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Technical cofounder wanted for disrupting the wedding industry (limedaring.com)
224 points by joshfraser on July 27, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments

I wish you the best of luck, but considering that you will be up against the bridal industrial complex in attempting to reach inexpert customers who are by nature transients in the field, I would suggest rethinking the price. With the average cost of a wedding in the north-of-$25k region, you might find that the difference between $25 and $100 matters very little to the customer but very much to your ability to afford advertising for it.

Also, talk to Andy Brice from Perfect Table Plan and pump him for information on who the ultimate customers of his software are.

P.S. The fact that a particular woman is marrying a particular man on a particular day is, in itself, worth more than $25. It can also be sold to multiple people. Just throwing that out there -- lead generation often isn't held in particularly high esteem, but it is big money.

$25 is pulled from the top of my head — a lot of testing is going to happen once the application is built. :) Thanks for the advice!

I would say in the long run you should give out the PDF for free and charge for sending out the prints on proper card/paper. Most people are going to pay for something will want it printed properly. Also, I imagine the main advantage would be time saving not cost saving.

There is vanishingly little incentive to the business in giving that much value away for free. It autocommoditizes your offering and lets any idiot with a printer compete with you.

Give the PDF for ~10 guests away for free. This demonstrates that your solution will work, but nobody worth worrying has their invitation need filled by 10 invites.

Charge appropriate to value for PDFing the full guest list. Charge extraordinarily dearly for completely taking one annoying task off the overworked bride's plate and sending the invites yourself.

Ultimately the price of the PDF is going to tend to zero anyway, that's why I said in the long run. If you charge for the PDF someone will charge less and someone else will charge even less. I don't think people will want the PDFs since their printers are not very good + they don't have the right paper + ink is expensive.

The free PR you get from offering the free PDFs will drive sales of the printed versions and providing some free PDFs to low value customers will be much cheaper than Google ad-words and wedding magazine adverts. If you think about it magazines / blogs are going to point to the place you get good invitations for free, ultimately a lot of the people going there will pay for them to be printed and sent out.

If you charge for the PDF someone will charge less and someone else will charge even less.

Let them. Your pathological customers have to go somewhere -- send them to that sucker. If they cut their prices, you raise yours. I promise you you will come out ahead on that exchange. (It even works for bingo cards, which the customer has not spent an entire lifetime envisioning as the ultimate in socially acceptable public demonstrations of lavish consumption.)

It should be possible to partner with someone to do the actual printing and mailing. Ugly PDFs might sell for zero. But gorgeous PDFs will not. Also PDFs by people who actually understand what the customers want might be worth much more.

Apparently FarmVille makes more money selling ringtones and credit cards and such than they do by actually charging people for things in the game. (So said Jesse Schell of Schell Games.)

[Citation Needed] (please ^_^)

I think he's referring to Schell's talk at DICE 2010: http://g4tv.com/videos/44277/dice-2010-design-outside-the-bo...

He mentions around the 3 min mark that lead generation generates more revenue than direct payments (and then goes on that topic for a bit).

That's cute, but Jesse Schell is entirely wrong. Users overwhelmingly prefer direct payments.

Mark Pincus talks about it here - http://markpincus.typepad.com/markpincus/2009/11/my-take-on-...

Peanut Labs backs it up with independent research - http://peanutlabsmedia.net/2009/11/02/survey-finds-arrington...

Sounds right, we watched the video and Schell actually says social games "probably" make more money from lead generation. Thanks for the links, Teej. I was really curious about that.

''With the average cost of a wedding in the north-of-$25k region, you might find that the difference between $25 and $100 matters very little to the customer''

i agree with this - her wedding is a special event that she will spend as much as she can - she already has a mental budget calculated by a complex process known only to her - some variables include -the cost of the wedding of her best friend -average cost of wedding in her social graph -how much she can afford to spend - then she will spend double of her budget so that she can complain about how guilty she feels for spending soo much for a wedding --but in no way-- her wedding will cost less than -and her planning process will last less than- the wedding of her best friend - she will get the most expensive of everything including invitations - she may buy groceries with coupons to look chic but this is -her- event - she will not look cheap - consider that even when she wants to -look- cheap she does not buy jeans and rip them at home herself -no- she buys -branded- jeans already ripped with style for her -also- it is a mistake to think that she is buying a -product- when she orders invitations - she is buying a -story- presented to her as -marketing- that she can share with her friends - for her to buy cheap invitations that she will spend time to create manually herself - there better be a -cool- story she can share with her frieds why she made this decision to go cheap - this story the founder must supply to her through marketing convincing her that buying cheap invitations does not make her look cheap - this is more difficult than building the site -also- maybe more important - she is -outsourcing- her wedding event - by definition she is the queen and the center of the universe and she will not do anything herself -except- giving orders - there is a lot of pride and competition involved in planning a wedding - she will not condescend to do manual work for her own invitations to save money - i think tracy in this case is thinking like the groom not the bride - but the decision to spend is made by the bride - so i believe this not to be a sound business model

Guys, take whatever upvotes you were going to give to me for my next 100 comments and give them to this line:

It is a mistake to think that she is buying a product when she orders invitations. She is buying a story presented to her as marketing that she can share with her friends. For her to buy cheap invitations that she will spend time to create manually herself, there better be a cool story she can share with her friends why she made this decision to go cheap.

