» Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews Sweepstakes

Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews SweepstakesWith the summer months winding down and students heading back to school, we’re giving your clients the chance to win $500!

As part of our Back-to-School Reviews Sweepstakes, couples who write two or more reviews on WeddingWire for at least two separate pros now through September 30, 2016, are automatically entered to win $500. For extra credit, entries double if your clients write four or more reviews.

Since 38% of engagements occurring between November and February, a whole new class of engaged couples is right around the corner! Getting reviews now from your 2016 clients will help other engaged couples decide to book your business, plus you’ll earn more reviews towards our our WeddingWire Rated® program and the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, awarded each year in January.

Remember that customers look at the quality, quantity, recency and consistency of your reviews, meaning that you should be collecting at least one review each month. What better way to build your online reputation and encourage future clients to reach out than with the prospect of winning a cash reward?

We’ve added custom language to the Review Collector tool in your account so you can start spreading the word to your past clients!

Start requesting reviews now to fill out your 2016 ‘report card’ >>

If you have any additional questions regarding our latest reviews contest, please see our Official Rules.

» Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. 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.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs you

Those of you who have been in the wedding business for a while have come to expect the steady onslaught of email invitations and phone calls inviting you to advertise on blogs, in directories or with other business tool-related services. And, as I’m sure you know by now, all offers are not created equal. That’s especially true when it comes to trying to understand where to invest your advertising dollars to let same-sex couples know that you see them and are prepared to serve them.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs youIs it worth it?

As you consider your ad buys at the end of each term, it’s important that you ask yourself: Was the return on investment (ROI) worth it? And, if the ROI does seem to be measuring up, it’s then important to ask a deeper question: What is the cause of the poor performance of the ad buy?

When it comes to thinking about an ad buy targeting same-sex couples as prospective clients, possible answers to the second question why is my ROI so poor? could be the fault of the media/source you chose. Or it could be a fault of your own making. So before you cast blame, take a deeper look at the cause of the breakdown.

Common failures include:

  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t reviewed your business plan and the goodness of fit of the investment;
  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t asked the salesperson the right questions to determine how that return on investment will really work for your business;
  • Signing up to advertise in a new directory or publication that purports to specialize in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) market, but doesn’t actually have the reach, relevance or readership for your services or doesn’t offer any clear reports on the effectiveness of the buy;
  • Purchasing and setting up a listing with images and text that you’ve used in the past without taking the time to learn more about what will ring as authentic and meaningful to the couples you wish to reach.

Is it worth it? How can you work it?

Here are a few key things I encourage you to consider before spending another dime on a new buy or renewing another LGBT-niche-based contract to make sure that you are making a smart decision that will produce the results you seek. Continue reading

» The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding Professional

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Working in the wedding industry can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if you are passionate about the work. However, as great as it can be to put together a couple’s dream celebration, that’s not to say the job doesn’t come with its stresses.

Most people outside of the industry assume that our professions involve setting up a lot of pretty details and taking gorgeous shots of a couple – and it does! But it also involves client meetings, venue walkthroughs, contract negotiations and tons of paperwork that can get tedious pretty quickly.

The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding ProfessionalAs weary as it may be to keep up with the behind-the-scenes side of things, it’s essential to stay motivated throughout the wedding season to ensure that you’re on your game to provide clients with their dream wedding. Easier said than done, right? Let’s look at a few ways to stay motivated when everything seems to be piling up around you.

Just get it done

Ah, the old-fashioned approach. There is really nothing more motivating than checking something off of your to-do list. Start by knocking out a few smaller to-dos to get yourself going in the right direction. The feeling of accomplishment will push you to tackle some of the bigger tasks and you’ll be well on your way to a completed checklist!

Take a break

Sometimes, sitting at your desk and staring at your computer or piles of paperwork is the least motivating thing you can do. If you find yourself wasting time in the office because the inspiration just isn’t there, it’s time to unplug and take a break. It could mean walking around the block, reading a chapter of your current book or heading over to catch the afternoon yoga class – find something that helps your mind unwind and use it to your advantage. Once you get back with a clear head, the work will seem much less daunting than it did just an hour before.

Continue reading

» Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus Lesbians

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

In general, I think it’s dangerous to generalize and foolish to put people in boxes. That said, there are some striking differences in the wedding planning activities of gay men versus lesbians. I’ve seen this over time in my wedding planning career, and in your role as a wedding professional I think it’s important to be aware of some of these differences/trends in order to best serve your clients.

