Online Marketing and the Plus-Sized Bride

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In light of the Marie Claire controversy this week (if you missed it, one of their bloggers wrote a vitriolic piece entitled "Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" about how overweight people gross her out), I wanted to repost this blog article I originally wrote in March about how the wedding industry often markets (or doesn't) to plus-sized brides. 

Before we get into that though, I'd like to give a nod to some people in the industry who are changing all this and celebrating love in all sizes:

  • Khris Cochran, the brilliant craftista behind the DIY Bride brand, launched Plumage this year, a fashion resource for plus-sized brides. It features real weddings of non-skinny brides (which, frankly, rarely show up on mainstream wedding blogs), as well as directories for both bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses in plus-sizes.
  • Strut Bridal Salon, in Phoenix, is the first bridal boutique that I know of (and if there are others, forgive me), that caters exclusively to brides sizes 12 and up, with a mantra that "curves are meant to be celebrated." They carry gown samples in sizes 16-32.
  • Randy Fenoli and Kleinfeld launched a new show called "Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss", which focuses on helping plus-sized women find their perfect dress and feel beautiful for their wedding day.
There may be others, but these are three companies that are focusing specifically on this market in a positive manner.

Here is the original article from March on the messages the wedding industry sends to brides online:

Online Marketing and the Plus-Sized Bride
originally published March 18, 2010

Last year, the Journal of Health Psychology published a study* of Australian brides-to-be and their pre-wedding weight concerns. The study included 879 brides with an average age of 26 recruited from five different Australian-based bridal websites. Here are some excerpts from their research:
  • 75% of the brides intended to exercise more and eat in a more healthy manner. 
  • 35% planned to cut out fat and carbohydrates from their diet.
  • 43% planned to use an indoor tanning bed before the wedding day.
  • 52% planned to undergo teeth whitening treatments.
  • Over 1/3 of the brides had been encouraged to lose weight for their wedding by someone else. (emphasis mine)
In light of this information, my questions relate to how the social media marketing efforts of various wedding companies contribute to the body image of brides. I have listened to several seminars of wedding industry educators - both in person and on educational DVD's and webinars - on how to attract the "ideal bride" as a client. Most have explicitly stated that a vendor should only show photos on their websites and blogs of "beautiful" brides and "only rings that have a diamond of [x] carats or more". I have been told, on more than one occasion and by different vendors, that they couldn't blog a wedding because the couple just wasn't "attractive enough". 

Many people will criticize bridal and fashion magazines for showing an unattainable image, yet turn around and run their own websites and blogs in the same way. Is this type of marketing really effective for weddings? I can think of three specific wedding photographers off the top of my head (and I'm sure there are many more) who will post photos of each wedding, regardless of how photogenic the couple may be. Each of these photographers was also completely booked during the down economy without having to discount prices or offer specials. Were their bookings related to their blogging practices? Maybe, maybe not. The fact of the matter is that their businesses were profitable without them having to only show model-thin and tanned couples through their marketing efforts.

While I do believe that each bride needs to take responsibility for her own actions, at what point do we become accountable, if at all, for encouraging unhealthy extremes? Do we have a responsibility in our own marketing practices as entrepreneurs to a bride's well-being? Is there a line? If so, where is it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.

*Note: I purchased this study through a subscription, so I am unable to link to it.

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