Brunchfest – The Wedding Industry Retreat that Puts Community Over Competition
Written by Erin Balfour
Photography by Fleming Photo
If you look closely, you’ll notice there’s been a turn in the tide amongst creatives and indie businesses in the way they relate to each other. The days of regarding everyone else in the same field as you as the competition in a negative way are waning, and in their place is the new mood of ‘community over competition’. I’m in a few Facebook groups – the adopted home of supportive communities – where everyone is in the same marketplace, sometimes pitching to the exact same customers, but rather than backbiting, underhandedness or plain old secrecy, there’s a genuine desire to lift everyone up and all move forward together in business, learning, development and innovation. Knowledge is shared, questions are asked and answered, high fives are given when any size wins happen, and basically there’s a lot of love and respect in the air. And it’s the best thing to be a part of.
Lex Fleming – one of our amazing photographers in The WOW Edit Directory – launched something called Brunchfest, which saw 24 wedding suppliers from the UK go on a retreat where they worked, had fun and also did a massive styled shoot. And they did the whole thing with the spirit of ‘community over competition’ front and centre.
Lex said, “With handmade liquor candles and cacti holders to handmade dresses still being sewn the first night of Brunchfest, the week was very special and we all left feeling like we were part of something bigger.” This is her story of how and why it all came about and why it’s so important to come together rather than compete and alienate. And we are proud to be bringing it to you to show just how hard the wonderful humans in the wedding industry work to constantly improve their services so they can give you a wonderful wedding day.
How and Why
“When you think of self-employed members of society, you may immediately think of the strict pyjama office-wear rule, or the spontaneous coffee breaks we may allow ourselves. The gruelling ten-step morning commute to our office can be hard going, too! However, the deep, dark secret of working for yourself is that it can be so unashamedly lonely and isolating.
“In early 2016, having worked as a wedding photographer for a few years, I set up a small Facebook group and called it The London Wedding Breakfast Club. The name was very much ‘does what it says on the tin’: a wedding suppliers’ group, but instead of just remaining as virtual friends and maybe meeting on the off-chance by working at the same wedding, we actually met once a month for breakfast and shared a morning together. By the sixth month of selling out all 22 spaces for each breakfast, I knew this was something special, and two years later the ‘small Facebook group’ has over 1,000 members and I organise up to four or five events a month.
“London Wedding Breakfast Club (LWBC) is a group and event community where wedding suppliers don’t have to be in competition with each other. A common misconception in most industries is that you cannot be friends with your competition. LWBC knocks that notion on the head, and you’ll find whole tables of wedding photographers, cake designers, dress makers and many more suppliers all talking and sharing stories. Our motto is ‘community over competition’ and our club makes that possible.
“We have many hats we have to juggle in a normal day. For me, I’m not just a photographer, I’m a marketing manager, a social media expert, a web designer, an office assistant, and so much more. In a room full of 22 people, you cannot feel alone in the wedding industry anymore. LWBC is not just a place to celebrate your achievements, but also a place to be honest and say, ‘I’m having a really hard week’, and someone else in the room will agree with you, or at least listen to you and share their own stories of hurdles they’ve managed to overcome or advice on what they think might help.”
The Retreat: Brunchfest
“The idea of a retreat began to be brought up in the late summer of last year. Everyone was feeling the strain of the long days and even longer nights either editing, making, baking or planning. By September, I could see in people’s eyes that a trip was needed. Whilst we could all holiday with friends and family, the idea of going away with a small group and combining rest with learning and social growth with our fellow peers within the wedding industry had been something I myself had been yearning to do.
“’The combination of relaxing somewhere outside London but getting to network and do a bit of work at the same time really appealed’, said Emily Garland from Maid of Gingerbread. So it was decided: 24 wedding businesses, one large house in Somerset, and four days of sleeping, learning and creating. Whilst there are wedding photography conferences, or florists’ retreats, this was the first time in the UK a group of wedding suppliers from all different backgrounds and skills were going to live together for four days. This was at the heart of the learning experience, in my opinion.
“As the retreat approached, the realisation of what I had organised began to dawn on me. This could be a complete disaster and, with it being so intimate, there wasn’t any escape from each other.
“’My first thought when we all arrived was how friendly everyone was and how everybody just began to merge almost immediately’, photographer Sophie Lake said of the first night.
“There were lots of open spaces in the house, and lots of breakout areas, but as we arrived on one of the coldest nights of the year, all 24 of us crammed into the tiny library with the log fire to keep warm… and we quickly became acquainted!
