Yay you’re engaged! Call your parents, tell your friends, walk around with your hand extended flashing that gorgeous ring in your face.
Here is some Vaseline to help keep that smile going.
Go ahead and subscribe to all of those bridal magazines and websites. Pull out the Wedding Checklist and start mapping out your plan of action. But first things first: Where are you getting married? If you said New Jersey, then you’ll want to read on. If not, shame on you, but enjoy our day anyway!
When I was planning my May 2006 wedding, I subscribed to all sorts of websites and purchased MANY magazines. You should have seen my Internet bookmark list of wedding websites-I had categories for limos, flowers, accessories, dresses, etc. What I should have done was just use the one-stop resource for New Jersey Weddings, NJWedding.com. It’s a gold mine of wedding information for couples planning their big day in the Garden State. From vendors, to advice, to contests and photos of real weddings, NJWedding.com has it all.
And it all started in 1994(back when I had to dial-up to use Prodigy) with New Jersey couple Erik and Beth Kent who were forward thinking and wanted to provide a new way of planning weddings for future brides and grooms. I had a chance to chat with Erik, who's also Director of Marketing and Promotions, about the breakthrough idea, how he and Beth grew a successful at-home business and what exciting plans they have for lucky brides and grooms in NJ (I definitely missed ‘”the boat” on the LBI Tall Ship wedding contest):
Q: Erik, you started your business in 1997 right on the cusp on the Internet boom. What was the inspiration?
A: The inspiration for NJWedding.com came in 1994 after planning our own wedding (we were married at Kirkpatrick Chapel at Rutgers University on April 17th) but it was almost 3-4 years later before getting it off the ground. We both worked in various industries after college (advertising and bookkeeping respectively), and put our skills together to start the business. While the Internet was used for advertising, there wasn’t much “out there” when it came to wedding planning information in New Jersey. We officially left our jobs in 1996 to start our own business full-time.
Q: At the time, you were a pioneer in the wedding industry. Now you're one of many resources. How did you carve your niche?
A: When wedding magazines were starting to launch web sites to complement their content, they only used the magazine to promote it. We established a niche as an “independent” resource and advertised in the magazines. By working with them to cross-promote, it gave us both a win-win opportunity to reach more brides.
Today, the wedding industry is worth over $1 BILLION in New Jersey alone, and we are constantly finding new advertisers on a regular basis.
Q: Now, more than 10 years later, you’ve seen a lot of venues and locations for weddings. What would you consider your top 3 covering North, Central and South Jersey?
A: While our site is a resource showcasing hundreds of venues from throughout every region of the state, I think these three stand out as some of the most interesting and unique:
- Northern New Jersey: Pleasantdale Chateau, West Orange
- Central New Jersey: The Palace at Somerset Park, Somerset
- Southern New Jersey: Mallard Island Yacht Club, Long Beach Island
Q: Your website is a great place for NJ couples to search for specific vendors like florists, photographers, venues and limos. What’s really unique is the interactive feature, “Ask the Expert,” where couples can get advice straight from an expert. How did you make that connection?
A: Miles Wagman, a relationship expert, became an advertiser on NJWedding.com several years ago and had an interest in helping couples further by being available to answer questions. He receives several questions per year about deep relationship issues that only he is qualified to handle. We are considering expanding this section with other experts answering questions on various topics of wedding planning.
Q: While you don’t get as much interaction with the couples as our vendors do, do you have a favorite memory of a couple from one of your contests?
A: Occasionally we run special contests for “Most Romantic Wedding Proposals” or for couples to win a weekend getaway to an area of New Jersey like Long Beach Island. Through these contests, I’ve met some wonderful couples with beautiful stories. One groom-to-be, I remember, was a registered pilot and arranged for his friends and family to lay out huge boards saying “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” on the ground at Princeton Airport so his girlfriend could see it from the sky. I also enjoyed meeting a recent couple who won a Romantic Getaway to Long Beach Island through NJWedding.com during a special event called the “Wedding Road Show” promoting various venues and businesses along the LBI region that she could visit throughout the day. This event was so important to her because she knew she wanted an LBI wedding but didn’t know the first place to start. She was genuinely grateful for being chosen as a contest winner and enjoyed every moment of the event.
Q: You also have a great advice section, which I used for the Mercer Chamber of Commerce Bridal Expo Program.
A: Thanks, and that’s what the articles are there for…to provide useful information on a number of topics. Whether it’s information about beach & Jersey Shore weddings, beauty, hair, makeup, catering/banquets, ceremony planning, civil unions, destination weddings, entertainment, poetry, etiquette, favors, flowers, South Asian/Indian wedding customs or wedding day dancing, we have a lot to offer, and always accept more, which are submitted by our clients and sometimes from outside sources.
Q: I’d love to know what kind of advice you can offer to couples. Let’s start with what to save and splurge on?
A: I’m told the same thing pretty much every time: Splurge on catering venue (food), entertainment (band/dj) and memories (photo/video). There are many ways to tighten a budget, but it’s so important to treat you and your guests to good cuisine, enjoyable music, and capture the memories of the day forever with both a good and reputable photographer and videographer.
Q: As a former groom and a male-wedding expert, what can you offer to grooms and the father-of-the-bride?
A: I would say, “be there every step of the way” for your bride-to-be, since how you communicate in your marriage is an indication of how you communicate in your wedding planning. While it’s not necessary to be involved in every single decision during the process, it’s good to work together to make the wedding a part of who you are as a couple, since that is what shines through the most.
Q: Not only are you a male in the wedding industry, but you are a husband and father running an online business from home. How do you find balance to do it all?
A: While “balance” is one of the keys to a strong marriage, it’s even more important when raising a family, and one of the aspects of running our home-based business is the ability to be involved in with our kids and balance it with the growth of our company. We focus on what we need to do to maintain our web site, sell and welcome new advertisers, keep the site up-to-date, manage an independence sales force, attend wedding industry meetings, exhibit at bridal shows, advertise throughout the state, and being a husband and wife team helps greatly. Communication is the key, whether it’s through email, via cell phone, or having lunch together to coordinate schedules or see if we’re achieving the goals we set together.
Q: I think it’s wonderful that you are able to be successful helping future couples make their day perfect and stay home with your family. What are some futures plans for NJWedding.com?
A: There are always new areas of New Jersey to explore as “wedding destinations” and we recently got involved in promoting Long Beach Island, NJ as one of our projects. Since the “trend” of destination weddings is being affected by the down economy, many couples are looking more “locally” and New Jersey, especially its shoreline and beach areas, have a lot to offer. We participated as a sponsor in the LBI region’s first Wedding Road Show in April and have future plans to promote it as an annual event.
We have also had a book in the works for many years and hope to move it forward or see it take on a different form (not a print magazine, though). There is an opportunity to market it, however, information and trends change so rapidly that staying as an online format is much more appealing.
“NJWedding.com exists to help the bride and groom-to-be find the services and information they are seeking, to help the wedding professional advertise their business to reach their potential client with the best marketing message, and to be a valuable resource for the New Jersey wedding community that both consumers and industry members come back to for the long term.”