» 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.

» What the Supreme Court’s Decision Means for the Wedding Industry

Photo by Nick Spiker Photography

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

Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has been one of the most watched court cases of the 2017-2018 Supreme Court session. In today’s 7-2 decision, the Justices have ruled in favor of baker, Jack Phillips, who declined to serve David Mullins and Charles Craig, who asked him to make them a wedding cake in 2012.

Justice Kennedy, who issued the majority opinion (with Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting), emphasized that this ruling is about this case in particular. The ruling does not offer a broad-sweeping permission for service refusal, but it does underscore the value that a religious belief be given as much dignity as the court extended to same-sex couples in the 2015 Obergefell ruling.

Says SCOTUSblog analyst, Amy Howe:

“Although (Jack) Phillips prevailed today, the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy rested largely on the majority’s conclusion that the Colorado administrative agency that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly by being too hostile to his sincere religious beliefs. The court seemed to leave open the possibility that a different outcome could result in a future case, and it did not rule at all one of the central arguments in the case – whether compelling Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his right to freedom of speech…

“‘The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances,’ the majority closed, ‘must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.’”

I know that there are many LGBTQ couples who express anxiety about finding vendors to help them with their wedding planning, and I can imagine that this will only enhance those concerns.

I also know, from the research I’ve done in this past year, that there are many wedding professionals who care deeply about LGBTQ couples and that they receive a kind and loving reception when they are searching for their teams of vendors.

In addition to the individual wedding pros who are steadfast allies, WeddingWire remains steadfast in its core belief of equality and its desire for the industry as a whole, to be a warm and welcoming community for all people. As it has been for years, the vendor directory will continue to be a reliable and safe resource for same-sex couples.

Additionally, it is important for LGBTQ couples to know that, though it may seem a contradiction, there are wedding pros who support Jack Phillips’ freedom of expression, but who also believe that that same-sex couples should not be turned away on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They support Phillips’ freedom to express himself but think he is in the wrong to refuse to serve same-sex couples. This group of wedding professionals understands that the wedding industry has welcomed same-sex couples with open arms, and that the vast majority is ready, willing and able to serve them.

To the wedding pros reading this I say: Thank you for all that you have done in the past 15 years to recognize the importance of marriage equality, and to help the LGBTQ community, our friends and our families to celebrate our loving unions.

Today offers a wonderful opportunity to open your arms, and welcome those couples who need to know that they have a safe space to plan their weddings. More than ever, the Pride hashtag, inclusive language and images in your storefronts and in your social media feeds, will speak volumes.

In closing, I’d like to remind you of the mantra many of you have heard from me at WeddingWire World over the years, and it still holds today:

Lead with love, listen with love and serve with love and you can’t go wrong.

I hope you’ll join me in this spirit as this important conversation continues.

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.

» Are You Too Busy To Be Successful?

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

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

One of my presentation titles is: “Are you too busy to be successful?,” which, like many of my topics, came from discussions I’ve had with wedding & event professionals like you. Being busy is easy. Whether it’s email or social media, family obligations or volunteering, staying busy is easy. Getting the things done that you want and need is another story. And since we’re not getting any more hours in the day, what’s the answer for busy wedding and event professionals?

And the answer is…

Well, the answer is the same for you, as it is for me, and it’s one word… priorities. We simply make the time for the things that we prioritize. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard? We have to realize when we’re controlling our priorities, and when we’re allowing others, or outside forces to control them. We also have to realize that we can change our priorities whenever we want. Still sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so fast.

What’s my priority today?

Have you ever gotten a call from a friend who offers to take you to the ball game, or show, or concert, on short notice? You had plans for that day/time, but you change them so you can go with your friend. In other words, you changed your priority for that time slot. Sure, whatever you were going to do probably still needs to get done, it just moved down a notch, or two, on your priority list.

But I just. Can’t. Stop…

I know, from personal experience, that there are times when we’re doing something other than what we know we should. Maybe we’re spending time on Facebook, when we know there are emails to be answered, or proposals to write, or laundry to do. Sometimes there’s an invisible force that tells us “I’ll just look at one more post” or “I’ll only click one more link…”, but one leads to four, leads to ten, leads to another hour lost. Hey, we’re only human. The first step in correcting this behavior is realizing that you’re doing it. Then, you need the willpower to cut yourself off. In other words, you need to change your priorities.

The most important word you need to know

Something else that makes us too busy is taking work on which we know we should pass. If you’re relatively new in your business, it’s likely that you’re taking any, and every customer that comes your way. That makes sense, but eventually we all learn that we don’t want every sale. The pressure often comes when we chase the big dollar sale, only to have it take way more time and resources than we anticipated. That time is taken from your core customers, and your family time, and you may even have to pass on some smaller, yet more profitable customers to accommodate the one big one.

When I’m consulting with businesses, like yours, I want you to focus on profitability, not just top line growth. Getting more revenue is great but keeping more of it is better. I recently had a client tell me they wanted to be the biggest company in their market/category. I suggested that they focus on being the most profitable, rather than the biggest. My favorite expression for that is that I don’t care about feeding your ego, if it’s not feeding your family. So, the most powerful word you have is “No.” it’s hard to pass on more sales. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I raised my rates so I could take less work this year, but it backfired. I’m busier than ever. Clearly, I haven’t learned to say “No” as much as I should.

