mindful of investment

While this is an amazing time to introduce yourself in person rather than e-meet a fellow industry pro, remember that you’ll probably encounter a lot of jet-lagged faces and some potentially overwhelmed if they have upcoming topics or panels they’ll be speaking on. Don’t let this deter you by any means, just remember that they’re eager to meet people as well, so don’t monopolize anyone’s time.

Kylie Carlson of International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning says, “You definitely want to incorporate continuing education into your trip. But while you’re there, be mindful of the fact that people have paid to attend the conference and want to learn. Take note of their investment.”

Continuing professional relationships (the right way)

This goes for jumping back into professional relationships you might be currently cultivating as well. Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ notes that if you’re looking to take it the extra mile by being referral-worthy, you’ll want to put in the legwork without being pushy. “Directly asking to be on the preferred vendor list will have the opposite desired outcome. You must give to receive, so boost fellow creative partners with whom you would love to work, and give out their names whenever you have the opportunity. The more you refer, the more referrals you will ultimately receive. That partnership will flourish faster than you think.”

Follow up!

Bill Tzizik, CEO of Classic Photographers, knows that following up (and following through) is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. “Everyone says that they’re going to follow up, but few do so in a timely manner. Have a system that works for you for collecting information on site – not just grabbing business cards.”

Do yourself this favor during the conference you’re attending – take note of those speaking on topics relative to your business and the goals you’re pursuing. This builds up for a wonderful segue into a conversation, especially if you’re growing a professional relationship and looking for a topic opening, especially for your follow-up.

Note that while they seem like great people to flock to during networking time in between sessions, the event organizers themselves are going to be the busiest people at the event. It’s better to say a quick hello to them (and any other panelists who may have tight schedules) and follow-up after. I promise they’ll be much happier you did and that phone call or email will be more memorable to them after a whirlwind conference.

The key to etiquette is to simply be respectful of time and money. Even speakers invest their own money into travel and accommodations, so you don’t want to crowd them in their downtime.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» How to Communicate Effectively With Couples and Save Your Sanity

Photo by Lunalee Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

What is “just right” communications with your couples?  My definition is having a communication plan that has my business communicating with all my couples consistently, and in a way that:

  1. Gives them the information they want and need while…
  2. Getting me the information I want and need — and it does all of that while…
  3. Meeting, or exceeding, the expectations of my couples, as well as…
  4. Fitting within a time budget developed to keep me both sane and profitable  

A bit long of a definition so let’s break it down by the main points:

Consistency

Your planned communication timing, amount, and quality are designed to be the same for every couple.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t change something based on a specific couple or wedding, it just means that every couple feels the love and attention in pretty much the same way.

Couples’ expectations

Ultimately, your communication strategy, and the tools used to apply that strategy, need to be designed based on your ideal couples.  For example, the mix of communication types and the style of communication for a high priced, low volume Wedding Planner should be very different from those used by a low priced, high volume Officiant.  No business model is “wrong” – as long as it meets your profitability and time needs. Therefore, it is very important to understand that the communication you have with your couples needs to provide a customer experience that closely matches (or exceeds) their expectations.

Time budget

Your communication plan fits your business time budget.  

By knowing how much time you have, what information you want to communicate, and your ideal client’s expectations, you can focus your communication spend on the important communication touch points, and automate or remove others.   

DEVELOPING A COMMUNICATION PLAN

Before revising or developing a communication plan, there are two other important things to remember. Although each of us gets older every year, our couples stay relatively the same age.  This means that our communication plan must match what they are expecting and not just be what we have used for ages (even if it worked well in the past).

Also, don’t forget to also think about communication with other vendors when developing your strategy and plan.  Properly communicating with those you are working with on a wedding can increase your visibility and your perceived professionalism – and, as we know so well, other vendors are often where many of our referrals come from.      

To create a communication plan that fits your business, it is easiest to separate the process into two main steps:

Step 1

Calculate the average number of hours you want to, or currently, spend communicating on that specific wedding.  The calculation should include calls, in-person meetings, creating and sending of emails, etc., and a bit of time for unscheduled communications.