Lesbians are female, and most of them identify as brides, are therefore much more “bridal” – and they are also more traditional as a result. If you think about it, since a very young age, many girls have been indoctrinated into the idea of having a wedding; their fairytale princess fantasy. It’s just been something that’s been expected of young girls for decades – lesbian girls included!

Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus LesbiansGay men, on the other hand, were unlikely to have been raised dreaming about their wedding. It’s just not something that parents talk to sons much about during their childhood, the way those same parents might talk to their daughters about it. As a result of this, plus the wedding industry’s focus on “the bride”, and the gender roles that play a part in most wedding traditions, gay men are far less traditional on their wedding days.

The survey of contemporary couples that my company conducted with WeddingWire, GayWeddings.com and Community Marketing validates my experiences as a wedding planner. For example, we found that gay men are far less likely to want to follow wedding traditions such as something borrowed, something blue (35% of lesbians adhere to this tradition vs. 7% of gay men), doing a first dance (43% of lesbians vs. 18% of gay men), changing their name (42% vs. 7%), having a wedding shower (23% vs. 4%), and many other traditions. You can take a look at the full report here.

You may also find that gay men are less likely to even have a sit down dinner and instead choose a cocktail reception. You may find that gay men are interested in hiring a DJ with experience in clubs as opposed to a DJ whose experience is primarily limited to weddings. You may find that gay men are interested in a fashion photographer rather than a traditional wedding photographer. Gay men may even be interested in picking out the attire of their waitstaff, and may ask for model bartenders/servers! I once had a gay client ask for a cute young male wedding officiant! Is that discriminatory? No, because someone’s appearance is not a protected class… but there’s no doubt that it’s shallow.

Continue reading

» How to Get Your Fill of Vitamin D While Working Over the Summer

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

With the summer air and the sunshine calling your name, it can be difficult to sit in your office all day while the gorgeous days pass you by – especially as friends and family take weekend trips you know you’ll be missing! While the weather in most of the country is at its best, we often find ourselves chained to our computers or workstations in the midst of the busy wedding season.

How to Get Your Fill of Vitamin D While Working Over the SummerAfraid of missing out on sweet summertime? Never fear! Here’s how you can do everything you can to get your fill of vitamin D while working in an office.

Have a walking meeting

Instead of just meeting in your office, get moving! Sitting at a desk or workstation for 8+ hours a day is unhealthy, and the fresh air and natural sunlight will help you clear your head and revive your energy for the rest of the day. Our office is on the luckier side – we’re located in Manhattan Beach, just a short walk away from the ocean – but you can take a spin around your neighborhood to keep your blood flowing. Need to take notes? Consider recording your meeting on your smartphone to write down your to-do items later.

Change up the environment

Staring at the same wall or out the same window all day every day can be difficult and make work feel stagnant. Switch up your location from time to time as an easy fix. Find a café or coffee shop (with reliable Wi-Fi!) and take your office to a new location with an outside patio. You can also meet with clients in cafés or restaurants closer to their homes or offices, which benefits both of you and makes the situation feel less formal. You’ve got the sun, your work, and, most importantly, coffee – what more do you need?

Continue reading

» Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding Buddies

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you’re a seasoned business in your area or are new to the scene, marketing is something that should be in the forefront of your business operations. The tricky part is that a business’ marketing approaches are constantly changing and evolving; from PR and social media to more traditional advertising methods, the options are endless.

When considering your own methods, don’t discount your relationships with the businesses around you. Leveraging relationships with your creative partners is a great way to introduce your business into their network. Below we’ve got some tips on creating and maintaining your vendor-to-vendor relationships.

Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding BuddiesEstablishing a Relationship

It may take some effort to find the right people to work with. If no one comes to mind when thinking of whom you’d want to work with, then it’s time to consider networking. Attend events at your local associations, meet people, exchange cards, and most importantly, follow up.

Make sure that you are the easiest person to work with, whether it’s at an event or setting up a meeting with them (no Saturday appointments in June!). Market yourself as part of their team and be an all-around resource of information to solidify your place as an essential part of the process.

Maintaining a Relationship

Don’t let all of your efforts be for nothing – set up a system to maintain your relationships. Make sure you are staying in touch with them regularly to keep yourself on their minds (think birthday cards and holiday cards). Include them in your real wedding submissions. If you worked with a vendor and the wedding gets published, be sure to give them a shout out in any promotions.

Continue reading

» How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Whether you have an established business or if you’re just starting out, networking is crucial for your company to thrive. Networking can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, but with the proper tips, you can definitely take advantage of any networking event. You want to come in confident, make your mark, and guarantee that they will remember you.