Stop throwing money at me

I did say “No” to the highest paying speaking gig I’d ever been offered, because I wasn’t the right fit. They were even offering to change the date of their event, and it was a significantly higher fee than I had been getting at the time. But my expertise doesn’t extend to their industry. It’s close, but they really should have someone who understands the nuances, and legalities of their world. While I could learn them, it would have taken me away from my core audience. Also, if I were the customer, I wouldn’t want someone learning my industry on my dime. I would want to hire someone who is already an expert. Isn’t that why your customers hire you? Because you’re already the expert.

Can you be successful without being busy?

I’m sure you can, but busy isn’t a bad thing. It’s being too busy to get to do the things you want that is bad. If you’re not spending time with family and friends, that’s bad. If you’re always playing catch-up, getting things done at the last minute, that’s bad. If you’re not getting to your big-picture, to-do list items, that’s bad. I wrote in a recent post titled Self-Help versus Shelf-Help,” which includes a section about keeping only two or three things on your big To-Do List, so you can get more done. You really can be more productive, without being too busy. I’m a realist, so I know that your wedding season is going to be busy. But, if you prioritize what’s most important, and learn to say no a little more often, you’ll be able to see when you’re creating more busy-ness than necessary. Here’s to your success!

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.

» How to Run Your Business While You’re Away

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

Travel, whether for business or pleasure, can take you away from the office. As a business owner, handling your absence well can easily make or break your company. So, how can you stay on top of the many facets of business management when you’re away?

Use apps

Productivity apps let you take your office on the road, and are designed to help you manage business affairs from afar. They allow you to easily delegate tasks to your team, and monitor their completion so you always know the status of your accounts and events.

Stay accessible

When I am away, I always let my staff know that they can reach me any time and that they should never hesitate to contact me with a question. We use texting and iMessages for immediate needs because they can be used during a meeting, even if wi-fi isn’t available. We save calls for emergencies only – if I see a call come through while I’m in a meeting, I know I need to excuse myself and take it because phone calls are our code for an emergency situation.

Keep up with email

It’s also important to stay on top of your emails. If you don’t set aside some time each day to address and prioritize your email, you’ll never catch up when you get back to the office. Set aside 30 – 40 minutes per day to sort through new emails and to delegate any necessary tasks that result. If you are traveling somewhere that doesn’t have reliable wi-fi, you should schedule this at times you know with certainty that you’ll have internet access.

Debrief

Another key to successful management from a distance is to meet with your staff when you return from a trip to review what happened while you were gone and get everyone on the same page again.

Manage your time wisely

Travel involves a lot of time challenges that can create unique situations. One is a matter of time zones – when possible, you should try to continue working in the same time zone as your home office so you can remain aligned with your team. This will make it easier for them to get in touch with you, and will provide a consistent experience for your clients.

The other is having time for yourself. You must learn when to say yes and when to say no. Days are long when you’re traveling and trying to operate your business. Know your limits and schedule things like interviews and networking events wisely. Make sure that every activity has potential for payoff. The time you spend doing anything needs to be worth the time you are sacrificing that would normally go towards managing your business affairs.

Travel can be both life and business-enriching, and it doesn’t have to stop you from doing a great job managing your event company. Use these tips to help streamline your efforts and you will ensure that your even in your absences, your business will stay strong!

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.

» Royal Wedding Trends: What Your Clients Will Start Asking For

Photo by @Kensingtonroyal

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

The fascinator has been tucked away, lime green suit sent to the cleaners and the last of the lemon elderberry wedding cake crumbs swept up. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are now officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. So, is this where the conversation ends?

Quite the opposite- it’s just the beginning. The Meghan Markle effect, which has caused many of us to question whether we too should embrace berets, is officially impacting what your clients will be requesting for this year and beyond.

So what do we anticipate being the next big asks?

Personalization on a new level

The desire to customize wedding day details is certainly not a new notion but the bar was raised considerably as soon as it was revealed that Prince Harry handpicked blooms for his bride’s bouquet. While couples will still want to put their stamp on the décor, menu and entertainment, expect brides and grooms to take their requests to a whole new level. Want to stay ahead of the curve? Brainstorm bespoke services and/or products with your team that can be offered from the onset.

All hail the boat neck

Meghan’s dress choice was certainly a polarizing one- it drew as many happy sighs as it did head scratches. But one thing is for sure- the neckline is a welcome change from the strapless gowns’ ongoing campaign for world domination. Better yet- it can be incorporated into nearly every season- unlike the sleeves and thicker fabric that also made up the gown.  

Go local

If one thing was for sure, Prince Harry and Meghan wanted to celebrate with as many local elements as possible, which was evident from the florist selection to the reception menu. Be prepared for couples to officially be inspired, finding new ways to bring regional flavor to their party.

Black and white is the new… black?

