This Company Is Changing Wedding Planning Forever
Zola is already the ultimate registry, but now you can use it for everything: making a website, the guest list, and planning the big day.
Zola is one of those companies that solved such an obvious problem with such a simple solution, we kick ourselves for not having thought of it—the problem being a mess of wedding registries that are both uninspiring and hard to use; the solution: a beautiful interface where you can register for everything (things, experiences, cash) all in one place. But as with these things we only recognize as “obvious and simple” after its invention, it takes a genius to think them up in the first place—a genius like Shan-Lyn Ma, Zola’s co-founder and CEO, a woman with a movie-star-like aura and a shoe fetish to rival ours (Tamara Mellon and Sergio Rossi at their Financial District headquarters, natch).
As of today, however, Ma and Zola are going all-out revolutionary as far as weddings are concerned (a topic that generally occupies an inordinate amount of conversation in our own offices—especially considering how many of us are actually engaged or married). “The new Zola is four things: the checklist, guest list, wedding website, and registry all integrated together. And all the services are free,” Ma told us when we visited her a few weeks ago. Wedding planners, wedding website companies, pretty much everyone in the industry should be quaking in their white satin boots right now—Zola makes it that easy.
The simple (but genius) idea for Zola:
“I was going to a lot of my close friends’ weddings; it was the year that all your best friends get married at once—for me that was 2013—and I had to buy a lot of presents from my friends’ wedding registries. Every time I went to one of their registries, I found it so uninspiring, painful to look at, and hard to use. It didn’t even work on a phone. I thought, we can do a much better job. People getting married today, and the brides who are using this, deserve a lot better. My co-founder, Nobu [Nakaguchi], and I had worked together for many years at Gilt Group, designing and building online and mobile products, so we knew we could build something that would be easy, beautiful, and fun to use. The more we spoke to couples about the problems with their current registries and spoke to engaged couples about what we could do better, we knew there was a real opportunity here.”
The myriad registry problems that Zola solved:
“We went through the classic product process: Let’s talk to as many people as possible and understand what they’re saying. The same three things kept coming up again and again from almost everyone we spoke to, which was couples really want to register for products and experiences and cash, all in the one registry, and no other registry offered that. Another big thing was couples were saying, ‘I’m spending so much time and energy making the rest of my wedding look beautiful,’ and they invest a lot of money into making it reflect who they are as a couple, and registry is the one place where you couldn’t do anything. Couples were saying, ‘I’d love a way to explain to people why we’re registering for certain things, tell our story, and put it in order of what I would love most on this registry.’ So we did that. Today, Zola is the only registry that reflects who you really are as a couple because we let couples fully personalize it. The third thing we heard again and again was people saying, back before Zola, the worst thing about registering was that as people bought you gifts off your registry, stores would just send them—all these things would just start showing up, and you didn’t know who sent it. We came up with a feature where we won’t ship anything until couples say they actually want to receive it and they’re ready to receive it. It seems obvious, but no one else was doing it.”
As of today, they’re going way beyond registries:
“It came from a lot of feedback from our couples. This was the number one request, that ‘we loved Zola for our registry; can’t you make every other part of wedding planning just as easy? Why can’t I just make Zola my wedding website? You already have our photos, all I need is to put in information about our wedding, and I’m done.’ Our mission as a company is to think about how we serve the couple from the day they get engaged through their first year of marriage, and this was really the first time that we felt like we have a unique set of tools or a platform to help them—to make it easy from day one. With the new phase, the idea is that as a couple, you will now be able to use Zola to plan your wedding from setting up a personalized checklist of all the things you need to plan for your wedding, to creating your wedding website and guest list.”
How Zola is about to make planning a wedding easier than ever before:
“People were saying, I’ve never done this before, I’m doing it for the first time, tell me what I need to know and do. So we built a checklist where people can add their tasks, they can edit existing tasks that we have built, and then we also personalized this based on your cultural religion. Say you’re having a wedding that’s Jewish and Hindu; we’ve basically captured everything for those cultures and put it into the checklist based on what you’re doing for your wedding, which no one else does. We make it easy for you to send notifications to yourself.”
Oh, and no more guest-list stress:
“The other thing is the guest list. A big problem is creating spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of who you want to invite, and then you need to get all their contact information, and sometimes your mother or your partner has their information, and you need to email them or text them. This makes it easy to do [it] all in the one place with an easy tool. You can create or import a list of all your guests, you can classify them into different groups, and then you can send them a link saying, I’d love to get your contact info. All their information that they enter gets consolidated into this one list. Then you can easily put it into your invitations—it prints out your save-the-dates and invites.”