For Wedding Pros: Business Tips from International Wedding Summit

a special post for wedding professionals

On Tuesday this week an exciting event organized by The Wedding Salon was hosted in NYC. It was called The International Wedding Summit and presented a new educational horizon in weddings. Tatiana Byron, the founder of The Wedding Salon, launched this conference as a B2B event designed to help business owners learn from the biggest names in the bridal industry and key entrepreneurs. Some key tips discussed included staying true to one’s brand, the importance of customer service and thinking fast and acting fast in business.

Speakers included . . . Carley Roney (The Knot), Rory Tahari (Elie Tahari), Dylan Lauren (Dylan’s Candy Bar), David Berke (Colin Cowie Lifestyle), Sylvia Weinstock (Sylvia Weinstock Cakes), and Mara Urshel (Kleinfeld) who discussed their foray into the industry & plans for the future.

“We are thrilled by the success of The International Wedding Summit! After years of working in the bridal industry & marketing to brides, we began to see the need for a truly educational seminar led by industry leaders.  We were delighted to pull together the best business minds behind the biggest brands to create the ultimate learning experience,” reveals Tatiana Byron.

A common theme discussed during the Summit was the importance of staying true to ones brand, following your ‘gut instinct’ and abiding by a mission statement. Dylan Lauren told the story of splitting with her business partner in the early days of Dylan’s Candy Bar, as their brand vision differed. Lauren envisioned a luxury brand and was not willing to discount, because of this she had to turn down lucrative deals with malls and even Target, but she stuck with her mission and has now established the leading candy store in the country. 

Rory Tahari told about her days as Vice-Chairman of Elie Tahari, stressing the importance of adapting quickly to change, relaying “When Change is Inevitable, the Sooner the Better.” Tahari explained the difficulties managing a large company during an economic recession, saying that she was forced to think quickly & act.  Tahari had to make numerous cuts, but as painful as it was, it saved the company. Rory additionally stressed the importance of treating every person in a respectful manner, regardless of position, as you never know where you will meet again.

David Berke, President of Colin Cowie Lifestyle additionally spoke on the importance of branding and staying true to your brand telling how early on they used the word “Lifestyle” next to the Colin Cowie name to focus on the fact that Colin Cowie incorporated more than just weddings, from design of hotels and restaurants to custom Lenox china collections. Both Berke & Sylvia Weinstock explained the importance of staying true to brand even in times of recession mentioning that they did not drop pricing, but instead sought out new opportunities that incorporated different price points. Weinstock focused on birthday cakes & other cake-making opportunities during the recession, while Cowie pursued weddings and events at different budget points.

WeddingWire’s CMO, Sonny Ganguly discussed the importance of online marketing, as today’s bride lives online. This online boom is evident on Facebook, where 1.7 million women are listed as “Engaged” on the networking site. Ganguly explained that the difficult thing about bridal marketing is that the customer is always the same age. To stay ahead of technology, marketers must look to what teenagers are doing now, adapting their strategies to stay ahead of competition.

Carley Roney, told her story of how she launched The Knot starting with an idea, a vision and a focus, staying true to her brand and mission. Roney built the brand in the early days of internet by utilizing her own experience and the experience of engaged friends. She said an interesting notion with The Knot is that the majority of women aren’t even engaged yet, but are already signed up, showing that bridal marketing should start even before a woman is engaged.

Mara Urshel, co-founder of Kleinfeld, stressed the importance of customer service when dealing with brides. The engagement process is a stressful time period and vendors should continuously follow up with clients continuously to make sure the bride is comfortable and has all her questions answered. The majority of brides have friends who are engaged and word-of-mouth is irreplaceable, so always make sure each bride feels like they are the most important customer.