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Abby Larson, a 35-year-old Texas native and mother of three, knew she was onto something big when she started her wedding blog, Style Me Pretty, in 2007. At the time, there were few resources for brides seeking inspiration, save for magazines, and shortly after launching SMP, Larson had accumulated a cult following of ladies who also swooned over peony arrangements in mason jars, family-dining-styled farm tables and DIY party favors.
Larson's blog is now the ultimate destination for wedding ideas, and hundreds of brides a week submit their weddings in the hopes of being featured. The site enjoys two million unique visitors and 19 million page views a month.
Just in time for Racked's annual Weddings Week, we caught up with Larson to talk about the early days of the bridal blogosphere, her traffic secrets, and what elements of her own wedding she'd change if she could.
Abby Larson, Style Me Pretty's founder and editor. Photo by Domino Magazine.
What were you doing before you started Style Me Pretty?
I had recently sold my wedding invitation line and was looking for a new opportunity in the wedding space. I saw a place where magazines were creating this beautiful, edited content but in an online format. Where brides could continue to feed their inspiration throughout the day. People always ask where the name Style Me Pretty came for but I don't have a great answer...it just hit me in the face one morning and I never looked back.
What was the inspiration behind starting the blog?
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.
A wedding published on Style Me Pretty. Photo via.
How did you make SMP stand out against other blogs and wedding mags?
We offered something unique. I blogged continuously and consistently, every day, often up to 10 times per day. Readers knew that if they clicked on SMP, they would find something new and something beautiful to read. That meant they not only came back for more, they told their friends, who told their friends.
What it hard to get the blog started? How did you get readers?
I remember thinking that if I could get 500 people reading my blog each month, I would 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, reading, commenting and engaging. I knew that I would never get tired of doing this. That it would be something that turned my career upside down in the best possible way.
A bouquet from a SMP wedding. Image via.
Were you ever worried you'd lose readers once they got married and didn't need to look at wedding inspo?
Anyone who loves pretty things can find a home in Style Me Pretty. From the flowers to the colors, from the paper to the fashion, it all speaks to a beautiful life as a whole. And each wedding or celebration has a few gems inside that anyone can fall in love with. We also launched Style Me Pretty Living, a field guide for life's everyday moments offering DIYs for parties and celebrations, home tours, travel, recipes and more.
How do you decide what is blog-worthy?
Just as our name echoes...we look for pretty. Not meh kind of pretty. The kind of pretty that stops you in your tracks. Sometimes it's magical photography and the simplest of backdrops. Other times it's details that make you crazy. Often it's a couple that forces you to fall in love all over again. We look for people, ideas and inspirations that move something inside of us.
Was DIY as popular back then as it is now?
DIY has always been popular when it comes to weddings. Brides and their families have been crafting and making for decades. It's simply cranked up a notch or two now. Instead of programs and bouquets, it's gorgeous backdrops, creative favors and gifts, incredible decor moments. It's now more about personality than about saving money.
A California barn wedding featured on SMP. Photo via
How has the internet changed wedding planning?
Inspiration overload. Which can be incredibly wonderful and often debilitating all at the same time. Brides and grooms have every idea imaginable at their fingertips. Narrowing those ideas, trusting their own unique perspectives and really honing in on who they are as a couple as it relates to how they plan their wedding is the tricky part. As in everything else in life, editing really well is what proves to be the most successful tool in navigating the world of weddings!
What are some wedding trends you love?
I love gracefully mismatched gowns, I love family-style dining. I love when couples buck tradition and make their own rules. I love chandeliers in trees and naked wedding cakes. I love the approachable, overgrown centerpieces that we see a lot of now as opposed to the more tailored, opulent varieties. I love that couples are putting the feel of handmade back into their wedding—even if they had professional help. I love that weddings are becoming more intimate and unique. So many things!
A party favor idea from SMP's Pinterest.
Is there anything you would change about your wedding?
I would ditch the huge celebration in lieu of something far more intimate. I would probably have my wedding in my backyard, twinkle lights dotting our big oak tree, a Spanish guitar playing in the background, a sparkly Jenny Packham dress, handwritten love letters in lieu of vows, my closest family and friends within arm's reach. We'd dine al fresco with a casual, family-style meal and passed wine. We'd dance under the stars until our feet hurt and our faces couldn't smile a second longer. And we'd toast with ice cold champagne to love and to the future and to the right now. Simple, sparkly, stunning. Clearly I haven't thought about it for even a second.
When and why did you decide to expand the site and hire employees?
I hired my first employee from Craigslist about a year after I started SMP. She has proven to be the most loyal, wonderful gift that SMP could have been given. From there, we hired a few more employees that mimicked her love of all things pretty and her devotion to our brand. So the expansion and hiring happened very organically and as needed. The goal has forever been to change how brides consume content. To raise the bar for what's out there online and to make it easier than ever for inspiration to be devoured and shared. The growth simply followed suit!
Photo via SMP.
What are some of your favorite and memorable posts on SMP?
We had a bride who planned the most spectacular wedding on a rooftop garage. It was so clever, so beautifully done and so warm, you would never imagine it was ultimately just a concrete slab. Another wedding was featured that SMP actually helped to orchestrate. We brought some of our favorite vendors together to design a wedding for a friend in Nashville. Two days before the wedding, the epic Nashville floods happened and everything we had planned had to be ditched and reinvented. The result was fun, it was meaningful and it was absolutely gorgeous.
How were you able to monetize the blog in the beginning and get sponsors?
Advertisers WANT to see results. They want to see something new, a new way of doing things. They get excited about innovation and interesting ways to promote their product. So when SMP evolved and we essentially had no rules, they were thrilled. Vendors were excited to be a part of something that was different and unique, getting their brand online in an edited publication, rather than in print. Lifestyle brands were happy that we could tailor ad packages exclusively to their needs. And when we found resistance, we just showed them our product. We showed them the beauty behind what we were doing. And they wanted to be a part of that.
A wedding featured on SMP. Photo via.
What were some of the early challenges?
With growth comes the need for more employees, more help, more outsourcing, more money, more everything. And with each of those things comes management. For every new idea that we want to launch, we need more staff and someone to manage it. And yet, we like to keep things as small and streamlined as possible behind the scenes. Everyone tends to wear a million different hats at SMP. They are writers and support staff and client services all in one. They are technical geniuses and project managers simultaneously. Finding the kind of people that thrive in this environment is always a bit of a challenge but by keeping things small like this, we are able to stay agile and launch new things quickly, so it's a critical part of our business.
What about now?
SMP has solidified its place as one of the most well known wedding brands out there—so now the challenge is really against ourselves. How do we create a site that brides crave? How do we share ideas and inspirations quickly and beautifully, preserving both the quality of the photographs and the valuable time that couples are using to spend time with our brand?
A place setting from SMP. Image via
What advice would you give to give to someone looking to start a wedding blog?
Blog what you love. Define your voice, but be open to evolving as you grow. Blog consistently and with gusto. And if possible, create something that is different or better than what's already out there.
How can brides and grooms get their weddings on the blog?
Edit your ideas and rely on your own unique personalities to guide your process. We don't want to see the top five wedding trends recreated over and over again. We want to see new ideas that make us smile. That inspire us. That make us want to drop everything we're doing and get lost in a sea of pretty.
A table arrangement from SMP.