A Love Affair with Wedding Films

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Rachel Jo Silver did not anticipate the secret flash mob dance her guests pulled off at her June 2013 wedding—nor did she have a videographer on hand to capture the unscripted scene. When planning her wedding, she had pictured wedding videography as an overwhelming nuisance involving a giant camera and bright lights, so she decided to spend the necessary funds elsewhere. Yet, soon after returning to her life as Marketing Director for a New York City-based beauty retailer, Silver began to regret her decision to pass on video coverage, as she struggled to remember the finer points of her wedding vows and the speeches, not to mention the spectacle of all her friends and family members dancing to that Earth, Wind, and Fire ballad.

Spotting a Trend

Back online, Silver began paying closer attention to the wedding videos her friends and peers were posting to social media, and she suddenly recognized a powerful trend in the convergence of real people, real love stories, and the professional-level production values all these videos shared. Since she was involved in making and curating marketing videos for her employer, it wasn't long before her marketing brain kicked in.

As made apparent in this screen grab, Filmmakers Heart + Soul captured the fairytale atmosphere of Samantha + Zachary’s 2017 wedding, in Rochester, Minnesota.

"I started looking at all the publishers in the wedding space, and no one was doing anything with videos," Silver explains. "It occurred to me that if you were planning your wedding, what could possibly be a more powerful tool for ideas and inspiration, products and services, than to watch other people's real, professionally produced wedding videos?"

Her experience working at two start-ups made her a believer in just getting something out there to test interest. "I always recommend to people that if you can get a minimum viable test up, that's the best way to determine if your idea has any legs," she says.

So, using a Google form to solicit submissions from wedding filmmakers and brides/grooms, Love Stories TV (LSTV) launched as a very simple WordPress website, in the fall of 2016, featuring wedding videos embedded from Vimeo or YouTube.

In developing the basic idea for a site, Silver also received critical assistance from her husband, a data scientist. "Even with a simple website, the one thing that really has to be excellent is maintaining and organizing the data," she points out, "because that's what makes the site so powerful."

In the beginning, Silver spread the word about LSTV through her "real-world network" of basic social media contacts and word of mouth. One of the first people she spoke with was a wedding filmmaker in Detroit whom her brother knew from college. Another early contact was a friend of a friend in New York who is an A-list wedding planner. "She introduced me to five or six filmmakers, and then they would introduce me to more," Silver recalls.

Her retail and beauty marketing background provided an added baseline for social media. "I had a following that was quite relevant for what we think of as the engaged couple, the bride-to-be, or the newlywed audience," Silver explains. "So, I was able to go out and spread the word to that audience, which allowed us to get a lot of videos from brides right away, and to attract users to the site who were thinking about their wedding. And then I went out to my network and asked who had friends who were wedding planners, or wedding professionals, or otherwise in the wedding space. Within just a few months of the site launch, I was able to see that filmmakers were really getting value, and brides were really excited about it," she adds.

World Wide Love Stories

While LSTV does not publicly release the number of videos it hosts, the site now contains thousands of individual films from all over the world, submitted in large part by the filmmakers themselves. "Diversity is really important to us," says Silver. "We have every religion, every culture, every gender orientation, and more than 60 countries represented in our library."

When selecting weddings for features on the website and in social media, the LSTV staff is committed to diversity. “We want to make sure we’re representing what’s in our library,” says Silver.

This is a decided contrast to the content featured on other wedding websites, which are not representative of real-world demographics. While this can often be intentional—to suit an editorial perspective, style, or niche—that type of narrow curation is the exact opposite of LSTV's goal. "We want to feature all the love stories, and all the weddings, so no matter who you are, you can find what you're looking for," says Silver. "We think about that when we are featuring weddings on our blog, or on Facebook, or Instagram."

Since LSTV generates income from advertising and distribution partnerships, posting videos to the website is free of charge, with no limits to quantity, length or file size. "We encourage filmmakers to publish their whole backlog," Silver explains. "Why pay for Vimeo to host your content when you can host it with us for free?"

In addition to economics, there are several other advantages for filmmakers who post videos en masse. As Silver points out, "Every video might be at a different venue, or feature different vendors, or have a different style, so the more videos you put up, the more likely you might be found by people searching."

Filmmakers also benefit from tiered marketing opportunities with the more videos they post, to extend their reach well beyond a basic library search. To start, LSTV staff regularly reviews all contributed films for consideration as potential features on the LSTV blog, social media platforms, or placement on the homepage. Filmmakers with eight videos on the site are also considered for an Instagram story takeover, while 15 or more videos on the site yields the opportunity to partner with LSTV on a wedding video package giveaway. Post 25 or more videos and you receive a featured filmmaker spotlight on LSTV's homepage, a shout out in the bride-to-be newsletter, and social media posts targeting engaged couples in a desired geographic area. "All of these opportunities get you in front of more people," says Silver, "so the more weddings you submit, the more you are submitting for a feature, and the more you have in the library."

Love Stories 2.0

Although its beginnings were simple, in January 2018 LSTV introduced a major redesign to the website and the mobile experience, to make watching, searching for, and sharing wedding videos faster and more dynamic than ever.

The many choices visible in this filter represent just a portion of the 75 possible options for Religion and Culture that are searchable on the LSTV website.

Sophisticated search filtering now allows viewers to multiselect keywords—think gay weddings in New York, or Jewish weddings in Detroit, or beach weddings in Mexico—as well as to sort search results by filmmaker or venue. "Now, you can watch videos filmed in Nashville, or in Brooklyn, but you can also say, 'I want to see a list of all the filmmakers on this website who work in Brooklyn,' and when that filmmaker appears in the results, you can click and see all their videos from all locations," Silver explains.

Another important aspect of the relaunch was the incorporation of JW Player, a video delivery platform used by many of the big media companies. Instead of embedding videos from other domains, files are now uploaded directly to the LSTV site. "This enables us to increase our marketing capabilities for filmmakers, and to suggest videos for users by putting them in our own players," says Silver. "We can also put them on Facebook, and YouTube, and Instagram, and we can make them part of partnerships with brands like the Knot or Martha Stewart Weddings."

Silver is particularly enthusiastic about the customizable functionality offered by this new technology, noting, "It will allow us to continue to improve viewing recommendations over time. We've just started to tap into this," she adds, "so we'll be improving as we grow."

Spreading the Message and Attracting New Clients

While LSTV only accepts submissions from filmmakers and the brides/grooms appearing in the videos, the company works with different types of wedding vendors and industry publications in a variety of ways.

When uploading videos, filmmakers and brides are strongly encouraged to include as much detail about wedding vendors as possible, to help tell the full story of the day.

Immediately after its launch, LSTV established partnerships with targeted wedding sites such as the Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Wedding Wire, as well as bigger media companies, who were intrigued by the content itself and stories of how couples met and fell in love. "Those publishers had a lot of content and audience, but they didn't have video, and filmmakers were really eager to have their work featured, because it would help them attract more clients," says Silver. "We looked at it like what's the comparative advantage we can offer to our two stakeholders—the wedding professionals featured in the content, and the people planning their wedding?"

Other likely targets for partnerships are clothing designers such as Bonobo's and David's Bridal, travel sites such as the Jamaica Tourist Board, and even individual wedding venues, since the website is searchable by venue and geographic location. Silver notes, "Vendors like Bonobo's can come to us and say, 'Hey, we see these videos are great marketing for us, we want to pay you to have the Bonobo's videos reach more people.' It's a win for the filmmakers who happened to have shot a Bonobo's wedding, and our users can discover suits and men's wear that they need for their events."

For another partnership, LSTV built a co-branded experience with David's Bridal to host all the videos featuring this vendor's dresses on its website. "We were so excited about that, because if you're a filmmaker and you want to reach more brides, where better to appear than on the website where potential clients are looking for a dress?" she asks.

