GMA on Saving Money on Weddings: Misinformation

An Open Letter To Good Morning America:

broke-brideLast year it was 20/20; this year it’s GMA – Good Morning America. What do they have in common? A lack of research or understanding of weddings, and absolute trivialization  and over simplification of the planning or execution of the event.

My name is Andy Ebon. I publish the Wedding Marketing Blog, targeted to wedding business professionals, and speak to the same audiences at seminars, conferences and conventions throughout the year, across North America and beyond.  Prior to my marketing and speaking career, I spent 26 years in DJ Entertainment. Suffice it to say, I have enough direct wedding experience with brides, grooms, and wedding industry to qualify my comments.

Rather than refute the advice outlined in your series, I prefer to take a different approach. The most misused term in wedding planning is the word budget. Without the services of a professional wedding planner, it is the rare bride that has itemized a realistic budget. 

When bride refers to a ‘budget’, she really means the amount of money she has set aside for the wedding an reception or funds ‘at her disposal’. What different levels of service cost and their relative impact is an item by item decision. If the overarching goal is to ‘SAVE MONEY… as much as humanly possible, on all fronts’, there will be failures and lots of them.

Saving Money

I take no condescending view of couples with limited funds. My wife and I paid for our own wedding, and experienced many of the same difficult choices on saving money. In retrospect, there are a few things I would do differently.

In making wedding decisions, the reality is: The choices may have disproportionate impact on the overall event. These decisions may have no relationship to the money saved or spent.

Selecting an officiant is not a big-dollar expense, but if they call the bride the wrong name or forget that her father passed away and are somehow expecting him to walk her down the aisle, it’s  a painful experience. The money saved is no longer the issue. The ceremony and reception are tainted at the outset.

In the digital world of the last 20-30 years, virtually everyone has music, photos, and video at their fingertips. That does not make anyone who owns a smart phone a professional disc jockey, photographer or videographer. The knowledge, professionalism, and decision making is born of training, continuing education, and years of experience. It is the height arrogance and ignorance to suggest that anyone could be both bride or groom and simultaneously and DJ their own wedding.

It is just as unrealistic to be so overconfident as to expect that one might make hundreds of correct decisions on the first try, rather than look to professionals for their collective wisdom.

Whether it’s the nuances of decor and floral design, catering or baking, among so many others, it’s important to know the limits of one’s own expertise. In the end, a wedding experience can succeed at any price point, provided a bride and groom understand the important questions to ask, what the answers mean, and the interrelated importance of each decision.

Most people will tell you experience of their wedding day is second, only to the birth of their first child.

It is a shame that GMA has provided little quality information to help brides and grooms make superior decisions in planning their wedding.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

New York Times Writer (Bride) blasts Wedding Professionals

worried brideNew York Times writer and bride, Catherine Rampell, took dead aim in a December 3rd column to shred the wedding industry, en masse. The article, titled “The Wedding Fix Is In”, demonstrated a colossal amount of  frustration and ignorance. (You MUST read the article, despite the fact that your blood will come to a full boil.)

Among others, Rampell quoted

“David M. Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, said ‘part of the problem is that most brides are first-time shoppers. They are less informed about what a “fair” price is, or how long it should take to discover prices’…”

Wood’s statement is a reasonable one (shown fully in Rampell’s article). Unfortunately the article misses the point, almost entirely.

Wedding Services/Products are NOT Commodities

A Bentley gets you from point A to point B. So does a Ford Fiesta. They are both cars; however, they are not in the same universe of equivalence.

Anybody with a camera does not constitute a professional wedding photographer. The training, skills, customer rapport, and most important… their eye, constitute the totality of their craft. It is this intangibility that constitutes value and special appeal to some brides and grooms.

It is not as simple as saying, ‘You get what you pay for.” though that is often the case.

With the dawning of the internet, brides have more information than they could ever dream of, and as a result, they are overwhelmed. The more comparisons they make, it is not unusual to glaze over.

The biggest demon in planning a wedding is time. The less time allotted, the greater chance for error. A wedding is a one-shot performance (see The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood).

Weddings are live events. They are scheduled, not scripted. Some go well; others go into a ditch. In large part, the mistakes are not a function of money, but poor decision making. It is arrogant to believe that a first-time bride, acting as her own wedding planner, will not have regrets, in retrospect, over poor decision making.