Step 2

Map out a communication plan that best utilizes all the different communication tools and takes into consideration the number of hours that you want to spend per couple.  Think of each touchpoint and ask yourself, “what is the level of importance to me and/or my couples?” Remember, something that might not be that important to you could be very important to them and thus something that is very important to your business.     

Since each business is different, I can’t just provide a single communication plan that fits all.  However, we can take a look at the different communication touch points that are reasonably standard to all of us in the wedding industry.  

COMMUNICATION TOUCH POINTS

Inquiry communication

This is where communication method and the amount of time is hard to plan for, but I do have a few recommendations.  

  • Communicate back within a reasonable period of time.  If you have some information that you almost always provide back (e.g. a pricing breakdown) or some questions that you almost always need to ask (e.g. how many guests), have them handy no matter where you are.  
  • Answer all questions that were asked – and if you can’t answer them without more information, explain why you need the “more information” and request it.
  • Communicate back in the same method they used, unless otherwise instructed.  If they call, you can call. If they email or use WeddingWire messages, please email or message back and don’t try to call.

Initial meeting or consultation

Your business model will determine your initial meeting communication strategy – in-person, phone, online – but you also need to be flexible based on where the couple resides and their requested preference.  

Booking process

Please don’t make it hard for them to book you and give you money.  Truly. We live in more modern times and your couples likely have always lived in those modern times.  Electronic contracts and electronic payments are easier for you and easier and more comfortable for them.  

After-booking communication

Whether it’s an automated email or a templated email which you personalize before sending, it should give them an idea of next steps, timeline or workflow, and reiterate communication expectations.  Some wedding professionals, especially those at the higher-end and with a more complicated process, find that the creation and distribution of an “onboarding” document or packet is very helpful in setting proper expectations and fits with their brand.

Your in-process workflow

It is only a positive for your business, and your sanity, to have a standard workflow that applies to each wedding or level of service purchased – even if it is adaptable based on that specific couple’s (or wedding’s) needs.  The workflow should have set communication points, and you schedule on your calendar and/or in your system any non-automated communication point within the workflow (a two-week final reminder email, a month-out check-in call, time to schedule a venue walk-through, etc.).  

Information giving/gathering

Electronic communication usually works very well here.  Depending on your level of service, you can determine which emails you send would be automated, which would be templated, and which would be completely personal.  And, if you need to get a bunch of information, online questionnaires are a fantastic tool to use, often getting better responses than asking for those questions to be answered in an email.  If your process includes having a scheduled call or an in-person meeting with your couple, send them the discussion points beforehand so they can be prepared. This reduces the amount of back and forth after the meeting and makes sure that no one feels like the meeting was a waste of time.

Unscheduled communications

Although you can’t completely control this, set expectations early on with your couples about how you are going to communicate with them, how best they should communicate with you, and what response time to expect.  

After-event or after-service follow-up

If you work with a lot of couples and just want to congratulate them, thank them, and ask for reviews, this could be an automated email, but I don’t recommend it.  Each couple/wedding is unique and we are in a very personal business, so instead I recommend a templated email that you then personalize based on the couple. I always try to remember one or two memorable things from my time at the wedding and add it to the thank you (it was great meeting your parents, your nephew came through with the rings after all, etc.).  

EVALUATING YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN

And don’t forget to evaluate your communication plan by:

  • Looking at your reviews. Are the couples talking up how well you communicated with them, not talking about it at all, or talking about it in the negative?  Use this to determine what is working well and what needs change.
  • Keeping track of the questions that shouldn’t be asked or missing items. Are you getting a lot of questions from your couples, yet the answers were in earlier communications?  Are you frequently getting to certain points in your process and still missing items that you requested from your couples?  Are you consistently, or somewhat consistently, forgetting to tell your couples something?

Just remember, your business, your couples, and your technology are always evolving, and thus so should your communication plan.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» Introducing Our Newest Education Experts

To provide you with more of the the latest and greatest expert advice to grow your business, we are excited to announce that we have added Bethel Nathan and Vanessa Joy as WeddingWire Education Experts, joining Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm and Meghan Ely.  Be on the lookout for their blog articles, speaking engagements and webinars over the upcoming months — and when you see them, don’t forget to give them a warm WeddingWire welcome!

