Fascinating article by Kaitlyn Tiffany
Why is the wedding industry so hard to disrupt?
Weddings are big money — but not for Silicon Valley.
I had no idea David’s Bridal declared bankruptcy last year or that Condé Nast is trying to offload the iconic print magazine Brides. Despite many millions spent each year on weddings, this does not translate into wealth and success for even the big guns of the wedding industry.
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That was eye-opening, thanks!
Fascinating! Thanks for posting.
The number of poorly fitting, unflattering David’s bridal dresses I have unloaded at goodwill!! Not surprised that place went out of business. Having to go get a dress there was almost enough to make me reevaluate my relationships with the brides to be.
With these types of large IPOs and business failures, it’s no wonder the wedding industry tries to get trends like the marry yourself events to take off.
And everyone has a different experience. When we were informed my daughter’s custom ordered dress from the exclusive salon wouldn’t be here in time due to the lace being in short supply, David’s Bridal saved the day for us. And that is no small feat given she is very tall and cannot usually buy “off the rack”. Turns out – she loved her David’s dress much more than the salon dress.
David’s still exists, but they apparently had to re-group under new management. (I’m a soon-to-be bride who had to have this conversation with a few staff members; I ultimately decided not to go with them, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get screwed if I did — after the recent Alfred Angelo disaster, I was not taking chances.)
Kind of off subject, but I never had a worse bridesmaid experience in my life than when I ordered a dress from
Alfred Angelo. I sent them my exact measurements, not my dress size, my exact measurements, and they sent me a size 16 dress. I’m a size 8. I was absolutely swimming in it! When I called they said that was the size they always estimated from what I sent them?? Luckily it was far enough in advance before the wedding that I was able to get it tailored perfectly by the time I had to wear it, so all is well in the end. I know that bridesmaid/wedding dresses run small but five sizes too small seemed like a reach to me.
I also had a weird/not great experience with Alfred Angelo as a bridesmaid shortly before they went under. They had the dress I needed in my size, so I knew it fit because I’d just tried it on. The (apparently new?) sales clerk was all set to ring me up and let me get out of there when her manager came over and berated her for not measuring me, and sent us to the dressing room to go through the motions. I went along with it, but then the manager got all flustered because I was a different size on the top and bottom. I pointed out to her that I had just tried on the dress and it fit. She sighed and left me alone with the embarrassed sales clerk. They must’ve had one weird training manual.
I can’t really share your very negative feelings about David’s. My daughter found her dress there about 12 years ago. I have been to many, many weddings both before and a few since and I must say I do think her gown was the prettiest and classiest bridal gown I’ve ever seen. She looked beautiful in it. Of course. She is my daughter. ‘-D
But on the other hand for the bridesmaid dress, well, let’s just say she found one she liked a heck of a lot better at JC Penney!
My experience is exclusively regarding bridesmaids dresses. My friends are scattered across the country so In theory it’s easy for them to call and say buy either style x, y, or z in color palette a from this store. Every time I’d call ahead to have them pull the options in my size and end up with dresses that were covered in deodorant stains, wrinkled, or ripped. Put in a a dressing room that was littered with other castaway brides maids dresses and some how the dress that arrived never fit the same as the one I had tried on, so I’d need to get it tailored. I would chalk it up to one poorly managed store, but my experiences were same at multiple stores in three different states.
I had that experience when I was looking for my wedding gown. At the start of my appointment I was sat down for the hard-sell on foundation garments and shoes before I could even look at the dresses despite telling them I was not interested. I almost walked out because I was so frustrated telling them over and over again that I have a hard to find bra size (tiny rib cage + huge tracts of land …), I had a longline with me for trying on, but I would absolutely be purchasing the bra for my dress from the specialty lingerie store – the only thing that stopped the salesperson was showing her the size on the longline I had brought with me and proving to her that it was not a size they offered. She STILL told me I could buy it from David’s and get it altered – I think the murder-look on my face is what finally changed the subject.
Then I go to try on the FILTHY dresses. Foundation and deodorant stains, some dresses had lingering BO. I saw another bride trying on a dress I thought was pretty and my salesperson told me that she didn’t think I could “pull it off.” I asked to try it anyway and she told me I could try it if there was still time at the end of my appointment. There were some gowns I had seen on their website that I was interested in trying – they said they didn’t have them available for me to try on … yet halfway through my appointment, my mom saw one of them on a rack. Not sure why I bothered to make an appointment – the sales person was hard to flag down and my mom was helping wrestle me into the stinking, stained gowns unlike everyone else’s mom who got to sit on the couch and wait for her daughter to emerge looking like a princess. I was fighting ANGRY tears by the time we left. I went home and showered – I felt disgusting and disgusted.
