Gone are the days when a bride-to-be strolled into Amy Craparos The Wow Factor Cakes with a blank slate and a couple of magazine clippings.
Now, brides in the throes of wedding planning come to her Park Road bakery armed with their smartphones and tablets open to their new primary source of inspiration: Pinterest, a social media site that allows users to maintain virtual pinboards with images from the web.
Almost every bride I sit with for a consultation brings in a picture from Pinterest almost every single one of them, says Craparo.
Its a virtual networking tool thats changing the way wedding retailers do business. Many Charlotte-area wedding vendors from dress shops to florists, cake designers to stationery experts now use the site as a cost-free way of interpreting trends, connecting with clients and garnering more exposure. It all helps these businesses capture a bigger piece of the $40 billion wedding-industry pie.
Since it launched in 2009, Pinterest has cracked Comscores list of top-50 U.S. Web sites, drawn nearly 26 million unique visitors and been valued at more than $1.5 billion. The site, which allows users to browse other peoples pinboards for inspiration and repin images to their own boards, offers a nearly infinite stream of idea for home decorating, recipes, fashion and weddings.
Approximately 68 percent of Pinterests users are female, and nearly one-third of those women are ages 25 to 34, according to digital ad agency Modea.
Given those demographics, its no wonder Pinterest seems tailor-made for the wedding industry, which revolves around evocative visuals.
Thats the beauty of Pinterest, says Kristin Vining of Kristin Vining Photography, who started using Pinterest in 2010, soon after the site launched. Its a domino effect. One person tags it, then BAM, pinning and pinning and pinning ... (People are) seeing your name over and over again.
Vining now has nearly 1,300 followers on Pinterest, and she regularly updates her page to include photos from recent shoots and events. She has separate boards for engagement sessions, bridal portraits and wedding pictures, and strongly encourages her clients to maintain their own pages.
But for Vining, Pinterest is just one of many social media outlets to attract clientele. She also blogs and maintains a presence on Twitter and Facebook all of which help her Search Engine Optimization ranking with Google, she says.
(They say) it takes someone seeing your name three times to notice you and seven times to remember you, says Vining. Pinterest is just another one of those tools for us to reach our audience.
Wedding planner Katrina Hutchins of Come+Together Events, often uses Pinterest to connect her clients with local vendors for rental chairs, linens, cakes and photography.
Party Reflections, a special event rental company located on Monroe Road that Hutchins works with regularly, has nearly 900 pins.
I follow them on Pinterest, and sometimes theyll be pinning ideas from their own inventory, and Ill call my girl and say, I want to use this in a wedding, Hutchins said.
Hutchins said she also spots photos of events she planned floating around on Pinterest even if she didnt pin it herself first.
To encourage the same, Craparo of The Wow Factor Cakes, recently redid the gallery on her website to include a pin it option on each photo. Viewers now have a hassle-free way of pinning her creations on their Pinterest boards, said Craparos husband, Chris.
Jessica Sanders, 27, who works at Salutations Fine Stationery and Gifts in Ballantyne Village, created the stores Pinterest page last fall.
It does take time, but I think its well worth it, says Sanders. The compliments we get and the people who reference our page its almost daily.
The Salutations Pinterest page has hundreds of pictures of invitations and gifts, along with boards, such as traditional with a twist and rustic, which they use to help clients nail down their style. These days, Sanders is also including videos and links to blog posts.
They even include links to their Pinterest page in the questionnaire they email to clients, so they can all be on the same page before the appointment.
Pinterest has directly impacted Salutations bottom line, Sanders said, as it proliferates new wedding trends with paper accessories that werent common in the pre-social media days. She cited the rise of save the dates, signs, vintage seating charts, scrolls, tags, fancy menus and place cards.
Pinterest has really shown brides other paper products they could have ... all of the different things you need, says Sanders. Long gone are the days of (just) flowers in a vase and floating votives. Thats not happening anymore.
Though Pinterest is rich in Do-it-Yourself tricks, a survey by TheKnot.com shows the average wedding cost is $27,800, and even higher in urban areas.
The Charlotte Chapter of the National Association of Wedding Professionals is even hosting a Pinterest-inspired fashion show and wedding showcase called Inspiration and Fashion: Come See Pinterest Live.
Rather than have dozens of booths set up individually, wedding professionals are combining their services to create whole settings, says Marsha Pruitt, owner of The Event Host and president of the NAWPs Charlotte Chapter.
For example, there might be a booth for a table-setting, with linens, a menu and a floral arrangement all done by local vendors.
Pinterest has been a wonderful asset. I cant tell you how much, says Pruitt. Its just a better way to sell ourselves.
McMillan: 704-358-6045 Twitter: @cbmcmillan
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less