Every idiot can print. What about handwritten invitations? Well, not all the invitation, just the name of each guest.(We had this in our wedding, mainly because a very good friend with gorgeous writing was willing to volunteer and do this as a personal favor).

In the context of Limedaring's business. How do you make something like this happen? Unique typesetting? Outsource and arbitrage? Printing on a plotter machine?

Maybe my example is not very practical... but the question is: what in your product makes each guest feel special?

Please consider using the Enter key once in a while.

We retained Tracy to completely redesign our website (Rapportive - relaunch imminent, what's online is still the old site at time of writing). Her design is beautiful, daring, and effective. She's gone above and beyond in responding to our myriad tweaks and requests, given us great feedback, and been fun to hang out with along the way.

I bet she would make a great cofounder.


Tracy worked with us on http://getupandmove.me/ and handled our really tough design direction and came out with great creative solutions like a champ. More importantly, she delivered reliably and quickly, unlike many who talk and talk but never do. I would definitely bet on her.

This is the best "looking for technical co-founder" post I have seen here. It explains your idea, the value you're bringing to the partnership, what you're looking for, and your past work as evidence of your value. Also, the picture helps me put a face to your name. Good luck!

Thank you!

You say that the industry has "insane profit margins". Have you considered what % of the revenue goes back into marketing? If you're trying to disrupt a space by pricing, you better make sure you can still afford to market at your lower price. If people are making a lot of money then you can bet that the CPC for your keywords are going to be high. So high perhaps that your CPA could exceed $25? At even just $1 CPC you'll need to convert at 4% or higher to turn anything resembling a profit. And the wedding invitation business is unfortunately not a repeat business. You may get referrals, but you'll never get the same customers coming back to buy again.

Just food for thought. Good luck!

Definitely keeping that in mind. "You may get referrals, but you'll never get the same customers coming back to buy again." is a great point, and a big hurdle I got to jump over. One way to get around this is partnerships/licensing to the template makers, who are currently not taking advantage of what happens after they sell the template kits. Another is community building, since people who are working on their invitations love to show them off and critique others — keeping the people around longer than when they finish their design.

Thanks! :)

Don't listen to the naysayers, this is a great idea and it is an industry primed for disruption. It's a total effing scam. But I agree with others. The DIY version is only one angle... we paid for ours (through the nostrils), but if there were a 4x6 or moo type option? Absolutely.

As far as referrals go: they matter. You won't get much repeat business so acquisition will be a concern (even with an growing divorce rate!). But people get a ton of advice from their friends when the go through the process. The same DJ that played at a friends wedding, played at ours, and now seems to show up at every wedding we go to. People ask my wife about our venue, go there and then call to find out which florists we down-selected to, etc. Point being word of mouth is probably a disproportionately large source of demand. I think that can help mitigate a low customer lifetime value.

There are other similar products you could offer to happy users. I might want to also make thank you cards, or come back a year or two after the wedding and make birth announcements.

Exactly. I don't want to plan too big just yet - get a v1 one out, start making revenue, and find out then where I should expand to because there are tons of ideas and paths. One reason I feel so passionately about my idea is because it as so much potential to build upon itself.

Then get out in front of that potential. If you don't, someone better funded will take your idea and immediately run past your v1.

I am getting married in November and wasted about an hour looking through a "book" of over-priced invitations a few days ago.

I was disappointed this site was not live because I would have bought on the spot!

The biggest issue for me is convenience, as soon as this in-person process became a chore, my fiancee and I thought to look online (again).

Even though you will not get repeat customers, you will get repeat families, party-planners and friends. Our entire vendor list came from family and/or friends referrals..

Good luck!

Exactly my thoughts. I recently got married as well and I can definitely affirm that a good part of the wedding industry works off of word-of-mouth. This product could be huge. I definitely would have used it if it was available and well executed when I got married.

An idea: -Be able to include more than just an invitation and RSVP. Food choices, maps, registry info would be great. Perhaps you could even have contracts with stores that have registries.

Client of mine bought a physical wedding business thinking that the margins/prices were huge but sold it within a year. The margins were not as good as expected and a lot of the processes were painful. FWIW.

> a lot of the processes were painful.

Never been married, don't know anything about the industry - what specifically did the business provide, and what was the painful part?

My first thought is bitchy customers.

It was a woman who'd been married and, like anyone who has done so, marvelled at some of the costs involved, and especially at costs that were suddenly 2-3x as much as normal if you say "wedding" rather than "family get-together". So she bought into a business that provided chairs, chair covers, table centrepieces, etc.

But with weddings come huge expectations and issues of timing. You're usually working weekends and nights. You have to work in and around other providers, setting up at certain times and often dismantling well after midnight (because the venue has something else on the day after). Yet everyone grumbles about paying for crucial things like delivery and setup (sounds easy, but who in your wedding party needs to be setting things up amidst the dramas of the actual wedding?) and, as you suspected, tensions are high and customers are demanding (bridezilla-style).

Invitations are a tough space. Horrendously competitive and though everyone wants lovely invites, no one really wants to pay what they cost. It's rarely the design process that kills you. I bet there are loads of people who fall in love with letter press invites and then get a quote that knocks them over. Some invites might be $10 ea and for that price you can usually add another course to your reception dinner!