  1. Do your research.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking EventsNever go into a networking event blind. You don’t need to necessarily deep dive to find every little detail, but definitely do some background research to find out the background of the company hosting the event, who will be there, what type of features the event will have to maximize networking, etc. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare some conversation starters. It may seem awkward and unnatural at first, but the more you have these in the back of your head, the more prepared you will feel when you meet up with someone new.  You never know who you are going to meet, and you want to guarantee that you make a solid impression.

  1. Shake out the nerves and be confident.

When you get to the event, you may feel nervous (which is normal!), but don’t let it affect you to the point where you just freeze. You’re here to maximize your business and meet people that will only help you. The more confident you feel, the more you will succeed at these events. Take a couple of deep breaths, shake it off, and walk in and network like boss. You’ve got this!

  1. Just do it.

Do a quick scan of the room, find the person you want to talk to and just do it. You have about five seconds to go start that conversation before you begin to overthink it or worse, allow someone else to beat you to the punch. This is all about creating those new connections and you want to take advantage of these opportunities.

  1. Be genuine and keep it real.

Yes, you have the prepared conversation ignitors, but make sure to keep it natural. These connections could help build lasting relationships and give you the ability to collaborate in the future. Be genuinely curious about what they have to say and learn more about them.  Continue reading

» Starting Your Morning Off on the Right Foot

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but the way you begin your day has a huge effect on the rest of your waking hours, so it only makes sense to start your morning off on the right foot.

As you enter the day, be sure to make some time for yourself to be present and focus on taking care of yourself before diving into anything work-related.

Starting Your Morning Off on the Right FootWith that said, I understand more than most people how difficult it can be to really step away from work even if just for a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee. I’m the type to check social media right when I wake up only to continue on to my email. Sometimes completing small productive tasks in the morning can help with motivation for the rest of the day.

However, my rule is that I can clean up the emails I don’t need since I know a smaller inbox will help me have a clear mind, but then I move right on to writing in my gratitude journal. Once I get to the office, I’m able to quickly sort through the leftover emails and respond to the ones that I need to.

What works for me is to assign a topic to each day of the week so I can focus my efforts on one thing, but still accomplish all of my work for the week. For example, my Mondays are dedicated to business development, while Tuesdays are for client work. When I get into the office, I already know what I’m working on so it takes only five to ten minutes to plan out my top priorities.

To-do lists are considered morning musts in my office because it helps keep us on-track with all of the things that need to be completed. They aren’t always work tasks, but it’s so helpful to be able to see all of the top priorities written out in front of you. We also make an effort to double check on to-dos for the following day so we’re not going in blindly the next morning. With due dates set, it forces you to do all of the assigned tasks instead of picking and choosing what you want to do.

Continue reading

» Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

Now that there is marriage equality across all 50 states, one of the questions I’ve been getting is: Should I open a business specializing in LGBTQ weddings?

Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?12 years ago, when marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the first state in the country, I opened a wedding planning business (14 Stories) doing just that, with an LGBTQ specialty. I opened the business to be an advocate for my clients and help them navigate a very traditional wedding industry where they might feel trapped in traditional roles, or worse – mistreated or rejected.

At that time, there were no other businesses in my market in Massachusetts with that specialty, so it was very easy for me to build a client base. Additionally, Massachusetts quickly became a destination for couples from other states and countries who could not legally marry in their home state. My wedding planning clientele was not just local couples, but also couples who sought Massachusetts (and later the rest of New England and New York) as their wedding destination. In that sense, it was almost easy money. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with couples from almost every state and around the world.

Now that every state has marriage equality, specializing in same-sex weddings would be a risk for any business. Think about it: same-sex couples have a wide variety of purchasing criteria just like everybody else. They make their purchasing decisions based on creativity, personality fit, budget, style and a whole number of other factors that have nothing to do with whether or not you specialize in same-sex weddings.

Data tells us that the LGBTQ community is 5-7% of society. In order to make a successful living with an LGBTQ specialty, you have to attract the community, find ones who are engaged, have a wedding date which you have open, have the budget for your services, love your personality, respect your talent and a whole lot more. Having a niche is great, but with this specialty, you would be extremely niche-driven to the point where there just will not be enough demand to create a sustainable business. And at the end of the day, we have to make money. Continue reading

» 3 Ways to Reach More Same-Sex Couples

WedInsights

3 Ways to Reach More Same-Sex Couples2015 was a momentous year and a huge win for same-sex marriage equality. As inclusivity continues to increase in 2016, 85% of wedding professionals surveyed said they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples. However, being willing to serve and prepared to serve are two different things!