Bethel Nathan, Business Coach & Speaker, Elevate by Bethel
Expertise: Customer Experience, Business Management, Relationship Building

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love, using her years of experience to help others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses.

Bethel loves to travel, speaks Japanese and is a long time scuba diver having logged over 300 dives with her favorites being in Indonesia, Galapagos, Socorro Islands, and Fiji. Along with her many fun hobbies, she will be bringing her expertise in customer experience, business management and relationship building to WeddingWire.

To learn more about Bethel, check out her website or or follow her on Instagram.

 


Vanessa Joy,
Owner and Photographer, Vanessa Joy Photography
Expertise: Social Media, Content Marketing, Workflow

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching.

Vanessa comes to WeddingWire with her adept knowledge in topics such as social media, content marketing and workflow. Apart from being an expert in those areas, Vanessa has 5 college degrees, a very talented videographer husband (whom she met working a wedding!) and an undying love for chocolates, wine, ice-cream, but mostly cookies! She also comes from a long line of strong, creative women with her mother being a wedding photographer, and grandmother being one of the first female journalists for the NJ Senate.

To learn more about Vanessa, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

Please join us in welcoming these two new Education Experts. We feel so lucky to have them as a part of the WeddingWire family!

» How to Hire the Right People for Your Team

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Assembling the right team is essential to the success of a company, especially one that is growing and evolving in a field as service-oriented as the wedding industry. The wrong employee will set you back in terms of time, resources and more than a little sanity. Before you hire someone new, prepare yourself for the task and avoid mistakes before they cost you any of the above.

The posting

Even if you have hired for the position before, it never hurts to revisit your job description. You want your new hire to fit into your overall brand, so be meticulous with how you advertise yourself as an employer.

Revisit the little details – do all of the job responsibilities still make sense? Are there things from your plate you’d like to move over to the new employee? Is your compensation in line with area standards and is it competitive? Consider connecting with your team and soliciting their thoughts on the qualities and skills needed.

Promoting your job opening

When it is time to promote your open position, start with your blog, social media and newsletter. Reach out to trusted colleagues and ask them to keep an ear open for highly qualified candidates looking to change positions. Your best matches often come to you as warm leads.

Great employer seeks perfect candidate

Once you begin interviewing, know the signs of a great match. Look for somebody who is fun, energetic, personable and willing to learn. Your clients want to connect with someone who has a positive attitude and who upholds your corporate culture.

On the flip side, be aware of red flags. Showing up late for an interview, not following instructions included in a job listing, not being properly dressed for the interview, and not knowing anything about the company or the position they are applying for are all signs that a candidate is less than ideal.

The double-edged sword of previous experience

While past experience can be desirable, it also can mean that a candidate has developed bad habits, or is unwilling to adapt. Be open to looking beyond experience. Focus on potential.

Questions to ask

Your questions can encompass basic information like “What do you know about our company?” and “How do you define good customer service?” Don’t be afraid to get (professionally) creative, though. We like to ask something like, “If you were going to be working on a movie, what part would you want to play: actor, producer or director?’ to get a feel for applicants’ motivations and personalities.

Involve the team

Consider a trial run for a set period of time to allow you to determine if your new hire is compatible with your current team. You’re about to spend a lot of time with him or her, so it’s worth the extra effort for all involved to make sure you have found a good fit.

Few business decisions are as critical as hiring the right talent. Invest your time and effort in the process. You will not be sorry.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» Tips for Your Branding Overhaul

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Did you realize that best practices call for a business to rebrand every two years or so? In fact you should plan for a complete rebrand every 4-5 years! We asked the experts to share their tips for your next branding overhaul.

Timing

How do you know that it’s time?

The International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning’s Kylie Carlson points out clear indicators that it’s time for a rehaul, including a dated logo, feelings of embarrassment when you hand out your business card or marketing materials, and struggling to raise your prices. Some signs are positive, however. “Have you simply outgrown your brand?” asks Carlson. “This is actually a nice place to be in,” she encourages. “Often, when a company grows, they enter new marketplaces and that renders their current brand ineffective.”