From Website to Broadcast

Another significant aspect in the LSTV's growth is the fact that viewership is not limited to a single type of media. According to Silver, "We hear from our audience all the time that they're watching Love Stories TV on their 'TV,' which means they're just using Google Chromecast or Apple TV to pull it up on their television, but it's significant that people think of it that way."

LSTV’s editorial team is always on the hunt for amazing stories to feature on its blog, The Highlight Reel. To be considered, after uploading a video, provide a written backstory about the couple and their wedding.

This type of viewing behavior is a perfect fit for the original programming Silver and her team have developed. In one series, called "Love Stories TV and Chill," Silver sits down with co-host Juliette Dallas-Feeney, LSTV Head of Brand Partnerships, to provide commentary while watching a wedding video featured on the site. "I always describe this as being like Sports Center, where broadcasters play back sports programming and have experts do commentary," Silver affirms.

LSTV is also partnering with Heartstone Films on a wedding video package giveaway, "which received so many entries they couldn't pick just one," she notes. "The filmmakers are going to be traveling around shooting the weddings of the eight finalists and we're producing an original series where people can follow them as they create the videos, not just watch the finished product."

Most recently, LSTV teamed up with the Plaza Hotel to produce a series of educational videos related to the Royal wedding. "One features a royal wedding expert, the second introduces an etiquette expert, and the third highlights a designer, making predictions about the royal wedding," says Silver.

What's more, on the eve of the Royal wedding itself, LSTV is co-hosting a rehearsal dinner at the Plaza for editors and VIPs, and on Saturday morning, May 19, they will be on hand to livestream from a viewing breakfast at the Plaza, joined by other partners and media outlets.

Celebrating the Winners of LSTV's Wedding Film Awards

Perhaps the most inspirational initiative Silver and her team have developed for filmmakers and photographers is an annual Wedding Film Awards competition. Now in its second year, and being held in partnership with B&H Photo, the award ceremony will also inaugurate B&H's Depth of Field Conference, a free two-day event targeted at the Wedding Photo/Video audience, on April 24 - 25.

LSTV’s enhanced website features sophisticated search filtering across multiple categories, including religion/culture, wedding style, season, gender, and geographic locations, both within your city and around the world.

Featuring ten categories with topics that range from Best Elopement Film to Most Creative Cinematography to Best Moment in a Wedding Film to Wedding Film of the Year, the competition was open to any filmmaker with videos hosted on the LSTV website. "In the first nine categories, every filmmaker gets one vote, so the winners have been nominated and chosen by their peers, which we think is really powerful," says Silver. "Who knows the trends in wedding filmmaking, and who is innovating better than the people doing it, right?"

In the final category, People's Choice, LSTV staff identified the most popular videos featured on the site, to nominate the films that had performed the best. "Then we went out to those brides and filmmakers, and to our social powers, and said, 'Anyone can vote for the People's Choice Wedding Video of the Year,'" Silver explains. "That way we're enabling brides and grooms in our community to participate."

When the award ceremony unfolds, in a luxurious French restaurant/event space in downtown Manhattan on the evening of Monday, April 23, the audience will be on the edges of their seats as winners are announced by wedding industry influencers. "When you're seated watching the show, it will be as if you're watching a wedding," Silver enthuses. "We held a spot for all the nominees, and we invited all the filmmakers in our network. People are flying in from all over the country to attend."

In addition to industry recognition, the ten category winners will also receive equipment prizes sponsored by B&H and vendors such as Canon, Sony, Light & Motion, and Manfrotto. Adds Silver, "The filmmakers will be recognized by their peers, they'll get a lot of marketing attention, and some really high-value equipment, as well."

For more about LSTV's Wedding Film Awards and to view videos by the nominees and winners, click here.

Click here to register for B&H's free Depth of Field conference, held at New York's Penn Plaza Pavilion on April 24 - 25.

According to Silver, knowing a wedding client’s backstory—from how they met and fell in love to who are the other wedding vendors they hired—will help a filmmaker to create a better product.

Do you enjoy watching wedding films? What's your favorite part? Please let us know in the Comments section, below.

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