By Gerard J. Monaghan, ABC Co-founder

Photos by Yoshi Kohara

This past summer, the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) hosted three Asian conferences—in Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea. Each illustrated the unique cultural and geographic differences inherent with each country, but the unifying element was the same—learning about the wedding industry through the ABC.

Earthquake, tsunami recovery tied to Japanese conference
In Japan, Yoshi Kohara, Asian markets director, moved the 10th annual ABC conference from its normal Tokyo location to Sendai, site of the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. It was his way, he says, of supporting members there. Association members contributed money to allow some members whose businesses were devastated by the natural disasters to participate at no charge. In addition, a corporate member, the Take and Give Needs Co., provided the meeting venue without cost to show its support.

The Japan conference was a follow-up to presentations on “Encore Weddings” made in 2007 by Eileen Monaghan, my fellow ABC co-founder, and myself. At that time, the Japanese market, Eileen says, faced an increasing number of divorces and remarriages. “In the days of arranged marriages,” she says, “there was little divorce. But with ‘love marriages,’ divorces increased and Japanese wedding professionals needed guidance on how to deal with remarriage.”

This year, I updated that seminar while Eileen took it to the next level—weddings with divorced parents—since the next generation is dealing with that now. In addition, with the conference only four months after the earthquake and tsunami, I presented a seminar on how wedding professionals can help after a disaster. Eileen prepared a session on the importance of understanding the psychology of the bride and weddings. There are 429 ABC members in Japan. Approximately 80 wedding professionals attended, including Michie Arayama, the first Master Bridal Consultant™ in Asia.

Hong Kong—A Growing Market
The cultural reserve and vast numbers of ABC members in Japan stands in stark contrast to Hong Kong. The Japanese wedding market is quite developed, but in China, Katemagg Chau, greater China director, is working to develop the market and build excitement. With 43 members in Hong Kong and six in the rest of China, there were approximately 140 participants at the third annual conference this year. Chau is rapidly developing the number of members and the association’s credibility there.

At conference, I presented a review of the association’s development, especially since 1981, and its philosophy on being a truly international organization. Eileen presented a session on current U.S. wedding trends. This set the stage for a wedding fashion show including, Eileen says, “some avant garde and cutting-edge designs.”

After the successes in Japan and Hong Kong, the fourth annual ABC conference in Korea in August drew approximately 180 participants, plus television coverage.

Thanks to ABC members for conference successes
In preparing for these Asian market seminars, we asked senior ABC members to provide details and real-life examples to make our presentations resonate with reality. Thanks to the following for providing information:
•     Judith Alden MBC™, JuWil Weddings,
Hoffman Estates, Ill.
•     Frank Andonoplas MBC™, Frank/Frank Event
Design, Chicago
•     Lynda Barness ABC™, I Do Wedding
Consulting, Philadelphia
•     Paula Bisacre, Remarriage, West Friendship, Md.
•     Barbara Diez de Tajada, Barbara Diez
Eventos, Capital Federal, Argentina
•     Mimi Doke MBC™, The Wedding Specialist, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
•     Shay Freeman MBC™, Bells & Bows,
Little Rock, Ark.
•     JoAnn Gregoli MBC™, Elegant Occasions,
New York City
•     Hardy Klahold, Hardy Klahold Photography, Morrison, Colo.
•     Joyce Smith MBC™, Weddings Unlimited, Cincinnati
•     Stephen Stawicki MBC™, The Wedding
Connection, Huntington Woods, Mich.
•     AnnaMarie Wintercorn MBC™, Elegant
Weddings & Events, Stuart, Fla.
•     Barbara Wallace MBC™, Barbara Wallace
Weddings, Corona del Mar, Cal.

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