Jakarta. The road to saying “I do” is, more often than not, paved with hectic times for the couple. Preparing a wedding is certainly no easy feat, especially when hundreds of people — from your closest friends to long-lost relatives — are invited to the ceremony, as is customary in Indonesia.
Lasaprima Kenzahra, a business executive working at a travel startup in Jakarta, faced an agony familiar to brides-to-be while planning for her wedding last April. There were countless tasks in her to-do list at the time, including booking a venue spacious enough for the guest list, finding a caterer who could whip up delicious buffet dinner and, of course, finding the perfect attire for herself and the groom.
Luckily, Lasaprima’s mission in finding the right vendors who could help organize the wedding did not require her to leave the desk.
“Websites like Bridestory.com were very helpful for me in preparing my wedding. The beautiful photos and clear explanations [in each vendor’s page] encouraged me to apply as a member so I could stay updated,” says Lasaprima, whose wedding ceremony was held in local Betawi tradition at the Thamrin Nine Ballroom in Central Jakarta.
With weddings becoming a booming industry in Indonesia — think couple-baiting expos regularly held — it is no wonder that tech entrepreneurs are eyeing the opportunity to grab a slice of the pie (make that the wedding cake).
The man behind Bridestory.com, Kevin Mintaraga, is one of them. As its chief executive, he envisaged the startup he co-founded as an online marketplace to connect engaged couples with wedding vendors.
“When I planned my own wedding there was no platform for me to find wedding inspiration and vendors. At the time, I did everything manually with word-of-mouth information. I believe it wasn’t only me who was facing the same headache, so it occurred to me that a platform like Bridestory.com was needed,” says Kevin.
Geared toward brides-to-be
Visitors to Bridestory.com would notice the similarity of its web design to that of a Pinterest board. Kevin explains that his team decided on this layout because many people, including himself, are using the social site to find wedding inspiration.
“We also observe that women tend to be more visual compared to men — they like to scroll through many beautiful images and inspirations. And because our website is mainly geared toward brides-to-be, we created such a look. But unlike Pinterest, when you find something you like on Bridestory.com, you can immediately know and contact the vendor behind it,” he adds.
On the website, users can conveniently browse vendors offering services of any kind — décor, makeup, catering and even MCs and DJs — by categories, countries, cities and budgets.
Thanks to the seamless user experience, one can also filter the vendors based on a color that suits the atmosphere for the planned wedding. When a user selects “pink,” for instance, she will be presented with an array of service providers whose previous works were dominated in that particular shade: pink flower arrangements, cupcakes, veils, you name it.
Launched in April 2014, Bridestory.com now features more than 10,000 wedding vendors based in Indonesia. Kevin mentions that the top-searched categories now include photography, venue, wedding dress as well as wedding planner.
“We also curate vendors with good reputation in the ‘Diamond Vendors’ section, such as five-star hotels as venues,” he says.
Lasaprima can attest to the ease in wedding planning that the website offers.
“I think most of the vendors I hired for my wedding can be found on Bridestory.com, from the venue to the honeymoon package provider,” she says.
In order to promote their services on the website, a wedding vendor can create an account for free.
“But after a period of time, a vendor should pay a subscription fee to continuously be featured and receive business inquiries via Bridestory.com,” explains Kevin.
Vendors can showcase their best works in their profile page to attract the browsing couples. Similar to other service-based websites, Bridestory.com users are also encouraged to give reviews for each vendor based on their experience.
The majority of Bridestory.com users and vendors are still based in Indonesia, but the startup is readying itself for an international expansion this year. The website already showcases vendors from 13 other countries as far-flung as Israel and the Dominican Republic. (Need a wedding dress in Tel Aviv? You can find it here.)
Kevin says that this strategy highly correlates with the fact that weddings have become a globe-spanning affair these days.
“Now you can see lot of foreigners from Australia or Japan who are getting married in Bali. It must be hard for them to find wedding vendors on their own over there,” Kevin remarks, saying that this is where Bridestory.com comes in to help.
“Wedding vendors can also work anywhere in the world. The photographer I hired for my wedding, for example, came from Sweden. She had a different style from local photographers here, but with a highly competitive rate,” he adds.
In addition to this expansion, Bridestory.com has a mobile application currently in the works to increase the engagement between couples and wedding vendors.
“We believe that every bride has their own dream and story. Our platform has a mission to bring that dream wedding to everyone,” says Kevin.
Financing the special occasion
While a couple may excitedly plan their wedding, there is perhaps one thing that they would rather not discuss openly: cost.
For those not lucky enough to be born to the manor, paying for the once-in-a-lifetime event can burn quite a hole in the pocket.
“Wedding costs are very expensive,” said Abraham Viktor, chief executive of Wedlite.com, a startup that facilitates loans for marrying couples, earlier this year.
“Some of my friends financed their wedding using non-collateral loan from banks, and they were charged around 3 percent per month, which is very high,” explains Abraham. “When I learned about that, I thought there should be a better product.”
His solution to this is by providing loans at a lower interest rate through Wedlite.com. To apply for a loan, users can submit an application form along with documents like bank and salary statements.
“We partner with multi-finance institutions that will do the checking and survey on the applicants for us. They will inspect the condition of the customer’s collateral, such as the car or motorcycle,” Abraham says.
After the application is approved and the customer pays the first monthly instalment, the multi-finance institutions will directly disburse the fund to the couple’s chosen wedding vendors. Wedlite.com earns commission from their multi-finance partners for each loan made.
“We do this to ensure that the money is only used for the wedding purpose, not for anything else. Although there have been cases where our customers want to use the money themselves to, say, buy groceries because their own family will cook for the ceremony — we can arrange this, too,” Abraham says.
According to Abraham, Wedlite.com is now targeted at middle- and low-income segments in Indonesia.
“Recently, for example, we conducted a customer survey in Manado [South Sulawesi]. This way, we can serve couples all across Indonesia.”
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