A one-of-a-kind online bridal business based in Charlottesville is buying and selling canceled weddings. 

Six University of Virginia students are part of the eight-member Bridal Brokerage team.  The company launched in the summer of 2012.  Bridal Brokerage's founder Lauren Byrne thought of the idea after talking to a friend who was part of a canceled destination wedding in St. Johns.  

Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Smidt said, "The friend said 'I've purchased my bridesmaid dress, the plane ticket, the hotel room.  I'm going to lose all that money.  Why can't one of our other friends just buy the entire wedding?'  And that's sort of when the light bulb clicked for Lauren."

When the business first started, the Bridal Brokerage team thought they'd be working with people on an accelerated timeline such as those facing a military deployment and elopers.  But they soon realized their idea appealed to people looking for a deal.

"Folks really want the discount and not only do they want the discount, they want to be able to get a wedding that they don't have to plan," Smidt said.

Bridal Brokerage says the average wedding costs $27,000.  It wants to try and make the industry more affordable.

"When somebody goes and cancels a wedding, they've usually spent a whole lot of money on deposits and pre-payments and before Bridal Brokerage launched, they were just losing all of that money," Smidt said.  "We found that new couples might be willing to take over those deposits and then pick up the balance of the contract and purchase the rights to these beautiful pre-planned weddings at a fraction of the cost."

The business has a database of more than 2,500 interested buyers looking to purchase a wedding for a bargain.  Information technology associate Andrew Wisenberg believes the idea is golden.

"I think we had one day in the past where all of a sudden our database of potential buyers doubled," Wisenberg said.  "Things like that – it's just exponential growth once you get going."

Bridal Brokerage says the concept is a financial win for the parties involved.

"For somebody who wants to plan that gorgeous wedding but it might be a little out of their budget, this is a really creative and unique way to try and get involved and for the vendors, vendors take a deposit but they're left on the hook for so much of the remaining contract.  If Bridal Brokerage finds a new couple to take over that contract, the vendor has made whole," Smidt said.

The company currently has six available weddings up for grabs:

  • May 11 and 26 in Charlottesville, Virginia (Castle Hill Cider)
  • June 14 in Annapolis, Maryland (Herrington on the Bay)
  • June 30 in San Ramon, California (San Ramon Golf Club)
  • July 13 in Minneapolis (Semple Mansion)
  • August 24 in Philly (Hilton City Avenue)
  • September 28 in Cincinnati (Elements Event Center)