Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business. Please do mention the monthly revenue for our readers as well.
My name is Carly Brown and I am the Founder and Director of Just Married Weddings.
Just Married Weddings is an elopement and micro-wedding company, providing couples with a simple, easy and affordable way to have a small wedding ceremony or elopement, in a beautiful location, with an awesome celebrant.
Just Married Weddings a couple simply chooses one of our locations, books time and date, and then come along on the day to get married. They can bring up to 20 guests, but some choose not to have any.
We perform a small ceremony, without any of the fluff and fuss, they can say their own vows and exchange rings (but they don’t have to), we sign all the paperwork to make it all official, and then, they are MARRIED!
We started in Sydney in early 2017, and are now Australia-wide; meaning couples can choose one of our locations in any of the capitals, or in one of the many other major cities and favorite holiday destinations across the county. We have beautiful parks, CBD locations, and amazing beaches to choose from.
We also have amazing photographers and other wedding vendors who offer great value packages for our couples. Photography, in particular, is popular – because an affordable and talented photographer who knows the area is not always easy to find.
Our photography partners are brilliant and we are lucky to have built relationships with them as we have grown.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
My background is in law, originally, and I have been a marriage celebrant for about 10 years. I didn’t become a celebrant with the intention of it being a business, and for many years it was just a really enjoyable hobby.
I met a lot of great people and had the absolute pleasure of being part of a day that was so happy and meaningful for them and their families.
I started Just Married Weddings knowing that there were couples out there who didn’t want all the fuss and expense of a big wedding, and I thought I could help them have a much more affordable day by cutting out some of the elements that can make the cost (and the stress) really add up.
As it turns out, couples have come to us for these reasons and for many others, so we see all kinds of people having all kinds of weddings.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
The concept of a micro-wedding or a small wedding came to me first of all when, as a celebrant, I had met with a lot of couples who just wanted to ‘elope’ without actually traveling anywhere, but they weren’t sure if they could do it and if so, how.
I had also met with a lot of couples who didn’t want a ‘wedding’, but they did want to be married. That’s where the name Just Married came from.
And, I even came across some couples who thought they couldn’t get married at all because they couldn’t afford it. To me, that was just so unfair, and I knew it didn’t have to be that way.
A lot of people are surprised how common it is for couples to not really want the attention and limelight of a wedding day, or to want to spend their money on a big holiday or a house.
So the idea was inspired by all these couples I had met over the years as a celebrant.
Our first Sydney locations offered that sense of intimacy and a beautiful location, the feeling of having a wedding that was just about the bride and groom (this was before same-sex marriage was passed), not about anyone else. It created the same sense of romance as an ‘elopement’ without having to pack a bag or pay for flights!
It was also essential from the beginning that while being affordable and easy, the celebrant would still be awesome and the ceremony would still be special. We wanted to ensure every couple savored this moment in their own way, even if they were having a super low-key ceremony and a simple pub meal afterward to celebrate. We chose only the best celebrants: young, fun, friendly, and professional so that even a very small ceremony was still romantic and memorable.
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
Being an online retailer/service provider we had a very soft launch. Once the website was ready and the systems in place we just gradually opened our online ‘doors’ and let the customers slowly trickle in. We began with just one celebrant (me!) and then soon another and another. We had limited availability at just a few locations.
Word of mouth and, as time went on, marketing grew and so did the number of people booking with us. We now have more than 20 celebrants, and while we have grown fast, it has been a measured approach to expansion.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
In the wedding business, there are no repeat customers – at least we really hope we don’t see any of our customers coming back to us!
We do however get a lot of word of mouth. We have family and friends of previous couples book with us all the time. We have even had people book with us after walking past one of our ceremonies.
Marketing is somewhat of a challenge in this niche as most people probably don’t know about micro-weddings, or even know to look for a micro-wedding company. Some people assume getting married is not a realistic hope for them on their current budget, so they put it off.
We have learned over the years that it is essential to really understand how a customer approaches their wedding research, what they think they are looking for, and what they actually are looking for.
For example, if a couple is eloping, they aren’t usually telling their friends about it beforehand. So they aren’t going to want to be seen to be ‘liking’ or interacting in any way with a social media account for an elopement company.
So while social media advertising can work very well for others in the wedding industry, it may not be as suitable for us.
We attract customers through SEO and AdWords primarily, and by providing an exceptional and unique service that stands out in the otherwise very crowded wedding industry.
We pride ourselves on being the most affordable way to get married in Australia, on having only the best celebrants, and on choosing the most amazing ceremony locations across Australia.
