Shocked women

This is a letter written to brides and grooms in response to repeated negatively biased news programs and “expose’s” about wedding industry scams and ripoffs.

1. We spend WAY more than 4 hours on your wedding.

Couples are often shocked at the price tag attached to their wedding services.  “But I’m only hiring you for four hours!” is a common reaction.

What you don’t know is that we spend many hours outside your wedding day timeline on planning, communication, rehearsals, meetings, travel and all the logistics necessary to make that “four hours” look easy.  This doesn’t even take into account the necessary time investment in training and education to keep our skills sharp.

Let’s take photographers as an example.  According to this recent survey, the average photographer spends 65 hours invested in each wedding; when all the hours invested in a wedding are factored in, a typical wedding photographer makes an hourly wage only $37 per hour before expenses!  DJs, florists, officiants, planners and other pros are in a similar situation.

Most wedding professionals are not living large on “wedding ripoffs,” a charge often lodged by the media.  While the average wedding in the US costs around $25,000, a recent survey of our wedding professional audience revealed that 48% of wedding businesses make less than $25,000 in an entire YEAR.

2.  If you hire an amateur for your wedding, expect an amateur result.

Wedding professionals are not a commodity item.  You’re hiring a unique personality, talent and experience set.  We charge more because we are worth it.

Those amateurs you can hire for a dime a dozen?  They’re worth the price you pay, too.

Sure, you might luck out and find the next undiscovered Preston Bailey for your wedding, but you’re much more likely to get sub-par performance along with that bargain price.

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3.  You pay more for wedding services because you get more.

Much has been made of the so-called “wedding markup,” a phenomenon that occurs when secret shoppers get quoted a higher price for identical services when they are booked for a wedding as opposed to another type of event.  While this certainly can occur, journalists neglect to address the very real reasons WHY this happens.

Providing any service for a wedding is far more involved than a similar, non-wedding event.  Wedding pros make themselves available for planning meetings, calls and consultations, and may well send hundreds of emails back and forth with a single client in the year or more of planning up to the wedding.

This type of time and attention isn’t expected or required for most non-wedding events; the time investment alone is enough to justify a higher price.  The quality of wedding services often requires a greater degree of skill and specialization, not to mention the stress and risk involved should something go wrong.

4. We stay up at night worrying about your wedding, too.

We may participate in dozens or even hundreds of weddings per year, but yours really IS important to us.

Each and every wedding can make or break our reputation.  We worry about what can go wrong and we sweat the details because it’s our responsibility.  If we mess something up, we know that in the age of viral sharing on the internet, it may very well destroy our business.

5.  Listening to our advice will save you time, money and stress.

We love your ideas and your enthusiasm.  Please know that when we suggest changes to your dream wedding scenario it’s not because we want to take over your wedding; it’s because we have your best interests at heart.

We probably made a lot of mistakes when planning our own wedding, and it’s inspired us to ensure that pain NEVER happens to you.

We’re wedding experts.  If you take advantage of our knowledge and experience, we will save you time, help you avoid mistakes and make your wedding even better.  But only if you let us.

6.  If you only have $10,000 to spend on your wedding, we can’t make it look like you spent $100,000 no matter what we do.

Weddings can be expensive, and you certainly don’t have to spend a lot of money.  But if you’re going to trim your budget, please don’t expect it to be a carbon copy of the Royal wedding.

It’s not because we don’t want to do it for you…it’s just impossible.

7.  We love what we do, but that doesn’t mean we want to do it 24 hours a day.

Working in the wedding industry is HARD.  It’s stressful.  There are deadlines, timelines and lots of pressure to make sure everything goes perfectly.

You know that anxiety that’s giving you nightmares?  We get them, too, and sometimes we need to take a break.

Yes, your wedding is important, but we can’t be available for you 24 hours a day 7 days a week without losing our sanity.  Remember that the next time you’re tempted to call your planner at 2am or before freaking out when s/he doesn’t answer your text immediately.

8.  It takes WAY more time and money to imitate those DIY projects and wedding inspiration shoots than you think.

We love that wedding porn as much as you do, but it sets up unrealistic expectations.  Wedding blogs and wedding reality TV misrepresent the details of what’s actually possible for a typical wedding with an average budget…one that doesn’t have a team of expert designers and planners working magic behind the scenes.

The media accuses the wedding industry of encouraging these unrealistic expectations so that you spend more more money.  The truth is that we hate it as much as you do!

It makes our job more difficult, and it puts us in the uncomfortable position of telling you, “No,” when it can’t be done on your budget.

9.  DIY projects are NOT a bargain.

Think you’re going to save money by having the wedding in your backyard?  When you add up the cost of the tent, rentals, food, booze and silverware, you end up spending MORE than you would hosting it in a traditional wedding hall.

The same thing goes for your favors, centerpieces and flowers.  It’s going to take you 10x longer and cost twice as much in reworks and mistakes than you think—especially if you’re a perfectionist.

