BerkshireBride Expo Keeps Wedding Dollars LocalBy Tammy Daniels
07:10PM / Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Potential brides and grooms fill the Crowne Plaza at last year's Berkshire Wedding Expo.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — If you're getting married in the Berkshires this year, it's a good bet you've found yourself on BerkshireBride.com.
The website is the go-to referral service for everything bridal in Berkshire County — and only in the county — with some 140 vendors ranging from food to photography and from tanning to teeth whitening. The site's jumped to nearly 2 million hits over the past year and registers some 400 bridal couples annually.
This weekend, more than 70 of those vendors will set up at the 10th annual Berkshire Wedding Expo at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Both the expo and BerkshireBride.com are the brainchilds of Jerrid and Diane Burdick, who wed in 2002.
For the Burdicks, it was the perfect marriage in wedding expertise. Jerrid, also owner of Tux Express, began his career doing prom fittings out of the back of his car. Diane worked at a bridal shop. Together, they brought experience and innovation from, well, both sides of the aisle.
"The best thing that ever happpened was my wife," said Jerrid Burdick. "She brought a whole new element of things that I couldn't wrap my mind around. It's made me more compassionate, I understand what's going through a bride's head."
A lot of what's going through a bride's head is stress. Burdick said the average weddding in Berkshire County runs about $24,000, starting with the engagement ring and ending with the honeymoon. That's lead BerkshireBride to become more expansive in offering seminars and workshops on weddings, as well as providing an online way to connect with and keep track of vendors.
"For the first couple years, BerkshireBride was more of a resource to find vendors," said Burdick. "We let them register and marketed to them.
"We've taken it into the next phase. We've seen BerkshireBride go through a metamorphosis to a full-blown media avenue with 80,000 a month page hits. ... We had just under 2 million for the year, when we've had a million a year for the last three years."
This year's theme is 'Rustic Elegance'
Berkshire Wedding Expo, Jan. 12-13
• Berkshire Brides & grooms free; additional guests $5
• Two Berkshire Brides will win $1,000 in goods, services
• First 100 brides will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a $5,000 wedding package
Among the more popular events is the WooHoo Wedding Tours — whirlwind tours of venues in different parts of the county. Couples are whisked around by Transport The People limousines to up to two dozen venues for 15 to 20 minute presentions on the daylong tour.
The annual Berkshire Wedding Expo is the major event. The exposition has grown out of smaller shows Burdick organized early on, mostly in North County. Now in its 10th year, the expo has grown to two days, more than 70 vendors and between 500 and 600 attendees on Saturday alone. Registration will also be taken at the door but some events, like Sunday's bridal breakfast, are already at capacity.
"We'll probably get about 60 percent of those who are planning to get married this year," Burdick said. That's not small change: He figures about $7 million to $8 million will spent through BerkshireBride just this year.
The best part? All that revenue benefits local venues and small businesses.
"We can honestly say that the way we do it, all the money stays in Berkshire County," said Burdick, who adds he's had to reject plenty of out-of-county vendors hoping to set up at the expo on the website. "That's not what we're about .... It's keeping the money in Berkshire County to keep people working here."
Burdick's Berkshire Wedding Associates, which operates the website and expo, could be called an early example of "crowd funding." He started it as a way for local businesses to advertise collaboratively. Eight years ago, when his bank wouldn't loan him the $10,000 needed to get the website up and running (no "tangible assets"), he turned to his vendors. Forty came up with $250 each to bring BerkshireBride.com online.
Since then, the number of vendors listed has more than tripled and Burdick has seen participating businesses grow. He described a wedding photographer who was able to quit her day job just through the leads she made on BerkshireBride.
"She's one of dozens of small businesses we've been able to take in and teach them how to market differently," said Burdick, who's proud of the associates' ability to nurture Berkshire businesses and keep bridal business local.