Once you know it’s time to rebrand, where do you begin?

Start here

Rebranding is a multi-step process. Sandy Hammer of AllSeated recommends beginning by looking “at the brands and companies you love. Why do you love them?” Consider their logo, colors and overall look so you can view your own brand through a similar lens.

Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group says, “Keeping up with the industry trends is key for your brand. You have to keep an eye out for all facets of consumer behavior, including how your market is reacting to certain brands, what they’re looking for and how they’re speaking.”

Igal Sapir, CFO of 100 Candles cautions that “branding is not just about aesthetics. Yes, poorly constructed sites will be passed over quickly by millennial couples eager to engage with a brand…be mindful of the prospect’s user experience when they come to your site.” Sapir suggests reviewing your site in great detail from the perspective of a client and determining ways to make the experience more efficient.

If you’re renaming your company, Attorney Caroline Fox of The Engaged Legal Collective, advises you to contact a trademark attorney to “do a trademark evaluation and analysis up front before you commit to a name and invest money into new marketing materials or other designs,”

Ready, set, rebrand

You’ll need to put together a team of professionals to help you with your rebrand. Velez believes that looking within your organization first is a helpful way to start. “Leverage the resources you have available, first, especially your design team! Then, go beyond for extra-professional help.”

Carlson recommends asking friends and colleagues for referrals, and warns that “Good designers are often booked well in advance, so once you’ve found the right fit, don’t delay.”

Ashley Stork, owner of Magnolia Vine Events emphasizes organization and bandwidth. “Be honest about your time, and what your capacity is at the time of re-branding”. She recommends having your copy mostly done in advance, adding, “You may need to tweak, add or have a copywriter review but not having the copy for your site will hold up the whole project.”

There is no better time than right now to begin considering and planning for your next rebrand!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Denver

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Maven Hotel for our WeddingWire Networking Night Denver!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful new venue right in the heart of Denver! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as  members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and how to maximize your SEO to attract more couples, presented by Associate Director of SEO, Mike Anderson!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

» Can I Call It A Gay Wedding?

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

I was at a luncheon a few weeks ago, and a new acquaintance asked me about my line of work. I explained that my straight mother had founded our business — GayWeddings.com — almost 20 years ago and that now, in the years since WeddingWire had acquired our site, I was spending the majority of my time helping wedding vendors understand how to best serve same-sex couples and explaining LGBTQ wedding trends to journalists.

A Manhattan resident who was in her seventies, my new friend was excited and curious about my work, especially because she had enjoyed the same-sex weddings she had attended. So our conversation continued, and, in response to one of her questions, I answered by saying something to the effect of, “For example, at a gay wedding…”

But this is where she interrupted me.

“Don’t call it a gay wedding!” she admonished. “A wedding is a wedding! It’s not a gay wedding!”

I understood what she meant. I’ve heard this refrain and have even found occasion to use it myself in certain contexts. A wedding is a wedding when the consideration is how much it costs to produce a ceremony and a reception at peak season on a Saturday night. These are structural elements that impact the price of the wedding, the budget, the availability of a venue, the size of the guestlist and so on. A wedding is a wedding when we are talking about two persons in love choosing to exchange a solemn and legal vow in front of their loved ones. In these ways, I agree with her.

I think I surprised her, however, when I pushed back — graciously, of course — on her premise.

Actually, I said, a wedding isn’t always a wedding, but I appreciate your message of equality and recognition. By custom and habit, I went on to explain, weddings have been a strongly gendered, heteronormative exercise where all that flows seems to come from planning around a pair of pants and a dress — but especially around the dress! — and that this equation can be very different for two brides, two grooms or two persons who define themselves in a way other than “bride and groom.”

This is where there is room, I explained, to recognize that a “gay wedding” is different, and that understanding and addressing those differences is key to helping a couple celebrate.

For example, though statistics show that most couples are most concerned about price and availability when trying to locate and book wedding professionals to help them, LGBTQ couples are just as concerned about being rejected as they are about price and availability. This is an important difference and, even since marriage equality was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015, that fear (and reality) of service refusal remains.

