Weddings are difficult. They are big expensive parties that celebrate the union of two people. Before social media, inspiration could only be found in magazines and wedding books, and vendors were found through word of mouth. However, in the last decade alone, social media has become the biggest and most important marketing tool used in the wedding industry.
Utilizing social media helps humanize a business. “A UK study for Trinity Mirror Solutions found that more than half of adults do not trust a brand until they see ‘real world proof’ that the brand is keeping its promises.” (Newberry, 2018). Vendors in the wedding industry are no strangers to this. Melina Valerio, wedding planner and owner of Starry Eyed Events in Las Vegas, is mindful of keeping both current and potential clients in the loop, from the beginning stages of the planning process, all the way up to the actual event. Valerio’s Instagram feed as adorned with photos of glamorous weddings she has meticulously designed to match every couple she has worked with. Her Instagram story, however, showcases empty venues, cake tasting’s and vendor meetings – all of which include the actual couple she is working with. Not only are her followers seeing the final product, but they’re seeing the steps it took get there. This alone shows how invested and involved she is during the entire journey.
Social media can also be a tool used for gathering inspiration. Brides will use the Pinterest app to find inspiration for all things wedding-related – from the dress, to the cocktails and everything in between. (Edwards, 2018). The app allows couples to discover their personal wedding style. With inspiration photos floating all over the digital world, some might say that the Internet could completely take over the wedding planner role, allowing the couple to find their own vendors and DIY-ing their own décor. However, this may not only put stress on the couple themselves, but on their wallets as well. According to Social Media Explorer, using Pinterest and Instagram could cause couples to be hit with the “Pinterest and Instagram effect,” giving them unrealistic expectations of what their wedding should look like. “The problem is that many of the pictures couples see on Pinterest and Instagram aren’t indicative of the average wedding. People see a five-course dinner from George Clooney’s reception and want to mimic it. Or they see floral arrangements from Kim Kardashian’s wedding, for example, and think that it’s the norm.” (Micmohen, 2018). To avoid the Pinterest and Instagram effect, Valerio has her couples send over any wedding-related Pinterest boards so she can help accurately capture their vision while staying within their budget.
Once the vision is captured and a budget is set, Valerio helps couples find multiple vendors that fit within both areas. According to BookMoreBrides.com, social media is vital for connecting with other vendors in the industry. (Page, 2014). This could lead to potential collaborations, like a styled shoot. Honeybook.com defines a styled shoot as “a collaborative effort of multiple creatives who put their talents and resources together to create a stunning visual concept to be photographs.” (Martin, 2017). All the vendors would then post the photo to their social media websites and tag one another, creating both business partnerships and publicity. Valerio has done styled shoots with multiple vendors, with some dipping into the same category. These collaborations give her a variety of recommendations for the couples to make sure their work is exactly what they’re looking for. Some vendors Valerio continues to work with include A Simple Affair Las Vegas, RSVP Rentals, Ashlyn Savannah Photography, Paz Makeup Artistry and Wee Little Cakes. She has since been featured in The Knot with these vendors.
Being featured on other industry professionals’ social media accounts and submitting work to major wedding websites like The Knot makes for easy and free advertising. Using social media as the primary source of marketing and advertising reduces media costs. While apps like Facebook and Instagram are initially free, businesses can choose to use the social advertising function. Regardless of whether or not they do so, this is still a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing mediums, like full-page ads in newspapers and professionally filmed commercials. (Justice, n.d.).
Social media is a highlight gallery apart from a business’ actual website. Valerio is adamant on only putting the best photos on her Instagram feed to avoid “over-gramming,” or in other words, posting too much. “Instead of posting on a schedule, we only post the images we’re in love with,” Valerio said. “If I haven’t thought about making it my phone background, it doesn’t get posted.” This also allows her to stick to a cohesive theme. An aesthetically-pleasing theme draws in more followers and more importantly, establishes a brand identity. This helps set Valerio apart from others in the same field. (Claire, 2019).
Social media has also made it easier for vendors to get to know their couples. You can tell a lot about a person by scrolling on their Facebook profiles and Instagram accounts. You can see what they do for fun and what food they like. Most importantly, you are able to see the timeline of the couple’s relationship. In unprecedented times, like during a pandemic, it may be hard to get together for vendor meetings. Although social media doesn’t show the entirety of a couple’s lives, it can still give a wedding planner a grasp of their relationship while they can’t be face-to-face. Social media also gives both parties another mean of communication apart from phone calls, texts and emails. If a bride or groom sees something on Instagram that they want at their wedding, they could easily send it to the planner via direct message, or DM.
