The wedding scene on the Coffs Coast is going from strength to strength, being named in the most recent Bride Magazine as “the new Byron Bay”. Passionately leading the charge is Lauren Fraser. Her company, North Coast Luxury Weddings, has some swoon-worthy venues on their books and is highly sought after for couples seeking a wedding without the cookie cutter approach. They’ve also shared an office with the CornerPost Consulting team at The Promenade. Here we talk to Lauren about the business of weddings …
Tell us about how your business, North Coast Luxury Weddings, came about?
Seven years ago I arrived on the Coffs Coast from Sydney, leaving behind a career in event management that I loved. The move prompted a change from event to venue management. I enjoyed it at the time, but my love for organising events endured, and I needed to be challenged more professionally. I had started noticing a shift in the wedding market. Gone were the days of cookie cutter weddings. Couples wanted a more personalised approach and distinctive venues to make their day unforgettable. Thus, North Coast Luxury Weddings was born.
What services do you offer clients?
Ultimately, we make a wedding happen! We manage all the details and logistics, planning a seamless event. Sometimes this is from the very beginning, or just when they need a helping hand. We do the legwork, we schedule, we liaise with everyone, we manage the suppliers, we negotiate pricing, we set-up, we solve problems and once the day is over, we pack it all away. We basically take the stress away and make sure those big plans and intimate details turn out just right.
Our specialty is producing weddings at private properties. Everything has to be hired and brought onsite, from plates, furniture, linen, the kitchen, lighting and often even power … we have to organise everything. But this makes the wedding completely bespoke and allows us to fit within a range of budgets, which is amazing. We are grateful to have been selected by three luxury properties (Marlowe House, Orara Valley Estate and Villa Vivante), as their exclusive wedding planner. We operate primarily on the Coffs Coast, but extend up to the Byron Bay region and south to Port Macquarie. We love weddings and love travel, so if people would like us to be a part of their special day – we are there!
What role do you think the wedding market plays in bringing tourism to this area?
I am a strong believer that the wedding market is the quiet achiever for tourism on the Coffs Coast. In the last four months we’ve hosted couples from all over the world, including Canada, Denmark, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Our Australian clients come primarily from capital cities. Their demographic is more affluent than the average Coffs Coast tourist. They bring with them on average 75 guests who stay, play and eat on the Coffs Coast, on the days surrounding the actual wedding.
Our exclusive properties aren’t the only venues on the Coffs Coast tapping into the destination wedding market … We are spoilt for choice, with a number of other resorts and venues. The overall contribution from “wedding tourists” to the local economy is substantial, and my business is a significant generator of wedding tourism. Social media is now a major player for many businesses.
What works for your business?
Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter has dramatically changed the way couples explore and discover their ideas for their wedding day. It has never been more critical for businesses in the wedding industry to be active in all these networks. We regularly post our wedding photos, inspiration from the industry and peeks from behind the scenes. We find social media helps us to build relationships, connect with others in the industry, provides inspiration, showcases our work and ultimately brings us business.
Our newest love is Instagram … With weddings being such a visual medium, Instagram is perfect; our clients love it, and it is free! Pinterest is key for collaboration. We have private boards with clients where we go back and forth formulating ideas.
How do you keep everything on track when planning over 50 weddings at one time?
Systems! There is no way we could do this job without the systems we have developed and have continually refined as our experience has grown … systems combined with technology. Our event management software is vital in the success of the wedding planning process. Our timelines are built in, ensuring all our tasks are completed and nothing goes amiss. It manages our calendar, vendor bookings, itineraries, contacts, client notes and financials.
The other important aspect in managing multiple weddings is our staff. As with any small business, when we first started I did it all … from responding to enquiries, doing the books, setting the tables and coordinating the weddings. The development of the business has been and still is hard work. Thankfully, we are starting to see the vision come to fruition; our growth has enabled us to have a team approach. We now have a team of people who look after specialised areas of the business and various stages of the wedding process.
What are your tips for staying up to date with industry trends?
I stay up to date with trends by immersing myself in all areas of the wedding industry. I’m lucky enough to love what I do. Flicking through wedding magazines, reading blogs, exploring Pinterest and stalking on Instagram is not work for me. It’s something I do every day and allocate time for my staff to do. There is always excitement in the office when the latest White Magazine, Hello May or Hooray comes through the door.
We also attend expos and other industry events, mostly in the capital cities. This has allowed us to not only keep in touch with trends, but also make some great connections with industry leaders. This is one of the perks in what is a fun industry to be part of! Customer service is an important aspect to any business.
What is your philosophy on this?
In the wedding game it is all about relationships. Weddings are emotive, families are complex, and the stress levels can be high. Delivering superior customer service is of the utmost importance, but it becomes somewhat irrelevant if you cannot connect with your clients. Yes, this is a business, but the wedding business is personal. We work hard to build our client relationships, which in turn builds the level of confidence they have in our ability to manage their wedding effectively.
I am also very selective as to whom I employ. The one skill that any of my employees must have is that they must be brilliant with people. This foundation is a great starting point for us to manage our couples’ expectations and then over-deliver on performance.
As we are essentially the production managers, it is imperative that we only partner with the most talented, professional and respected vendors, whose work has proven to be of a consistently high standard. We are spoilt for choice on the Coffs Coast, with a vibrant wedding industry made up of some of the best in the business. So far our approach has been successful. We’ve just hit the two year mark, and we’ll hit 100 weddings in November.
Interview by Samantha Wardman from www.cornerpostconsulting.com.au