Behind the Veil

Brides, grooms and their wedding parties are frantically busy and need help fast . . . hey, that's your cue.

Ah, the flowers. the dresses. the menu. The cake. The registry. So many things to think about when planning a wedding. With today's brides and grooms so often overwhelmed by all that goes into saying "I do," smart entrepreneurs willing to step in and relieve the stress are poised to gather some well-earned profits.

Entrepreneurs are busting out of the wedding-consultant role (although that's still a big industry) and moving into less traditional businesses. These entrepreneurs have recognized which needs aren't being met . . . and are stepping right in, starting everything from a Web site for bridesmaids to a wedding chapel in a Minnesota mall.

MaryAnne London found a need when she saw a wedding chapel in a strip mall in Detroit in 1994. "It just caught my imagination," she says. "I figured someone was going to do it in Minneapolis, and I wanted to be that somebody." She took the idea for an elegant wedding chapel to the Mall of America, which has a program to help new retailers get their businesses off the ground. They loaned her fixtures for the store, and, as she says, "they've been a real partner in the chapel-I could not have done it without the right landlord."

New to retailing, London, 54, is a full-time marketing communications consultant-she runs the Chapel of Love on the side. But when sales started flattening out two years ago, London was ready for her next challenge: She started selling accessories and apparel for bridesmaids and flower girls-sending sales to more than $500,000 annually for the past two years.

Add-ons are an important component of any bridal business, says Brian Lawrence, author of the self-published The Wedding Expert's Guide to Sales & Marketing and vice president of sales and marketing for Encore Studios, an invitation manufacturer in Clifton, New Jersey. "[Entrepreneurs] have to think about the constant pursuit of add-ons," Lawrence says. "Contact your existing customers and sell them more." Bridal gifts for bridesmaids and ushers are often last-minute purchases, as are unique touches for the reception, like ice carvings and little trinkets. "People want something unique and different," he continues. "If they get exposed to [a cool product], they just [might] go for it."

WEDDING BY THE NUMBERS
  • Every year, 2.4 million couples get married.
  • The wedding industry is valued at $100 billion.
  • Nearly half of all couples use the Internet to plan and purchase for a wedding.
  • Median age of first marriage is 24 for women and 25.9 for men. Median age for remarriage is 34.2 for women and 37.4 for men.

    * MEDIAN AGE STATISTICS SOURCE: SelltheBride.com
    OTHER STATISTICS SOURCE: Modern Bride

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This article was originally published in the February 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Behind the Veil.

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