I married for the second time earlier this year (second time ever, not second time this year! ;)), designed the invites myself (though I'm a web designer rather than a graphic designer) and handled RSVPs and everything that goes with it through a custom designed and built site (now in post-wedding mode at http://www.march20.com.au/).

I am actually in the process of expanding my setup into a side-project (http://www.guestlist.com.au/) that actually touches on invitations. @limedaring, I would be more than happy to trade ideas and tips and even see if there's room to collaborate on a link between ventures if you wanted (email in profile).

That's how the idea started — people wanted to save money on invitations and ended up doing it themselves, resulting generally in a really poor product. I wanted to do something that allowed for budget consumers to do-it-themselves, but give them a better ability to make it typographically beautiful.

Weddings also often require all-day commitments, which is a huge factor in pricing. I am a photographer and make about 60-70% of my revenue from weddings. This is one of two reasons why we charge what we do; the other is the massive wholesale costs on albums ($500-$900 from the vendor we use).

The rest of my revenue comes from other types of shoots, which are much, much easier and a much faster turnaround. A family shoot can be redone. A wedding can't, so experience matters more than any other kind of shoot.

People don't want a quote for wedding invites, they want to know all the prices / price-breaks upfront and do it all online, if that's not already happening there is room for disruption.

I'd love to beta your guest list software (it would save me from building my own!). I am about to do the invites for my wedding so I am on the lookout for sweet wedding related web services.

I have a lot on the go so unless you're getting married in the distant future, I wouldn't bank on me having it all ready for you. Otherwise, thanks for the offer - hopefully one day I'll have it ready to show to the HN crowd and get some feedback on the concept.

  and a lot of the processes were painful
Really? What were some of the most painful processes your client faced? Do you think one or more of them would be experienced by others in that industry?

Mostly the physical ones from what I could gather. Things like needing to deliver and pick up things at very specific times, with customers who never appreciated that or wanted to pay for it. Giving up weekends, Saturday nights.

Marketing is going to be a huge challenge. For a data point, consider that TinyPrints (which owns Wedding Paper Divas), spent nearly $50 acquiring new users last holiday season (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/technology/internet/22sear...). Granted this was for holiday cards, but I would imagine that for wedding invitations, the spend for new user acquisition is still going to be quite high.

eh, i'm also in a business that is traditionally marketing heavy. Dramatic price differences can make up for a lot of marketing, in some markets. (Of course, my market is about as different from weddings as you can get, so a dramatically lower price might not make as much difference in that market.)

I like your idea with the invites, but I'd suggest that you're only going halfway with it.

1) Guide the customer through creating professional-grade invites. That part is relatively straightforward.

2) Print and mail the invites

3) Provide an RSVP service available to the couple and their vendors -- the caterer needs to know who wants vegan food but, honestly, the bride and groom don't care.

Finally, if you REALLY want to provide something disruptive: take a handwriting sample from the bride and/or groom, turn it into a font, and produce the thank-you notes (they need to look hand-written). I have no idea how you would do this, but having been through a wedding myself I remember utterly loathing this part.

My "WeddingType at its biggest" idea was Moo.com for wedding invitations — the place to go if you're looking for professional invitations on a budget. Printing and mailing has an interesting problem — would many couples mail the invites without first seeing it? Would they prefer to have all the invitations on hand to mail themselves, rather than the service mail for them?

Just thought of this: What if they went through the service, had a "sample" of their finished invite sent to them, and once they approve, then the service could send out the individual invitations. Printing just one custom invitation for each customer might be problematic, though. But something to think about, indeed.

Taking it a step further, you should probably also be developing an 'evite' style approach to invitations.

Target the eco-friendly, or the progressives, or the tree-huggers, and just bypass the paper market altogether, while still creating a new niche in upscale digital invitations.

Natural extensions on that theme include a digital registry, guestbook, etc.

Cocodot already does this cheap wedding invite idea well.

> something disruptive

Not to pee on your parade, but what you described is a neat idea, but it is not disruptive. Making something that would cut down the cost of a wedding by 50% and be so overwhelmingly and obviously beneficial as to become viral - that is disruptive. Otherwise it's just a noise on a market.

It's a start. You can't topple a giant by smashing into them head-on.

Not true. Sometimes something is so entrenched in society that unless you smash into it head-on nothing will happen, and you might even be seen as something stupid.

I agree with the fact that this is not "disruptive", when I opened the post I expected to get something that can help you cater you wedding for a fraction of the price or something, or a mechanism for to shop and rate wedding planners, something.

Now a REAL wedding disruptor would be a tool that auto-generates video/photos of you and your family at a wedding so you can send those out and skip whole wedding nonsense, and go drinking with all your combined friends for the evening.

> Now a REAL wedding disruptor would be a tool that > auto-generates video/photos of you and your family at a > wedding so you can send those out and skip whole wedding > nonsense, and go drinking with all your combined friends > for the evening.

No offense but...you've never been married, have you?

A wedding is a lot like a startup -- there's a whole lot of pain and frustration getting it launched, but launch day is a hell of a lot of fun -- not just for the bride and groom, but for the family and friends too. (The difference is that most people want a wedding.)

Besides, even if you found a customer base that would be willing to buy this, your mother would shoot you for not having her to your wedding. :>

I've used yourfonts before at work to generate fonts from handwriting. It's easy to use and about $10 - though bear in mind that it renders as individual letters, so the observant guests will twig that you've cut a corner on thank you notes!


