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How Lehigh Valley businesswomen find success in over-saturated wedding industry – LehighValleyNews.com

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — With as many as 80 wedding vendors in the Lehigh Valley, some services are looking to cater to a new, younger clientele willing to pay more — and get more — when it comes to nuptials.

“Experiential retailing” is on the rise, as businesses aim to shoulder the stress of wedding planning and simultaneously offer a luxury experience for clientele.

“When a company can help a person save time or money and provide that experience, then they’re going to capture people’s attention.”

Penn State Lehigh Valley marketing professor Denise T. Ogden

As companies manage both online and in-store presences, Penn State Lehigh Valley marketing professor Denise T. Ogden said offering services that promote loyalty is key — and experiential retail does just that.

“So when a company can help a person save time or money and provide that experience, then they’re going to capture people’s attention,” Ogden said.

That’s exactly what several business owners in the Lehigh Valley wedding industry say they’re doing.

Here is a look at some:

Quality over quantity

Being in the industry since 2014, Lehigh Valley Celebrants owner Donna Forsythe said she’s noticed more customers want an experience, which gives novices such as herself a leg up.

“Here’s the thing with the market: People can feel that it’s oversaturated, and that does come from the fact that anyone can go online and get ordained. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at what you do.”

Lehigh Valley Celebrants owner Donna Forsythe

“Here’s the thing with the market: People can feel that it’s oversaturated, and that does come from the fact that anyone can go online and get ordained,” Forsythe said.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at what you do.”

She said most of her business comes from word-of-mouth referrals after vendors or wedding guests see the kind of personalized ceremony Lehigh Valley Celebrants can provide.

Her prices are higher than others, but Forsythe said couples who are looking for an experience “are going to put their money into someone who is going to do a good job.”

Between referrals and connections with wedding venues, Forsythe said she’s booked for the rest of 2024 and now is booking into 2025.

Luxurious, special and safe

When Beth van Horn started her mobile bartending business, Hausbar, in 2022, just three other mobile bartending businesses existed, she said.

Now, there are more than 15 competitors in the market.

Still, enough clientele are contracting Hausbar that van Horn said she’s fully booked — sometimes even double-booked — for all of April.

I think people want this luxurious, special experience. And they also want someone who knows what they’re doing, and does it safely.

Beth van Horn, owner of Hausbar Mobile Bar

What sets Hausbar apart, she said, is the combined bartending expertise of she and her bartenders, and the peace of mind she can legally and financially offer, while elevating the experience of whatever event for which she’s catering beverages.

“I think people want this luxurious, special experience,” van Horn said. “And they also want someone who knows what they’re doing, and does it safely.

“There are people who don’t hire a bar service for an outdoor wedding, and they have buckets of beer and pour-your-own stuff, but people get so drunk, so messed up.

“We control that, we don’t let people get wasted.”

As a mobile bartending service, Hausbar can’t legally provide alcohol for events without a liquor license. Instead, van Horn said she works with customers on what liquor to buy for their wedding and how much to cater to their price point, while creating recipes and providing mixers and garnishes herself.

Beth van Horn

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Contributed

She also places properties she services on her insurance policy for the day as an “extra peace of mind” to the customer.

“I’m telling them what to get, what advice I would recommend, but just taking the weights off something that they’re not super familiar with so they don’t have to worry about it,” van Horn said.

“We do it all: come early, execute the event, stay late, clean up.”

Ogden also recommends that businesses in a saturated market such as the wedding industry embrace creativity and innovation to catch customers’ eyes.

If a hyper-personalized experience wasn’t enough, van Horn said she also offers clients the option to engrave their cocktail menus on a piece of wood as a keepsake.

Beyond the ceremony

Experiences can go farther than the reception, though.

Julia Casolo’s Easton-based business Julia Kay Design offers couples a different kind of experience, creating custom-made wedding invitations, which can be bought online.

“I just want to do whatever I can to make it as least stressful as possible. I really feel like the best way to do that is to have that human interaction and have somebody who’s kind of like your guide through a point in your wedding planning.”

Julia Casolo, owner of Easton-based Julia Kay Design

“I really want to be as easy as those bigger websites in the sense of, I want people to just be able to order their invitations and it’s taken care of,” Casolo said.

“But then I also want them to still have that human interaction with me and still get that small-business experience.”

She offers fully custom and semi-custom invitations and said between the two, she averages about 100 clients throughout the year — at least three to six months for each client.

And with the Lehigh Valley’s growing market for the wedding industry, Casolo said she’s found most of her clients come from social media.

julia and wedding invite.png

Julia Casolo

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Julia Casolo, owner of Julia Kay Designs and one of her custom-wedding invitations.

It’s not much of a surprise, considering her growing number of viral Instagram reels — Casolo’s most popular reel from 2022 garnered 15 million views, and one of her more recent posts gained 3.1 million views.

Like van Horn, Casolo also said she finds the services she provides aid in the overall wedding experience clients are seeking, mainly catering to relieving planning stress.

“I just want to do whatever I can to make it as least stressful as possible,” she said. “I really feel like the best way to do that is to have that human interaction and have somebody who’s kind of like your guide through a point in your wedding planning.”

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