Social media was once merely a tool that was used to keep in touch with high school friends. They were websites you would go on to see make sure your ex wasn’t doing better than you were. They were apps used to post pictures of the greatest nights of your life. But now, couples are able to put those “greatest nights” behind them, because with social media and a top-notch wedding team, the best day is truly on the horizon.
Las Vegas native, Ashley Ayala, has big dreams for small businesses.
Downtown Las Vegas: home of some of the most popular bars and gastropubs in the city and a magnet for tourists from all over the world. But beyond the mixed drinks and neon lights is a collective of local makers and creatives who aim to shine a spotlight on their small but mighty, locally-driven community.
Among that collective is one Las Vegas native, whose passion for collaboration over competition shines through in multiple areas of the Downtown Las Vegas revitalization.
“I feel like there’s a group of people in Vegas working to make our city — and culture in general — more community-based, like Santa Cruz and Portland,” said Ashley Ayala, co-curator, creative director and ethical merchandising strategist of The Workshop Downtown, co-curator of Market in the Alley and content creator for Fergusons Downtown. “At first I had this mindset of, ‘Well I don’t want to do it! Somebody else could do it!’ But then I had this mind shift and thought, ‘Well, what if I help cultivate that? What if I bring innovative ideas and find other people who think like me, and then put our brains together and make cool things happen?’”
Having grown up in the east side of Las Vegas, Ayala watched the city evolve from the gaudy glitz and glamour of the nineties, to the trendy scene of the ever-growing Life is Beautiful Festival. However, her inspiration to cultivate the area came after moving to Santa Cruz to find a smaller, tighter-knit community. Ayala realized that what she was looking for was waiting for her back home.
Ayala and Kelly Bennett, creative director of local vegan restaurant VegeNation, began holding bi-annual workshops in 2018, supplying local creatives and small business owners with useful tools to support the growth of their businesses. They added a third member to their creative team in 2019.
“We have always been a good team when it comes to checking things off the to-do list,” said Jess Sells, founder of paper design company Grace Ink + Lace, and co-curator and email marketing manager of The Workshop Downtown. “We all balance each other out really well.”
In 2017, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his business partner Jen Taler, buyer for Zappos, purchased the vacant Fergusons Motel, formerly known as the Franklin Motel in the 1940s. Their goal was to create a neighborhood rooted in community, celebrating local creatives, musicians and artisans. Under the Fergusons umbrella is Market in the Alley, a monthly market kickstarted by Taler, in the alley located directly across the street from Fergusons Motel every third Saturday of the month.
Ayala began her involvement with Fergusons Downtown as one of the 12 vendors at the original Market in the Alley, selling goods from her then-business Sister House Collective. After expressing interest in becoming more involved with the planning side of Market in the Alley, the monthly market was turned over to Ayala and Bennett in January 2019.
“I love working with Ashley and Kelly,” said Beth Di Angelo, founder of The Woven Willow and vendor at Market in the Alley. “They create a seamless experience for their vendors. You can tell how much they care about us and serving the greater good of the Las Vegas community.”
Ayala and Bennett hosted a Market in the Alley pop-up at the 2019 Life is Beautiful Festival and counted 14,000 people attending the market over the course of the three-day weekend. Of those 14,000 were about 100 people who returned to the market multiple times, Ayala said.
Ayala credits a lot of the pop-up’s foot traffic to social media. Social media has become a vital tool in marketing for Ayala. Ayala said that many of The Workshop Downtown’s workshops are devoted entirely to social media marketing.
“Social media is the biggest tool for reaching people right now,” Ayala said. “So many people spend time on their phones.”
Ayala said that Instagram stories are especially useful because they invite followers to see what goes on behind the scenes behind an event. This allows the followers to feel involved in the set-up process.
Ayala knows firsthand how hard it is to start a small business.
“When you’re alone doing it, it’s kind of lonely and difficult to navigate, especially when it’s a very innovative concept that hasn’t really been done before,” Ayala said. “I’d say, find other people with a similar mindset, attend workshops and events to network, be authentic and if you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask!”
The Workshop Downtown hosts multiple workshops monthly. Dates and times are posted on their website as well as their Instagram account @theworkshopdowntown.
December’s Market in the Alley will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, and noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 15. The free event will feature over 75 local artisans and creatives, with some being present both days.