(Disclosure: that's an affiliate link. If you want to get there without the affiliate link, here it is: http://www.yourfonts.com/ )

If you really wanted to be disruptive you'd invite everyone via. Facebook with a stylised HTML style invite and it would be all be free and you'd make money on lead-gen.

The world is probably not ready for that yet though.

Lemme guess... you're not married?

My initial thought was that this idea sucks - would you want to be remembered as the couple who sent out facebook invitations because you were too broke/tight to do this properly, this once-in-a-lifetime event?

But then, could your suggestion be cast as a couple making a statement to reduce paper usage? And if enough couples do this, what kind of dent could it make on aggregate?


- electronic invitations mean no paper, no postage.


- chances are, people will print out the invitation and directions.

Why not do both? Some people will love the Facebook option and the ability to RSVP immediately AND have their calendar updated automatically. Some people don't have a social network connection or prefer the old fashioned way. Or make the choice manually; Mom & Dad want paper, high school pals want Facebook/Twitter/Buzz/etc.

I'd agree. On thinking about it a bit, some people like to put the wedding invitations up on their mantel pieces and such and others aren't really bothered.

The market for this sort of thing strikes me as very similar to the market for patio11's Bingo Card Creator: competitive adwords environment, heavy value in A | B testing to get conversion rates as high as possible, a TON of single use customers, and a slow, almost linear growth rate.

...he might be a good person from whom to ask an opinion.

Will do, thanks for letting me know.

As someone getting married Saturday, I can say that this would be a GREAT idea. The ridiculous amount of money we sank in to invitations really rubbed me the wrong way.

Also, something I noticed when we were going through all of this was the RSVP process is broke. Even if you provide a pre-addressed + stamped post card with a checkbox on it, people still don't respond. I thought about some sort of barcode that can read by smart phones, that auto magically directs to a web site (or they can go to it manually). Either way, you get the idea.

Just some thoughts, but I would most definitely look at the RSVP industry too.

I agree that the RSVP process is broken, nobody responds! Short of actually going to their house and putting the card in the mail, I don't think we could have done anything to make it easier for people. My other thought here is more of a life-hack. Put a meal choice on the RSVP card. Nobody cares if you know they're coming, but they'd better get that steak they ordered! :)

One way around this is to not provide the location / time of your wedding on the invitation. Instead, include a line on your invitation to the effect of "location / time will be provided upon RSVP".

This is Tracy (@limedaring), if there are any questions, can also let me know on here. If you're interested, I'm in the Bay Area and will travel to meet people over coffee/lunch!

People really use wedding invitations printed from their home printer? I would think no girl would stand for that =x

I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but wouldn't it be a better play to integrate (somehow) with a printing company? Or offer an export option that they can take to a local printer (as in the correct file format .eps, pantone color numbers, or what not).

Sorry if I am completely ignorant to the wedding invitations scene but I would think every girl deserves nice invitations and the convenience of a one-stop-online-shop.

Hmm maybe crowdsourced invitation designs.. ala threadless.com ?

Having been married a while ago, I'm pretty sure we had the invitations done at a local print shop.

Weddings are generally the ultimate in meet-your-hero-letdown. Everything is fussed about in minute detail, but then it's all over, and you're left thinking 'what was all that for'. The memories of the day and what comes after has zero to do with wedding stationery. I can't even remember what color ours was. I'd rather spend the money and fly in a distant relative or old friend than spend big money on invite printing. Your guests will appreciate and remember hours spent refining a speech over hours fussing about invites and place settings. There is definitely diminishing returns once you get over pre-printed and hand-written invites.

Getting back on-topic : I think you'll do well with this and the wedding industry is over-priced, but a lot of it has to do with ego-management. If I were a photographer or florist, I'd add 20% to the price to put up with all the 'it's got to be perfect' crap that goes with it. Self-serve printing removes all that, so is justified with a lower margin. As long as it looks nice, people will pay the money. You'll be able to pick the cheap paper without someone frowning down your nose saying 'if you really want it to be special...'

I'm getting married in a little over a month and my thoughts resonate a lot with your statement on not spending a lot on the cards. I'm designing the cards on my own (using Gimp, Lightroom and Sketchbook app on iPad - never done this before) and getting it printed locally. I don't think it's worth spending a ton of cash on fancy cards and pricey printing costs.

That's actually where I'd like the idea to go — partner with a printing company like Moo.com and allow for invite creation and printing all from one application. Got to start somewhere, though.

I didn't put in all my ideas (since I didn't want to do "this idea, and THIS idea, and THIS idea!") but I think a threadless-like crowdsourcing on invitations would be fantastic, and a great tie-in to a Moo.com like printing ability.

I was surprised how many people use kits — I used to be part of a wedding blog where people loved to build their invites and then show everyone else for critiques. And I would cringe everytime I saw someone using italic Times New Roman because they didn't have access to nicer fonts.

Sounds kind of like http://www.zazzle.com/invitations.

Thanks for linking that, haven't seen it before. I was thinking that this idea could move into general invitations as well but who does that anymore, with FB invites, evite, etc. I think actually sticking to a niche and doing it well will be better than doing general invitations.