“The night that really brought the whole group together was the second night. I had organised for us to use the beautifully decorated main room to host a murder mystery. Photographer Chloe Lee said, ‘You were forced to talk to everyone to be able to play. Being in character helped break the ice. The night was so fun and you really got a sense of everyone…’.
“With Sainlo Events catering for the week, the murder mystery came complete with a three-course meal that hit the senses perfectly. Combined with the candlelit table and room that we had all prepared earlier for our styled shoot, the atmosphere was just amazing and made us feel like a huge dysfunctional family. This was the moment I realised the power of a small Facebook group and a fleeting idea to make more friends in my industry. Social media had a huge part of the incredible experience we all shared that night.”
“I had prepared a loose schedule for the week, but wasn’t too strict about it as I wanted everyone to feel relaxed and comfortable. I also wanted learning and creativity to flow naturally and organically, too.
“I arranged a styled shoot for the first full day where all 24 of us worked together. That in itself was quite the experiment! Dress makers, cake makers, a caterer, a jeweller, milliners, planners, stylists, a florist, a stationer, a hair and make-up artist, a videographer, and 12 photographers all shooting. This element of our styled shoot had mixed responses.
“‘It can be hard trying to photograph something with ten other people doing the same, but it’s quite interesting to watch other photographers and see how they view a set-up or location differently to you, and maybe photographing from an angle you may not have thought of. It also meant that we could share advice and techniques with each other’, said Chloe Lee.”
“To make sure there was a happy balance of working and playing, there was a really natural blend of co-working in the main room, with 20 laptop screens all in a circle whilst we shared views and opinions on everything from websites to social media. The biggest thing we learned was realising that despite our chosen skill, we all had similar issues with the business side of our jobs.”
“As the week came to an end, I think the realisation of how impactful the experience had been for everyone sunk in. At the beginning of the retreat, everyone used it as an excuse to get away, but as friendships formed and ideas were shared, we realised we were making history for the independent business industry, let alone the wedding industry. As we discussed the latest algorithms over the amazing homemade granola, and had website critiques by the fire, we were taking in all honest and open feedback and advice. There was no competitive streak, no advice held back. The open learning of the entire week did not go unnoticed and, come time to leave, the remaining few were holding on to every minute at Sparkford Hall until the cleaners came in.
“We were all so different, yet all trying to make our way in the wedding industry. It was fun to have proper colleagues for the week, and have people to bounce ideas off… and reassuring to feel that we could really get to know each other over a few days and be honest with each other on a retreat, rather than just a few hours once a month over breakfast.”
Community Over Competition
“Who knew a small Facebook group could create an experience that none of us will forget. Thanks to the power of social media, a group of strangers with only the shared interest of their industry bringing them together resulted in feeling like one big family. We represented the wedding community in that house, and I am so proud of how well we all co-worked together. Twelve photographers all came away with such different work, despite shooting the same bridal shoot!
“The week brought the industry together in so many ways, but finally proved that no matter how big a business, everyone needs a community.”
We couldn’t agree more. Supportive communities are the very welcome future…
You can see the gorgeous styled shoot from these guys right here later this week!
Tickets are available for Brunchfest 2019! If you quite rightly love the look of this, then make sure you sign up quick, quick for next year’s here!!
* Lex Fleming | Fleming Photo
Laura Devine | Devine Bride
Cherelle Joseph | Perfectly Planned 4 You
Chloe Lee | Chloe Lee Photography
* Joanna Bongard | Joanna Bongard Photography
Kirsty MacKenzie | Kirsty MacKenzie Photography
Katie Lake Volcof | Malarkey Cakes
* Sophie Lake | Sophie Lake Photography
Will Patrick | Will Patrick Weddings
Stuart Kinghorn | Confetti and Silk
Matt Badenoch | Matt Badenoch Photo
Beverley Edmondson | Beverley Edmondson Millinery
Ann-Marie Lawson | Lawson Makeup
Oana Brasoveanu | Tell Your Story
Rose Joyce | Rose Joyce Design
* Paola De Paola | Paola De Paola Photography
Louise Adby | Louise Adby Photography
Mairead McDaid | Remain in Light Photography
Felicity Westmacott | Felicity Westmacott Bespoke Dressmaker
Noelle Balfour | Tricia Noelle
Pri Kruijen | London Wedding Stationery
Emily Garland | Maid of Gingerbread
Colleen Sainlo | Sainlo Events Catering
*Member of The WOW Edit Directory
Contact us here if you would like information on how to join us!