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By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting, Richmond, Va. photos by sera petras photography

As the economy has shown signs of recovery from its most recent recession, many believed that the DIY trend would fade. The reality, though, is that it’s here to stay, albeit in an evolving form. Indeed, a whole industry, anchored by Etsy and Pinterest, has developed around it. Successful wedding companies today must follow the example of such industry leaders, growing and adapting as the customer base shifts. That means, it’s time to embrace DIY.

Educate or illuminate?

The first instinct is to “educate” couples, teach them the value of professional services over DIY. This approach is often perceived as preachy and self-serving. That’s no way to develop a relationship with prospective clients. Instead, emphasize the benefits of professional services that allow couples to:

Save time. Focus on other important aspects of the wedding. Save money.

Many don’t realize that DIY projects can cost more than estimated. Vendors work with suppliers on a regular basis and, in many cases, receive a wholesale discount that can be passed on to the client, so they pay less than if they purchased directly.

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Save the inevitable anxiety that comes with DIY projects. Demonstrate that what your prospects really want is to relax and enjoy their celebration without the hassle of impending deadlines and incomplete work.

Callandra Caufield, chief wedding and event producer from Postcard Weddings and Events, Inc., Canada, offers a wedding-month management package. This “allows a couple to plan their whole wedding, and then hand if off to a professional to confirm details and execute the actual event,” she says. It is an example of compromise between professional and DIY-friendly.

Jennifer Taylor of Taylor’d Events Group, Woodinville, Wash., suggests another option. “We work with clients to set up realistic expectations on when they will finish their DIY projects, and what the options are if they do not finish a project.” By supporting the DIY couple, Taylor keeps her services valuable and accessible.

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Keep Things Personal

Pros, take note: The fundamental purpose of DIY is changing. It’s now less about saving money, and more about personalization. One of today’s biggest trends is customization, including details that reflect a couples’ love story, relationship, hobbies, and interests. Take advantage of the desire to personalize and listen carefully early on in the process, seeking ways to offer unique, personal touches. “Market research shows that couples today don’t do DIY projects just for the money savings,” explains Kara Buntin, of A Cake to Remember in Richmond, Va. “They do it because they enjoy participating in the planning and execution of the décor and as a way to really personalize their weddings.”

Wedding planners need to monitor DIY trends, such as handmade runners, silk ribbons, and candles, and consider leveraging them into an additional revenue stream. Seek companies with stellar products and develop a wholesale relationship with them. When you next sit with a prospect or clients, offer the personal touches in-house. And before you consider discounting, note that you have already added value by making your services convenient and one-stop. “We’ve built many mutually beneficial relationships with florists and wedding planners over the years,” says Igal Sapir of 100Candles.com. “It’s ultimately a win-win situation. Couples get the centerpieces they love at a better price, while planners add value to their services and become more competitive in the workplace.”

Finally, it never hurts to project an appreciation for DIY to attract couples who are so inclined. “We like DIY’ers because they often have a real understanding of creativity and an appreciation for an artistic look,” says Jason Turner of Turner Photography in Frederick, Md. “Many weddings follow the same usual routine with the same usual adornments, so when we have the opportunity to photograph handmade, well thought-out details, it always makes us happy…and it makes us look good.”

Become the DIY Guru

Several companies are thinking outside the proverbial box, and beyond consumer education to focus on solutions allowing them to “marry” DIY with their professional services. Some host workshops to teach couples to do things on their own. Their justification? The couples weren’t going to hire pros anyway, so why not offer an alternative paid service they appreciate? If you try this route, consider holding local workshops and think of a broader audience for your expertise. Create a guide, how-to sheet, or record a webinar – all products you can sell repeatedly to a boundless audience online.

Those with the craft gene can take inspiration a step further by opening up an Etsy shop, for example. This lets you build revenue in the off-season by stocking up on and creating items in advance. “I started selling cake decorating supplies and gumpaste flowers on Etsy and in my own online shop,” says Buntin. “My target customer was the DIY bride, but I also sell to a lot of decorators and crafters at this point. I’ve also done tutorials on how to decorate cakes, posted Youtube videos on how to use the sugar flowers on cakes, and written an e-book tutorial showing how to make a basic DIY wedding cake.”

If you embrace DIY, you could offer an entirely additional revenue stream to your current base as long as you have the time and resources to do so. Above all, trust in your services, maintain a positive attitude, and be open to the changing market because DIY is here to stay. ••