I hadn't seen http://zazzle.com/wedding+invitations before either, so now I'm curious how weddingtype.com would be different. It'd be good to think about a couple places where you might be able to differentiate by focusing on this particular niche. E.g the ability to add extras to the card such as ribbon. Also, one thing I didn't like about Zazzle was that I can't order just 1 invitation. I'd be nervous about ordering 200 invitations I'd never seen in person and would want a sample first.

You could also partner with stationary accessory makers (ribbon bows, glitter, small dried flowers, etc.) for further personalization of mass produced DIY kits.

As a technical person who spent too much on wedding invitations at the last minute, I do think that integration with a printing company would be the killer feature.

Without the printing I would think of this as more of toy than something that would be truly disruptive. One could charge much larger prices for this service with printing and still be competitive especially when factoring in design selection and ease of use.

As a technical person who spent too much on wedding invitations at the last minute, I do think that integration with a printing company would be the killer feature.

Moreover, I worry that launching without a printing service would be a business-killing misfeature. It sets the wrong tone (nobody wants to have their own invites printed) from which it may be hard to recover.

I recognise the founder's desire to handle this in small chunks, but printing... I dunno, I wouldn't look twice without it.

Picwing might be able to help on advice for this. Their photo quality is AMAZING. Anyone know how they did it?

Definitely where I'd like to go, and I'll probably update my blog post to indicate this (took it out just to keep the idea concrete, but I think that was a bad idea). My original tagline was "Moo.com for wedding invitations".

I think paper selection is also half the battle. My wife could spend hours on that alone.

Yeah! That would actually be a better value add if the website integrated preferred paper types/styles/weights with the overall template/theme. Would be nice to have a gallery of previously fulfilled orders to see how the finished product came out. Lot's of choices means a great opportunity for artistic expression ; the website should allow this in a guided manner =) I like that.

agreed, what makes DIY wedding stationery look gross isn't just the comic-sans-like amateur designs; it's also about printing quality. a home printer is totally unacceptable; even Kinko's might not be that great if you're picky. you will need to find a professional print shop, which could cost almost as much as professionally-printed stationery :(

One thing I loved about the invitation kits is that they're not that bad — certainly, the paper weight is kind of thin because they have to work with the home printer, but otherwise, you can get a really nice looking and professional invitation out of them if the printer settings are correct. Certainly not anything like super professional heavy weight printed invites, but they work well enough. However, adding Microsoft Word + Curlz + amateur typography would just ruin the whole effect.

In short, I think that home printers can work, we just got to work on the quality of the typography. Of course, when I add a professional printing option to my application, that'll be the best solution. :)

If you don't want raised lettering I think you could get away with it, if you have the correct starting resources.

My wife created our wedding invitations, meal cards, etc... at home a couple years ago when we were getting married to save some cash. We bought our stationary items at LCI Paper company (cost around ~$120) and a HP Laser Printer on Amazon for another ~$100). We designed everything in MS Office 2007, and did some funky stuff with margins to print to the end of pages (our printer wouldn't print to the end of the page, others do). All in all it was a pretty easy process, my wife is pretty artistic and most people were pretty taken back that we created them.

My advice to those doing this is to start early, take your time (finding new fonts, looking at existing invitations, etc...) & find a printer that prints to the end of paper (although not a deal breaker I found by fudging wild margins).

Tracy, the company I work for, http://pagedna.com, might be exactly what you're looking for, and will save you having to develop your own system. Check out the Storefronts section http://pagedna.com/features.php?storefronts and the Storefront demo on the Demos page

As someone who is going through the process of getting married(and it is a process!), something like this would be a godsend. I've been searching for technicals solution that could ease some of my wedding troubles(such as cheap, non-crappy hosted wedding website, invitations, etc.).

You mention disruption in an overpriced wedding industry, and then you mention disruption in the printing industry. Honestly, knowing the printing industry here in Montreal, and knowing the prices they charge for good quality invitations (+ thank you letters, and the RSVP letters and envelops, all matching and embossed of course), anyone doing this at home will spend more money on the material, software, and ink, not to mention time in putting it all together, even if you gave your software away for free.

Good luck. But understand that the printing industry (again, at least here in Montreal), isn't the wedding industry. And the printing industry is about as cutthroat and cost-competitive as they come.

It's great to see a fellow Cal Poly Art grad on HN! (I graduated 2009, so I probably passed you in the halls, although I don't recognize your name). I imagine you had the pleasure of Chuck's Color Theory class, right?

I always get strange looks when I tell people that Chuck's Color Theory class was one of the best Art classes I took in college. I mean it, too.

It's telling that you had to teach yourself HTML/CSS. The Art department is still of little help in that regard. They're still teaching tables for layout. cringe

Anyways, good luck. I'm happily employed, so I can't offer myself up as a co-founder.

Yay, Cal Poly!

I actually went back there a year and a half ago to try to teach a lesson on correct HTML/CSS - and failed miserably. My public speaking skills were awful, I was stuck in the computer room (so everyone was surfing rather than listening), and I wasn't promoted - it was awful. I hate that Enrica still teaches Dreamweaver as the correct way to markup websites.

Thanks for the luck. <3

My public speaking skills were awful

As are everyone's first time they lecture. At least from my experience, second time is a ton easier/better.