Please don’t choose to DIY your wedding for the savings; make sure you actually like being crafty, and that you can adjust your expectations to accommodate less than perfection.

10.  Your wedding day will not be perfect, but we’ll be there to make sure it’s as close as possible.

I haven’t seen a single wedding where at least one thing didn’t go wrong.  Your bridal party will be late, the weather won’t cooperate, or the guests will forget to take home those favors you agonized over.  There are simply too many details and too tight of a timeline for everything to be completely perfect.

But when something goes wrong, we’ll be there to help you make it right.

What do you want your couples to know about what you do?  Leave a comment!

You have our permission to share and republish this post as long as you link to this page because it contains vital information couples need to know about the wedding industry.

CLICK HERE to learn how to communicate your value and expertise to couples in your email response.

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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31 thoughts on “10 Things Couples Need to Know About the Wedding Industry That the Media Will Never Tell You”

  1. It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as from our discussion made here.|

  2. Fabulous article – as the saying goes ‘if you think it’s expensive hiring a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur!’.

  3. What a great article – such a balanced view. Everyone wants value but that is not the same as cheap!
    Thank you for posting this, I’m going to get all my clients to read it!

  4. Jojo Zhang says:

    I have to give kudos to wedding planners since you guys have to coordinate a million things at once to make sure everything goes smoothly and you deserve so much more credit! Same goes to wedding vendors. This was a great post that brings brides down to earth help make them realize how wedding planners function.

    I work for, a free personalized map-sharing platform that allows you to create personalized maps to specific locations.

    Previous wedding planners love to use us because it allows them to easily coordinate with vendors and guests where to go for receptions on beaches, photoshoots in the park, & telling caterers which entrance to go to. You are able to drag the marker to specific locations and add content, photos, & links to the map. For example:

    We would love to hear your thoughts on our free service so don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

  5. Tobey Dodge says:

    Over the years I have written similar articles trying to get brides and their families to appreciate what we all do for our clients within their budgets and time frames. You hit many of my hot buttons and you provided a really fair view of what is true and real about wedding services. There is no doubt that we are in a service industry and are here to make our clients happy no matter what. It is hard to see the media put us in a bad light. If they only knew just how much we really do care about our clients and how much we want to please them, perhaps the media and general public would recognize we are just like them, we what a fair wage or paycheck for the hard and unique work we do too!

  6. Karen says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article! As a planner, you end up spending many hours working behind the scenes. Thank you, again for putting this information out there!

  7. Lyza says:

    This is really really represent all the Wedding Planner’s feel it 🙂
    Super like it and thanks for share this

  8. Frank says:

    Outstanding insight ! As a photographer I get one chance. I have to have total back ups of equipment and be on at each wedding. 65 hours is about right, if a bride or groom has skin issues it is over 80. I could not live with myself knowing I could make the bride feel great about herself. so air brushing is a much. Thank you for your all your hard work educating wedding professionals and letting us vent.


  9. Yes – good article. Agree, there are some things to DIY and some things not to. We have a business built on a third way – which we have specialized in for 13 years now – DIY invite and program kits. Still saves couples money and they can print or we can. But we make all the parts and they assemble.

  10. janet says:

    You stated all those points very accurately. Thanks. We are going to print this and put it up in our showroom. Janet/Event Central LLC

  11. Celia milton says:

    DIY is not a new phenomena; people have been doing this for years, it’s just a newish talking point for the media. The essential problem with most DIY projects is that some of their creators have never done anything themselves, ever. A wedding isn’t the time to learn how to bake a cake or hand fold 1000 cranes. For one, it takes a lot of fun out of the process, and for two, it can often cost more while looking like it cost less.
    Weddings have become so complex that it is virtually impossible for anyone who isn’t a pro to implement any but the simplest. (I’m not saying that complex/expensive/fancy is better; it’s just different..)

  12. Nice account of some of the major unknows. Some how as consumers we too can forget the pre and post production costs in making a successful event; choosing to focus solely on “Day Of” Executing of the event.

  13. glad I am not alone, if we just would all stick to our true prices we would possibly not be living a bazaar situation. Good light to everybody:) Karla

  14. AMEN, Stephanie! Thanks for putting it out there. If people knew all the preparation that goes into making it look so easy. This price shopping/commodity attitude is just horrible on a day as special as a wedding. It’s understandable because money is tight and people want a lot for each dollar. I hope this piece makes it into the hands of every single bride in the world. It’s a Masters Thesis in humanity.

  15. BRAVO! Stephanie, thank you SO much for including officiants in your article. So often we get overlooked as a wedding vendor, which is ironic since we play such a vital role. I often hear how expensive wedding officiants are for “just a 20 minute” ceremony. I can spend up to 15 hours on one wedding and that doesn’t include my time actually running my business, networking, blogging, etc. I wrote an article about it: Thank you so much for writing this, every word of it is the truth! I will definitely share it.

