Observed

Try as they might, supply chains, labor shortages, and rising costs can’t stop love. In the U.S., 2.5 million weddings are planned for 2022, but love doesn’t come for free. $60 billion dollars will be spent by the end of the year, which is very good news for the wedding industry.

But the business of weddings is so big, and so localized, the word “industry” is actually a misnomer. Like other service-based sectors, the aggregate of money involved is enormous but diffuse. Hundreds of thousands of venues, photographers, caterers, DJs, transportation providers, and on and on and on…

The sheer numbers create sharp pain points for the people who are, y’know, actually getting married. At Small Planet we’ve been talking about ways we could help ease that pain through “wedding tech solutions” (wedtech!). But first, let’s identify a few of these ailments.

Pain Point #1: Booking Vendors

Booking vendors requires a lot of manual work. First, you’re often dealing with a lack of transparency with vendor pricing. Nobody wants to scare you off, so they require you to contact them for additional information. 

That opens up a dialogue for bargaining, which is never fun. Of course, additional fees are always lurking when you don’t see the price tag upfront. It just takes so much more time than a simple menu of prices you can compare.

Also, there’s no concentrated place to see trusted vendor reviews. It’s the wild west out there. So, communities have sprung up everywhere around inspired homegrown solutions made by other brides (hello, Brides of Long Island).

There’s a clear market here. People want the bridal industry to be more tech-forward, and are creating solutions on their own. And they want some kind of cross-comparison tool that can easily extract the real costs involved.

Pain Point 2: Analog Coordination

Vendors can be slow to embrace technology. Many of them require you to call them or meet in person to get pricing. So, a lot of phone calls back and forth, which eats up time you don’t have.

But that’s nothing compared to the client side. Once a vendor is booked, there are tons of decisions to be made and no easy way to know what questions need to be answered.  The very nature of a wedding — specific tastes, distinct locations, custom touches, different schedules — means there is a completely unique decision tree for every couple.

Staying organized still relies on basic spreadsheets and binders to track:

  • Vendor contact information
  • Payment due dates (they vary vendor-to-vendor and reminders are not a given)
  • Tracking purchases  (decor, stationery, gifts for the bridal party, etc.)
  • Tracking the overall amount of money spent against a budget

Pain Point 3: Gathering Guest Lists + Information

The guest list: bane of event planners since the dawn of events. Online RSVP forms and Google Sheets were evolutionary leaps forward, but the process is still deeply ad hoc. 

Final lists are matters of faith as much as science, and even after all the reminders, phone calls, emails, file merging, manual entry of written replies, and last-minute additions/subtraction, you’re still alarmingly light on detail. Yes or no, plus one, dietary restrictions … that’s about it. 

Juicy data like hotel and travel info, seating preferences, arrival and departure dates/times, cell phone numbers, and special requests would be tremendously helpful.

Pain Point 4: Corralling Inspiration

Translating your vision into reality requires sourcing inspiration and decor from numerous places. That’s a given, but it’s actually kind of fun when you first dip your toe into it. Everything looks great, every design choice looks awesome.

Or should I say it’s fun at the beginning. Then the Instagram-friendly tidal wave of pictures, articles, and videos becomes quite fatiguing. I’ve spent hours curating Pinterest mood boards to capture the look I’m going for, only to start over a week later. There’s still no clean, intuitive way to organize all that inspo in a meaningful, actionable way.

Pain Point 5: Division of Labor

News flash: on occasion, one partner ends up doing the vast majority of emotional and mental labor required for a wedding’s planning, coordination, execution, and follow-up. (Thank you notes, anyone?)

This lopsided situation can be fueled by many factors: ascribed gender roles, cultural biases, couple dynamics, family influences. It makes fertile ground for massive stress and resentment. Plus, it’s unfair, sometimes grossly sexist,  and just plain inefficient.

Solutions

Wedding tech runs into a  predictable commercial argument. Namely, no repeat customers. Or rather, infrequent and unpredictable repeat customers.

Tech companies want you to use their product every day, for years, loyally paying a subscription fee. The churn for wedding-related products is just too high. Meh. Really? People typically purchase cars or homes at long intervals, and there are plenty of digital tools catering to those sectors.

Of course a similar purchasing pattern exists in another high-churn, big-money sector: the death business, which is also deeply underserved by technology. That’s for another time. For now, let’s talk solutions.

A Project Management Tool for Weddings

I know, do we need another Mondays.com or Trello or Jira-like portal in our lives? My hot take: yes. A true weddings portal would solve SO MANY problems, creating a unified space for:

  • Involved parties could send messages, make notes, tag people for questions,  set automatic reminders, share calendars, assign tasks.
  • Guest list organization. Allow third parties (like, say, mothers-in-law) to add names, addresses, and travel details to your guest list. Easy to update and export from.
  • Wedding theme quiz. The engagement possibilities here are robust. A portal could give you suggested floral design, decor, bridal party attire, etc. based on quiz results.

This PM tool could easily be reskinned and branded to fit other events like graduations, birthdays, and bar or bat mitzvahs. Offer customers a monthly or yearly plan, 5 user seats included with the option to upgrade, and add-ons like RSVP management or wedding website hosting.

A Wedding Review Site

This one’s a no-brainer. Why isn’t there a reliable source for wedding vendor reviews? Doesn’t seem like a huge lift development-wise, it’s really about moderating opinions, vetting reviews, and creating a nice UX experience.

That’s easier said than done, for sure, but a platform for reviews could cover a lot of essential ground. You could have subsections for venues, transportation providers, wedding planners, caterers, etc, and drill down by state or metropolitan area.

A Vendor Portal

How about a portal for vendors to communicate with potential and existing clients? Involved parties could send messages, make notes, tag people for questions, set automatic payment reminders, share calendars, and post and pay invoices.

Clients can log in and see what open items they have with the vendor (for example: updating and sharing the “do not play” list with the band or DJ, a critical piece of wedding enjoyment). Vendors who work in tandem with each other can communicate via the portal. You can view that crosstalk and chime in.

There are scattershot portals out there attempting to do this, but nothing’s caught on in any meaningful way. The portal needs to be a unifier, flexible enough for everyone from florists to limo drivers, and be universally easy to use. The UX needs to be super-strong, the benefits immediately evident, in order for vendors to change their routines and take it seriously. That takes time and deliberate user testing (and money).

A Task App

Ok, solving the emotional labor part of weddings is going to take some time.

To get things going, we were thinking of something along the lines of a wellness or health tracking app. A task manager that assigns responsibilities, reinforces communication patterns, rewards positive behaviors, and tracks the overall emotional health of the couple. 

There’s tremendous potential here for playful, meaningful UX. We could even throw in some snark and fun a la the astrology app Co-Star or the weather app Carrot. There could be customized “daily forecasts” for each person.

Subscribe to Observatory

Small Planet Links, News, and Observations

Beam me up, Scotty.