Hiring a competent wedding planner to help manage decision making and advise on budgeting is the single most important choice a bride can make,

In the real world, there are excellent wedding professionals, average wedding professionals, and a few clowns. Brides come in a wide range, too. The most common brides are over-confident, confident, and caught-up-in-the-process. Brides with perspective, patience, and priorities get the best result.

The issue of pricing on websites is one of continuing debate, among wedding professionals. In part, because many brides have established a ‘budget’ expectation by throwing a dart a pricing board, and fail to engage in more in-depth discussion. In reality, sitting down in a business office or studio is likely to take time, and will yield a more complete understanding of that category of business, and that specific business. And yes, that takes time. Acquiring knowledge generally takes more time than just asking the price.

Simply stomping one’s feet, and complaining that the process is unfair, begs the point. Planning a wedding is complex and emotional process. A reporter’s clueless rant doesn’t enhance the process of wedding planning, one iota.

So… ‘Miz Bride, Were you look for a Bentley, a Ford Fiesta, or something in-between? And were you planning to come to the dealership and drive one, or do you just want the price over the phone?’

I’m working on a New Year’s pledge to be less snarky, but topics such as this one make it quite difficult.

I’m sure you understand.

One more thing: This post is an opinion of Andy Ebon and The Wedding Marketing Blog. You are welcome to your opinion, and are invited to post it as a comment.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

20/20 Wedding Confidential Clowns the Wedding Industry

20/20 Wedding Confidential20/20 Wedding Confidential: News, Analysis, and Opinion by Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Blog


On Friday night, ABC News Magazine, 20/20, led by Television Journalist, Elizabeth Vargas, presented Wedding Confidential, an alleged behind-the-scenes look at the wedding industry: Brides, Grooms, the process of selling, trends, and more.

The kindest word I can use to describe Wedding Confidential is “disappointing.” 

20/20 is an American television newsmagazine (similar in-depth to a print newsmagazine) that has been broadcast on ABC since June 6, 1978. Created by ABC News executive Roone Arledge,[1] the show was designed similarly to CBS‘s 60 Minutes but focuses more on human interest stories than international and political subjects. 

Source: excerpted from Wikipedia

It was part ‘reality show’, poorly researched reporting (in most cases), appeared heavily edited for emphasis, and generally unhelpful. There were only a couple of good choices within the 44 minutes of content. Notably Chris Easter (TheManRegistry.com) and Diann Valentine.  

Full disclosure: I have been a presenter at conferences with both Chris Easter and Diann Valentine. We are what I would describe as professional acquaintances and ‘friends on Facebook.’

(to) Clown: as defined in the Urban Dictionary

clown
v. to clown, clowning, clowned. To laugh, make fun of, or find joy in a person or event. Almost always used in a derogatory or degrading fashion.

under the bus
Wedding industry view from ‘under the bus’

View from ‘Under The Bus’

20/20 didn’t include much credible news reporting. If it had, the show might have resulted in some worthwhile information for brides and grooms. Sadly, and for the most part, it looked a set of predisposed conclusions defined by an assortment of third-rate reality-show characters and bad actors.

With the exceptions noted above, wedding industry businesses are cast as greedy, unethical and ruthless. Brides and grooms are portrayed as unreasonable, demanding, uninformed, and foolish.

Editing sets the Tone

The trickiest part of public relations is one’s lack of ability to control the outcome. Whether it’s a magazine, website, TV or radio show, if get coverage, you don’t make the editing choices.

For example: Anyone competing in a reality show or competition show has to sign off on a contract that limits rights in highly restrictive ways. Cameras may run when a person is not performing or even aware they are being recorded. The show may use any content it chooses to portray a person, at their discretion, through editing. That’s the risk/price for one’s 15 minutes of fame. Or in this case, just a few minutes.

A participant’s best content may be left on the cutting room floor, in favor of an unrepresentative Theater of the Absurd.

The Race to the Bottom

The truly sad part is that a prestigious show, such as 20/20 does not even look as professional as week night entertainment shows. It does not inform or educate, effectively. It attempts to entertain. In the main, it fails at that, too.

Engagement is a Process

The joy of engagement can be short-lived. Today’s wedding couple is overwhelmed with information, and rarely understand the time necessary to understand the multitude of decisions in front of them, before they make them.

It helps to have sufficient resources, but that’s not the most important factor. Making great decisions, and avoiding key bad decisions is the key to a successful wedding and reception.

