Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meet me at the alter

This idea is for all the lovers out there.

More specifically, the lovers getting married.

Anyone who's ever tried to plan a wedding, or watched a friend planning a wedding, or had the pleasure (used loosely) of viewing the movie 'Bride Wars', knows how stressful planning a wedding can be. This idea seeks to eliminate some of that stress.

The problem:
Despite the fact that weddings are supposed to be glorious, fun-filled occasions where two people declare their love for all to see, the stress of actually putting a wedding together can turn even the sweetest couple into sworn enemies.

Why? First of all, weddings are expensive as BALLS. According to the people who know these sorts of things, on average, US couples spend $24,000 on their wedding. That's right, people are spending TWENTY FOUR G'S on a 30 minute ceremony, a plate of dry chicken, and the opportunity to watch grandma do the electric slide.

Second, planning a wedding means purchasing and coordinating a lot of different services, including:
  • Florists
  • Cake makers
  • Caterers
  • Gown retailers
  • Tuxedo rental providers
  • Wine suppliers
  • Reception designers
  • Ceremony officiators 
...the list goes on and on.  Sometimes brides will hire a wedding planner to help them coordinate all of the moving parts, but in doing so they a) add on additional costs and b) still spend a good deal of time going from place to place with their planner, trying to find the best buttercream-frosted spongecake money can buy.

You just spent $2400 on cake. CAKE.

The solution:
Consolidate all of the moving parts of planning a wedding into one central hub. Let's call it "KJ's Mega-fly Wedding Superstore Extravaganza". Or we can work on the name later.

Anyway, here's how I'm envisioning this Wedding Superstore would work. We would house all of the essential wedding services in one building (we'd need several floors, obviously). The first floor would be gowns, 2nd floor would be the caterers, wine suppliers, and cake-making companies, 3rd floor would be the florists and reception designers, etcetera etcetera.

Brides who buy a gown with us get the services of an in-house wedding planner for free, if they agree to use at least 3 of our in-house services - which...wait for it... they get at a discount. SAY WHAT!?

I envision this scenario being a win-win-win.

The bride wins because she

a) saves money with the free wedding planner and the discounted services and
b) saves time running around, because everything she needs is in one spot

My partner companies win because they

a) have a guaranteed customer base and
b) don't have to worry about marketing costs, since marketing will be provided

And I win because

a) I get to spend all day thinking about weddings (every girl's dream) and
b) I get rich. Filthy, filthy rich.

What are the cons, you ask? HOW COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE ANY CONS?!?

No seriously, this plan has plenty of potential flaws. For one thing, since I have no intention of actually starting all of these business from scratch, I'd have to work with a LOT of different business, somehow incentivizing all of them to set up shop with me.  The legal implications of that make my head hurt.

For another thing, I have no expertise in any of these industries...could make finding investors a bit difficult.

But why focus on the negative? The question is - is it a good idea? If it is, I can work on the particulars later.  Holler back.

Shout out to: Slaton bakery, terrellvanity, bvonlove,


  1. Interesting. but isn't that what wedding planners are for? I love discounts, but as the bougie bride I WILL be, I wouldn't want to shop at the costco for weddings. that seems so.... unromantic. perhaps focus on the experience of a one stop shop. minimize the stress without making the wedding seem so wholesale.


  2. Weddings take a long time to plan because brides are picky, not because a lot of time is spent physically moving from the florist to the cake maker to the gown retailer to caterer etc. All of those decisions are made on different days over a long period of time, so having them all located in one central hub doesn't really offer any value to the customer (i.e. the bride). Furthermore, in order for this business to make $$$ (which obviously is the point), there would have to be some synergies between all of the different services. Otherwise there would be no way that you, as the owner, could offer some of these services for free/discount and still be profitable. All of the services you listed are very low margin businesses (because of low barriers to entry and lack of differentiation), so offering these services at a discount means you would likely lose money. Lastly, in the business model you described you would basically be acting as an agent for all of your partners and would essentially be taking a commission from them for bringing in customers. The only reason someone would pay you a commission is if you bring in incremental customers that they otherwise would not have been able to attract, and the only way you would be able to do that is by spending a lot of money on marketing/advertising. Again, this money spent on marketing would eat at your already razor-thin margins and would turn profit into loss.

    My 2 cents,

  3. @Brandon A

    Awesome feedback Brandon, thanks. A few things:

    While I agree part of the reason wedding planning takes time is because brides are picky, the main idea behind consolidating the services is to cut back on stress. And by having multiple services in one place, time-spent is necessarily cut back (though, to your point, perhaps not significantly).

    As far as margins - part of the thinking behind having the gown portion of the business be the 'anchor', so to speak, is because apparel margins are so high. Wedding gowns, shoes, bridesmaids dresses etc. have markups from 40-75%. So by requiring brides to purchase a gown in order to receive discounts on other services, we set ourselves on the right foot financially. That said, you make a great point about the synergies between businesses. I would definitely need to give this more thought, because you're right that unless we're able to find the business-to-business synergies, margins would quickly diminish.

    (Some synergies I've thought about so far are between florists/designers, caterers/wine suppliers, gown/tuxedo providers. But I have a lot more thinking to do.)

    Thanks again for your feedback!

  4. @ Jennifer Adaeze Anyaegbunam

    Also, I know I responded to you via Twitter, but I think it's worth posting here as well.

    Re: wedding planner
    If I'm understanding your question correctly, you want to know why someone would still need a wedding planner if she has all of these services already laid out for her. Based on my admittedly limited knowledge of wedding planning, it seems the crux of the job is coordination, not necessarily service selection. So, while having all of these services in one place would eliminate some of the stress of shopping around, brides would likely still want help bringing the moving parts together.

    As for the "Costco of weddings" -
    You make a good point. But as the highly anticipated $99 gown sale at David's Bridal proves, not everyone can afford a luxury wedding. I think the broader point you're making, however, is certainly true: no bride wants to *feel* like she's having a discount wedding. So I'd have to market the business as an 'all-inclusive', 'stress-free' planning service, or something else that denotes savings without making a bride feel cheap.

    Thanks for your feedback!

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  6. If this idea were to work, I think it would be best implemented as a low-end offering. Maybe there are a lot of cash-strapped brides out there who want a little more than a Vegas chapel but don't need an extravaganza. Your ability to give them a prepackaged wedding in a one-stop shop, wholesale environment could be exactly what they want. Even better, that market is likely larger than the high end, so with the greater volume you could probably make more money than if you tried to cater to the high-end, bougie folk. Wal-mart does $400+Bn in sales per year whereas Macy's does $25Bn...I don't know about you but the bougie people can keep their prepubescent money while I sell to the masses and get Sam Walton rich. You would certainly have to be careful with the marketing of it as "stress-free" and not cheap, as you noted.

    Just to put some numbers in perspective, if an item has a 40% markup, that means it produces a 29% gross profit margin for the retailer selling it (revenue = 1.4, cost of goods = 1, gross profit = 0.4). Wal-Mart has gross margins of 25%, which basically means that on average it marks it's goods up by ~35%. The fact that the cheapest, wholesale discount-retailer gets a 35% markup shows that a 40% markup is not extremely attractive. In order to make filthy money selling goods with this kind of markup you have to sell in very high volume because the fixed costs like rent and labor are high and eat away at whatever profit you have left after selling the item. The real money goes to the ones making the luxury items. LVMH Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton has ~66% gross margins, which means that it has a markup of almost 300% for the items it sells. That's why having valuable brands is worth so much money