When I first endeavored to write this blog, I had a much different direction in mind, hence why it has taken me roughly three months to post it. My original plan was to explain the Big Fake Wedding, detail my experience, and provide an honest review of the whole affair. Instead, I felt led to talk about diversity in the wedding industry.
In short, I had a great time at the Big Fake Wedding and would recommend it to any vendor looking to expand their network of vendors connections, potential clients, and build their portfolio.
But today I want to talk to a targeted few. People who have the power to turn the wedding industry on its head (even more so than the Big Fake Wedding has done with its innovative approach to a wedding expo). People who have the power to foster a more inclusive, more diverse, and ultimately less “clique-ish” environment for all those involved. I want to talk to my fellow wedding vendors.
I wrote this blog back in June of 2020 when I first felt strongly that something needed to be said regarding diversity in the wedding industry. Since then, I’ve noticed that most articles written about diversity in the industry are targeted towards brides planning their weddings. This is definitely an important step towards building highly creative and successful wedding vendor teams.
But first and foremost, I feel very strongly that this burden falls chiefly on wedding vendors themselves.
Here’s why I think so:
Whether it’s from fellow vendors or former clients, roughly 60% of my new business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations. Who can relate? This is a very important statistic to note, and one I would encourage you to find out if you’re not already familiar with your number. I use the Lead Source function of Honeybook and regularly monitor my reports section to stay on top of this metric.
What’s so important about my primary lead source?
Here’s the gist. If 60% of my recommendations come from other wedding vendors or former brides, it just goes to show that 60% of my business gets impacted largely if those recommendations DON’T flow in. I’d be operating at 40% of my normal “business as usual.” I think it goes without saying, in the business world, that’s not a good place to be.
Who was the last wedding vendor you recommended to a bride or prospective client? Was it someone who looked like you? Did you research who could actually best serve your client’s needs, or did you simply refer them to someone you consider a friend or someone who regularly sends work your way? I can tell you that 9 times out of 10 I’m guilty of the latter.
Obviously, I want to make referrals I can support confidently. I want to ensure if I am referring this person, I have either worked with them before or can somehow vouch for their professionalism and quality.
Herein lies the problem: How many of us can claim to have an extremely diverse network of fellow vendors? Can you honestly say that your wedding vendor network spans all races, colors, and ethnicities? Do you equally refer POC vendors just as much as you do all others? If you can and you do, I applaud you. I certainly can’t make that claim.
How can we change this dynamic?
This is where the difficult part comes in. In order for many of us to make that claim, we must actively initiate conversations and create opportunities for cross-collaboration. It’s not enough to encourage clients to seek POC of vendors. Direct vendor referrals and partnerships directly foster diversity in the wedding industry.
Don’t underestimate the power of your reputation as a trusted wedding vendor.
Another major factor is this: Clients depend on your expertise and recommendations. Maybe even more so than they depend on a Google or Wedding Wire search. If we commit ourselves to bridging gaps and seeking out diverse vendor referral partners, we can answer our brides with confidence when they ask the question: “So who would you recommend for _______?”
None of us can influence every sphere of life. We can only hope to influence the sphere in which we are most deeply entrenched. If you truly want to effect change in the wedding industry, think back to my number.
Imagine a world where we use our platforms to diversify the bulk of our vendor referrals, and in turn, change the dynamic of the wedding industry as a whole.
Admit it. You have a shortlist of your favorite ‘frendors’ you constantly refer back to. You have worked with some of the same people for years, developing trusted relationships and equally contributing to each other’s businesses. Having these relationships is amazing and oftentimes the work that comes out of multi-vendor collaborations is truly inspired. A problem arises when we do not seek to explore new collaborations with vendors outside of our immediate circle. I have discovered some of my most cherished friendships from unexpected collaborations with vendors I did not “plan” to work with.
For the sake of moving forward an industry entrenched in tradition— let’s create new traditions. Ones centered around creating space for everyone, intentionally expanding the network of people we work with and refer, and making the wedding industry a more diverse place.
I made so many new frendors, and happily reconnected with former ones, at the Big Fake Wedding Raleigh in March of 2020. Thank you @BigFakeWedding for creating a space where vendors can work together in such a unique and intimate way. Let’s commit ourselves to creating more opportunities like this. But more importantly, let’s make sure these opportunities are accessible, open, and authentic.
When it comes to making this world a more accepting, inclusive, and loving place, we can all do better. We need only start where we have been planted. Join me in committing to make the wedding industry an industry leading the way in inclusivity. After all, our industry is built first and foremost on love, is it not?