We trust that our customers will choose us once they find us, and be very happy that they did.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
We very recently opened in 7 new cities, including Darwin, Hobart, Townsville, Broome, and Coffs Harbour. This year will involve a lot of travel, photoshoots, and training.
In 12 months’ time, we will probably be launching more locations, as we are always on the lookout for great ceremony spots to offer our couples. There’s still a lot of ground to cover and so many beautiful places to get married in this amazing country.
Additionally, this year we will be focussing on some other aspects of the business. We will soon be launching some additional services, which we are very excited about. I can’t say too much but I am working with some other fabulous businesswomen on this project and we are all very proud where things are going.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
Founding a business to me was never about the financial rewards – it’s so risky that it could never be the only motivator. It was about having the freedom to decide what I do, how I do it, and when I do it.
While running a business is difficult in so many ways that being an employee wouldn’t be, it lets me be in control. Because it is my business I get to choose amazing people to work with, and I can focus the business on what matters most to me.
I can drive the business in any direction I choose to take it, and I can make sure the business is doing good things and having a positive impact on people.
I can be creative on the days I feel like being creative, I can focus on the finances on other days. I can work with people when I want to bounce ideas around or I can hide away on my own when I need to focus.
It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to work this way, and I don’t think I could ever tick all these boxes as an employee.
I also love that I work with a wonderful group of amazing women (all the Just Married Weddings celebrants are women at this stage), and by providing them with flexible work and a supportive network of like-minded women I hope to help them be the mothers, partners and businesswomen they want to be.
I love that the service we offer is a sustainable choice. Being a part of the trend towards a minimalist wedding is incredibly rewarding to me, as the wedding industry can be, unfortunately, incredibly wasteful. I love that Just Married Weddings is an exception to the rule in that way.
And from the very beginning, I have always loved that I can be a part of a couples’ wedding day! It is such a wonderful job and while I don’t perform many of the ceremonies myself anymore, I will always do a few as being there with the couple on their wedding day reminds me of the reason I began the business.
Getting married is about a lifetime, not a day. A marriage, not a wedding. What we do really resonates with couples who feel this way, and I am so honored to provide this service for those people.
What tools or services did you use?
Our booking system is powered by Timely, which has been a great tool for us. We also have some incredible bespoke software that helps us in the back end – created by my very talented husband. We also use Xero (doesn’t everyone).
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
While not exactly a challenge the seasonality of the wedding industry is something we are always mindful of, and which can be hard to predict. More traditional ‘big’ weddings are far more predictable in their seasonality (March / April and Oct/ Nov being peak months for example), people tend to elope and have smaller weddings all year ‘round, with less predictable seasonal trends.
We expect that opening in some of our newest locations will tamper this monthly fluctuation as Broom, Darwin, and Townsville has a winter boom, unlike our locations in the southern states.
Furthermore, with time comes more data and we can more accurately predict each new year based on the year before.
Another challenge is always finding the right celebrities to join the team. As we want all out couples to be looked after by the most extraordinary celebrants we have to first find these ourselves.
It’s harder than it sounds, as it takes a very particular personality to form an instant connection with our couples and create that magical moment on their wedding day.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
I am a big podcast fan – when I was first starting out I liked “Small Business, Big Marketing”, although it can get a bit exhausting to listen to after a while as the host is a little intense.
I absolutely love “Lady Startup” (produced by Mamamia), amazing stories of incredible businesswomen.
I have also had some great mentors and supporters around me who are also running their own businesses, as it can be a lonely path to wander along as a solo founder.
Oh, and female entrepreneur Facebook groups can be an incredible resource for practical advice and support, especially at the beginning.
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
I’m not sure if women really feel this way anymore. I have not found it to be the case in the wedding industry. However, I can imagine that in other industries there would still be a boys club of sorts, which would be another challenge to add to a pile of challenges getting started in the business.
I have personally found that I love working with women and I have built an army of women around me, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by chance.
There are several women in my professional life who give me strength and encouragement in a way I think only women truly know how to do. I admire and trust these women and wouldn’t be where I am without them.
I have also brought lots of women on board as celebrants and in admin and I always try to be really supportive of them and understanding of the commitments they have outside of their work.
Many of them are mums returning to work after babies, for example, and I love that I can give them flexible work that will allow them to have the elusive ‘work-life balance’ during this time in their lives.
While I believe that men and women both have the same need for flexible work, I think women are still far better at understanding what this means in reality.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi! This is Misha?
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses??
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.