To make myself at least somewhat useful: Have you thought about making letterpress invitations significantly cheaper in some way? If you offer only a few templates and paper choices, it's possible to make a decent margin. The initial capital is fairly significant, though. A letterpress and a font or two is not a cheap investment.

Although the real money is in high-dollar custom letterpress wedding announcements, there may be some money toward the lower end of the pricing spectrum.

The problem with letterpress is that the plates can't be mass-made — it's a separate letterpress plate per invite, so every invite with different wording would have to have a different plate. It's an interesting idea, though, and an area that definitely needs improvement.

Have you considered using 3d printers to generate the press template on demand?

Cal Poly is great... but, Solvang for the win!

I'm curious - you say,

"A do-it-yourself wedding invitation kit costs $45, while professional wedding invitations are hundreds or thousands of dollars."

How much of that "hundreds or thousands" is in the actual printing vs. the design + margin?

Printing is hundreds to over one thousand for normal sane number of invitations. This is for 150x invitation, reply card, envelope, reply envelope. My wife did a barter deal with a printer (did their holiday card and calendar) to get ours printed, and even then they were simple.

Quality printing doesn't scale down (the cost is making the plate).

Good luck with this. My girlfriend (less than a month left of me calling her that!) and I are both techies and DIY'ers and went the invitation-kit way. As we were putting it all together we came to the same conclusion you did: there should be a web app for that!

There's a lot of potential there. Building a really good and slick UI to handle different layouts and customization is not easy and would be a fun challenge for a solid JavaScript programmer.

Unless of course you go the Flash route. But this thing could demo really really well on an iPad.

Definitely the printing part is important. We printed everything ourselves and it was a lot of work and only possible because she knows our printer inside out. Making this easy is primordial, I think.

Most people want to see samples of the different colors before they choose. This is also important because it never looks as it does on the screen.

Hsssss Flash. :P Definitely not going to use that. Right now I'm using @font-face for the previews, but I'm sure whoever I partner with will have more ideas.

Wigflip's roflbot has my personal favorite implementation of putting text on images. It's very intuitive:


Hi Tracy,

I'm also working on a wedding application. I just dropped you an email. Hope to hear from you!



I'm perfectly prepared to eat the 4 points for this but when I read 'disrupt wedding [...]' I was secretly hoping for some sort of technology that enabled more frequent and better photobombing. Maybe in version 2?

Off topic, but FYI "-4" is a lower bound for display purposes. E.g., if you get 40 down-votes, you lose 40 karma...but it will still display as "-4". Can be very harsh, sometimes. I've been self-censoring since learning that.

We had similarly high aspirations when launching our wedding business, http://trulyweddingfavors.com. Your post brings me back to the enthusiasm we had for disrupting the wedding industry. As a web application developer myself, I was looking for an industry that I felt we'd have an edge in, and wedding products/services seemed to be dominated by the technical and design challenged.

We have been successful in a general sense, generating about $350k in revenue at the end of our first year. After reaching this point, we realized the marketing game was where the real successes and failures were determined. In the wedding business, your customers won't look for you until that very moment they need your product, during the planning stages of a wedding. If your ad or search listing isn't in the top X, all the creativity in the world won't matter.

We continue operating http://trulyweddingfavors.com at a healthy margin, but are focused on innovating in other markets with more viral potential.

If there's one tip I could offer: read "the e-myth" ;)


Interested in your idea, but having zero experience with that market, I did a quick google and it seems like there is a lot of competition (10+ in <5min of searching) with your exact idea.

Other than your competition not having you as the designer, or appealing to the tiny budget crowd (though, several did look similarly priced) - how would you stand above the existing options?

Can you post the competitors, so I can explain how I am different?

I'm not looking to shoot you down, but I have some thoughts you might want to consider.

You are not going to disrupt the industry by providing a pdf for a cheap price, you are going to be working twice as hard for half the pay. Right now you may have 25 design templates ready to go, how many will you need next month?

How many hours will that take?

Are those billable hours?

You are making the design choices easy. Concentrate on that.

Instead of looking through a huge binder of printed samples, the bride to be can look at a website and get a design made simply, without the usual headaches to the designer.

Hopefully the pdf you provide will be easy to preflight and prepress, because a lot of your customers are going to end up taking it to a real printer after they see the results they get at home. That can be an additional profit center for you, if you are willing to charge what your time is worth for anything other than what gets generated by the templates.

There are not huge profit margins in most printing, even though letterpress commands high prices, the process is very labor intensive, and that wonderful Crane Lettra paper is expensive.

Don't forget that part of the final price of an invitation set is how much of a bridezilla the designer and printer had to deal with.

Finally, take a look at etsy, lot of wedding invitations there for cheap prices.

Not to be self promoting, but I am in the printing industry, digital, offset, and letterpress.

Good luck, I think you have the germ of a good idea, but you will have some refining ahead of you.

The biggest question is this: Have you actually done a calculation to see if your market is big enough? Will you reach enough wedding people, particular considering that people only wed once or twice in their lifetime?

Good question. With a birth rate of about 3.5 million people per year in the US, assuming everyone gets married once (a rough estimate), and there are two people per marriage (a less rough estimate), that should work out at 1.7 million marriages a year. Even if you can charge every one of 'em twenty-five bucks for printing then that's only $45 million a year. At more realistic market shares you're not looking at huge money.