These tips, backed by data found in Volume 12 of our WedInsights series, can help your wedding business reach more same-sex couples as part of the expanding wedding market.

Go beyond the first glance

Many in the industry (e.g., wedding pros, wedding expos, registry) assume a marrying couple is one male and one female, thus distributing forms/contracts with “bride” and “groom” language, and often using the term “bridal” when referencing their clientele. This bridal bias and heteronormative assumption is important to recognize as you may be alienating current and potential clients.

89% of LGBTQ couples feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral, and 53% of opposite-sex couples feel the same! Make the change to show your inclusivity by using the word “couples” instead of “brides”, and updating your collateral and/or contracts to be suitable for all types of couples.

Aim to be gay wedding competent

In today’s market it’s not enough to be ‘gay-friendly’ – you must be gay wedding competent. Even those pros who appear or claim to be gay-friendly can still make same-sex couples uncomfortable or unwelcome through small actions. Our data shows that 12% of engaged same-sex couples say they’ve experienced discrimination, while 13% are uncertain (i.e. unreturned phone calls or emails can create suspicion despite the true reasons).

LGBTQ couples now have a greater choice when it comes to their vendor team and it’s no longer just about who responds back. Make it a seamless experience and show your competence by:

  • Understanding what LGBTQ couples need (ex. how to enter down the aisle, how to orchestrate child-parent dances, etc.)
  • Understanding how LGBTQ experiences and legal options shape their choices
  • Using the terms that couples use to identify themselves

Continue reading

» Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since Marriage Equality

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. 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.

From a market perspective, one of the most interesting results of our post-marriage equality existence is that the economic impact story will finally be revealed rather than projected. As we cross the threshold of June 26, 2016 – one year since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision – we can now offer our first concrete snapshot of what did happen nationally for same-sex couples and the wedding market.

Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since Marriage EqualityIn addition to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples and Wedding Trends – a highly disciplined national study of more than 1,400 LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ recently married couples, conducted by the research teams at WeddingWire and Community Marketing & Insights, along with the unmatched same-sex wedding market experience of yours truly (17 years) and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute (12 years) – Gallup and a scholar from the Williams Institute have offered some analysis of what has happened in the past year.

The headliner, of course, is that Gary Gates, a recently retired distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute of UCLA, analyzed our Contemporary Couples report and the Gallup report, concluding that same-sex couples spent more than $1.3 billion on their weddings in the past year. I think it’s safe to say that the economic impact in this past year was clear.

But what can we expect moving forward?

To answer that question, here are some economic and demographic highlights that may impact your decision-making as you consider your approach to expanding your services to be inclusive of all couples:

  • Gallup estimates that approximately 123,00 same-sex couples married in the U.S. in the past year.
  • The Gallup poll showed an increase in couples living together who reported being married as having grown from 38% pre-Obergefell to almost half of all same-sex couples (49%) post-Obergefell.
  • Gallup estimates that 3.9% percent of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBT.

Given the above, it’s important to note that Gallup, in looking at its poll results between June-Nov of 2015 and Nov 2015-June 2016, sees the spike in same-sex marriages may be leveling off. This is certainly a trend that I expected to see that is, once federal marriage equality occurred, any couples who had been waiting for this milestone would be prepared to get married in relatively short order and more ‘typical’ market rhythms would be upon us.

So, while we saw 123,000 couples spend $1.3 billion in the past year, can we count on this as a stable predictor?

Continue reading

» #WeDoLove for the Anniversary of Marriage Equality

This Sunday, June 26, 2016, marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality!

The court ruled that the right to marriage is a fundamental right for all – that there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality. Members of the WeddingWire and GayWeddings teams were on-site to witness the historic decision, and spent the morning celebrating with the LGTBQ community and straight allies in attendance.

To celebrate this monumental anniversary, WeddingWire and our sister site, GayWeddings, collected video submissions from wedding pros and engaged couples alike telling us why they “do love” in support of marriage for all and they did not disappoint! Check out the inspiring video below to be reminded of why marriage equality is such an important victory for love that impacts all of us.

Together with GayWeddings, WeddingWire is proud to continue offering resources and education to all engaged couples and wedding professionals. We hope you enjoy celebrating this important moment in history this weekend with loved ones!

Spread the love and let the LGBTQ community know that you’re ready, willing, and able to help them plan the wedding of their dreams by adding our GayWeddings badges to your website or blog. Or, if you haven’t yet joined the GayWeddings directory to start reaching more same-sex couples, learn how to opt-in and customize your main image on GayWeddings today.