I first met Liene at a wedding conference I attend, called Engage. At the time, I knew nothing about her company, Think Splendid, and from the moment I was introduced to it, I've been a total fan! Liene is an expert in social and consumer psychology and has been studying, analyzing and forecasting what makes people tick and ultimately, why they make the decisions they do - specifically in the wedding industry! She has also focused much of her studies on the Millennial generation, who are our current and up-and-coming clients. Liene is a wealth of information and I am so honored that she took the time for this little interview to share some insights with us all on her current findings! If you work in the wedding industry in any capacity, I highly encourage you to read on, Liene has some fantastic information for us!
Q. First off, you are a totally-cool-nerd about stats. How did you begin your interest with data and how why the wedding industry?
A. I'm not so much a lover of stats as I am of people. I am obsessed with figuring out what makes people tick, why they make the decisions they do, how they behave. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and that it's a story worth telling. I love weddings because there are millions of interconnected stories in one room every Saturday evening and the human element is one of the very few things that even the most professional, experienced wedding professional cannot control.
Q. You are in expert in social behavior and also analyzing how couples spend and plan their weddings. What are some trends you are seeing?
A. Food is becoming important at every budget level. More couples are choosing quality and spending more on it than in the past. This is partly because millennials are foodies and place a high value on it, partly because of the "real food" and farm to table movements, and partly because of food television and how accessible it has made gourmet food in daily living.
Another change is that grooms are now more involved in the wedding planning and decision making than men were before (nerdy stat: 65% of grooms are actively involved in the planning process). They've researched their options and aren't just making the stereotypical band/DJ, catering decisions.
Q. What do you think the 'State of the Wedding Industry' is currently for those of us who work in this world?
A. The wedding industry is evolving, not dissolving. What worked just ten years ago won't work now, but that is nothing to be afraid of. It just means that professionals need to stay on their toes and in tune with how their clients behave and make decisions.
A Chicken Little approach to the census data about the drop in marriage rate sells news, but it's not really cause for concern when you look at the behavior behind the numbers. Today's young couples get married at a later age, but the majority indicate that they still do want to get married -- they just want to do it once. Nearly half of millennials are children of divorce and don't want divorce as an option for themselves. As for the long-term view of weddings, there's currently a baby boom in London, which bodes well for the wedding industry in about 25-30 years. People are getting married now (at an average of 40,000 weddings in the U.S. every weekend) and they'll continue to get married in the future.
Q. What do you think the 'State of the Wedding Industry' is currently for couples planning their weddings?
A. For couples, there's never been a better time to plan a wedding. Social media has leveled the playing field in terms of who can show off their talent (making it affordable and no longer solely at a magazine editor's discretion), so it makes it easier for couples to find professionals they love at every price point. If a couple does their homework, they can weed out the "all talk" pros from the talented ones.
Q. What is the most fascinating fact you have learned over the years about weddings?
A. A typical wedding has an average of 43 vendors working on it in some capacity.
Q. I find that couples are planning their weddings either very-globally or hyper-locally. Do you have any thoughts on this and what that means for vendors finding their 'perfect' clients?
A. Your experiences with this ring true industry wide. For vendors to take advantage of finding the clients they want, they really need to first hone in on what it is they want for themselves. Do they want to travel every weekend? If so, there are couples who don't bat an eye at spending an extra thousand dollars to fly in a florist, photographer, planner, band, officiant whose work they fell in love with. When some people hear the saying "go big or go home", they reply with "home please" and this is a legitimate decision. If they'd prefer to stay closer to home and put down roots, the easiest way is to really tailor their website and blog to showcase an expertise of their local area. If a wedding pro is trying to be everything to everyone they won't get the clients they want.
Q. The 'Millennial' Generation are our up-and-coming clients. Do you have any advice on what they are looking for?
A. They're looking for collaborators, not someone to delegate everything to. They grew up in an educational system that emphasized team work and group decision making, so choices and peer feedback are a way of life for them. They no longer take the planner's recommendations as gold, but as vetted options open to the feedback of their family and friends.
Millennials also see custom as a way of life, not a premium upgrade. They were taught that they could be anything they wanted because there was no one in the world just like them. They were taught that they are special snowflakes and they believe this. Using the word "packages" is a red flag because it shows you are cookie cutter and not able to accommodate their uniqueness. Your process as a wedding professional needs to FEEL custom to the client, whether the back-end is truly custom or not, and regardless of what budget level you are at.
Q. What is the most rewarding part about your job?
A. The most rewarding part of my job is when a business owner tells me that my research and work allowed them to grow and continue to put food on their table and the tables of their employees who depend on the paychecks the owner provides.
Q. What kind of difference do you hope to make in the long term with Think Splendid?
A. Everything that we do at Think Splendid has to empower the wedding industry in some way, or we don't take it on. There are good but not great opportunities that I have passed on because they didn't fit that overall mission. I want my work to empower people to think critically and make smarter, more informed decisions for their businesses. Splendid is a very specific word and I chose it on purpose. You cannot make mediocre decisions and be splendid. You cannot half ass things and be splendid. Being, acting, thinking splendid requires a choice to step up and show up. I want my work to raise the bar. I want the industry to be more splendid because of what I do and what my work enables others to do.
Q. I'm not a political person, but Gay Marriage is a big one on the ballot in many states right now. What do you think the economic effects will be in the future with more states passing this?
A. It is more complicated than this, but the very simple answer is that gay marriage means more people getting married which means more money being spent on wedding related purchases by both the couple and the guests who will spend on new outfits, travel, gifts. The industry is not going to take a financial hit when gay marriage passes in each state. Straight people are not going to stop getting married in protest.
Q. Where do you gather your inspiration?
A. I'm a voracious reader. I find that good fiction inspires me in a way that nothing else does. I also like to visit museums and go on walks and just try and notice the every day details that often get overlooked - the curvy pattern of a flower's petals against the straight lines of a fence and things like that. I find that this stimulates my mind and gets my brain spinning.
You can also check out Think Splendid on Twitter.