But I guess you could easily expand horizontally into _other_ parts of the wedding-planning process once you get your foot in the door with the invitations thing. That's where the big money starts flowing.

Your estimate was close-ish, according to the CDC. 2.1 million marriages for the 12 months ending 12/08.


Yes, exactly. Moving into Moo.com like printing, offering templates through the site, licensing or partnering with template makers should increase the revenue available.

But there are only 2.1 million events, and you'll only reach a small percentage of these. Even if you maximise the revenue you receive from each marriage, it won't be much unless you absolutely and totally dominate the wedding scene, which will be a difficult thing to do because your recommendations path is poor.

I.e, if you randomly get a customer, he cannot recommend you because he may not know anyone getting married at the time, and when another person gets married, it may be too distant in time for him to remember you.

Your biggest problem is market, and you should explain it properly.

2.1 million events per year. The average cost is something like $20K according to five seconds' googling (sounds high for an average, but let's go with it). That's a $42 billion a year industry. There's a lot of people already making a lot of money by servicing this industry.

Oh, and there's a whole publishing industry devoted to bridal magazines and websites, so it's reasonably easy to reach your target market if you have an advertising budget. Difficult to bootstrap though.

Given that I know several people who spent less than $1K on their wedding (and indirectly one who spent by all estimates over $200K) imagine that that $20K number has pretty huge variance. The really interesting number I'd want to know is how many weddings cost more than, say, $15K.

I cannot contradict the naysayers' warnings about marketing costs. However, the cost to build, launch, and test the marketing of this project is absurdly low. You're only generating a PDF! So, the warnings are meaningless.

I support you to build and launch the thing and then see what works! Go for it! And best of luck. The wedding industry deserves a good thumping.

My fiancee and I are technical, and almost all of our guests (of all ages) have email, so we chose to use Paperless Post:


I think paper invitations will start losing market share to email - it's more convenient, and spreads virally to your unmarried guests.

A small portion of people might start going to email, but paper post still has a lot of value. I love receiving letters and cards from friends, and wedding invitations are a piece of art to announce an important celebration. They're valuable, and will continue to be in a way that email will never replicate.

Our wedding invitations were the cheapest part of the whole project. We hardly gave it a thought.

If you really want to disrupt the wedding industry, make a search engine for the venues. My wife and I spent weeks driving around the Bay Area looking at restaurants, wineries, and meeting halls to find out open dates, prices, menus, restrictions, etc. I would have loved a single site listing everything and searchable by all those parameters.

BTW, make sure to use non-toxic adhesive on the envelopes.

I'm sure there is a niche for this service, but this is a disruption of a do-it-yourself (cheap but ugly) wedding invitation kit market rather than "the wedding industry".

I wish someone would disrupt the wedding industry itself and offer really nice, all-in-one, low price wedding services (including banquet hall, etc.) There is really no need for all of the insanity that goes on around planning a wedding. You should just be able to pick a date, food options, a decor scheme, music, and clothes to rent in an afternoon for a range of prices (with financing). I've seen some Korean wedding places like this, but nothing big. While there are many people that wouldn't appeal to, I would think there are many more for whom it would appeal to in the disruptive innovation sense.

well you are speaking from "a guy" point of view. A wedding is really an event for the bride. She wants to be treated like a princess that day. Pricey things are better. Shiny things are better. Getting more people invited are better. Pricey bands are good. Fancy custom clothing is good.

... and standard packages and plans, like what everyone else is getting, are NOT good

It was actually my wife's idea. She was frustrated that things like that weren't available and she had to trot around getting looking at rooms, looking for someone to do the ceremony, getting three quotes from florists, finding a DJs, finding a food provider, getting Invitations, driving to dress places, buying a dress (she got one that was worn once in a fashion show) and negotiating separately with each one of these people on price when she was managing to a total budget.

She didn't want to do it. That's not a princess thing, princesses let other people do the work! Just look at the people that get married in Vegas or Disney World- I just went to a wedding in Vegas last weekend. The couple did all the planning remotely with a full service provider there.

I think you could do it as a technical supplement to a wedding coordinator service too, a web application with a federated model, where people could go on there and price out all of these options from existing providers and have it all coordinated for them.

They'd probably call it a McWedding and not authentic. Look at the diamond people - the whole thin is a racket around this "love" thing.

I agree, but that's the nature of a disruptive innovation. Just like the transistor radio had bad sound, but it let people listen to music cheaply and portably, it took off.

McDonald's and McMansions make a lot of money.

Damn, how do you disrupt the diamond industry. That would be awesome.

If murdering children across two continents doesn't do it, I don't know what will. For my part, the only diamonds I'll buy will be on a saw blade or drill bit.

Ha, the truth is you can murder as many people you want, as long as it happens far away so that the average consumer can forget all about it.

If not the chocolate companies would have had to stop by coca from farms with child slaves, and people would have to stop visiting trafficked prostitutes. Hint: they won't.

Fascinating thread. As a co-founder of a company in the wedding space (shinyorb.com) and having gone through the wedding planning process myself, I think there is definitely a need here!

Thought I'd throw in my $0.02 about customer acquisition to address some other people's points about this space. While it is true that consumers in the wedding area are one-time consumers, there are plenty of ways to market besides AdWords. You could easily offer incentives to your current customers for referring friends. For example, marking up a product by 2x and giving people a 50% cut or rebate for referring a friend works wonders for many businesses.