Within moments of the engagement announcement last November, royal wedding enthusiasts have been watching Kensington Palace’s Instagram like a hawk, waiting with baited breath for photographs of the happy couple. The real winners this royal wedding season? The dramatic black and white images released by the Prince Harry and Meghan, as evident by the swoons heard around the world. With that, expect an uptick in the number of couples requesting more black and white photography.

No wedding party? No problem

The industry and media alike were abuzz once it was revealed that Meghan Markle would not be having a bevy of bridesmaids, or Maid-of-Honor for that matter, joining her down the aisle. This detail was quickly forgotten as soon as her veil floated down the aisle thanks to a handful of the cutest (and luckiest?) teeny tiny wedding attendants you ever did see. So can a couple survive without an extensive wedding party to do their bidding? Absolutely. Will brides and grooms catch on this year? We can only hope.

Rules were made to be broken

Nothing drew a bigger gasp then when Meghan’s father Thomas Markle announced (officially officially) that he was no longer walking his daughter down the aisle. Would she ask William?  Prince Charles? Her mom? Even better- Meghan decided to walk her own self down the aisle save for a few moments with her future father-in-law just before she arrived at the altar.

Even the most modern couples will question breaking tradition but the hope this season is that they will be inspired to break rules and do it their own way. After all, Meghan Markle broke hundreds of years of tradition in St. George’s Castle, and we’re all still standing.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PW writing and brand promotion.

» Boost Your Instagram Engagement with These FAQs

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

Instagram can be overwhelming for seasoned professionals and starters alike. Between finding and creating high-quality content, engaging with your audience and growing your followers, it can be easy to rack up questions on how to best run your business Instagram. With the help of social media whiz Vanessa Joy, Owner and Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography, we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions we’ve heard about Instagram.

Sourcing strong photos is difficult, especially since I am not a wedding photographer. Do you have any advice on sourcing content?

Sure, wedding photographers may have their pick of thousands of photos, but as a wedding photographer herself, Vanessa wants you to remember one thing: photographers are taking photos of YOUR work! They capture the flower arrangements, the cake, the dress, the food, the venue— all the details. Without the work of other vendors, photographers would have nothing to capture except for the happy couple.

This is when networking comes in handy. Each time you do a wedding or event, make sure to find out who the photographer is. Then, reach out to see if he or she might have taken photos of your work, and if they can provide them to you to upload to your social channels (with credit, of course!). Additionally, many new photographers are dying to collaborate with established professionals on staged photo shoots to help grow their portfolio. As a bonus, these partnerships are usually free of charge! Helping out a fellow professional who is new to the industry and receiving professionally shot photos? It’s a win-win.

When it comes to taking your own photos, know that you don’t need to be a professional photographer or even have professional equipment (most phone cameras from the last two years take excellent quality photos!) to take great photos. If you feel like you are short on content, we suggest taking a photo of everything you create or every event you do. If you are a cake baker or florist, set up a quick “photo station” that you can always use with a neutral background or surface that has good lighting. Close-up detail shots are easy and quick, too. If you are an officiant or DJ, get photos of the venue, set-up, or of you in action.

What are Instagram stories and why should I use them?

Instagram stories are a great way to still be active and “post” without uploading something to your permanent feed, making them incredibly useful when you are short on strong content. Additionally, Instagram stories only stay up for 24 hours and are best utilized to show behind-the-scenes clips of what you’re up to… content that millennials love to see. The other benefit of stories? When you post one, you are more likely to go to the top of couples’ feeds. In the case of Instagram, this is as good as it gets. Remember: the more eyes on you, the better.

When it’s off-season, I don’t have a lot to post since I am not as busy. Other than uploading ‘throwback’ pictures, what else can I post?

The best thing about social media? Your followers don’t always know when a photo was taken. Instead of posting pictures right after each event you do, save a handful of photos to share throughout engagement season. When you do this, your photos will look like they were just taken, even if they might have been from four months ago. You’ll be active on social media and posting fresh content— which is always the best thing you can do. And your followers will never know your little secret!

The algorithm for boosting posts keeps changing and it always throws a wrench into my digital strategy. It’s incredibly frustrating to keep redoing my marketing strategy, so what can I do?

Instagram’s latest algorithm changes definitely shook up a lot of strategies, and figuring out a new plan to make it work for you can be quite tricky. But, Vanessa notes that with marketing, you are always going to be re-strategizing. In the marketing world, things just change. Rapidly. So while it may be stressful realizing that what worked last week is now outdated, it is just part of advertising on social media.

That being said, keep in mind that when these frustrating social media algorithm changes are announced, the platforms are making those changes to benefit their business. The goal of the algorithms isn’t to boost your posts, but to keep viewers on their platform longer. Instagram is a business, too, after all. To ensure Instagram will favor boosting your posts, make sure your posts are highly engaging. Engagement inherently keeps viewers on the app longer, and if you have a post filled with engagement, Instagram tends to favor an engaging upload over a dead post.

Should I utilize the poll feature within my Instagram stories?

YES! Remember when we talked about the importance of engagement two sentences ago? Polls boost engagement tremendously. Not only do viewers enjoy participating in polls, but the interactive nature of these stories means that your media has a higher chance of getting in front of more couples.

Can I share my Instagram uploads to Facebook?

While it might seem like a timesaving trick, try sharing different posts on each platform to impress potential clients. Each platform uses a different and unique algorithm. So, if you have a post that is crafted for Instagram’s algorithm, that post might not perform as strongly on Facebook. As a side note, tags and hashtags don’t carry over from platform to platform— you have to re-enter the tags and hashtags in order for them to be clickable, which defeats the purpose of one and done.  

Despite the stressful algorithm changes or the days when strong content is low, we still love social media. As social media continues to evolve, keep in mind how much it can benefit your business. We hope you continue to feel more confident in your Instagram-skills so you can take pride in your social pages. They are one of the best tools you have when it comes to publicizing your business!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals” by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» 5 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals

Photo by Rania Marie Photography

Throughout wedding season, you will be working with plenty of new clients and wedding professionals, many of whom will be happy to pass your name around to future engaged couples if you make a great, lasting impression.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals, especially from other industry professionals, are great ways to gain powerful business exposure and build trust with potential clients, yet many wedding professionals are hesitant to ask for them. If you want to start seeing more referrals (and we are positive that you do!) follow some of these tips:

Set expectations early

Early in the client process, you should let your clients know that feedback, reviews and referrals are very important to you. Explain how they help you better your business and gain new clients. It also is important to indicate that you appreciate and value all feedback, and that you will be following up to ask for it after their event. Having this conversation early in the planning process and throughout will reinforce how important it is to your business. Happy couples are most likely to help you out after you make their dream day come true, so make sure that you are not only having this conversation, but doing your best work, too!

Ask for feedback

Requesting reviews as part of your standard post-event follow up routine is so important. If you are not sure you want the client to submit a review, still follow up and ask for feedback and if they would recommend you to another engaged couple. They will appreciate that you care to check in on how you did, and all feedback can be valuable as you build your business.

Consider an incentive

If you really want to encourage past clients to refer your business, consider offering an incentive. Offer a fun freebie, or a discount on a post-wedding service that you can provide (such as infant photo shoots, or a discount on a flower arrangement or cake). Offering deals on post-wedding services is a great way to keep past clients in your circle. The more contact you have with past clients, the faster you will come top of mind when a friend asks for a recommendation.

Say thank you

Always say thank you for reviews and referrals! Let the referrer know that you appreciate their feedback, and be sure to acknowledge their support of your business. They took the time to write you a recommendation or share your information with a contact, so it is important you show the same respect and address their referral to maintain the positive relationship. Consider sending a personal note or small thank you gift, it’s a small gesture that will be much appreciated and could lead to many more referrals in the future!

Network

As you know, networking in the wedding industry is crucial. Many professionals are asked by couples who they would recommend in the local area for a wide variety of service categories, making it an easy way to book more business. Join local organizations, national associations in your service category, attend local networking events and always take the time to introduce yourself to other vendors working the events you book. Creating a strong circle of fellow wedding professionals is mutually beneficial to everybody involved: you get the opportunity to recommend your top contacts and those contacts will do the same for you.  

Capturing qualified leads through referrals will boost your business and make busy season work for you all year long. Maybe your busy season will extend far beyond October! Be sure to be open with your clients about referrals and never be afraid to seek them out. Also rely on your network and always be thankful to secure referrals. Best of luck!

» 5 Big Ways LGBTQ Wedding Planning Has Changed in 5 Short Years

Photo by B. Jones Photography

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

Five years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that New York resident Edie Windsor’s out-of-state marriage (she married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007) would be recognized in New York, where same-sex marriage had been legally recognized since 2011.

This landmark decision immediately opened the door for the many same-sex couples who wished to seek legal partnership recognition but could not do so in their home states, and ultimately paved the way toward SCOTUS’ Obergefell decision in 2015, which embraced marriage equality nationwide. Those legal shifts, though taking place in courtrooms, ultimately had a significant impact on the wedding market and the choices of engaged LGBTQ couples.

Time Flies

Prior to 2013, LGBTQ weddings were smaller, had older brides and grooms, were more custom than traditional in design, and the couples themselves tended to pay for the ceremony and celebration. After 2005, when Massachusetts legalized marriage and others followed, some couples were planning legal elopements to travel to jurisdictions for a marriage certificate, but many were choosing to have non-legally-recognized ceremonies and otherwise share their commitments more publicly.

Though I have a file full of instructive anecdotes and isolated data snapshots to explain what was happening in the market back in the day, it was 2013 that offered a turning point for enough data to explain how the same-sex wedding market has been changing with legal recognition. The result? With the spread of marriage equality recognition, we could see in real time how LGBTQ weddings were beginning to assimilate into the “mainstream” market and, conversely, how non-LGBTQ weddings had begun to adopt LGBTQ innovation more frequently, including trends like ‘pop up’ or micro-weddings, blended wedding parties, color variety in wedding parties, laypeople as officiants, and more.

Newlywed Report: LGBTQ Market Analysis

Over the past few years, WeddingWire’s WedInights team has issued its annual Newlywed Report, which is chock full of insights about today’s couples, gleaned from the answers from almost 18,000 participants (the most comprehensive and rigorous report in the industry). This essential tool is important to help wedding professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends, particularly when it comes to same-sex couples because the LGBTQ market segment has been in a state of constant growth and flux for the past decade. What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today. Now that the U.S. is celebrating three years of marriage equality nationwide, however, trends within the LGBTQ market segment are beginning to stabilize, making it easier for wedding professionals to make thoughtful decisions about their marketing plans and service offerings for all couples.

