In Good Times and in Bad, Sickness and in Health

How creating a co-op saved wedding businesses from a crisis

So much goes into planning a wedding: venues, dresses, food, decorations, photography, hair and makeup, flowers — it’s a lot to coordinate. Finding and booking each of these services separately is a major undertaking. So, a group of vendors in one of Canada’s busiest wedding destinations decided to join forces to offer clients an easier way to plan one of the most momentous events of their lives.

A match made in heaven

The pandemic limited (or eliminated) travel and people gathering in groups, making a regular wedding impossible. So, it’s been rough for businesses in the industry.

In the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, however, a Jasper-based group of business owners have said “Yes” to forming the My Jasper Wedding co-operative to stay afloat while helping couples take the plunge.

Made up of 12 businesses — from florists to photographers and DJs to make-up artists — the co-op is a one-stop-shop for people planning their big day. Rather than searching for individual vendors for each aspect of their wedding, the co-op customizes a complete wedding experience for clients. In short, My Jasper Wedding untangles the lengthy process of tying the knot.

Businesses joining forces doesn’t just make the planning process easier for couples — it simplifies things for the vendors, too. Jordan Tucker, co-owner of Jasper Event Management and founding co-op member, handles consultations, quotes, and informs the member businesses if their services will be needed for a client. Together, the businesses lessen the individual load by sharing the weight together.

“We were kind of just looking at what we were going to do to save our businesses and try to drum up a new business and obviously adapt with new things like online events and things like that,” Tucker said. “We just started out kind of trying to bring everyone together and find ways to better support one another.”

The idea has worked. This optimistic and forward-thinking co-operative has allowed these small event-based businesses to weather one of the worst wedding seasons in history and to provide a smoother and better experience for their clients than before.

Tying the knot

When structuring the co-op, the group’s first priority was to ensure it wouldn’t be a financial burden on the business members.

“We didn’t want a $1,000 registration fee or membership fee every year, we wanted it to be really affordable,” Tucker said. “We all lost almost all of our business for a good chunk from COVID, so we really wanted things to just be super fair, to make sure we had a model that made enough money to justify what we wanted to do to achieve our goals.”

Though these businesses had often worked together before on a by-referral basis, Tucker says that this more codified business relationship makes work better for the businesses and the clients.

“I always resonate to [the idea that] our best success is going to be through collaboration, especially in a small-town community collaboration,” Tucker said. “And we do have to have each other’s back… these people are our friends and family. So, it does make the work more enjoyable. We’re able to keep the client’s vision on track better when we work with more local experts.”

Simplicity is in its nature

Couples who get married in Jasper are typically travelling from elsewhere for a destination wedding and having it in a national park adds complexity. These are things the co-op can help with.

“You’re actually planning a destination wedding, although in Canada we don’t treat like it like we’re going to Mexico at a resort,” Tucker said. “At the end of the day, you are planning from a distance and sometimes those distances are great.”

“I’ve got one client from Prince Edward Island next year, for example, where they weren’t sure if they’d even be able to come before the wedding. So, they’re really relying on local experts to make sure what they envision is going to come to light.”

Regardless of where the couples are from, My Jasper Wedding simplifies wedding planning through a free consultation where couples can then decide what kinds of services they want for the big day.

Happily ever after

Tucker sees that the co-operative approach between the member businesses could open up future opportunities, like buying assets together, for the members by using the co-op’s pooled capital — opportunities that each individual business could not have accessed alone.

For Tucker, working together in co-op has made the work he does easier — and that ultimately benefits the couples they work with.

“Weddings can just be a really stressful time,” Tucker said.

“It’s a very intimate moment in your life — and that’s really what it should be. The rest of it — we’ll make sure it all comes together to ultimately work with you on a wedding plan that works for your needs and your budget and reduce some stress.”

With thanks to Tanner Bayne

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