Are Wedding Seminars Worth the Trip, Time and Cost?

By Paul Pannone

The Failure of Get Married Media raises questions of suspect practices and the sale of fairy dust information claims that can double your business at a time when the wedding industry suffers declining activity. Since 2008 the wedding industry struggles to regain ground lost to the economic collapse. While some so-called wedding experts claim better information and inspiration from industry personalities is the key to success, what do real experts say?

In the Wedding Water Cooler impromptu discussions among members say wedding industry gatherings are great for socializing but when it comes down to knowing your local business market the trip isn’t worth the time and cost.

According to Celebrity planner Samantha Goldberg, learning is an everyday process.

“I was thinking it would be great to actually be inspired. I wonder what someone like myself would learn at such  trips. I do like to learn I do every day; I learn little things all day and everyday. So what I want to learn more about is how can so many people be that  ignorant; to not pick up on things that we do? Please make note when I say “ignorant” I mean not in the know. If they were stupid enough, I would just call them morons to their face. So I need to understand why so many are that naïve?”


Goldberg’s statement set off other comments from well-respected wedding industry sources who feel she is right, including Jim Duhe.

“Samantha, I think that you’re right.  I think that people have to be open to learning new things every day to improve their lives.  That’s what we’ve done and it worked for us.  Therefore, we think that it should work for everyone.  It ain’t necessarily so.

Think of the people who fall for these courses like children trying to learn information that is above their grade level.   When we think about school, we think about an environment of concentrated learning — an opportunity to understand things more quickly than we could if we were learning on your own day-by-day.  People are naïve about education in general.  They either under shoot or over-shoot where they should be in the learning circle.  They generally don’t understand how to evaluate the educational process.

Is a Harvard education actually worth ten times more than a state school degree?  The actual “education” may not be vastly different.  However, when you buy into Harvard, you buy into the environment, the contacts, the mindset that ultimately creates amazing advantages.  In the long run, Harvard may well be worth the price for some people because it sets them up for where they want to go.  It’s almost as if Harvard is a short cut to success.

I think that many people who take bridal industry courses are looking for the same short cut.  Yes.  The educational value is important– but you can learn the same things from reading books and talking to people on your own.  People are looking for the short cut that can push them ahead of the competition — something that will give them an edge.  It’s a reasonable thing to want.  It’s realistic to believe that you have to pay for it.  The only thing that is unreasonable is the number of people within the bridal business who claim to have the background, the credentials to teach these courses without any actual ability.

However, when a small, struggling business person selects to attend a workshop or go to a seminar that is conducted by a charlatan, they find out that the course work is lackluster, the presentation may be glitzy but it generally lacks substance, and all too often the content is not only inadequate — it’s sometimes inaccurate and misleading.

I don’t resent or dislike people for trying to learn the short cuts in the bridal business.  Hell, everyone wants a shortcut.  I pity them for not recognizing that the streets aren’t paved with gold anywhere — not in any business field.  When we (you and me) listen to some of the pitches, we can generally spot the good guys from the bad guys within a few minutes. However, that’s because of what we’ve learned along the way — not because we’re smarter than the next guy but because we’ve learned how to spot them based upon our own experiences.  We’re no better than the charlatans if we don’t warn the newbies of what can befall them.

Again, I don’t think that people who take the courses are morons.  I think that they drank the Kool Aid and can’t appreciate that it’s laced with the kind of stuff that will kill them in the long run.  They are more desperate than they are naïve.  Desperate people often make stupid mistakes,” according to Jim Duhe.


An interesting twist in the discussion came from Lynette Robinson that took the broad discussion local, citing some specifics in her market.

“A topic coming out of this could probably be a completely different thread but the idea of education for bridal shop owners is an issue that I am seeing here and I have an opinion on this.

For some reason over the years I have been approached by a lot of newbies.  As you might know, in addition to being a 35 year bridal retailer I am a third generation designer, I can make these wedding dresses but most of my designs are manufactured overseas under the label of Crystal Couture.  The main reason for this is that I am in Utah and the need or modest wedding gowns is huge.  Over the years I have worked with 3 different companies designing and marketing lines of modest gowns for each company. While there are currently a hand full of companies that have nice modest styles available they have over saturated our market area.  

The northern Utah more dense population can be driven from end to end in less than 2 hours yet there are literally a hundred outlets from stores to home businesses where a girl can get a wedding gown and all the major modest labels are in nearly every one of them.  There are 28 bridal shops within an hour drive of my store . Over the 30 years in business the pattern has been if I picked up a line and started doing well with it before long it was being carried by some of my nearest competition.  I grew tired of the lack of integrity of my industry.

I have encountered a couple dozen wanna be bridal shop owners over the years and this scenario is usually how it goes. Last week I met with a woman who was refered to me.  She is a displaced engineer who decided she would like to open a bridal shop about an hour away from my store with absolutely no background in this bridal or retail. Her friend or sister has a small shop in California and is advising her. She has already ordered dresses from three or so companies.  All three are very well represented in her area but she blew that fact off when I mentioned it. Even in the situation of COD a manufacturer is still extending credit by making dresses they hope will be paid for so and as a very small company I cannot afford to get stuck with dresses especially since I will change styles for individual stores.

The questions I usually ask new stores that I work with are:

Do you have a business plan? Who is your competition and what lines do they carry?  Most people cannot tell me either with any accuracy or completeness. How are you funding your endeavor? What are you going to offer that is unique or fills a niche that is not currently being offered? What experience do you have in bridal/formal wear?  Who are your key employees and what do they bring to the table? What categories are you going to focus on and why? What categories will you not carry and why? What services will you provide in addition to the dress and why?

I didn’t ask her all these questions as it was apparent to me that she was not interested in any advice.  Her lease was in place and she was going forward.  She lamented over the samples I showed for 4 hours and finally ordered 7 gowns.  I told her I needed 1/2 down to place the order since I was doing some custom changes.  She ended up not being able to afford it.

She hasn’t even opened yet and she doesn’t have money for her samples.  How is she going to afford operating expenses?

I think some people think you only have to open and customers will practically break your doors down waving cash.  When they find out that is not the case they will fall for the promises like this person because they are desperate and just don’t know any better,” according to Robinson.

 eWedNewz is watching several of the wedding industry experts and the growing challenges they face, as the wedding business learns the simple, key factors of how to run a successful business. Many are already plugged into their local markets via Social Networking. Some have attended multiple wedding industry seminars and say they will no longer attend, feeling they’d only be wasting their time and money.

What about you? Will you be attending wedding industry seminars in the future?

Please tell us your thought here or call us at 516-312-0090





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