The big day is big business

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Carley Roney and David Liu did not have a dream wedding. In fact, it was a bit of a nightmare.

The couple met at film school in New York, but it was not until a chance encounter at a party a few years later, in the early 1990s, that they really hit it off. They decided to get married in a matter of months, but did not enjoy planning the wedding.

The wedding industry was stuck in the past. Bridal magazines seemed to cater for people that had saved for years to pay for their ‘big day.’ Information about the best suppliers to use was hard to come by.

The couple’s wedding fell on the hottest day for a decade, which turned the lovely rooftop space they had hired into an oven. “It was a disaster,” Roney says.

But the experience sparked an idea.

Roney and Liu knew they were not the only couple left alienated by the wedding industrial complex.

There were thousands of couples just like them that did not fit the ’norm’ – and plenty of quirky venues ready to cater for this untapped demand.

In 1996 they founded the Knot, a website with a refreshingly irreverent attitude towards all things wedding related.

They found an audience almost immediately – but making money was more of a challenge.

“There were no pictures on the web and there was no advertising. It was the early days in the wild, wild west,” explains Liu.

But they persisted – and it slowly paid off as increasing numbers of advertisers moved their budgets online.

The Knot has grown to become the most popular website of its kind in America. 80% of those planning a wedding use the site.

And the company has evolved into the XO Group, which employs over 750 people, generates millions, and owns a stable of other lifestyle brands, including the Bump for new mothers, and the Nest for homeowners.

“Our brand was built on word of mouth marketing. We created a world in which couples felt they were taking ownership and helping build this brand with us,” says Roney.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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