Disrupting the Wedding Industry

When I was looking for my current job (spoiler warning: I ended up being extremely happy at Flywheel), it almost broke my heart to get very far along in the interview process for Weddington Way, and ultimately not be offered the job.  Weddington sounded like fun people to work with, and the company was my target size, and the position seemed like the right one and blah-blah-blah, but also it’s doing the right thing.

I’m sitting here as my fiancée sleeps in on our last full day of bachelor(ette)hood, and I’m surrounded in our living room by the 12 boxes of stuff that we’re planning on trying to cram into our car and take down to the ceremony.  It’s only this little because one of my groomsmen came and took another eight boxes last night — and those are just the bulky physical elements of what has been a very long and expensive process.  We’re spending considerably more on our wedding than we did on our car, and that is — for people in our general demographic — not unusual.

I’m not railing against the expense of the wedding — I think it’s fun to once in your life throw a party that is extravagant by orders of magnitude more than the usual events you’re involved with, and we can ultimately afford it.  But I am railing against the time and effort we’ve spent planning this thing, which has stressed us both our (but her more than I, stereotypically enough) in varying degrees over the past year, and especially the past month.

We went through another life change at the same time: the living room I’m sitting in, surrounded by boxes, is in the house we just bought.  The house buying experience we had was heavily assisted by and mediated through Redfin, and we were thrilled by that.  Redfin’s product/service embraced every aspect of our house-buying experience, from the initial, “Oh, hey, let’s find some open houses to go gawk at” phase right up through the, “Oh god we need to finish our inspections” phase.

In contrast, our wedding experience has been nothing terribly different from what I imagine people did back in the 80’s.  Oh, sure, we used Yelp to look at reviews for vendors, and Pintrest to get ideas about what our wedding might look like.  We bought a few things from Etsy for the wedding, and all that has worked well enough.  But those are just replacement products.  We used Yelp rather than seeking testimonials from friends or family, or the advice of a wedding planner.  Pintrest is just like a bigger, more expansive wedding magazine.  Etsy is just a shop.

We don’t have any software that is mediating our core major tasks (vendor selection, big decisions about ceremony, aesthetics, major elements), and perhaps more importantly, we don’t have any software that is providing us with a framework for the wedding as a whole or any major elements of the wedding.  That’s what I was excited about about Weddington (and this is perhaps not terribly obvious from their website) — they don’t just sell you a bridesmaid dress, they give you way to structure the dress buying of your bridesmaids as a group, to track and control (or cede control of) the process.  (I encouraged my fiancée to explore using Weddington, but she felt slighted that I didn’t get a job there and was not enthused).

For wedding planning in particular, having something that gives you a framework, that helps you order and manage your tasks, that helps you coordinate with all the various people (vendors, yes, but also friends, family, and wedding party) that you’re doing this with, seems like it would seriously lower the stress level of the whole process.

As an example: various members of the wedding party are renting tuxedos, which means that they also need to get fitted for a tuxedo well in advance of the wedding.  So the way that worked is we emailed them, and then at some point we were at Men’s Warehouse and found out that not all of them had actually gotten the fitting, so we emailed them again and blah-blah-blah.  No major technology needs to be invented here to make this easier: it’s basically just like an Evite.  Invite a group of people to do something.  The webpage tracks their status and sends them reminders when deadlines are coming up.  The owner of the event can see what they’re doing.  Easy.

We liked using Redfin.  It’s not just that it was cheaper than using a conventional realtor — that was the bonus, for us.  Prior to figuring out that Redfin is the best product, we were using other real estate websites that didn’t offer us a cost savings.  I think that this is not atypical for the under-40 generation.  We in general like a well-designed computer-mediated experience.  We’d prefer to order food from a website than call on the phone.  We’d prefer to get a taxi with our smartphones than either stand on the street waving our hands or calling dispatch (ahem).  And I see no reason to believe that we wouldn’t like a computer mediated wedding-planning experience — even outside of the financial value proposition.

And the business models here seem pretty straightforward.  You could go with advertising, a “we’re like a wedding planner but cheaper, pay us” deal, the Weddington approach of “buy our stuff and we’ll give you the management system for free” deal, whatever.

The wedding industry in the United States is $40 billion per year.  There are opportunities here.

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