‘What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today.’

Before I highlight a few key shifts in lesbian and gay wedding trends, it’s important to note that this analysis draws primarily from the WeddingWire Newlywed Reports (2015-2018) and WeddingWire Trends & Traditions Surveys, which offer a direct year-over-year comparison of questions. It also references trends revealed in the 2015 Contemporary Couples Report (by WeddingWire, GayWeddings, Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of those who married in 2014, and a related report, Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements (by Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of couples surveyed in 2013, but who may have celebrated a union or become engaged at any time in the previous years.

Five Big Changes for Same-Sex Couples

#1 Parents are stepping up. And in?

More than ever, same-sex couples are receiving help paying for their weddings. Five years ago, a strong majority of same-sex couples (79% in 2013) reported paying for all or most of the wedding themselves, compared to 2017 where that number has dropped significantly to 59% of couples. This shift tells us that more parents (and extended family) are participating in and supporting their kids’ LGBTQ weddings, and, as a result, the overall wedding spend is increasing as more vendors are hired, more guests are invited, and as LGBTQ couples have shifted away from practical and often quickly planned legal elopements to a more typical engagement and wedding planning process.

This also means that identifying the decision-maker in the booking process may be shifting now that a couple’s parents may have more financial investment in the wedding and, as such, an expectation around decision-making.

#2 Growth of the guestlist

The growth of the guestlist at gay and lesbian weddings is a direct result of more couples coming out, more couples choosing to marry, and more couples feeling comfortable celebrating with a broader circle of families, friends, and co-workers. It’s also a function of being able to get legally married in one’s home state and having the chance to plan accordingly. In fact, the 2015 Survey of Contemporary Couples revealed that 79% of same-sex couples were planning a wedding ceremony and reception, almost doubling the result (43%) of couples surveyed previously (Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements, 2013).

  • Prior to 2013, the size of the average guestlist was 65
  • In 2014, the average size was 80
  • In 2015 and 2016: 100
  • In 2017: 107 (which still lags behind non-LGBTQ couples average guestlist size of 127)

In sum, having both a ceremony and a reception is a relatively new development for a majority of same-sex couples and marks a major shift with clear planning and budgeting implications and has had a direct impact on the growth in size of the average guestlist.

#3 Size of wedding party

As same-sex weddings have grown in size, so, too, has the supporting cast. In 2013, 63% of same-sex couples reported that they had anywhere from 0 to 3 persons in their wedding party. Yes, you are hearing that correctly. Five years ago, same-sex couples had 3 or fewer people standing up with them as witnesses. Today, the average wedding party size for same-sex couples is 7, compared to 9 for heterosexual couples.

More moving parts, more guests and bigger wedding parties are just another indicator that same-sex couples are following the structural rules of traditional wedding planning compared to the highly personalized, more modestly-sized ceremonies from years’ past.

#4 Blended Wedding Party

There is perhaps no better example of a wedding custom than the wedding party in order to illustrate not only the difference in the willingness of same-sex couples to break with tradition, but also an impressive example of how gay weddings have influenced straight weddings.

In WeddingWire’s 2016 Trends and Traditions Report, only 14% of LGBTQ couples reported dividing their wedding parties based on gender. That is, guys on one side and gals on the other. Same-sex couples have always tended to blend their wedding parties, asking their closest supporters to stand with them, regardless of gender and often in whatever attire they choose (eg women wearing pants and dresses to suit). What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time. Seventy-four (74%) of straight couples divided their wedding parties by gender in 2015, but the needle moved to 69% in 2016 and, more recently, dropped to 60% in 2017.

‘What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time.’

As same-sex couples are assimilated into the mainstream market, it’s clear that there has been a two-way street of influence, which has been amplified by Millennial couples, who choose rituals and make planning choices that are highly customized to their preferences.

#5 Age of the couple

In 2014, Jennifer Senior, then a writer for the New York Magazine, noted that one third of LGBTQ newlyweds were over 50. WeddingWire’s Newlywed Report revealed that the average age of same-sex couples who had married in 2015 and 2016 was 35 (with a smidge of variation in age between gay grooms and lesbian brides). In 2017, the age dropped to 34. Today, LGBTQ couples still skew a bit older than non-LGBTQ couples (the average age for heterosexual couples in 2017 was 32), but the shrinking gap reveals not only how opposite-sex couples are getting married a few years later in life, but also how same-sex couples are getting younger.

This is just one more example of how the engagement and wedding planning trajectory for same-sex couples is assimilating to match the typical relationship trajectory for heterosexual couples: start dating, (perhaps cohabitate), get engaged, and get married. With more open acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and couples, one’s sexual orientation is no longer a factor in one’s interest in and access to marriage and wedding planning services.

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.

» Marketing to Millennials: Your Questions Answered

Photo by Svetlana Photography

We love millennials, but… we can admit that this generation often has demands that can be difficult to satisfy. Millennials have shorter attention spans, ultra-high standards when it comes to social media and expect quick, seamless communication from their wedding professionals. They also make up 80% of engaged couples, which means that it’s in your best interest to meet their demands. To help you better cater to your audience, we’ve answered your top questions about marketing to millennials.

How do I reach more potential couples on Instagram instead of other industry professionals?

One way to grow your following of couples is to utilize cross-promotion on platforms where couples are already following you. For example, advertise your Instagram account on your Facebook page and include a mention of it with some photos in your emails for some free publicity.

Is it okay to have a different “Call to Action” on each page of my website?

A call to action, or a CTA, should directly relate to or build on the content presented on that particular page. As an example, on WeddingWire’s website, if a couple is on the venue page, the CTA is “book your venue”; on the website creation page, the CTA reads “get started”. In terms of your own website, if you have a reviews page, your call to action might be “read my recent reviews”.

Each individual CTA on your website, regardless of what it is, should ultimately lead someone to submit an inquiry. By building CTAs that lead to contact information submissions, you are handing yourself a qualified lead— which is the whole point of including CTAs. Having a CTA on each page creates a clear path for viewers to follow and collect information. Just remember to connect the dots if you have different CTAs on each page and be sure you are always guiding your potential customer to the most important actions.

What’s better: Instagram stories or Instagram posts?

Both! Consistency is key on Instagram. Your posts on Instagram should always be well thought out and feature the strongest pieces of visual content that you have. While you should be posting regularly, sometimes it can be difficult to have enough visually compelling content to share regularly. This is when Instagram stories can be immensely helpful. Instagram stories show that you are active on days when you might be unable to post, or only don’t have content worthy of sharing on your feed. Instead of adding a subpar photo to your feed, upload a story instead. Millennial couples love Instagram stories because they often show “behind-the-scenes” action and allow viewers to connect in a more personable way, since the content doesn’t need to be as curated as your post feed (and only lasts 24 hours).

Many millennials respond negatively to being overtly sold. Do we need to be more discrete in our tactics?

The best thing you can do in this scenario is to showcase the quality and value of your services. By expressing your value in terms of what you can offer as a service provider rather than what the cost buys a client, you will be able to sell clients without making it feel like an overt sale.

I have a lot of information to get across but my clients are shocked when I tell them we need to have a longer discussion. How do I go about telling them crucial information without losing their interest?

Keep in mind that millennials tend to err on the side of being know-it-alls— it’s part of their charm! So, when it comes to delivering a message you feel that they need to know, the best thing you can do is to keep it simple. Think of the WebMD symptom checker. When people are sick, many check their symptoms online first and then go to the doctor. Despite how wrong or right the online diagnosis was, the client did their research and “prediagnosed” themselves, then went to the expert to confirm. You are the expert in this case. It is your job to determine if the client already knows what they need to know, or if they need that longer discussion.

Some clients might scoff at the thought of a longer discussion because they may truly have the information already. If not, you need to provide your potential client with the information that you feel they need in the most concise and direct way. Even if you feel that describing key information is impossible to do in under four paragraphs without a hefty sum of attachments and charts, still attempt to reduce that information to the bare minimum. Succinctness is key!

Which word is better for your website’s SEO: pricing or investment?

If you are looking to drive up your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) be sure that you are using the words “price” or “cost”– these are the common search terms. Couples are going to search “cost of wedding flowers” not “investment of wedding flowers”. For this reason, make sure any headings, tags and keywords include those words instead of  “investment”. However, when it comes to the general copy of your website’s text, it is perfectly okay to use the word “investment”, so long as price and/or cost is worked in somewhere.

Should my logo be on every page?

YES! As Sonny says, “you should always be branding!”

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» What Couples Want to Hear in Your Lead Replies

Wedding professionals often make a few simple mistakes in their lead replies that can cost them business. While these mistakes may seem like relatively minor offenses, the truth is that modern couples have high standards and a single reply can make or break the sale. Instead of following up four times with no reply or wondering what could have happened that turned a couple off from your business, take a look at the content of your lead replies. We have some tips to help increase your response rate and help you create more engaging, meaningful conversations that will lead to more bookings.

Keep it real

Yes, being honest and authentic is necessary but what we mean by “keep it real” here is that your lead replies should be written as if they are a script for a real conversation. They should sound as if you are talking with a potential client face-to-face,

put yourself in your couple’s shoes. Would a conversation feel real and meaningful if…

…you had the exact same conversation with the next five people you see? This is precisely what copy-and-paste feels like for a couple. If you have a handful of inquiries, chances are, most of those inquiries are asking you different things. Just like it would be nearly impossible to have the same conversation with the next five people you see, because they would each have different interests, questions or replies, each reply you send out should be no different. If you have general copy-and-paste text that you include in your replies, consider removing it even if you still personalize some parts of the message. Nothing can sound more disingenuous than blanket text, so either exercise caution when using copy-and-paste, or don’t use it at all. We suggest the latter.

