The average wedding in New Jersey costs nearly $50,000.
“That boils down to almost $200 a minute,” Michael Hernandez said.
With more than half of betrothed couples — and especially millennials — paying for a wedding themselves, Hernandez, founder and CEO of The Wedding Establishment in Red Bank, said he has set out to change that.
“We save clients money, time and stress,” he said. “People truly want the convenience of booking trusted services with established talent all in one place.”
By housing under one roof the various creative services that today’s large-scale events typically require, The Wedding Establishment has been able to cut the average cost of even the most elaborate weddings in half.
It’s no surprise then that, according to Hernandez, business is expected to double by the end of this year.
“Since we opened (in February), any particular service is booked at least once a week, with the company sometimes planning (dozens of) weddings at a time,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is used to the hectic nature of the wedding industry.
He started his career by working for his father’s part-time DJ entertainment business, Sounds to Go, in the 1990s.
“I then walked out of college three credits short of graduating because I wanted to take Sounds to Go and build it up from my parents’ basement from a side gig into full-time employment,” he said.
Though he said he took on tens of thousands in credit card debt to make that happen, the business became a profitable success.
“Then, I would constantly notice people running all over the state in order to get what they needed for their wedding,” Hernandez said. “Planning a wedding became a second job for these people that they weren’t being paid for.”
That is when Hernandez decided to open The Wedding Establishment — completely self-funded and debt-free due to his success with Sounds to Go.
“We are now a collection of event-based businesses in a 4,000-square-foot storefront in the center of Red Bank,” he said.
In addition to Sounds to Go and a newly formed seven-piece wedding band, Hernandez also founded Love Happens for photography and video services and Indulge for décor, furniture and event planning.
Sofia + Abbie, a stationery and invitation designer, and The Wedding Officiant, a team of wedding officiants, already were full-fledged companies that decided to join under The Wedding Establishment’s umbrella.
The Wedding Establishment now employs around 40 independent contractors.
“To find not only the talent, but also the right people, with the right character, warmth and comfort level, is equally as important in the wedding industry,” Hernandez said. “I’ve often interviewed, for example, photographers who were extremely talented, but would not necessarily work well with our client base.”
Hernandez therefore has taken a liking to “socially driven hiring,” he said, sharing posts on Facebook with trusted friends to find the right collaborators.
“The Wedding Establishment is a place where one can work and do what they love without having to worry about the cost and minutia of owning their own business,” he said. “I’m hiring established talent that I thought never would work with me because they simply don’t want to spend the time and money to do their own thing anymore.”
Within a year, Hernandez said he also would like to add a Brooklyn-inspired event space to The Wedding Establishment’s offered services.
“As facilities continue to charge up to $300 per plate these days, people are more often getting married in barns and city lofts,” he said. “I would love to find the right place and partnership to be able to take such a venue and reimagine it into a one-of-a-kind place in which we could offer all of our services.”
Additionally, Hernandez said people both in and out of state already have approached him regarding expansion plans for the business model.
“We would love to open more locations, or franchise The Wedding Establishment model,” he said. “We are always seeking new talent, potential partners and investors in that regard.”