Tim Chi, the CEO of The Knot Worldwide, attended eight weddings in the year leading up to his own 2005 nuptials. After seeing all that stress and emotion firsthand, he started thinking about ways to make wedding planning easier.
“I felt very strongly that the wedding industry needed something user-generated that really helped good vendors stamp their reputation and gave consumers more information to make better buying decisions,” Chi said.
So Chi and three friends created WeddingWire, a marketplace for couples to research photographers, bakers and other vendors. In 2018, WeddingWire merged with its rival, The Knot, to form The Knot Worldwide
The company now connects more than 4 million couples to 850,000 wedding vendors each year. It operates in 16 countries and also runs The Bump website for new parents and The Bash for party planning. In 2022, it reported record revenue of $400 million.
Chi spoke with The Associated Press about how weddings are – and aren’t — changing. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q. How have weddings changed since you’ve been in the business?
A. In some ways, so many things haven’t changed. Weddings are a local celebration at the end of the day, and you all come together and you need food and you need entertainment. There’s just a baseline practicality and pragmatism about it that has not changed for as long as people have been getting married. Where the most change has been is how couples go about making those selections or finding vendors. It wasn’t that long ago when we were all just using binders and clipbooks. So the “how” has changed considerably, the digital transformation in all of our lives. But you strip that all away and you’re still throwing an awesome party at the end of the day.
Q. How do you ensure couples will keep coming to The Knot when they have other places to look for inspiration, like TikTok?
A. I think it’s that Wayne Gretzky quote: “Skate to where the puck is going.” This year-ish Gen Z is starting to get married. We don’t know definitively a lot about how they’re going to behave as they get married, but we know a lot about them as a generation. And so we’re trying to play that forward a little bit. We find them more optimistic rather than realistic; they’re thinking more about generation “we” than generation “me.” They need to be convinced of value before they invest versus just big-spending vanity. So we tell our vendor community, “You should start getting ready because this is the next 10 years of how you need to adapt your business.”
Q. The Knot relies on vendor advertising for its revenue. But the more vendors there are, the more they have to compete with each other for business, and couples can get overwhelmed with choices. How do you balance those needs?
A. We tend to talk a lot about balancing supply and demand, which ultimately you want to be in harmony together. The vendors themselves often are very bespoke and unique and differentiated. We’re not in the business of, like, you check a couple of boxes and we match you to a couple things and it’s a perfect fit. There’s so much subjectivity and personal stuff that goes into the decision making. So we do need depth and breadth. Number 2 — and this is very unique to our industry as well — the United States has about 2 million weddings that happen every year. When do you think most of those 2 million weddings happen? It’s on weekends. So we have this other added layer of supply and demand. It’s not just about number of vendors but it’s about the number of dates that are available. Ultimately, though, when we talk with our vendors we just really focus on building a strong partnership with them. If you’re going to advertise with us, did you feel like you got a good return on your investment? If you did, you’re going to renew.
Q. What advice would you give others about going through a merger?
A. They’re never easy, right? So your best bet is to find a point of view. Make decisions quickly and then just do it all really quickly and not let it drag out for very long. Because uncertainty is the thing that sort of kills all deals and grinds everyone down. It’s better to just run fast and then course correct if you miss along the way rather than agonize for a long time. So speed, obviously, and care. We don’t manufacture widgets or anything; we’re a company of people. Care for your team members by providing them clarity and speed.