Additionally, same-sex couples have tended to be older in age and have tended to pay for most or all the wedding themselves. This has an impact on budget priorities, the guest list, and who the decision-maker(s) are in the planning. Over time, however, same-sex couples are getting younger and families are getting more involved in the planning and budgeting for the wedding.

Another key difference is what it means to photographers in how they plan to work with same-sex couples. One must consider posing, detail sessions with attire, having enough photographers to cover the wedding preparation rituals for two brides wearing traditional gowns and needing styling services. They must consider how two gowns or two bouquets can be awkward to stage in close proximity or how two tuxes next to one another provide no color contrast. If a photographer plans with ‘a wedding is a wedding’ in mind, he or she will likely stumble into unexpected traps that can impact the final product.

I’m not sure that my lunch buddy fully understood what I meant about how important nuance and cultural competence is in helping wedding pros deliver superior services to LGBTQ couples in a competitive market. I certainly hope, however, that she felt my appreciation for her unabashed support of marriage equality and recognition that same-sex couples deserve a seat at the proverbial table.

As same-sex couples continue to assimilate into the larger wedding market, I invite everyone to remember that two grooms and two brides still have some unique needs that shouldn’t be overlooked. So, until the dust has settled on the modern market, let’s not fully retire the phrase “gay wedding” or “lesbian wedding” or “queer wedding;” there is still something very special to remember and celebrate about our unions.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Wedding Pros Lead By Inclusive Example

Photo by Creative Island Visions

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my very first wedding industry conference in 2005. At the time, our business (originally called TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com) had been focused on helping couples who were desperate to find us, so I wasn’t sure how wedding professionals might react to our specialized services.

For context, it’s important to remember that Massachusetts had only just recognized marriage equality — the first state to do so — and the topic of “gay marriage” remained largely controversial. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect; some states began to introduce legislation to ban same-sex marriage in response to legislation advancing in Massachusetts; and, some states were promoting civil unions instead of full marriage rights. It was a very different time.

The opening night of the conference included a networking reception, where I spent most of my time listening to other attendees sharing their experiences. Eventually, though, a wedding planner from Virginia, with whom I was having a pleasant conversation, asked what I did for a living. I explained that I ran an online boutique dedicated to serving same-sex couples. I had hardly finished my sentence when, without a further word, she turned on her heel and walked away from me.

I was stunned. But not deterred.

It might have been the first time (and one of the most pronounced!) that I encountered discomfort and disagreement about my passion for helping LGBTQ couples plan their weddings, but it wasn’t the last.

The good news is that, on the whole, I’ve had very positive and welcoming experiences in the wedding industry. Increasingly, interested wedding professionals, who were growing in number as marriage equality advanced, realized that they had questions about working with same-sex couples and sought my advice. And, when we launched our GayWeddings partnership with WeddingWire in January, 2011, acceptance deepened further.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the partnership with WeddingWire was watching the enrollment in our LGBTQ-friendly directory of wedding vendors grow by leaps and bounds.  WeddingWire helps same-sex couples understand that there is a safe and welcoming place for them; an incredibly important resource given that approximately half of all LGBTQ couples say that they experienced a fear of rejection based on their sexual orientation when searching for wedding vendors.

After WeddingWire acquired GayWeddings and marriage equality became the law of the land three years ago this month, it became clear that, going forward, same-sex couples would have access to the marriage licenses, services and planning resources available to all couples.

At WeddingWire, this rings more true than ever, even in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to find narrowly in favor of Jack Phillips’ request to be able to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex couple (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). I am heartened by WeddingWire’s uninterrupted commitment to inclusion through its non-discrimination policy; its position as the first and only wedding company to earn a spot on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (and perfect scores at that!); and knowing that the majority of wedding professionals believe that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples as they would all other couples.

This month, as we celebrate Pride, know that I’ll be celebrating you, the many supportive wedding professionals who have been out there, working with couples and celebrating our unions with open arms. You are a big part of the story of marriage equality, and responsible for helping to weave same-sex weddings into the fabric of our industry and mainstream acceptance.

Our work is not done, but the conversations are happening. And, now more than ever, we must continue to lead with love, to listen with love and to serve each other with love. Happy Pride!

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.