All about Offbeat Bride & Lovesick's WeddingMBA presentation + our new joint venture, OFFBEAT INDUSTRY

wedding mba offbeat bride lovesick by freweddings

Does anyone remember the last time I went to Las Vegas? I was invited to do a presentation at the Wedding MBA convention, and got a free exhibitor booth as well. I learned a lot from the experience, including:

  • I need to get out more often
  • Wow, I suck at the A/V component of presentations
  • I did not get a return on investment from the booth

All three of these lessons were applied in the two years since, and this year when the Wedding MBA folks approached me about doing a talk, I was ready:

  • Since last attending Wedding MBA, I've gotten out a lot, presenting at six wedding expos across the US with Tom & Jon, the Lovesick Expo dudes
  • Rather than do the presentation myself, I'd team up with the dudes — since they do videography, putting together an A/V rich presentation is WAY easier for them
  • I'll skip the booth and hang out with friends by a pool instead

So the three of us were booked to do a presentation titled "Off The Beaten Aisle: Give Every Wedding Some Edge." The timing worked out well, because we had a new very-much related business venture to announce…

What was the presentation about?

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Insert banter here!
I knew that doing a presentation with Tom & Jon would be fun, because we've learned at the Lovesick Expos that we crack each other up on stage. We balance out, with Tom and I filling the roles of Overly-Excitable Male and Frantically-Enthusiastic Female, with Jon tempering our shared freneticism with his lower, slower, more teacher-like vibe.

In preparation, Jon & Tom and I talked over the themes we wanted to hit — being open to feedback, exploring collaborative creativity, honoring transparency and authenticity. Then this summer, they went and conducted several video interviews with couples and vendors in Philadelphia. These videos allowed our presentation to deliver some difficult truths to vendors, without us having to be the ones saying anything harsh. Then Tom & Jon made some slides. Then we coordinated outfits via text. And then it was time to go to Las Vegas and do this thing.

One of the challenges of the Offbeat Bride/Lovesick partnership is that two of us live in South Jersey, and one of us lives in Seattle. While we had the talk mapped out and the presentation deck locked down, we hadn't seen each other for over six months. We needed to spend 10 hours locked in a hotel room at Caesar's Palace the day before the presentation, practicing the talk and trying not to derail each other with poop jokes. The three of us were varying states of totally calm, floating anxiety, and over-prepared balls-out terror (I'm not telling who was which!), but we all managed to get ourselves feeling ready for the presentation at 9am Thursday.

How'd the presentation go?

Smooth. Great! People laughed at the right times, and clapped mid-presentation! Nobody peed themselves on stage, and we all got our points across. I perhaps leaned too heavily on a metaphor involving a sandworm, and Jon got to remind Tom that fetishes aren't "sick," they're just fetishes.

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Afterwards, we chatted with attendees, including Lisa, who told me that she'd gotten choked up during the talk, because she felt so relieved that there were people like her in the wedding industry. Meanwhile, as I was talking with Lisa, another attendee was actually breaking down in tears of gratitude talking to Tom, who then also started crying.

(Needless to say, nobody cried after my presentation in 2012.)

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TWINSIES! My dress is by J. Von Stratton… not sure about her's. 🙂

All this in mind, I'd call the presentation a raging success. Even the negative feedback I got was awesome:

Hey, I was at your presentation at the Wedding MBA. I appreciate that you have found a niche market, good for you! This may not mean anything to you, but I felt I needed to speak MY mind, since you spoke yours, loud and clear. So here it is…

First, I am a wedding professional, but what I saw in your presentation did not seem professional to me; it certainly doesn't reflect who I am and what I hope to do for my brides. I would not want anyone to put us in the same category with you and lovesick.com, because we definitely do not fit.

Secondly, USE YOUR WORDS!! The f-bomb is NOT creative nor professional, even though "everyone else is doing it" in their "real lives". Find your real voice, find your real adjectives! Shock effect is not good selling.

Obviously, you have the right to your own opinion…as do I. I don't expect you to agree with me or to necessarily change your mind about the way your presented yourself, but I think it's only fair that you should know that I was put off by a lot of what you and "the boys" said, and no, I did not applaud when one of them asked "have you ever heard the f-bomb so many times in a professional presentation?"

This attendee perfectly captures the spirit of the talk, which was basically — be yourself in your business. Find your niche. Know your market. Be authentic with your clients. As she says, Offbeat Bride and Lovesick "have found a niche market." When she says our market doesn't feel like a fit for her — she's totally right, and that's totally ok. In fact, it's just how it should be! The wedding industry is as diverse and varied as the couples it serves. No animosity necessary: the casual, crass voice that works for me and the Lovesick boys shouldn't resonate with everyone. Isn't it awesome that we're all different, and we can all find what works best with our markets!? I love that!

Wait, and what of that joint business venture?


This feedback actually perfectly ties in with the announcement I made with Tom & Jon on stage. We're pre-launching a new joint venture between Offbeat Bride and Lovesick called Offbeat Industry.