…you were talking to a robot? Automated replies don’t help you or your business, and we think it’s time to say goodbye to them. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg notes that a lot of wedding professionals set up their website and email system to send potential clients an automated message that says “someone will be reaching out shortly” after an inquiry is sent. While you may assume that sending a message like this is nice because it’s an “immediate response”, it adds nothing to the conversation. People don’t want to hear from a robot— they want to hear from you, even if it is a few hours later.

…someone didn’t reply back to a question you clearly sent them? Reply time is everything and can be the biggest make or break for a sale. When you don’t reply within 24 hours, you could be missing out on business. Confirm ASAP that you heard what the couple had to say. Leaving them waiting for more than 24 hours is only going to encourage them to take their business elsewhere. It’s also why 70% of couples state that vendor responsiveness is the number one factor they consider when looking for a wedding professional to hire.

…someone you were talking to threw a bunch of different distractions into the conversation and didn’t stay on topic? This is the equivalent of how it feels when you send a handful of PDFs, links, and paragraphs to answer their one simple question. Just like in school, when we daydreamed during a lecture covering an entire textbook, providing an information overload in your reply is overwhelming, especially if the couple didn’t ask for this information. As such, it will discourage your audience from listening much longer… so keep your replies simple and to-the-point.

Besides getting rid of copy and paste text, scrapping automated messages, avoiding sending attachments and doing your best to reply quickly, there are a few more things you can do to make your lead replies that much stronger. What it comes down to? Being natural.

Ask questions

A huge part of making sure a lead reply reads like an in-person conversation is by asking questions. If you are not asking a single question in your reply, what is going to motivate the couple to reply back to you? By not asking questions in every reply, you are creating a dead-end for your conversation and not actively establishing the back-and-forth required to make a sale.

By asking a low commitment question in each of your replies, such as “how many guests will be attending?” or “do have a venue secured yet?”, you are giving the couple something to answer, rather than a nondescript “Ok, thank you!”. We all know how hard it is to carry on real-life conversations exclusively using statements, so why would we do that in our lead replies? Be sure to always keep the conversation going.

Don’t jump the gun

You wouldn’t want to be asked out on a date the minute after exchanging a few sentences with a complete stranger, right? The same goes for potential couples who are looking into your services. If you are asking them to come in for a meeting or for a phone call to discuss things in your first reply (or even the next few), it’s too soon! While it might seem like a welcomed and relatively harmless gesture, it can actually be costly. Instead, Alan suggests to do as much communicating as you can on the same channel the couple reached out to you on. Additionally, try letting the couple tell you when they might be ready to take some next steps.

Sympathize and relate

If a couple doesn’t get back quickly and starts their most recent reply with “I am so sorry for the late reply, things have been hectic here!”, do your best to relate. Saying “I completely understand! This month always gets crazy” helps you seem more personable and makes the conversation feel more realistic. Additionally, anywhere you can make a small, personal connection with a client, you should take the opportunity. If a potential client says that they will be unable to get back to you because they are going on vacation or if they were out at a sports game the other night, connect with them about it. Keeping things strictly business isn’t as impressive as one might think. Remember, a couple wants to work with a professional that they can relate to.

Match their tone

Lastly, matching a potential client’s tone can be incredibly significant in landing your lead replies. If a couple’s correspondence is ultra formal, it might insinuate the type of tone they expect back from you. Conversely, if a couple seems casual in their initial message, they probably wouldn’t want you to begin your reply with “Salutations, good sir”, either. By matching a couple’s tone, you are almost guaranteed to connect more quickly because you are on the same wavelength. Be your authentic self, whether that errs on the side of formal or casual, but be sure that you are matching your tone to vibe with the couple when you can.

There are many variables when it comes to mastering lead replies, most of which are out of your control. While it would be great to have control over how quickly a couple sees your message or the ability to keep your messages out of their spam folders, what you can control is the quality of your replies. By taking the steps to communicate with potential clients more personably and create a conversation, you can expect to see the number of replies you get back rise. Hello sales!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» 3 Unique Posts for Social Media

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

“I have bad news: Marketing is hard, and it keeps getting harder. But there’s no time to mourn the past or to feel sorry for ourselves, and there’s no point in self-pity anyway. It is our job as modern-day storytellers to adjust to the realities of the marketplace, because it sure as hell isn’t going to slow down for us.” Gary Vaynerchuk

This is a favorite quote of mine from Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. Gary Vee wrote this in the beginning to his addendum in the book. As he was getting ready to hit “print”, Instagram added the video feature, making his newly finished book completely obsolete. As a result, he had to add on a whole new section of the book on this new development. How insanely frustrating.

How often do we feel the same way in our businesses? Especially with weddings, the demographic we’re trying to target is the one that changes the most rapidly. If you’re like me, you’re in a constant marketing method flux trying to find out what works and what doesn’t.

You know what? That’s a good thing.

The truth of it is exactly how Vaynerchuk put it, “There’s no time to mourn the past or to feel sorry for ourselves.” We have to move forward. We have to keep up with what’s happening in weddings and social trends. We have to find new ways to get our names and business out there despite the ever-changing social media algorithm.

If you’re as fed up with what works and what doesn’t on social media, definitely join me for the webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals on March 21 at 3:00pm EST (available to Premium WeddingWire members in your account Education Center). Until then, here are three types of posts you can try on your social media to get more reach.