Echoing someone else's concern though, I'd be worried about how much I would need to fight with my printer. Certain kinds of card stock would probably be a nightmare to deal with. Not knowing much about printing, are there certain things that can be done to make the DIY printing process easier? E.g. Limit to 8.5 x 11 PDFs to make printing easier or recommend certain kinds of card stock or brands of paper that would work best? (heck, that could even be another revenue stream: either affiliate or selling actual paper/card stock) Etc...

I applaud you for going for it -- it's a good idea. I signed up for your mailing list. Let's see if we can work together...

It's already being done. I got an invitation to a friend's wedding via this service:


Actually, those guys send virtual invitations; you are going to print them out. So not the same thing. But similar in trying to undercut high-priced competitors.

"... My goal is to get this out really fast and start making revenue from the start ... The wedding industry is huge, overpriced, and with insane profit margins. I’m looking to disrupt it with WeddingType ..."

In a startup I've worked in they had a "wedding" section to the sight allowing guest lists, gift ordering, vouchers and the like. Some of the things I observed that seemed to matter included:

- reputation: nobody wants to be screwed around on 'their' one day

- reliability: as above

- customer service: tech must have a human face as that's what is expected (or if things get screwed up you need to be able to re-assure by person - somehow)

- design: high quality design (visual & user) is expected

It would be good to think of it this way. If you are building a service users expect a level of experience. When they walk into a physical store supplying a service, there is a high level of kerbside appeal. [0] Failure in appearing to be able to do a good job & doing a good job will quickly kill your user base. No bride wants something that appears cheap, rather something that looks & behaves greater than the value paid.

Making the experience for the user good, making money fast is one problem to overcome. I also question the "insane" profit margins assumption. Test it.

Observations: Having said that there is plenty of areas in the wedding industry to interrupt. You can try from the person angle - ie: registry and associated people (social) or the services angle (the stuff people having weddings want to do). Matching the wedding to service is something I see a lot online albeit using blogs. Having said that it's the services that are making the money - but is it what people need?

[0] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201003/your-n...

Sounds Interesting, have you thought about making an arrangement with some printing service to print the cards so the users can basically design, checkout and order professional printing at low charges from your site, although keeping it optional for users.

I would go a step further and outsource the printing, take for instance Indian wedding cards, they are elaborate and usually have multiple pages and cost less than a dollar.

A homeprinted card will still have to be decorated and perfectioned beyond death by your soon to be wife.

You might save a buck. We made all our card by hand. I still hate myself for doing that. But I still don't really see what you're providing here? A design for the cards? Suggestion of text?

I have openoffice and the interweb full of fonts, and I googled much of the text.

As a point of reference, I did print-your-own wedding invites. Bought them at Michaels. Just use a text editor and a swirly font, then run them through your home printer. We actually got compliments on them and I think they were less than $1 per...plus about an hour total to write up the invite and print it out 60 times.

The simplicity of charging someone for a PDF is beautiful!

The pdf file really has some value in it (content, layout, typography, instructions for printing?, etc.), but ultimately boils down to a scalable automated process.

How much would Moo.com charge us if we were to use them as the \to paper backend?

You should focus on having the coolest invitations, rather than focusing on having a lower price.

We used http://www.weddingpaperdivas.com/ and while it was higher than your price point, they have a great app and quality finished product. You could probably learn a bit from what they're doing.

This is an interesting concept since my fiancee and I have been working on our invitation for our upcoming wedding. Its a hard task but it is actually kind of fun.

Our design discussions revolve a lot around what Jobs/Ive would do if he had to design it :)

The wedding industry is ripe for disruption...

My thoughts were more on the registry side of things - a $12 Billion industry => http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1541767

Almost completely OT, but looking at limedarling's linkedin, I was pleasantly surprised to see 'Grails' referenced as something she's working at bring proficient in. Thanks LD - you made my day :)

If you're not aware of minted.com, look into them. They'd be a competitor. They run a similar service, but they require you use their printing services, rather than just releasing it as a PDF.

Have you seen http://scrapblog.com/

It's essentially what I imagine your idea is, but across many verticals, including wedding prints.

Good luck. If there is an industry out there that deserves to be disrupted, it's the wedding industry.

Nice idea. We can never have too much disruptive ideas. Wish you find your cofounder.

Thanks! <3

Being more disrupting, What about doing wedding invitations entirely online?

This is a fantastic idea and I love disruptive companies.

I wish you all the best.

Email sent (from San Luis Obispo no less)

Cool stuff. But seriously I need you to move to new york :) So few startups here, I blame you, the people coming up with ideas in California.

I worry about your business model though. It seems nice to be able to safe a thousand or more dollars on wedding invitations BUT here are the problems:

1) When a wedding costs 25k, saving 50-500 bucks on an invitation is going to be looked at as stupid, and cheap. You want the one that takes the most hassle out of it.

2) A big part of the invitations is the printing/mailing. If only the design was the only factor.

3) Often catering halls (im from new york) will do everything from getting the place, getting the catering, getting the flowers, getting the invitations and sending them out, its a full-blown package.

The real way to go about this is to have people design their invitations in an awesome way quickly before their wedding, get hooked to it, and already have that in mind. Makes it less of a headache for them, and sells your product.

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