There is no substitute for a professional wedding planner to help a bride and groom in shaping their priorities and budget, as a precursor to making solid choices, bundled with necessary mid-course corrections.

Going to the Video

As painful as it will be to watch Wedding Confidential again (and again), I’ve decided to review the show in segments, and share my opinions about what it communicates and accomplishes – good, bad, and indifferent.

20/20 is (or was) a credible brand (to me). It is necessary for wedding professionals to understand how they are portrayed in Wedding Confidential. Engaged couples often latch on to the first information they view or read. When it’s presented by a network news magazine, credibility is often attributed, without question. It should not be, but it is.

Normally, I would be angry with such a shoddy portrayal. Actually, I’m just sorely disappointed with such a weak effort at both news stories and entertainment.

Shame on you, 20/20… This is far below the standards of a historically credible news magazine.

Voice your displeasure with the show on their ABC 20/20 Facebook Page

Watch the entire 20/20 Wedding Confidential segment on the ABC site. It’s about 40 painful minutes of programming 

 

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

 

 

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert

Bridal Show Success: How to measure it

Bridal ShowBridal Show season is in full effect. If you’ve been wise enough to take part in one or more credible bridal shows, it’s likely you’ve made lots of appointments… maybe even a few sales at the show.

It’s common for bridal show representative to make-the-rounds in the last couple of hours of the show.

There are typically two points of conversation.

  • “How has the show been for you?”
  • “Just wanted to let you know, we included the paperwork to renew for next show(s) in the packed placed on your table, this morning. If you renew, today, you’ll receive a discount (some %). You can stop by our booth to ask any question or drop off the paperwork.”

Question #1 is a trick question, for most people. Bridal show success is not measured by the number of brides that came through the door. Winter shows usually draw bigger crowds than summer or fall shows (in most markets).

question-markToo many attendees can even be a negative. It puts everyone in a state of overwhelm. One wants quality time with brides and their entourage.

While some exhibitors (particularly inexperienced ones) invest bridal show time to make sales, most wedding companies know that primary goal is to schedule appointments with prospective clients. If you make some sales that nice, but if you take too much time attempting sales, that focus will distract from making appointments.

For most exhibitors, the right answer to Question #1 is:

“It’s too early to say whether the show has been good. I won’t know for 30-60 days after I’ve worked through the appointments I scheduled.”

There’s another element in play. Not all brides that come to a show are on the same buying timeline. Some became engaged last week, some three months ago, and so on. If a business is not in the bride’s immediate buying priorities, it’s difficult to schedule an appointment at the show, let alone make a sale.

The better move is to ask when one might be in contact, down the line. Or, working back from the wedding date, use the various planning calendar timelines to schedule emails, postcards, and phone calls.

Not all brides will follow the ‘standard timeline priorities’, but many will. Brides have many decisions to make and can’t/don’t make them all at once. Acknowledge that reality, and do your best to use that information to your advantage.

Question #2: Renewing for the next Bridal Show, today!

You’re tired… It feels like the last week has been entirely focused in the bridal show. Your feet hurt and maybe a bit edgy from all your bride interactions.

You are just finishing the bridal show and the show producer already has their hand out for more money, for the next show.

Get over it!

It’s entirely likely that your business used some kind of urgency-based-promotion to entice the bride to make an appointment or a purchase. The Bridal Show Producer is doing the same thing.

Unless this is your first show, or something has gone dramatically wrong, during this show (and I don’t mean weather), then renewing for the next show should be a foregone conclusion.

By making a commitment, today, you benefit from a discount, lock down your booth assignment, and minimize unnecessary decision making time.

In my experience as an exhibitor, I usually contracted for multiple shows. Whatever the situation, I asked the Bridal Show Producer NOT to swing by my booth and ask these perfunctory questions. The only exception was to remind me, IF I has said I would drop off a signed agreement for the next show, and had failed to do so. And please…. never ask me if the show was successful (for the reasons stated above). To me, asking me if the show was successful was, at best, like a tele-marketer reader a script. At worst, it was insult to my intelligence.

To me, the funny aspect for all business people is (and the bride)…

“We like to buy… We don’t like being sold to.”

Do your best to put these simple decisions and actions in perspective. These interactions are not complicated. Just try to see matters through the other person’s perspective, whether you are a show producer or exhibitor.

It really makes the relationship much less bumpy.

Hope your bridal show participation is successful. And, don’t forget to do the follow up… The business that does the best follow-up is THE BIG WINNER.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

 

 

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert