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The Wedding Planner
Now I have to admit that when I got married I had no real interest in bridal gowns, tuxedos, floral arrangements or place settings. Maybe I wanted a say in what kind of music was played (please no “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang!) or the food, and I did participate in the cake tasting (chocolate, of course!).
To be honest, I really wasn’t interested in planning the wedding (isn’t that what mothers in law are for?). I also quickly learned it was better to just keep saying “yes” to anything my prospective bride and future mother-in-law suggested. Tails instead of tuxedos? Of course! What was I thinking?
But I guess I was missing the whole point. Weddings are big business -- and these days Destination Weddings are a really big business for travel agents. That’s why on Thursday, June 14, I found myself in New York’s Grand Central Station in Vanderbilt Hall sitting around a model’s catwalk with a huge video screen projecting images of bridal gowns, wedding ceremonies and gorgeous Caribbean resorts – Sandals resorts, in this case.
Indeed, it was Sandals Resorts, led by all-inclusive guru Gordon “Butch” Stewart, which rented out the entire front part of Grand Central Station to hold a special event to celebrate the launch of its new, revised WeddingMoons concept. Sandals, which claims to have coined the term WeddingMoons, is calling its latest innovation “Your Wedding. Your Style.” The idea is to give ever more demanding brides (and make no mistake, we’re talking about brides here) the opportunity to completely customize their weddings the way they want them.
Now we wrote about this in our news section earlier this week ("Sandals Set to Debut New WeddingMoons Concept"), so I sort of knew what to expect. But this event, as much as it was held in a very public space, was really for the many travel agents (top selling Sandals agents especially), wholesalers and journalists, not the public.
A few curious onlookers walked by on their way to the trains, but we were there to hear from top Sandals executives and our special master of ceremonies, Randy “Say Yes to the Dress” Fenoli. Yes, it is Fenoli, a wedding planner and wedding dress designer, who hosts this reality TV show on TLC, a network that I believe is somewhat lower down on my personal interest level than ESPN and Turner Classic Movies. But “Say Yes to the Dress” is very popular with my 18-year-old daughter (should I be worried?).
We heard from Fenoli and from Sandals executives like “Butch” Stewart (Sandals Chairman), his son Adam Stewart (Sandals CEO), Kevin Froemming (president of Sandals’ U.S. rep Unique Vacations) and Gary Sadler (Sandals senior vice president of sales). We also watched as a sextuplet of super models strutted down the catwalk wearing “wedding dresses” (silly me, I thought they were supposed to be all white).
Sandals has really gotten quite creative with its latest Destination Wedding concept. It even has a specially designed section of its website focused clearly on Your Wedding. Your Style, where prospective brides can customize their weddings step by step, starting with their favorite color. It’s a great feature that quite literally gets that bride completely involved in the process (and maybe the prospective groom will look over her shoulder, because it is somewhat similar to online video game after all).
Best of all, Sandals is fully involving its travel agent and wholesale partners in the Destination Weddings process. It wants its agent partners to get big commissions from selling its new line of Your Wedding. Your Style programs – and yes, travel agents can get commission on every part of these weddings apparently, from the food to the ceremony to the flowers right on down to the napkins, I believe!
Sandals also has a new educational course for agents specifically designed to help them sell Destination Weddings. It also will host a series of fam trips to top Sandals resorts this fall to showcase the impressive facilities the company offers for such celebrations. Indeed, the all-inclusive resort company wants to help its travel agent partners sell more destination weddings and make more money! Which, after all, is what this business is all about. It makes Butch Stewart happy, it makes the travel agents happy, and yes, it makes those brides very happy, too!
James Shillinglaw is editor in chief of TravelPulse.com.
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