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Abby Larson on Turning Style Me Pretty into a Tome

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Abby Larson on Turning Style Me Pretty into a Tome

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As a recent bride, I know all too well that the internet can be your best friend or your worst frenemy. With one "quick" search for, say, escort card designs, I'd inevitably venture down a rabbit hole of Pinterest boards, 47-step DIY YouTube videos, and custom Etsy listings with prices that rivaled my wedding's entire budget. Three hours later, I'd often emerge, red-eyed and frustrated that I was still back where I started, defeated and uninspired. My pain relief? A few Advil and more than a few clicks on Style Me Pretty.

For those who don't know, Style Me Pretty — a wedding blog that launched before wedding blogs existed, back in 2007 — is, for lack of a more graceful term, bridal porn. It's photospread upon photospread of the most beautiful, most whimsical weddings across the nation. Scrolling through the site, anxious brides (and, let's face it, brides-to-be) calm their nerves with beautiful images and the love stories behind them — each one more awe-inspiring than the next.

Starting today, the woman behind the site, Abby Larson, has another cure in store: She's releasing her very first book, on shelves now. We talked to Abby about her new coffee table companion, her next big project, and whether her own wedding would have made the blog.

Of all the beautiful things you could blog about, what about weddings hooked you?
I love everything about weddings. I love the ceremony. I love the formality. I love weddings large and small, in backyards and ballrooms. For most people, their wedding is the first time in their life — and, in many cases, the last — where they get to design a celebration that is as fabulous as fabulous gets. Where flowers and linens and food sparkle, where they get to fuss over perfect details and moments that their friends and family will remember.

Where did the idea for Style Me Pretty come from?
I had recently sold a wedding invitation line and was looking for a new opportunity in the wedding space. I envisioned a space where magazines were creating this beautiful, edited content but in an online format. Where brides could continue to feed their inspiration throughout the day.

What inspired you to take the leap to start your own business?
My father was a consummate entrepreneur. He has owned the most eclectic collection of businesses over the course of my life, from a frozen yogurt company to a blood draw lab and a costume jewelry brand. He always taught me that I need to not keep dreaming, but start doing. To get off my rear and make things happen. So starting my own business has always been on the horizon for me. It was mostly about coming up with a great idea and finding just the right time to launch it.

When did you realize you were on to something?
I remember thinking that if I could get 500 people reading my blog each month, I'd be good. Those 500 people happened almost immediately and each month our readers grew and grew. It was incredible. Knowing that each day as I wrote my posts over morning coffee, real people, living real lives were logging in and reading and commenting and engaging.

There was really nothing like this online when you first started, which made you something of a pioneer. Do you feel like you led the e-wedding charge?
I do. While blogging certainly wasn't a novel idea, there wasn't anyone in the wedding space that was really curating content to the level that magazines were. And I think the wedding industry was craving something new, something different. Something more immediate.

Fast-forward to present day: The internet is saturated with wedding blogs, bridal Pinterest boards, pre-marital planning websites… What do you think about all the iterations on your original idea that have cropped up over the years?
I think they're great! There is a wedding blog for every kind of bride, for every budget and style of wedding. Inspiration is everywhere now, literally everywhere. Which is in large part why I wrote this book. I wanted to show brides how to use those very weddings and ideas, break them down, piece them apart and put their own style stamp on them.

That said, why did you decide to take these ideas off-line and do a book?
The book was really a chance for all of the incredible vendors that we work with to have another gorgeous place to share their work. We loved the idea that brides could have a portable SMP, a perfect book that they could tuck into their bags and bring with them to meetings with vendors or lunches with moms. We wanted it to be inspirational and yet practical, beautiful and yet totally approachable. And we are so in love with the final product.

For some, the wedding industry has turned the experience of getting married into a hyper-competitive, detail-obsessed production. Do you think there is a point of going overboard?
The best part about wedding blogs is that there are so many ideas. The worst part about wedding blogs is that there are so many ideas. We sometimes see weddings that are direct replicas of the many ideas that have made their way around blogs and Pinterest. The best weddings are those that truly reflect the bride and groom and their one-of-a-kind personality. When there are so many details and so many DIY elements, you lose site of the greater whole. It's best to determine your three most important things in your wedding and make them truly sparkle.

It must be a natural progression to take the success of Style Me Pretty's formula with weddings and do the same with other topics.
We're currently working on SMP Home, which we feature on Sundays, though in the new year, it will be its own sparkly stand-alone site focusing on homes and interior design. Plus, it'll have amazing celebrations, recipes, shop tours, DIY projects, and chic educational ideas like floral arranging and photography. It's sort of an all-in-one for the "hostess with the mostess."

With all the success you've had, can you share your top three secrets?
First, know what you do and do it really well. My friend Haile taught me that before she took over my invitation line. You don't need to be everything to everyone — you simply need to make your core product truly shine. Second, consistency is a motto we live by. Everyday, readers know when to come to SMP and what to expect. We are consistent in style, in approach, and in design. By doing that, people feel like they really, really know our brand. Lastly, build a team to help you that is truly passionate about their work. Being a small start-up means that everyone has to do 10,000 things on any given day. It's those passionate people that we really believe are our secret sauce.

Speaking of your team, your cofounded and run Style Me Pretty with your tech-developer husband, which is quite romantic considering the content. Is it as nice as one would hope?
We both have total ownership over our work. He doesn't even try to move into our creative space, and I would never dream of questioning his technical genius. Having ownership over our respective roles means that we have so much room to thrive. I love working with him. I can't imagine working this closely with anyone else, and I believe wholeheartedly that it's our relationship that has really helped propel SMP.

Do you still like weddings, or like many people who turn a hobby into a career, does it become just work?
I love weddings. I know that sounds crazy but I really do love them. I cry at every wedding. I have the biggest grin of anyone during the first dance and the father's toast.

Friends of yours must get nervous inviting you to their nuptials, what with your expert eye picking up on everything.
I hope that my friends like having me there because they know that they have at least one person that is going to sincerely notice and gush over every last detail that they crafted or thought of. I don't think that I'll ever really tire of weddings and all of the moments that come with it.

Okay, the tough question: Would your wedding have made the cut on SMP?
Great question! Honestly… I have no idea. I didn't cultivate a very print-friendly wedding. Our photographer spent the day with us and wasn't able to capture the details like it would have needed to be published. But honestly, I still think that my own wedding was one of the prettiest weddings ever. I basically covered everything in glitter — even the cake — and if I was a betting girl, I'd probably do the same thing today!

 
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