Say, “I Do!” to More Revenue: An Interview with Carley Roney of TheKnot.com

It’s not anywhere near a stretch of the imagination to understand just how crucial the weddings business is.  The real quandary is what your property can do to cash in.  So, rather than approach this from the hotelier’s perspective, let’s take the viewpoint of the bride and groom, and then you can make your own extrapolations. 

To get a good insider’s perspective, I interviewed Carley Roney of www.TheKnot.com. While the bridal market, for the most part, tends to be highly localized, The Knot was one of the pioneers in terms of approaching the business on a national level by creating regional micro-sites with national sponsors/editorials. Their research suggests that that they are largest online resource for brides-to-be, with an impressive 8 out of 10 visiting this site.

In the USA, just how big is the Wedding Market? How many couples were married in 2011? What was the average spend per wedding? What are the trends in costs, cost/allocations?

The wedding industry is a $74 billion industry that includes honeymoon, registries, engagement ring and all things related to weddings. Each year we conduct a Real Weddings study and according to TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com 2010 Real Weddings Study, the national average wedding spend is $26,984. Here’s the overall wedding spend breakdown:

Category
2010 National Average Spend

Overall Wedding (excluding honeymoon)

$26,984

Ceremony Site

$1,393

Reception Venue

$12,124

Reception Band

$3,081

Reception DJ

$900

Photographer

$2,320

Videographer

$1,463

Wedding Gown

$1,099

Florist/Décor

$1,988

Wedding Cake

$540

Ceremony Musicians

$503

Wedding Day Transportation

$667

Rehearsal Dinner

$1,127

Engagement Ring

$5,392

Everyone says weddings are recession proof. How has the economy influenced wedding and bridal spending?

The bridal industry is recession resistant as brides will still spend money for their wedding no matter the state of the economy. Less than a third (31%) of brides said the economy affected their wedding budget – a decrease from 34% in 2009. However, when it does come to lowering the wedding budget, one successful cost-cutting tactic used by brides is to trim the number of wedding guests – 141 was the average in 2010, compared with 149 in 2009. Despite the decrease in wedding guests, wedding standards weren’t affected, as the average wedding spend per guest remained the same as it was in 2009 at $194.

Statistics say the average bride is older. What are the facts and how does this influence spending? And who is paying for these weddings?

The average age of the bride in 2010 was 29, an increase from 2009 when the average age was 28. The average age of the groom in 2010 was 31, an increase from 2009 when the average age was 30. Because couples are older and more established in their careers, they’re paying for more of the wedding. The couple paid for 42% of the wedding in 2010, while the bride’s parents paid for 45% and the groom’s paid for 12%. Everyone’s contributing to overall spend, not just bride’s parents anymore.

new_picture_2_02When selecting a reception venue, what are the key factors that a bride looks for? How influential is the groom in the wedding location selection? What about parents?

When choosing a venue, the first thing you want to ensure is that the room is large enough to accommodate the number of people on your guest list. It may look big enough when it’s empty, but you won’t get a good idea until it’s filled with chairs, tables, a dance floor, food and drinks. Definitely ask to see photos of the space when it’s set up for another wedding of equal size as yours. Light can also make or break the mood and the space. If you’re marrying during the day, make sure your venue has plenty of windows. If it’s an evening affair, make sure the room’s not too dim. You also need ample outlets. Take a look around the room to make sure there are lots of outlets, especially if you’ve chosen a space that doesn’t normally host weddings or events. Finally, good acoustics are a must. If the place has echoes, it could alter the sound of the band, or make it difficult for guests to hear speeches and even each other. A tile or wood floor, will amplify sounds, while a thick carpet tends to muffle them. Again, visit the space during an event so you can hear the room’s sound quality yourself.

The groom and parent’s influence on the selection of the wedding reception varies with each couple. Some grooms are very involved in the planning process, while others will ask to have more of a say in the food or the honeymoon planning. If parents are paying for the wedding they may have more say in the decisions than if the couple is paying for it themselves.

The factors that influence wedding reception location are: word of mouth, wedding shows, past experience, referrals, wedding shows, magazines, broadcast, and online. Can you comment on the importance of each?

The power of word of mouth, referrals, magazines, broadcast and online promotions are very powerful. Never underestimate PR. When we launched, there was no expert in weddings or an easily recognized voice. So instead of focusing on advertising, we invested in PR. We believe that if you’re doing things that are interesting enough, then people will talk about it. Essentially, PR was the first social media!

On WeddingChannel.com we have WeddingChannel.com Reviews where brides can easily search and review more than 130,000 of the top wedding vendors and in turn, vendors can interact directly with brides. Vendors should encourage their brides to post reviews on WeddingChannel.com Reviews as well as check out other bride’s tried and true reviews.

Are destination weddings gaining in popularity, or are the bulk of receptions still local?

Destination weddings rose the past two years, with an increase of 20% since 2008. In fact, approximately 1 in 4 couples considered their wedding a destination wedding in 2010.

What new trends in weddings and wedding receptions are you seeing?

A new trend for 2012 is the Ritzy Ranch Wedding.  Picture a 200-year-old barn complete with long exposed-wood tables, large chandeliers and ambient lighting. For flowers, think lace-wrapped bouquets of wild roses, lilies of the valley, Queen Anne’s lace and gardenias. Food includes delicate wild game like juniper-spiced venison, cider-braised pheasant and pan-roasted quail. Brides will be channeling the Old West with a rustic-elegant spin.

The enchanting, whimsical trend is also big this year due to the buzzed aboutSnow White and The Huntsmen movie and its ilk. 2012 brides will be inspired to wear wedding gowns that are light and airy, but with a mysterious and sexy vibe. Vera Wang’s stunning witchcraft-inspired 2012 wedding dresses will be the bride’s first stop. For wedding décor, magical and fantasy settings will be big with brides opting for a woodsy vibe. Think soft, decadent bouquets filled with flowers like cabbage roses, peonies and dinner plate dahlias. 

Tell me more about appealing to the growing ethnic markets (within the USA).

On Weddings.com, we have an entire collection of niche wedding-planning sites devoted to reaching these markets-Asian weddings, Indian weddings, Jewish weddings, Muslim weddings and many others. Each site features a collection of custom content, vendor listings, message boards and real weddings to offer inspiration.

Beyond the US, we’ve expanded globally. In November 2010, we launched Ijie.com, a website that provides Western inspiration and local advice for weddings, relationships and pregnancy for the Chinese consumer. We also recently announced a partnership with SINA, one of the most trafficked news and lifestyle portals in China with 170 million daily unique visitors, in which we have a cobranded ‘Weddings’ channel under the SINA E-ladies section. Not to mention, we also have a partnership with Youku, the largest video hosting site in China. 

What is your advice for a venue that wants to be totally wedding friendly?

Having an attitude of ‘no request can’t be met’ is essential. The venue should answer emails and phone calls in a timely manner.  As well, they should work with brides to reasonably negotiate within their budget and meet their needs. It’s also advisable they have a presence wherever brides are (eg. on Facebook, Twitter, TheKnot.com, WeddingChannel.com, etc.).

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published on ehotelier on March 2, 2012)

Larry MogelonskySay, “I Do!” to More Revenue: An Interview with Carley Roney of TheKnot.com