What Makes You a Wedding Expert Anyway? by Paul Pannone, eWedNews, January 5, 2011

What Makes You a Wedding Expert Anyway?

By Paul Pannone

ewednews.com logoeWedNews is being alerted to baseless and unfounded information appearing mainly on websites and in bridal publications that is hurting—not helping– brides with wedding plans. The alerts come from credible wedding experts in their respective categories that are no longer willing to stay quiet and hope the trend stops or reverses direction. For years, fashion editors and now someone’s aunt Tillie that remembers planning her wedding 30 years ago have elevated themselves to being a so-called expert.

The information was made public by Jim Duhe in an eWedNews story involving the changing role of bridal publications. Duhe’s views regarding how the wedding industry has changed over the past decade is highlighted and states, “Frankly, I think that the topic should be broader than bridal publications that don’t get it. I think that it should include web sites as well. I don’t think that The Knot gets it. I don’t think that Brides.com gets it. In fact, I can’t identify a single web site that DOES get it. In short, I think that your piece should be about bridal media.  In addition, you might ask not only “Who Gets It” but “Why Don’t They Get It.”

In an ongoing eWedNews investigation we’ve spoken with bridal advertising sources that agree with Duhe’s assessment and clearly see his point. “Jim is right because the standards have been lowered at every level. If I am reading him right, he objects to non-experts giving so-called “expert advice”; that’s dangerous,” according to Sheryl Davies .

Davies is a wedding industry veteran that understands the business from a vendor as well as a publication standpoint. To her benefit and ongoing success she’s gained the understanding of what a vendor expects from advertising and has formulated her publishing business to adapt to the expectations. “I am not an expert in every category in my bridal book but I can certainly discuss any wedding planning facet with those that are. In nearly all cases I will discuss current trends with experts to make sure that what I think is real, current and what the newly engaged bride needs to be aware of. Anything short of that is false information,” she told eWedNews.

Susan Moynihan, Editor-in-Chief of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons and Spa agrees with both Duhe and Davies; information must be factual and real. “Before we publish any information we discuss the topic with experts and people that are accredited with the required knowledge of the topic we’re covering. Our standards have always been at the same level of our readership and would not endorse any product that was not worthy. Our editors rely on experts to provide the right information to our readers; they’re the ones that will be experiencing where we guide them,” she told eWedNews. Moynihan gave accounts of seeing alluring pictures of hotels and beaches on websites, only to travel to the destination and find the beach had washed away years before. “Can you imagine sending a wedding couple to a place like that for their honeymoon?” she asked rhetorically.

eWedNews research is uncovering more instances of misleading information by resources that are not experts but are instead giving their opinions of how wedding planning should take place. In nearly every category resources are providing information that is incomplete, inaccurate or just plain wrong. “Take the tuxedo business; you’re an expert in that category. Do you find that tuxedos are being properly represented in the marketplace right now? You yourself have been covering the category for over a decade and have been in the business for 25 years. What’s new? What’s innovative in that business?” asks Duhe.

Duhe, himself a fashion expert, blasted the formal wear business last year for their lack of passion and near apathy for the category. The story remains in the top 20 eWedNews stories and is often used as a reference point. “What’s changed or is on the horizon of changing in that particular category? I don’t see any improvement, do you? That’s my point and all it does is allow people that are not experts to spew out whatever they want, knowing they will not be challenged; it’s pathetic,” according to Duhe.

“What would you like me to say on this topic? It’s true. Or at least it has been true, up until now,” according to Noel Feldman of FLOW Formals. Feldman has been quietly creating a new structure that will create stylish, new formal wear products directed to a new generation of formal wear users. “You’ve seen the results of making cheap, same old products that were outdated by today’s standards,” citing the recent After Six failure.

Feldman cited how times have changed from the original company called After Six that was bought, sold and headed by non-experts since 1993, “There was a company that was innovative, timely and really set the trends but we knew what we were doing back then. As far as that goes, nothing has really changed, it’s fashion and recognized labels that people want—that is what they will pay for,” according to Feldman. eWedNews is planning a special segment on FLOW in February to highlight new, innovative formal wear, positioning the company to take their leadership role as experts.

Upon hearing the news of FLOW, Sheryl Davies commented, “If they are the leaders of their industry segment, they’re the people that should be identified as experts. If FLOW is doing their homework and creating styles that appeal to brides and grooms then that’s what is truly called an expert and they deserve to labeled as such,” according to Davies.

Other Wedding Industry Survey Network Advisory Board member statements included noted event planner, Lynn Donahue. Donahue told eWedNews, “Everyone has and is entitled to an opinion. However when posing as an expert in the actual task of wedding planner, editors should always seek the experienced advice of a true living breathing expert versus a celebrity like figure with no true hands on experience. Certainly anyone can suggest an inspired idea or an actual experience but they should always preface it their commentary and should be a guide to brides reading the information.”

WISN Board member Christi Masi commented, “It seems to be that it’s the responsibility of the editor to seek out experts, not pretend to be one of them.” Masi herself is an expert in her field and is studying several areas of the market, finding disconnect between resources that claim to be experts and those that really are. Wedding analyst, Christine Boulton added, “The editors that I have met for both print and web, tend to live in their own little bubble. Many have little grasp of the real world outside of the bubble.”

In search of experts with grasp, eWedNews interviewed Liz Stajka, owner of Elizabeth St. John Couture. Stajka told eWedNews, “As a bridal fashion designer that deals directly with the consumer I supply them with the products they envision for their wedding. I don’t follow trends or the Fairy Dust that is created by advertising and marketing resources. I see what information is created and touted by so-called experts and it’s never totally accurate.”

Fashion editor, Jim Duhe, agrees with Stajka saying, “True trends are based on history and popularity. From a business standpoint they’re based on actual sales. Tell me how a trend can occur when a photo shoot that takes place during the summer yields pictures of dresses that appear on the cover of a magazine or on a website in the fall– but won’t ship until the early spring? Are we talking about experts or soothsayers?” asks Duhe.

In the end it’s clear that experts—real ones, not self appointed—must provide accurate, timely information based on facts and actual products. eWedNews continues this story and invites you to tell us what you think.

Please comment on this story or contact us at [email protected] or 516-312-0090


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