I found a beautiful gown at a small locally owned shop where the owner treated me like royalty and actually listened to me. The consultant suggested gowns and let me try on any gown I picked out – I felt beautiful and had so much fun – no murder-looks or angry tears there! I got all of my bridesmaids gowns through that shop, my mom ordered her dress through the shop and they also handled the tux rentals for the bridal party and my family. I know different people have different experiences and I am happy other brides found their dream dresses there, but that was my experience and I know it is not unique.
I also had a terrible experience at David’s. I was a muscular size 16 with a flat stomach for my wedding and the attendant refused to let me try on anything with beads because “that would make me look even fatter.” Not that I would consider that acceptable even if I had been 3x that size. I left in tears, went to the tiny, independent shop down the street and the owner treated me like a princess and helped me find a gorgeous, intricately beaded gown that looked incredible and made me feel fabulous. She told me, “Every woman is beautiful and there are no bad dresses; just bad seamstresses.” I wish I’d gone there first and saved myself the vicious blow to my self-esteem.
Agreed. I ended up having to pay for all the bridesmaid dresses out of my own pocket because David’s insisted that the dress colors wouldn’t match if they were ordered separately. (I was a bridesmaid, not the bride). They knew that each of the bridesmaids was ordering a different style dress in the same fabric but insisted that they would match if purchased in one lot. Then when the dresses came in and I made a comment to the clerk about how some were slightly different shades even though they were on a single order, she informed me that buying them together or separately wouldn’t have had any effect since they were different styles. So the first employee lied to me to get all the money at once. I was never able to get reimbursed by some of the bridesmaids … they had all sorts of ‘sob stories’ about financial difficulties etc… then some just disappeared after the wedding.
As the article said, it’s a one time event, hard to attract customers, then most of the time, no repeat business. Plus, most weddings tap into long-held traditions, such as going to the bridal salon with your mother and friends, visiting cake shops with your fiancee, flipping through invitation books, etc. The planning is part of the process for a lot of people. However, if someone invents a site where you can plug in a budget, a date, a general location, and a style and have it spit out the perfect wedding, all pre-planned, I think there’d be a lot of interested folks. 🙂
I don’t know. The people who are really insistent on the “perfect wedding” tend to be micromanagers, from what I’ve seen. They have to oversee and plan every detail. I don’t think they’d be interested in an app that did everything for them. People who don’t want to go to much effort tend to go to Vegas, or a courthouse, or have an officiant come to the house for something simple in the living room/backyard, or something like that. They don’t tend to want fancy or complicated. I could be wrong. Maybe a lot of the “let’s just go to the court house” couples would splash out more if it was all planned in five minutes by an app. I don’t know how many of the couples in between would really want such a thing either. But what do I know? I’m definitely the go the park with a couple people and say nice things about why I want to be married, then go back to the house for pizza and cake (that I made myself) type. Five minutes of discussion and planning, and no need to buy an app — or spend any money I wouldn’t in any normal week other than the license.
I think it varies. I wanted amd had a big event with my family and friends with a sense of ceremony but without the micro-management. And when you do that there’s a bunch of stuff with making sure everyone is comfortable, including the heavily pregnant, new mums and the elderly.
That said, being from a big family, throwing a big party was something I was fairly familiar with so I didn’t stress that much over it. I did however make sure to thoroughly explore the cake options, with lots of taste-testing. Cake is very important.
Add to that, there’s a lot of personalization that goes into weddings. Even if you don’t have preferences on anything huge, you may still want a certain style of dress or cake flavor. A site like that would also have to take into consideration different religious traditions and the like that might play a significant role in how a wedding would have to play out (as I’m learning through my own wedding planning, traditional Jewish weddings differ from the “standard” conception of weddings in several ways) and other preferences. It’s conceivably doable, but it would be a really complicated thing to put together from the designers’ end.
Thank you for this fascinating article.
I grind my teeth a little every time a terrible Zola commercial comes on. I’m bummed to see they’re doing so well but hey at least their advertising dollars are not in vain, they certainly cram that crud down your throat every other minute on channels geared towards this age demographic.
I feel like this lacks context. Lots of startups fail, and many of the ones that succeed do so only after losing money for years. Is this really more of an issue in the bridal industry? The article doesn’t provide enough information to make that clear. Also, they randomly switch between talking about disrupting startups and Silicon Valley VCs and then long-standing behemoths like David’s Bridal also struggling and… I’m confused.