Business

The Splendid Five with a Wedding Boutique Owner in West Virginia

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

  Photo by    Keith Cephus

Photo by Keith Cephus

Today, we’re meeting Belle Manjong, an attorney-turned-wedding professional. Belle offers wedding planning and floral design services and also owns a retail bridal boutique in downtown Charleston, West Virginia.

Name: Belle Manjong
Company Name: Boutique by B.Belle Events
Wedding Industry Segment: Bridal Fashion Retail / Wedding Planning + Floral
Years in Industry: 13
Location: Charleston, West Virginia
Website: bbelleevents.com
Instagram: @boutiquebybelle

1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I began in the industry as an event planner. As an associate at a large corporate law firm that stressed community service and engagement, I sat on a number of boards of non-profit organizations. I found myself gravitating toward fundraising events, particularly the formal galas. With the assistance of committee members, the first gala chaired was the most successful in the fifty plus years of the organization and very well received. In fact, I has hired for my first wedding event at that gala. After years of moonlighting, I left the legal profession to in order to fully commit myself to event planning which I found far more fulfilling. Seven years ago, we added a floral department and five years ago, added an experiential bridal boutique.  

Promo film for The Boutique by B.Belle Events by Filmanatixclick here to view film if reading via RSS or email subscription

2. How has the industry changed since you started?

The industry has far may more options. As far as innovations, it is constantly changing with new, fresher, more exciting ideas and production. However, the saturation of the market and lack of need of accreditation of any sort means the prevalence of fly-by-night operations is even greater. I feel that with each passing year, there are new layers and ideas brides and grooms can incorporate into their special day: from invitations; wedding gowns, suits and tuxes; to food options; design and decor. There is always a new, interesting twist that can be brought to the table. 

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?

You are only as good as your most recent event. This is not an industry in which one rests on their laurels — the envelope is constantly being pushed and one can always do better. Ideas are plentiful, mastery and execution make all the difference. It’s an industry of love and people: if one does it only because they think its fun and can make lots of money without recognition of the human element, the humanity, one will surely fail or be miserable working in the industry.

   Keyshia Ka’oir’s    bridal party in    Christopher Paunil    gowns from The Boutique by B.Belle Events.

Keyshia Ka’oir’s bridal party in Christopher Paunil gowns from The Boutique by B.Belle Events.

4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?

Only your clients truly matter — do great work, remain humble, and constantly push to do and better for your client — and if they are happy you will always be able to do what you love. People genuinely want to be helpful and they do so with referrals and become your ambassador. Also, being yourself and infusing yourself is everything — avoid copying — take great ideas and make them your own with your own twist.

5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?

Success is slow and steady. You determine your personal success, and if you base it on the content of your bank account, you may never fully succeed in the conventional way that success is defined. For me, I have learned that what is most important is about being significant. Was I a significant force to my clients, to someone? Did I help someone realize a dream or vision in a way that they will always treasure it?

Also, look over your shoulder, not to compete, but to better yourself. You are your most valuable asset, no one can be you or have your ideas. 

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 Splendid Five with a Luxury Wedding Planner in Thailand

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

This week we’re meeting Nipunika Singh (left, pictured with Kripa Singh), founder of Élan Events by Nipunika, a luxury wedding planning and design firm based in Thailand and specializing in destination weddings.

Name: Nipunika Singh
Company Name: Élan Events by Nipunika
Wedding Industry Segment: Wedding Planning and Design
Years in Industry: 10
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Website: elanebn.com
Instagram: @elan_ebn

  The destination wedding of actress    Amrita Puri    and Imrun Sethi.

The destination wedding of actress Amrita Puri and Imrun Sethi.

1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?

What started as a leisurely hobby turned into a full business! Always being an aesthete, I had a knack for dressing and decorating spaces. Friends and acquaintances were quick to notice this and many asked me to help stylize their family weddings. Soon after, clients began reaching out to me. When I realized how much I enjoyed designing decor it evolved into a full time profession and just like that, Élan Events was founded. 

  At a wedding in Phuket, this custom mandap was covered with hundreds of tiny mirrors to reflect the sparkle of the sun and water.

At a wedding in Phuket, this custom mandap was covered with hundreds of tiny mirrors to reflect the sparkle of the sun and water.

2. How has the industry changed since you started?

Expectations have increased as everyone's visions have widened. With social media, many wedding blogs, and Pinterest, everyone has access to more. This means all our clients request more variety and want to explore many options before settling for their wedding design. All our brides are also more particular about selecting something different for themselves in an interest stand apart. 

  Bollywood singer    Mika Singh    entertaining wedding guests during cocktails.

Bollywood singer Mika Singh entertaining wedding guests during cocktails.

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?

As a creative person, you instinctively want to give your imagination free reign. It becomes easy to get carried away when working on designs and you want to conveniently overlook that everyone always has a budget. 

As important as it is to be able to cater to what your clients want and more, it's also very important to be realistic with them and not overcommit or else you'll end up promising one thing and delivering another. I learnt this the hard way, but over the years I've become very clear and conscious of what we promise our couples so that each one can eventually say "we got so much more than we even expected." 

Sehar and Husnell’s destination wedding in Bangkok, filmed by Doodle Studioclick here to view the film if reading via RSS or email subscription

4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?

Sometimes your bride will have a completely different vision to yours. At first this would make me want to change theirs or go and meditate but now I've learnt that nothing is more important than giving your bride what she wants for her day. It's about guiding her and finding a way to marry her vision with your style. 

  The minimalistic mandap design allowed the natural beauty of the island’s beaches to shine.

The minimalistic mandap design allowed the natural beauty of the island’s beaches to shine.

5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?

There is a fine line between being accommodating and being pushed over. Planning and designing a wedding is a very personalized process involving many emotions and as important as it is to be sensitive towards your couples and their families, it is also important that they treat you with the same respect and level of trust. 

Don't compromise on your integrity, don't slash your prices to compete with others, and don't make promises you can't keep. 

Stay inspired, stay focused, stay positive!