Interview with Shane McMurray of The Wedding Report

For several years now, The Wedding Report (www.theweddingreport.com/) has been the best place to find accurate, insightful information about the wedding industry. From national statistics to local data on bridal preferences, wedding-related vendors and much more, The Wedding Report offers it all (in fact, My Wedding Workbook Pro subscribes to the service). And the man behind it all, Shane McMurray, knows quite a few things that you and I don’t. So he was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his schedule to answer a few questions of ours.

My Wedding Workbook Pro (MWWP) – Shane, you have been researching this industry for quite a few years now. In what significant ways has the industry changed over that period of time?

Shane McMurray (SM) – In just the few years that I’ve been collecting data the industry has changed dramatically. A new type of couple is now making their way into the wedding market… the ways of the old are becoming old, places that use to be hot spots are no longer hot spots, and the recent recession proved that the wedding industry is not “recession proof” as once thought. I would also say that the supposed flood of new marriages never happened and never will. Marriage has given way to couples living together and waiting longer and new unmarried family types have emerged. How couples think about spending and the value they place on certain services like music, photography, video, invitations, flowers has also altered … couples are much more do-it-yourself or having the whole family chip in, plus wholesalers are going direct to consumers. The market has changed completely in just 5 years. It was already coming … but the recession made it come faster.

MWWP – Right now we’re coming out of a deep, deep recession that has really hammered the wedding industry. Do you see any relief on the horizon?

SM – It looks better. Spending was up in 2010 after a 2-year decline. But I don’t think we will see pre-2008 levels for a while. As long as we can continue creating new jobs and gas and food prices don’t continue to skyrocket, things look better.

MWWP – Wedding vendors, including wedding consultants, are always looking for an edge in growing their business. Based on your extensive knowledge and research, do you have any quick tips for them in connecting with new prospects?

SM – The best way to connect with new clients is to stay connected with previous clients. If they had a great time, you are likely to get a referral. Stay connected with your previous clients after the wedding. Secondly, go to where people are and connect with them … shows, online, local events. Anyone and everyone could be a lead or the gateway to a lead. Next I would say work on the funnel that converts them to a customer.

MWWP – Bridal show season is quickly approaching. What’s on the minds of brides this year as they attend these shows?

SM – They are looking to connect and get ideas. To find the vendor that can give them the experience they are looking for. They thing they are not looking for is pushy sales people. Just be real … if you offer a great product or service, it will show.

MWWP – I know you keep your eye on the performance of wedding-related businesses, and I was wondering if you could give us some insight on the performance of wedding planning businesses?

SM – Well, the demand for the wedding planning business has actually increased … as weddings become more complicated and stressful for the bride, they are looking for help from planners. I would say services like “Day-of,” “Month of” or simple consulting are becoming more popular. The only issue is that it does cost extra to provide these services, and many couples are hesitant because of the extra cost, but smart planners are finding ways to make it work.

MWWP – What do you think is the most striking thing you have discovered about our industry that has come out of your research in recent months?

SM – I think the most striking thing I’ve discovered is how many new competitors have entered the market. Planning, photo and video are low-cost entry businesses and many are doing it, either full-time or part-time. These new competitors are coming in at substantially lower cost points than seasoned pros and it’s changing the business dynamics.

MWWP – Thanks, Shane, for sharing your insights.