Sep252012

“Most couples are surprised when I tell them that destination weddings usually cost about 50% less than regular weddings (depending on the destination and level of wedding, of course!)”

Kimberly Richmond
Kimberly Richmond

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Runaway Bride is a boutique destination wedding & honeymoon company specializing in luxurious hideaways. They represent a handful of unique destinations and partner with exclusive, chic properties in these exotic locations. Their distinctive approach of representing a handful of unique locales validates them as veritable connoisseurs of the places they recommend.

MO: What inspired you to start Runway Bride?

Kimberly: They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that’s pretty much how the idea for Runaway Bride was born. I was engaged several years ago and living in Boston at the time. Born and raised in Mexico City, I had always dreamed of having a fairytale wedding in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull of the planning of my dream wedding “long distance” so I enlisted the help of a planner in San Miguel. I quickly realized that not only was the planner that I hired not all that great (she didn’t even speak Spanish!), but I also realized that I was having fun taking care of the details and could do a better job. So that’s just what I did… I took over the planning of everything– from Boston. I’m fluent in Spanish and I’m completely bi-cultural so working with the vendors in Mexico came naturally to me (and it was fun!) I realized the tremendous advantage that I had over other planners and started to develop my business plan for a “local” wedding planning company to plan destination weddings.

MO: Can you talk about the process from having the initial concept to actually building the business and some of the challenges you encountered along the way?

Kimberly: While the idea for the business was born in 2006, I didn’t actually launch Runaway Bride until last year. Although I had written my business plan and knew I had a great concept, I also realized that a lot of factors needed to be in place before I could start up a business that was going to be successful. At the time, I had been with Hyatt Hotels for six years and had extensive experience in Sales & Marketing. I was well versed in the hospitality/travel industry, but knew I needed to get event planning experience (outside of planning my own wedding) under my belt. In 2009, I transitioned out of the hospitality world and took a job with Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as their Director of Corporate Events. In this role, I planned and executed hundreds of high profile events at their Flagship Store and made a name for myself in the event planning world– not to mention some great contacts in NYC! I was also at a place financially where I was able to leave the security of a steady paycheck (scary!) and go out on my own. I’m not going to say that it hasn’t been challenging or a big adjustment— but it’s also been more gratifying than I could have imagined! Some of the challenges (in addition to having to put myself on a very strict budget) have included learning to wear many hats and play different roles. As a sole proprietor- I am the accounting department, marketing person, social media team, etc. It takes a lot of discipline and organization to be able to take on all of these roles (successfully) and stay sane!

MO: Why do you think that there is an increasing trend towards destination weddings?

Kimberly: I think it’s safe to say that when people think of romantic settings, a beach at sunset is one of the top images that comes to mind. As such- the idea of saying “I do” in such a romantic setting is very appealing. We’ve seen such growth in the travel industry and as such, I think tourism offices and hotel chains (and now cruise lines) have realized the potential for combining the wedding market and the travel industry. We’ve seen a lot more advertising dollars spent in these areas (especially with some of the more popular all-inclusive resorts such as Sandals and Beaches). Tourism Offices have even added departments solely dedicated to growing these markets and it’s working! At the end of the day, the little girl in all of us wants to have that fairytale wedding and for many of us- this entails a barefoot in the sand experience or perhaps a royal affair in a European Castle. The growth of the travel industry and increased marketing dollars towards this segment have made this more than attainable.

MO: What advice would you give a couple who were keen to have a destination wedding but working with a very strict budget?

Kimberly: Most couples are surprised when I tell them that destination weddings are usually cost about 50% less than regular weddings (depending on the destination and level of wedding, of course!) But for the most part- couples who get married in Mexico (for example) will find that not only are the vendors a lot less expensive, but you also get more for your money.

I would introduce one word into the vocabulary of couples who are working with a very strict budget: flexibility! If a couple is open to having their wedding in the summer months in the Caribbean (for example)- they’re going to have a lot more negotiating power as this is the “off season” vs. trying to book a wedding down there in December. Being flexible to the day of the week they get married is another way to save money. Getting married on a Tuesday vs. a Saturday is going to be a lot less expensive. It’s all these “little” things that add up in the end and being flexible and open to ‘out of the box’ ideas is always a plus.

MO: What trends have you noticed since first launching?

Kimberly: The most interesting trend I’ve noticed since first launching the business are the changing destinations that couples are looking at. Destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean have always been popular, but recently- I’ve been getting requests for far flung locales such as Bali and even Australia! Another growing trend that I’ve noticed are weddings at sea. The cruise ship wedding sector has been growing so quickly that the cruise lines have added dedicated staff to handle this market.

MO: What influenced your decision to add a PR, Media Relations and Marketing sector to Runaway Bride?

Kimberly: This definitely wan’t part of the original business plan, but I’m happy we’ve added it! When I first started the company- I hand selected specific hotels that I wanted to align myself with. I knew that I didn’t necessarily want to work with the large, all-inclusive type properties and wanted to really focus on smaller, boutique, unique hotels. So we started small (only representing three destinations in Mexico and a handful of hotels in each destination). As word got out and as we started growing, I found myself being approached by several other hotels in many different destinations asking how they could get on board with Runaway Bride. The interesting thing was that many of these properties already had a PR agency representing them. But they realized that Runaway Bride is able to offer them something different… as a wedding planner who is in front of brides and potential clients every day- I’m able to represent these properties from a unique angle- a romantic one. As I mentioned earlier, the wedding segment is a hugely untapped market and a sector that many hotels are trying to grow. Having a Manhattan based wedding planner who is in contact with hundreds of potential clients, representing their hotel is huge. While I have the Marketing & Sales background- I’m really trying to stay focused on the wedding planning side of things. I recently added a Communications Director to the team. She has a wealth of PR and Media Relations experience– not to mention the contacts to continue to grow this sector for us!

 

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