State of the Industry, Part 3

Millennial Weddings

Editor's note: Over the next few days, enjoy an 8-part series on disruptions that may affect your business in 2018 and beyond. They are:

Part 1: Natural Disasters and Disaster Relief

Part 2: Ownership & Planning for the Next Generation

Part 3: Millennial Weddings

Part 4: Corporate Catering

Part 5: Staffing Woes

Part 6: Sustainability & Food Waste Concerns

Part 7: Commodity vs Expertise

Part 8: Food Trends for 2018

Check back often for the next installment!

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During a conversation with a Lyft driver toward the end of November 2017, she began to talk about her dreams and ideas for her 2019 wedding. “I want Chipotle to cater it,” she said. “I’m serious!” She followed with, “There’s also this venue—it does everything for you! You don’t have to worry about a thing, they will take care of it all!” Finally, “What’s the difference between a wedding consultant and a wedding planner?”

No one wants to hear words such as those, but they are becoming more prevalent. Quick serve is taking a bite out of traditional caterer revenue; full service restaurants are becoming one stop shops for venue, ceremony, food, and beverage; and the lines between planner and coordinator are increasingly blurry.

“Our industry version of ‘Fake News’ is the bashing we are receiving from mainstream media,” said Rebecca Grinnals, President, Engaging Concepts. “All of us are out to get all of them,” she said about millennial couples, explaining that the barrage of information about the costs of DJs, cakes, venues, and more can be confusing. “The wedding industry’s dysfunction is a product of its highly bespoke services,” said Catherine Rampell in an article for The Times back in 2013, “and as a result, greater transparency might not bring down prices anyway.”

The actual problem is, however, “The average wedding spend is … the average wedding spend. If you are in a market that is significantly over this amount, you are fighting middle America,” says Grinnals.

And around and around we go.

Anticipate disruption: To-be-weds are overwhelmed and stressed with choices. Make that your opportunity. “There is an average of 43 businesses involved in a wedding,” said Grinnals. “All of these companies are coming at the couple for a piece of the proverbial wedding cake.”

“The vast majority of you are in the happy business,” says Sean Low in his The Business of Being Creative. “The memory business most of all. If your clients are not forever touched by what you do for them, then you have not done your job.”

Here are some other disruption-breakers from Grinnals:

• Do not overlook the groom in your wedding marketing experience or sales messaging. According to Grinnals, 65% of today’s grooms are actively involved in wedding planning—especially the food.

• Reply to queries immediately. 94% of millennial couples say the speediness of email replies matters most when hiring a wedding pro. She suggests replying within one to two hours, tops.

Inserting an element of fun into a wedding is high on the list for millennials. Photo courtesy Jaclyn Watson Events

• Incorporate fun. 75% of millennial couples from high end to low end want their weddings to be fun. Grinnals notes that 94% of wedding couples want their guests to believe they just attending the best wedding ever. Do you show "fun" on your website?

• Incorporating and expressing individuality and personality within a wedding hits near 100% on the “important” scale. “Unique” is the new cool. What has never been done at a wedding before? Couples want that. 

• Remember that marketing to one demographic does you a disservice. Beyond the millennial wedding (and yes, there are a lot of them), encore weddings, multigenerational weddings, second marriages (of which roughly 65% involve children), later-in-life weddings, and vow renewals are a growing market.

• Finally, do not neglect the importance of your bar program. Cocktail reception spending, says Grinnals quoting The Knot, has gone up 76%. It should be a leading marketing message.

• Destination weddings continue to rise. How do you promote your city outside of those who live there?

• Cocktails are sexy. Food is sexy. If you have photos on your website that are older than four years, replace them. "Your photos are being judged," says Grinnals.

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Part 4 continues on Monday, January 9

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Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Catersource, which includes print and digital content, as well as live education at both Catersource, the Art of Catering Food, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit.