Stellar Startups: Dream weddings for auction

Avi Blum: ‘It’s almost impossible for a young couple to have a decent wedding today without going deep into debt.’

Avi Blum (photo credit: Courtesy)
Avi Blum
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Old-timers will still tell you about the “candy and cake” weddings of yesteryear, where attendees supplied the refreshments for the new couple, wishing them a life of health and happiness at an impromptu (and informal) party in the basement of the synagogue after the wedding ceremony. But like everything else, weddings became “professionalized” a long time ago, with caterers, party planners, “event coordinators,” photographers, video cameramen, ice sculptors, chopped-liver “architects” (who will build you a Taj Mahal of the stuff) and all the rest, raising the bar for what a “nice” wedding needs to include.
And of course, all those “professionals” have their hands out at the end of the event, waiting to get their fees – with, of course, a generous tip to boot.
Paying for a modern wedding could be seen as good budgeting practice for the young couple: If they can handle the expenses of their first special day together, dealing with a mortgage and credit card bills should be a piece of cake. The cheapest thing – and the most financially sensible – would be to elope, or at least go for the lowest-priced options out there.
But often the kids don’t have the opportunity to be sensible; parents and other relatives want a nice party, and nice, as anyone who has ever made a wedding knows, doesn’t come cheap.
So what’s an engaged couple to do? Here’s one idea: Check out a new Israeli Web site called Win-Win Wedding, (in Hebrew only), join the site’s auction and put in a NIS 290 bid on a wedding package worth NIS 150,000.
It’s a brand new way to make a top-class wedding for very little money, says Avi Blum, one of the start-up entrepreneurs who came up with the idea for the site.
“It’s almost impossible for a young couple to have a decent wedding today without going deep into debt,” he says. “My partner, Ilan Braf, and I have been in the events, catering and restaurant business for over 25 years [Avi was trained as a chef], and I believe that Win-Win Wedding is a great opportunity for young couples to be able to fulfill their dreams.”
The site is in the midst of its first auction right now. According to its terms of service, no auction can continue for more than 60 days, and this one will end around Rosh Hashana, Blum says.
As more bidders participate, future auctions will open and close within two weeks, he adds.
Regardless of the auction’s length, Blum says, the maximum number of bidders participating in any auction will be 1,000. When an auction is in its latter stages, participants are informed by SMS that time is running out, so they have an opportunity to check out the current price and bid higher, if they wish.
So what do the winners get? “The wedding of their dreams, from engagement ring to honeymoon,” Blum says. Winners have two options: either take the cash and spend it on products and services available on the open market, or use Win-Win Wedding’s partner catering halls, DJs, bands, wedding planners, etc.
“We don’t force anyone to use any of the services our partners offer,” he says. “Winners are free to take their winnings and build their wedding their way. However, our partners offer Win-Win Wedding customers excellent deals that they are not going to get anywhere else. Not only that, but if there are any glitches with partners we recommended, we can ensure that they are resolved with minimum hassle to the couple.”
While Blum promises to do what he can for those who choose to go the independent route, he says he can’t give the same performance guarantees for service providers he hasn’t worked with. Regardless, though, all weddings – inside or outside the Win-Win “umbrella” – are fully insured with a policy issued by the Harel insurance company (one of Israel’s largest), ensuring that winners are protected in case the catering hall they paid for closes down, the lead singer of the band they hired and paid in advance gets laryngitis, etc.
While the auction is clearly a “win” for the winners, all those participating in the bidding process win as well, Blum says.
“Our partners offer coupons and discounts worth thousands of shekels to anyone who places a bid, allowing them to save the cost of their bid many times over,” he says, adding that the deals are far better than those the general public gets.
Future auctions will be more ambitious and more specific, Blum says. The site will also auction off specific services such as music, wedding dresses and honeymoons.
The next auction will raise the bar on wedding fanciness, offering a NIS 200,000 prize, he says, including NIS 50,000 for travel anywhere in the world.
Winners book the trip, he says, with or without Win-Win Wedding’s help, and he foots the bill.
And don’t worry about Blum, because he and Braf are winners as well.
“We award prizes from the bids placed by participants and deduct a service fee from the auction’s proceeds,” Blum says. “In the future, we will also include ads from service providers on the site, as well as enter into marketing arrangements with outside organizations.”
Eventually, the partners plan on exporting the Win-Win Wedding model to other countries, either by opening sites or selling franchises.
“It’s the first time anyone anywhere has done something like this, and we’ve copyrighted the process, so we’re pretty confident that we will be successful abroad,” Blum says.
He’s got a point. Candy-and-cake weddings don’t seem to be in vogue anywhere these days, which means that couples all over the world are faced with the same dilemma Israeli couples face: elope, or bid and win!