The wedding industry was one of a handful of markets to fall into chaos after the pandemic. As couples canceled their ceremonies left and right, salespeople and wedding planners stood up, hoping for signs of possible recovery.
In retrospect, the fall of 2019 doesn’t seem like the ideal time to start a wedding geared towards the wedding industry FinTech. But loud Elizabeth Sheils and Nora Sheils, Co-founder of Stone paper coinThe temporary closure of the sector was a blessing in disguise.
“Otherwise wedding salespeople would have been busy on site at weddings in the summer,” said Nora PYMNTS in an interview with her sister-in-law and co-founder. “Instead, many had extra time, and they took that time to streamline their business and integrate technology.”
It was an important moment for an industry with a history of manual workflows and paper between wedding planners, salespeople, and their clients getting married. As Nora and Elizabeth discussed, contracts, bills and payments are one of the biggest weaknesses in the wedding industry, as there is little time left for digitization. And even with a number of FinTech solutions targeting these workflows, they usually lack a key factor that is vital to wedding planning.
Bring wedding planners to light
“The wedding industry has really been in the dark age for a while,” said Nora, referring to wedding vendors – including photographers, cameramen, caterers, and event organizers – who typically deal with paper contracts and invoices and receive check payments.
Because of this lack of digitization, there are numerous opportunities for breakdowns. The biggest pitfalls arise due to a lack of clarity for wedding planners. Although wedding planners have been hired to take the heavy load of often tedious and complex tasks off of the couple, they often lack the insight into the contract signings, invoices, and payments they need to do their jobs.
“In the past, a vendor would send a contract and invoice directly to a customer,” said Elizabeth. “If the connection is lost, the planner will be notified via email when a document is sent as a PDF or the wedding planner is left in the dark.”
This three-way communication and data exchange requirement, which only applies to the wedding and other event planning industries, is often overlooked by industry-independent billing and B2B payment solutions.
Typically, a couple pays the seller by check and files it via email or signs a contract that they received directly. It disables a wedding planner’s ability to ensure that the contract negotiated by the planner was actually met, or to ensure that the providers have been paid in full and are ready to perform that contract on the big day.
This lack of digitization also creates the opportunity for checks lost in the mail, billing errors, and other scenarios where a mishap can result in thousands or dollars being lost to the seller or customer.
An opportunity to manage expenses
While transactions take place in a B2C model between couple and wedding seller, the addition of a wedding planner creates a new B2B2C paradigm that Elizabeth says is more similar to the construction industry in terms of the flow of invoices and payments. Hence, digitization is key to giving the wedding planner – who acts like a contractor – better insight into the flow of documents and money.
Digitization can also mean that control over these workflows is handed over to the planner himself. With Rock Paper Coin, couples can give their planners the ability not only to view important documents like invoices, but also to make payments or sign contracts on behalf of the client.
The consolidation and digitization of this three-way collaboration process opens up the possibility of greater financial control and budgeting. For the wedding planner, couples’ ability to upload payment methods and set limits ensures that spending is kept within limits. For the provider, functions such as support for installment payments and a flat processing fee can support the requirements of their own cash flow management.
Until then, the ongoing vaccine rollout and encouraging COVID-19 numbers continue to bode well for the possible resurgence of the wedding industry. After providers and wedding planners have taken a break and have time to focus on digitizing workflows, the opportunities to make the flow of invoices and payments more efficient increase.
“Everything is virtual with COVID,” noted Nora. “You wouldn’t stop by someone to write a check. Providers were forced to incorporate technology, especially for contracts and payments, because if they didn’t, they would lose their business. “