This Valentine's Day, a Rutgers couple celebrates the 22nd anniversary of the launch of their online wedding business, according to Rutgers Today.
Erik and Beth Kent first met when they were sophomores in an art history class at Voorhees Hall on the College Avenue campus. Both communication majors, they received their bachelor's degrees in 1992 and married two years later at Rutgers' Kirkpatrick Chapel.
In 1995, they visited other alumni from the University — Diane Rintzler and John Yen — and it was then that they discovered their friends were using the internet to research wedding venues and vendors in New Jersey.
Erik Kent said that was when he had an "Aha!" moment.
“When Beth and I got married, we did our research the traditional way: bridal shows, newspaper ads and bridal magazines. But this was something new,” he said.
It was something they could construct from the ground up, so the couple decided to start a business together. Though they planned their wedding the traditional way, they launched the website NJWedding.com, which was the first resource of its kind to assist couples hoping to get married in the state.
The website works by matching couples with services typically involved in weddings, such as caterers, florists, DJs, banquet managers and photographers.
“We’re not wedding planners,” Erik Kent said. “What we do is to allow engaged couples to search for various services and make appointments directly with them. Essentially, we’re building a community of wedding professionals who advertise their services with us.”
This Valentine's Day marks 22 years since they first launched the business. At the time, Erik Kent was managing sections for Worrall, a chain of community newspapers. Beth Kent, meanwhile, was working as a bookkeeper/manager at an agency that Erik's family owned in Newark, New Jersey. The online wedding business was an extension of both of their work.
Currently, the two are part of a $1.8 billion industry, with more than 47,800 weddings recorded in the state last year, according to their website. They run the business from home in the town of Belle Mead, which they share with their three children.
They first started the business by reaching out to vendors from their own wedding, then creating further networks from there. The first response was from Wayne Owens, who was a minister that officiated their marriage and had still remained close to them over the years.
Twenty-two years later, more than 300 business owners and service providers are on the site, posting photos, blogs and advertisements to potential clients.
The couple has even expanded their business with the addition NJParenting.com, which helps families plan birthday parties, Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, Sweet 16 celebrations and more.
“We’ve probably had a part in helping brides and grooms connect to vendors thousands of times over the past 22 years,” Beth Kent said. "I love being a part of something that contributes to so many happy wedding days.''