Interview with Renée Strauss
powerful online platform leverages advanced technology to streamline and simplify the entire process of planning and managing destination weddings and honeymoons. Members have access to the Wedaways curated luxury portfolio of vetted properties and planners ready to plan, design and produce experiences of a lifetime.
What initially inspired your founding Wedaways? What was the main gap in the industry you sought to fill?
Once my reality TV show Brides of Beverly Hills, gained popularity around the world, I was invited by the Italian board of tourism to bring groups of wedding planners to Italy, to bring more focus to their destination wedding market. In doing that, going from five star property to five star property with the groups, I was well received by the general manager and all the staff in the individual hotels and they wanted to sit with me and find out more about what I knew about weddings, rather than take the time to get to know the wedding planners that I was bringing along. In that experience, I realised that there was an opportunity to give exposure in some way, to these amazing hidden gems that many North Americans probably had never heard of and even many wedding planners in the world hadn't heard of. I got in touch with my daughter and I had her join me in Italy. We spent five weeks travelling the country and talking with hoteliers and realising that we could put a platform together to give these gorgeous properties, these hidden gems, the exposure that they properly deserved and thus Wedaways was born.
What did the first year of Wedaways look like? How did you build the international networks and partnerships that make the company the success it is today?
The first year of Wedaways involved sitting down with web designers, developers and my business partner, my daughter, and talking about the user experience and what we really wanted to provide to the consumer markets. Whether they be B2B or B2C, in that engaged couples would be B2C, and wedding planners would be B2B. At the same time, how to continue to give the proper exposure to the properties that were coming on board, that trusted us to get their properties exposed to the right markets. There was a lot of whiteboarding and sitting with five to seven computers on the desks, and going over and over again the user experience, checking out other platforms that did parts of what we were considering, but really didn't have the same concept. We ended up designing our website after the first year of a lot of powwows and a lot of discussions. Then we launched the website and realised we needed to do it again.
What were some of the more surprising aspects of founding an international destination wedding company? What were some differences you saw in how different cultures approach wedding planning?
When we first founded Wedaways, we only considered being a marketing platform for properties that wanted more exposure to the wedding and honeymoon markets. We allowed the business to dictate to us the consumer demands and the market demands, and we grew from that realisation and we understood that in order to reach more engaged couples, we would need to reach more wedding planners. In order to properly serve the wedding planning community, we needed to explain what we could do for wedding planners to make their jobs easier. Because many wedding planners are designers, as well as highly organised individuals. Many of them would just rather concentrate on designing and producing the events, than organising the room blocks for the out of town guests, the venue spaces, the transfers of people from the airport to the property or from one destination to another in case there are multiple events. We had to really explain what we could do for that wedding planning community as full service travel agents as well. In the progress that we were making, we were learning at the same time that being a destination wedding management company, would mean so much more than just a platform featuring properties. It came down to servicing communities as well.
You work with a highly specialized clientele. How do you ensure that Wedaways is the first place potential clients go to when exploring destination wedding options?
Wedaways services' three different revenue streams. We provide a platform for properties around the world that are looking for the exposure to the wedding and honeymoon markets. In order to do that, we have to reach engaged couples around the world as well as wedding planners. Our concentration is a lot of digital marketing and a lot of word of mouth. We've added a video company to our real house, so we are able to produce the wedding videos for clients if they so desire. We've tried to structure everything so we never really have to say no, we just have to say no problem. Whether it be working with wedding planners to book the room blocks even if their wedding planners are in the same town as the wedding is going to happen and they're not doing a destination wedding, we are there to be of service. As long as we continue with our digital marketing, our newsletters, our e-blasts and our word of mouth that we are creating from making clients happy each and every time, is really the way we foot soldier to the front lines and we are on the tip of the tongue of the markets that we serve.
What's next for your work with Wedaways? What are the main markets, services, and partnerships you'll be focusing on in the next year?
Wedaways continues to explore the world and find beautiful destinations, unique resources within those destinations, fabulous properties that can cater to all kinds of desires, from lodges to resorts to private villas, whatever they may be and the kinds of properties that would be desirable to the international wedding and honeymoon clients. We look to expand our network of wedding planners around the world and we'd love to let them know that we are there for them. We are the perfect travel planning partners. We are very detailed in what we do, just as they are in what they do. We want to continue letting engaged couples know around the world, that we can handle all of their honeymoon needs. If they're travelling pre or post their own wedding, we can take care of all of their travel plans. We are looking to expand partnerships and cater to all the communities that love weddings, honeymoons and romance travel.