Nuptials And Networking
Networking with Dana Laymon
Wedding season is in full force this summer, and coastal cities like Wilmington are buzzing with brides. Behind every successful “I do” often is a roster of people who have built their businesses around pulling off the big day.
And like in other industries, connections are key for wedding professionals.
DANA LAYMON, a local wedding photographer, saw a need for an organization that could bring together local wedding vendors to network and put on wedding shows.
“Wilmington is a destination for weddings. I was shooting so many brides who were coming from out of state to get married here. So I thought, ‘How could we promote Wilmington even more?’ We have a really good group of wedding vendors. It’s just as good as Charleston or Savannah or anywhere else on the East Coast,” she says.
Laymon wanted the organization to have a dual purpose: to build relationships among vendors and to promote Wilmington as a place to get married.
“I kept thinking someone else would do it,” she says. “Usually, when there’s a good opportunity in this town someone usually pounces on it.”
But no one did. “I got impatient and decided I’m just going to do it,” she adds.
After meeting with wedding vendor friends about the idea and seeking their input, Laymon initially started with the Wilmington Weddings and Events website, which launched in October 2013.
The website serves as a resource for couples getting married in the Cape Fear region – whether they are locals or planning a destination wedding. Couples can find vendors who specialize in anything from flowers to party favors.
"So, as a wedding vendor, you could be busy with weddings nearly a year. The wedding season has extended, so it’s a good sign that we are hopefully bringing more business to the area,” she said.
Wilmington Weddings also hosts four bridal events a year, two bridal shows, a fashion show, and a bridal swap where couples can buy and sell decor. In between these events, vendors gather for workshops and networking nights. Workshop topics range from planning for retirement to marketing to health insurance.
And her projects continue to expand. She collaborated with publisher Laurel Maultsby to help launch the Focus on the Coast Weddings publication last year.
Laymon has always had a passion for photography. While pursuing a business degree at University of North Carolina Wilmington, she interned with Carla Cherry, a wedding videographer.
“I loved it. It was cool to see the creative side of an entrepreneur doing business in the wedding industry,” Laymon says. “That was my first experience in the wedding industry. I could not believe she was doing something like this and making a living out of it.”
After her internship ended, Laymon couldn’t shake the photography bug, so she attended a summer session at Parsons School of Design in New York. She returned to Wilmington wanting to do more. Cherry suggested having Laymon photograph weddings while she took video.
“The first wedding I ever shot was with her,” Laymon recalls.
About a year later, Cherry moved to Los Angeles and took her business with her. Laymon decided to strike out on her own as a wedding photographer. After graduation, Laymon briefly worked at the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors (now called Cape Fear Realtors) and then at PPD for five-and-a-half years in human resources.
She kept growing her photography business on the side while working her day job. When her husband received a promotion at work, she submitted her resignation and took to the camera lens and business ownership full time.
As Wilmington Weddings and Events grew, Laymon began specializing in women’s portraiture, which includes boudoir, maternity, and headshots. She is increasingly busy with Wilmington Weddings, so much that she has pulled back from photography and is no longer taking wedding clients.
“It’s hard for me to commit to a bride a year and a half in advance, knowing that Wilmington Weddings is growing so much. I don’t know where I’ll be,” she says. “There are so many more talented people than me. I’d rather let them take the business.”
And she’ll be there to help them.
For more info on the wedding vendor group Dana Laymon started including upcoming networking events, go to www.wilmingtonweddingsandevents.com.
To view more of photographer Chris Brehmer's work, visit chrisbrehmerphotography.com.