Wedding Business Expert

Are Wedding Magazines Dead?

A lot has happened in the world of bridal publishing over the past six months, and it’s understandably left people confused and wondering about both the state of print and what couples today are doing when it comes to making their wedding decisions. To recap, if you’re not fully up to date:

From a business standpoint, this last part is a smart move on the part of the lifestyle magazines. Weddings are feel-good content focused on celebrating values almost everyone can get behind: love, hope, commitment, joy, family, and community. Who doesn’t want to feel good, especially when the world right now so often doesn’t? Unless you’re getting married or are helping a friend who is, you’re probably not going to purchase a bridal magazine off the rack just to boost your mood. Your brain, however, is going to subconsciously associate Vogue with making you a little bit happier when you flipped through it last month, so that’s likely the mag you’ll pick up again. Mainstream magazines now including weddings in their issues is business strategy, plain and simple.

Purchasing a wedding magazine is an unspoken rite of passage for many women, an act that – much like trying on a wedding dress for the first time – gives that “oh wow, this is really happening!” feeling and one that is deeply engrained in the wedding culture of most Western societies.

I’m not going to comment on what led each of the companies to land at the decisions they did, as each company has different goals, financial targets, marketing and sales practices, as well as upper management teams who may or may not be involved in the industry (nor have any understanding of it) making choices on their behalf.

I am going to clear up some confusion as to the question of whether or not today’s couples buy print wedding magazines: THEY DO.

According to our research with Splendid Insights, 79% of brides or grooms who got married last year purchased a print version of a wedding magazine and 1 in 4 (25%) purchased it before they were even engaged! Nearly half (46%) used the bridal magazines on a daily or weekly basis while they were planning their wedding.

Not only do today’s engaged couples buy bridal magazines, they use them to hire their wedding professionals.

If you read the 2018 Global Wedding Market Report, it shows that only 13% of couples hired at least one of their wedding vendors or suppliers from a magazine feature or advertisement. This is because this is the general report and includes all budget segments and people having an intimate wedding and spending less than $1000 total (think elopements or just a few guests) are included in that number.

If you take a look at the wedding market reports for the budget segments of your target clients, you will see a more accurate picture of what the couples you are specifically marketing to are actually doing when it comes to their weddings.

For example, in the luxury wedding segment (budgets of $96,000-$500,000), 30% of couples hired one or more of their wedding pros after finding them through a wedding magazine feature or advertisement. 64% were flipping through a wedding magazine at least once a week while they were planning.

In the ultra-luxury wedding segment (budgets of $500,000+), that number is even higher: 1 in 3 couples (33%) hired at least one of their vendors because of a magazine feature or ad.

It should also be noted that several local wedding magazines and bridal magazines catering to niche or often overlooked segments of the market, such as Munaluchi Bride (focusing on multi-cultural weddings), are doing well. Considering the other closures an indictment of print in general is a mistake.

The people declaring print to be dead haven’t done their homework. Engaged couples are still buying bridal magazines, and they are using the inspirational and practical information they find in the pages to help them plan their weddings.

Create your marketing plans based more on data that shows what is really happening than on anecdotes or Chicken Little-esque “the sky is falling!” proclamations. Most importantly, don’t allow fear to overtake your business decisions.

The Biggest Pricing Mistake Wedding Pros Make

photo by    Cameron Clark

photo by Cameron Clark

The biggest mistake that I see wedding pros make time and time again is this: sending pricing to a couple before they even talk to them.

Here’s how it might play out:

  1. A bride or groom contacts you asking for pricing.

  2. You send a beautifully designed pricing PDF.

  3. They ask if you have their date available (you do!).

  4. They hire you (maybe).

Let’s say they do hire you. Hooray!

For this scenario, let’s say you’re either a wedding photographer or a wedding planner. And, for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that you’re charging them $5000 for “complete coverage” or “full planning” with “unlimited hours” – the flat fee quoted for that package in your beautifully designed pricing PDF.

$5000 seems reasonable. After all, as far as you can tell, that’s around what your competitors charge (maybe). Plus, it’s more than you charged last year, so that has to be good, right?

Then you begin learning the real deal about this wedding you landed:

  • The wedding is a multi-day event and you’re expected to be at the rehearsal, lobster bake welcome party/rehearsal dinner, wedding morning beachside bike-a-thon and breakfast picnic, The Wedding, after party, and farewell brunch. Your top package promised a flat fee for “unlimited hours” with no limitation on how many days or events those hours applied to.

  • The wedding is at a venue that has incredibly strict rules about load-in/load-out schedules, which will require you to hire more staff/labor to get everything off the trucks and set up on time.

  • Some of the events are in multiple locations, so you’ll need staff at various properties to ensure everything is set up and runs smoothly/gets photographed and documented.

  • You’ll need to manage set up of catering and staffing prep tents, which normally wouldn’t be a huge deal, except for the time crunch this venue has you under.

  • The wedding is at a venue that has some obscure insurance requirements that your current liability certificates don’t cover, meaning you’ll have to fork out extra cash for a special rider before you can step foot on property.

  • The wedding is black-tie and the nice-but-not-formal wedding day outfits you typically wear with branded aprons aren’t appropriate. You’ll have to budget for clothing allowances for your team.

  • The wedding is going to be published, and the magazine has arranged to bring in an outside photographer to exclusively shoot all their photos, so your photo credit won’t be the one featured in any of the press outlets. You were counting on being able to use all the photos for marketing and PR and now that opportunity is gone, without an adjustment in pay for you.

By the time you’ve added up all the hours you’ve spent working on this particular wedding, subtracted payroll, normal overhead like your studio rent or home office costs, the additional unexpected expenditures above, taxes, etc, you’ve probably lost money on this wedding.

$5000 sounded good, but it wasn’t based on real numbers so it ended up being real money running through your pockets and into everyone else’s.

If you send out pricing before having a conversation with potential clients, make today the day you break that habit.

The conversation can be over email, and if you can get them on the phone, even better. A note on this: phone is ideal for a lot of vendors, because it is a more natural conversation, but it can be difficult for potential clients to carve out time for phone calls during their work days, especially if they have demanding jobs (teachers, nurses, doctors, attorneys, finance execs, etc). You’re not the only wedding professional they’re considering and if you make it too much of a hassle for them they’ll move on to the next person on their list without a second thought.

You don’t necessarily need to dial down every detail of their wedding during this initial conversation, but you do need to have a basic understanding of the scope of what they are hoping to accomplish before you quote them a price.

If you are going to be a creative professional, you have to price yourself in a way that is sustainable. Protect yourself from burnout by having these key conversations first.

Competing to Succeed

Too many people are dismissive of what real competition looks like, or that exists at all. The industry newcomers don’t have the skill set, connections, or years in the game that you do, so they can’t possibly compete with you. The other person doesn’t even play in the same sandbox as you, so they obviously aren’t a competitor.

Here’s the truth: budgets are limited, no matter how large. If a person or company competes for the same dollars in a budget, they’re your competitor. If a potential client hires them and therefore no longer has as much money left to hire you, that professional is a competitor. This means that an event planner is often in a position of competing with a splurge-worthy photographer. A business consultant competes with a workshop. A restaurant where an entrepreneur spends money getting face-to-face with potential clients competes with a publisher’s ad platform.

Many of the people you may not consider competition are serious about building a brand that makes what you bring to the table less relevant. And the more you keep your head in the sand about who does and does not compete with you, the better for them.

You can be friends with and build community with your competitors and there is certainly room for many people to be successful – but you cannot succeed if you don’t compete.

Originally published March 2015