It's basically a B2B educational project for vendors who get that in the right context, swearing is fine. Who understand on a core level that fear should never be a part of marketing. Who get that they want to find and understand their own market niches.

As we say over on the new landing page:

Together, we are establishing Offbeat Industry because we think we can help move the wedding industry toward a more progressive, inclusive, and transparent future. We want to exchange ideas about workflow, technology, marketing, and communication. We want to be that safe place for vendors to discuss their businesses and get real-world, practical advice from their peers.

We're scheming all sorts of stuff — what if there was an Offbeat Bride Tribe for vendors? What if we did one-on-one mentoring for vendors hitting roadblocks with their business? You know how I sometimes do vendor business advice on Offbeat Empire? What if there was a whole site dedicated to that?

Tom and Jon and I have a lot of schemes for 2015 and 2016, but we're also going into this new joint venture understanding that we have a lot to learn. That in mind, we're asking wedding vendors what they'd most want to get from our new endeavor. So we're doing a wee little survey.

  1. I already Instagrammed my excitement, but it bears repeating here: SO EXCITED FOR THIS!!! I'm doing a lot of marketing & communications efforts for my family's catering business and it is so difficult to find business resources for that sector of the wedding industry that are relevant in today's increasingly offbeat market. I can't wait to see what develops out of this partnership.

    1 agrees
    • it is so difficult to find business resources for that sector of the wedding industry that are relevant in today's increasingly offbeat market

      It's weird, right? Like, there's a growing corner of wedding vendors who are uncomfortable with the way the industry has been run (fear-based marketing, etc), but we're also hesitant to band together and really talk about all this stuff… industry-wide othering, perhaps?

      5 agree
  2. Not peeing yourself on stage is definitely the measure of a good presentation.

    I'm excited to see where Offbeat Industry will go! You guys all have a lot of good knowledge to share about this stuff.

    4 agree
  3. For YEARS I have longed to figure out how to make my business more palatable to the Offbeat community. I am so relieved to hear this and look forward to more updates!

  4. So excited for your new biz venture with the Lovesick guys!

    I'm not in the wedding industry, but to throw down my two cents I *have* been thinking a lot about professional voice lately. I am an f-bomb dropper, shit-sayer, casual-talker. In my personal experience this makes the distance between what I'm trying to say and what my clients need to hear that much shorter. I'll admit there's a time and a place, but overall I've found that people seem to respect me more when I talk just as I talk, because who wants to deal with some professional script? (I know I don't.)

    I have theories about this… as people's work/non-work lives become more entangled there's less space to house different versions of self, and also, the boss has always had the option to say "[insert colorful swear here]!" Now more and more people are their own bosses, so they express themselves without oversight. But whatever the reason, I think the notion of professionalism and professional voice is all about reaching clients in a way that they're most comfortable; if a client's most comfortable hearing the occasional "fucking awesome!" then that's what's most professional when working with them.

    1 agrees
  5. OBT for Vendors? Ariel, you're speaking my language. I loved my OBT experience as a bride, and I've been craving that sort of "you're an offbeat vendor? ME TOO!" in a city where I'm the underdog and the offbeat vendor and a transplant. I so can't wait for this to start happening because maybe it will mean finding some like-minded vendors in the US Midwest and learning so so so much more along the way.

    3 agree
    • Oh, it's not custom. I bought it off the rack at a Seattle boutique called Pretty Parlor. The designer, Jamie Von Stratton, is a local burlesque costumer. No doubt there are similar designs all over the place (ain't nuthin' new under the sun, especially with fashion!) but I like supporting local folks when I can.

      4 agree
  6. Dear feedback-giver-who-forgot-that-different-markets-may-require-different-speech,
    I'm confused by your feedback.
    1. "Fuck" is most definitely a word. It is most definitely one of the presenters' words. Did you mean to say "use my words" rather than "use YOUR words"?
    2. It is an adjective. It's also versatile, functioning as a noun, adverb, and probably a number of other parts of speech. This is helpful, since limiting creativity to adjectives would be, well, limiting.
    3. "Fuck" has zero shock value to this particular niche market. It also can be used quite creatively, given its grammatic versatility. Perusing the Empire will demonstrate this.

    12 agree
    • Never have I missed the April fools' "fuck yeah!" buttons more than I do in this moment, for this comment.

      15 agree
  7. What is professional?

    I got hired after dropping the F bomb in an interview.
    Starbucks is looking at changing their rules for facial piercings.
    30 years ago visible tattoos would be frowned upon, I just saw an administrator at Children's Hospital with a badass leg tattoo.
    My dad wore a suit and tie everyday for years, but my husband working in the same industry is frowned upon for dressing up that much, so he's reduced to a nice polo and slacks.

    I guess my question is…is there a standard of 'professiona' in the first place? Does it vary by industry? Does it vary by time period?

    5 agree
  8. I'm so sad that I missed your talk but I am definitely excited to see what is in store with the offbeat industry thing. Congrats on the new venture

    1 agrees
  9. I am SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!!!!! Even though I'm in Scotland and you all are in the States, I feel RELIEVED ALL OVER.

    *Fuck* yes 😀

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