#1 – Video

Whenever I get annoyed by an algorithm change on Facebook or Instagram I remember just one thing. Social media companies are businesses. They have goals and one of their main goals is to get people coming back to their platform and spending more time on it. Video is always a good way to boost your reach. Why? Because video makes people watch longer, even if just by a millisecond, so social media algorithms tend to like it because it helps achieve their own goals.

If you’re not sure what kind of videos you can make or post, check out five different types of marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. There’s also a tutorial there that will show you just how easy making videos can be – even if you’re not a photographer or videographer.

#2 – Personality

I know what you’re thinking. “Should I put my personal life on my business profile?” Yes and no. No, I don’t think you have to or should necessarily, but yes I do think it’s engaging.

I’m not telling you to post anything about your personal life at all really. Instead, I’m telling you to show off your personality. Or, the personalities of some of your team members. This can be as simple as having your team show-off their favorite work-desk personal item. Or, even just an easily relatable personal life fact, like how you always wear new clothes once before washing them because they never feel the same again.

Whatever it is, find a way to bring some life into your brand. Consumers are very wise to well put together brands these days. Thanks to visual social media, the bar has been raised for even mom-and-pop shops to kick it up a notch in the branding department. I’m not talking just about logos and packaging, although that’s part of it, but personality plays a part here as well. I could go on, but you’ll find a ton of information on this topic in my FREE ebook 9 Secret Ways to Brand Your Business.

#3 – Engage

When you first read that, I imaging you thought “but I’m trying to get engagement!” Yes, you are. But social media is just that – social. So, go be social! It’s not all about you. It’s about them.

You posting on social media does not just mean you post on your on account/wall/feed. It means that you should spend some time posting on other people’s posts. No, I do not mean you should spam your latest sale to their wall, or ask them to check out your account in their photo comments.

Go discover new people, couples and wedding industry vendors alike, and engage them. Support what they’re doing. Ask questions about their posts in the comments. Find people to direct message and offer to collaborate even. Go ahead, make friends! That’s one of the things that is so great about our little wedding community.

Speaking of, I hope you’ll you’ll join me for my WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals on March 21 at 3:00pm EST (available to Premium WeddingWire members in your account Education Center). I’ll see you there!

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. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

It’s important to remember that the wedding industry is all about customer service. With busy season right in front of us, managing clients and keeping them happy while under pressure can be quite difficult. But it’s a job you must do diligently and with a smile. To better prepare for the sudden 0-to-60, it’s best to acknowledge some expectations for yourself and of your clients. By thinking about how you might feel and what your clients will expect of you before busy season starts, you can ace client relationships and keep everyone happy… yourself included! Here’s how:

Communicate expectations

Most clients aren’t wedding professionals, so they probably don’t understand what exactly busy season entails for you or realize the sheer amount of other work you have. It is always best to be open with clients from the start. Discuss your workload with them to let them know what you can deliver so that they can set their expectations for your services accordingly.

However, this isn’t to say that you should spread yourself too thin, set low expectations, or overbook yourself. When the quality of your work diminishes because you are overworked or setting the bar too low, your client relationships and in turn, your business, will hurt because of it. Know how much you can handle and what you can deliver.

Clarify next steps

At the end of any conversation, be ready to articulate your plan of action and/or clearly outline next steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Repeat the items you are responsible for, and remind them of anything they need to provide to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that you will always  follow-through and keep things organized.

Get to know your clients beyond their wedding

Before you start going over the details of the couples’ wedding or event, you’ll need to establish a connection with the couple. Getting to know them a little more can inform your decisions throughout the rest of the relationship (pro tip: find out early on what communication methods they prefer, and follow suit!). You should also take the time to talk a little about yourself so they understand more about you and why your business best fits their needs. Remember: the better the connection, the more apt they will be to refer you to their friends!

You get what you put in

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. When your clients only have positive interactions with you, they will likely be more understanding if you aren’t able to respond to an email right away or if you can’t suddenly accomodate a large-scale, last minute demand. Not that you should ever be putting your clients’ needs on the backburner, but we are all human.  A little kindness and flexibility goes a long way.

Budget the time to go the extra mile

Going the extra mile for clients is important because it shows your dedication to your work and will also be what clients remember the most about you. It might be hard finding time to put in a little extra work to make something special, so it’s smart to budget this extra time from the beginning. Scheduling this time as a non-negotiable will guarantee that you can give some very special attention to each client. You won’t be under the wire to outperform and your clients will be grateful for your extra work.

Keep reviews and referrals in mind at all times

Every time you deliver a service or communicate with your clients, you should be thinking about the review a client will give you for it. When you work with the mindset that a review will be written for every interaction you have with a client, it will ensure that you are providing your client with the best experience possible. Plus, keep in mind that happy clients often lead to referrals down the road, too!

Busy season might have it’s unique set of challenges, but no matter the stress, you get to do what you love – bringing couples dreams to life! It’s the special client relationships you cultivate that leave you with the feeling of success, pride, and accomplishment (and the resulting reviews and referrals) that make busy season worth all of the long, hard hours.