In this uncharted territory of social distancing caused by COVID-19, we are seeing just how important social interaction is for small businesses, especially those in the event and wedding industry. We all know someone who has either moved their wedding and/or greatly reduced the size of those attending. While we can all agree that the attention should be focused on the bride and groom, there is often a group of people that go overlooked.
This group of people are those who make your dream wedding a reality. They are the photographer who captures our happiest moments. The caterers who provide the food connecting memories to taste and smell. The florist who adds the pops of colors. The beauticians who add the element of extra flair. The dress boutiques and tailors who help you find the perfect dress and tux. Not to mention the wedding coordinator who brings it all together, working tirelessly to make your day a special one! Now, these businesses, these people that we so desperately trust are having to find new innovative ways to help current and future clients in this season of social distancing. I had the privilege of learning how this industry is adapting through an interview with wedding planner and boutique owner, Allie Danae Walker.
Allie Danae Walker is the owner of Katharine Marie Weddings in Anderson, South Carolina. As Allie grew up, she developed a love for business and creating things. You would always find her on the playground selling anything from friendship bracelets to pencils and erasers. Her love of weddings came after seeing the movie “The Wedding Planner” for the first time and knowing from that point forward she wanted to be a wedding planner. She has always had a love for fashion, however, it was first her mom’s dream to open up the boutique side of the business. When Allie went to college, she set her teenage dream to the side and graduated with a degree in history.
After graduation, she worked for her mom for two years and watched her firsthand how she ran a business. Allie also spent some time in retail before moving to Atlanta in 2014. She got a job at a real-estate firm in Atlanta where she continued to learn a lot from other realtors about how to be a solo- business owner.
Rediscovering the Wedding Dream
In 2015, Allie decided she wanted to start getting back into weddings and started her first wedding planning company. In 2016, she began working for a bridal shop to see if that part of her mom’s dream was her’s as well. While working there she learned that she was not only skilled at planning but also worked well with brides and their families. In late 2016, Allie and her mom decided to revisit their dream of a bridal boutique and decided it was finally time to go for it! Unfortunately, her mom died suddenly of a heart attack a couple of weeks later.
The Start of Katharine Marie Weddings
In 2018, Allie moved back home to Anderson, South Carolina to carry on her mom’s legacy by opening the wedding business they had dreamed of. Making her business all about friendship and legacy. The name Katharine Marie comes from her great aunt and mother. Marie was her mother’s middle name and her great aunt Katharine owned a wedding boutique not far from where Katharine Marie Weddings is located today (Katharine Reed’s Bride & Formal Shop). Allie carries on her mother’s legacy through not only her name but by applying what her mom taught her about business and giving back. For every dress and planning package sold, a portion of the purchase is donated to a local or international charity. This is what makes every Katharine Marie bride a Legacy Bride.
Bride First Business Second
Allie is all about making a difference instead of profit, she wants to use her business to not only make a difference in the lives of those in need but also in the lives of her brides. She says the best way to build trust is by building a relationship, this is how she runs her business. Allie treats and cares for her brides like she would a friend. If a bride were to cancel the wedding for whatever reason, then Allie’s first response would be to offer her a shoulder to cry on before gently figuring out how to close the contract. She says that a planner needs to be a paramedic when things get crazy. They need to be the cool, calm, and collected one in stressful situations, acting quickly and creatively to fix the problem.
Getting Creative with Virtual Appointments
Something every vendor knows is that plans rarely ever work out the way you want them to. This industry requires you to know how to adapt quickly; only the ones who are able to be truly creative are going to thrive through this social distancing season. Some of the ways Allie is adapting are by setting up virtual appointments for her brides. This allows Allie to show various dresses to her brides. Brides can then come pick up dresses to try on at home.
When it comes to marketing Katharine Marie Weddings, she has decided to focus more on building brand loyalty with her current clients and building the know like and trust factor with newer ones during this season. Allie says that while a repeat customer isn’t as typical in a bridal boutique. Brand loyalty is still an important marketing strategy in this industry because they can refer you to their friends and family. If there was ever a time to focus on brand loyalty it is certainly now. Having a bride recommend you to someone because you made their wedding great in the middle of a pandemic will carry more weight than you getting a tent set up when it rains.
How to Best Support This Industry in This Season
It’s important to recognize that this is a difficult time for everyone. The best thing for everyone to do in this season is to support each other. These are uncharted waters that call for grace to be given on both sides. Allie’s advice to brides and their families is to remember that your wedding vendors are also navigating a new normal. These vendors are not out to get you or scam you out of money, they want your wedding to be everything you dreamed of.
If you picked good vendors, then trust them to do their job to the best of their ability. Allie advises the vendors to remember that they were picked by these brides for a reason. These brides are looking to you to be a light and the calm in the middle of all this stress. Allie encourages both sides to not make decisions out of fear but to be reasonable, responsive, and kind.