Dainty Obsessions

DO Extra+ A Sit-Down with Forever Bride’s Ashley Hawks

What’s better than searching for vendors from the comfort of your home? Navigate the super trendy website by Forever Bride and save while you shop. We sat down with Ashley Hawks, vice president of Forever Bride and fellow wedding enthusiast, at Café Lurcat to talk about creating valued relationships, the Forever Bride Market, a day-in-the-life, and how she stays inspired by the wedding industry and life at home.

Why don’t you describe Forever Bride in a nutshell?

Ashley Hawks: I like to describe it a couple different ways. The way I describe our website is like a virtual wedding fair. Because businesses are on the website showcasing their services and skills, brides can walk through the website and are able to shop around. My ultimate goal with this website was to create something really simple. With my background being in business and marketing, and being in the wedding industry since I was a kid, it always comes back to getting your business in front of your ideal clients.

How did you get started?

AH: We started in 2010 with the concept that we wanted to start a community in the wedding industry. This is a unique industry, the relationship between businesses and clients is very emotional. The bride is a very special client, and we need to treat it as a big deal to be part of their day, which will create a perfect day for the bride. The community side of things is really where my heart is, which started at a young age. My mom owned a bridal shop for 25 years in the Twin Cities, where I became obsessed with everything wedding. Being in the industry for so long, I’ve been able to see a lot of things change, especially on the social media side of things. But, I’ve also seen a lot of things stay the same, like getting to know your competitors and understanding the business to business relationships.

That is definitely important. Can you tell me how the process works?

AH: We want to save our brides money, while also helping our vendors track their marketing results. This began at the beginning of the online marketing era, and businesses were having a really hard time locating their brides and tracking which websites directed them in their direction. We help by having the bride is share her information with us, so we can share deals around town, blogs and contests with her. She will be able to see all of these little deals, which guarantees the bride is going to the business and saying, “Hey, I heard about you on Forever Bride…” which benefits everybody involved. 

Talk a little bit about the events you are involved in.

AH: We like to do smaller events with our vendors. We do happy hours where vendors can meet each other and put a face to a name. Like, we already know their persona on Instagram, but there is something so powerful about shaking someone’s hand and getting a drink together. The Forever Bride Market is the event we do for our brides, which is so much fun, and our vendors love it because they get a ton of traffic. Long term, it brings so much traffic and attention to the website it’s bananas; and doing it once a year gets the website’s name out and we end up creating brand ambassadors. Which, in turn, makes Forever Bride a household name. The one new thing we are doing at the Market this year is having Wisteria Design Studio, our floral sponsor, have this big beautiful booth with a “Make Your Own Flower Crown” station, which I’m so excited for! We will also have more dessert vendors than we’ve ever had, so come hungry (laughs).

That’s so fun! I saw that you guys also promote other events, which is such a great way to stay connected.

AH: Right! We will promote any one of the businesses involved with the FBA, Forever Bride Association, as long as their event has to do with my client, which is the bride. So, if you’re a bridal shop that is having a trunk show with a bunch of beautiful dresses, tell me so I can help promote your business. Let’s say you are a venue and you just remodeled and you want to have a grand reopening, I will totally tell my brides about that!

With everything happening, how do you keep inspired within the wedding industry?

AH: I’d say that it has to do with our vendors. I think it’s so important to sit down with people that just really love weddings. This industry is so creative and inspiring and these people in town are always surprising me with their ideas. For example, when we do styled shoots, I just give them a broad idea and they take it and run with it, creating something beautiful and unique.

Tell me what a day in your office is like.

AH: Well, we have a super small staff. There are six of us, and we all get here bright and early. Monday mornings are when we meet and talk about what we have finished and what we need to start. We also go over our events we have outside of the work day. Then we each go back to our little nook and start after our goals. The ultimate goal for everyone is to have a ton of brides using our website and booking our vendors.

I know you guys have contests, how often are those?

AH: About once a week, but we want to make sure the prize or gift is benefiting our brides.

Of course, that makes sense. So, what do you do when you’re not at the office?

AH: I’m always here (laughs). I have two little nuggets at home, and we like to go on walks and do crafts, and it’s just fun. My boy just started walking, and it’s so fun to watch him stomp around. I also have a church I’m super involved with called River Valley. It’s my family – all my best friends are there, and we just love to hang out. For us, church isn’t a physical building, but a group of people – our people. My husband and I do a lot of volunteering, and we lead a life group once a week. I just feel really lucky that I am healthy and doing great things with my life, and I have healthy kids, and it’s a big part of my life that I can share my faith and my relationship with God.

It’s really cool that you guys can do that together. Do you have any go-to spots that keep you going or things that are a must?

AH: I live off of my coffee. But regular coffee isn’t strong enough anymore, so I’ve turned to cold press (laughs).

I always like to ask, are there any trends you’ve noticed lately that you are really into?

AH: I’m into super unique things for weddings. For example, something I’m totally geeking out about are these little peg dolls that act as personalized cake toppers. There is a local company we work with called Peg & Plum, and they create these tiny wooden pegs and custom paint you and your fiancé. I just like personal things that you can still use after the wedding. I also love anything that gives back or serves another purpose. There is a shop called Gathered Goods Company that supports local artists, who each have their own story and purpose. This goes along with Forever Bride perfectly. We have a code of ethics that match our businesses and vendors, which I think is something that sets us apart. Each vendor is reliable, professional and in this industry for the right reason.

The Forever Bride Market will take place Sunday, January 21, 2018, at the Radisson Blu Hotel MOA. For more information, visit foreverbride.com.

Images by Caitlin Nightingale Photography

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