  16. CJ says:

    Great Article! What really bugs me is that websites that promote the whole DIY wedding don’t really show DIY weddings in their “Real Weddings” type categories. I have been lucky to work quite a few weddings that have been featured on some of the biggest wedding websites and blogs and I will honestly tell you that not one of those weddings had less than a $75,000 budget with most easily being $100,000 or more. Yet, those weddings are shown sandwiched in between articles/posts telling a bride how to save money on her wedding budget and DIY bouquets. It is a such a disservice to both the bride for giving her a delusion of grandeur, and to the vendor who has to essentially “burst her bubble” by telling her that her expectations are unrealistic. Not a good situation for either party involved, but definitely worse for the vendor since they have to be the bearer of the bad news.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Such an awesome and true article. Thank you for putting out there. As planners, we put our heart and soul into every wedding. We are touched by an emotional moment at every wedding and we give 150% to you. That takes time, time and more time.

    Again, great article!

  18. Thank you!! I wish you would e-mail me a copy of this article so I could print it and give it to every potential couple. If you can let me know how to give you writing credits.

  19. Roxie Ellis says:

    Great article Stephanie, going share. I wish our venue only had to put x amount of hours per wedding. I wouldn’t have to spend hours grooming the grounds, remodeling, walk thrus, showings, phone calls, families, vendors meetings, bookkeeping, marketing, employees, insurance companies, etc. I could go on and on but we love what we do.

  20. Even though I am a wedding professional myself, I do not agree on your views on DIY weddings. A DIY wedding CAN be bargain as long as you perform good research which isn’t that hard any more with internet and the amount of wedding websites.
    I had a DIY wedding and it was nice and personal and definitely a bargain. I know many other couples that have had DIY weddings and that have turned out to be amazing. I understand what you’re trying to explain but I don’t think you should take hope away from couples that are on an extremely tight budget, because they can have a lovely wedding without spending crazy amounts of money.

    Other than that, great article! Many brides are not aware of the amount of work done behind the scenes but most brides are really understanding if you just give them an explanation.

  21. Well, there is the other side to this story. Wedding Planners are so worth every penny….but just like designer fashion can be over priced for what you actually get. I make wedding invitations, and I often see stationers charging “hidden costs” and more than anything that just hurts the overall industry. Same with popular wedding venues…yes, a backyard wedding or off the beaten path venues will very often be much less expensive….leaving more to invest in other big ticket items like music or photography. I really don’t like the idea of couples spending $30,000 to $100,000 on, as you say, four hours of entertainment. It is a life milestone but the cost is not what makes it that! As to DIY, more than anything, it just adds personality. You are right in saying “make sure you like being crafty” but everyone can make something they like, even if they are NOT really good at crafts. There are ways to trim the budget, but it can’t be done ALL in just one area of the wedding. The food, the venue, the photographer, the music, the planner, the stationery, the dress (number one!) the decor and the flowers each should have their share of the budget. But I often tell brides to prioritize each of these and spend accordingly. Have your heart set on a certain photographer? Budget less for one of the last items on your list. Each of these elements in indispensible (especially the often overlooked planner) but are absolute MUSTS for a happy wedding day. Call around your area, ask for the very least expensive package that an event company has to offer, and they will often fit your budget or may know of a vendor that can. DON’T call and say “I have x amount of dollars to spend.” Find out what the going rates are, and budget accordingly. Many florists and stationers are offering combined services as of late, along with limited planning services provided by many venues. Combine one of these services with a “day of” (often called “week of” or “month of”) which can work our beautifully. But yes, I do think there is an “wedding couture” attitude in the wedding industry and overall it is undermining the real value and services offered by dedicated wedding professionals. We are getting negative attitudes because we are trying too hard to be couture, when many couples just want an “off the shelf” semi-customized event. We need to adapt just a little bit and believe me, there is wide open opportunity for different ways of creating the wedding of our customer’s dreams!

  22. Lorena Prado says:

    VERY WELL SAID!!!! Thank you Stephanie for making the time to write this blog. I have been just as frustrated with the media (as they do what they do best) turning facts & figures around to benefit their angle of a story. What a Bride see’s in a 45-minute segment on TV, takes days and hours of preparation. It saddens me that the media has trained brides & grooms to be more focused on getting the cheapest price rather than getting the best quality for what their vision for their wedding is. As wedding industry professionals, we have our work cut out for us to help re-train our clients. But no worries…. for those of us who are TRUE professionals, our work speaks for itself. 🙂

  23. You are not hiring me for 15 minutes either! I work a lot in the background before your wedding to help create the vision for your ceremony that you wanted. please check out my new blog, exactly about this exact subject:

  24. Yury Shubov says:

    Great article Stephanie!
    Every now and then I’ll give a prospective client a quote for my services (live music for ceremony or cocktail hour) and their response is, “but I only budgeted ‘x’ amount for that” ‘x’ being a fraction of my quote, and a small fraction at that. I know this may be a tactic to get me to lower my price, but if it’s not, where are these people getting their numbers when putting together their budget? Wouldn’t you do some research, get several quotes before figurin out how much something would cost? That’s what my wife and I did when we were planning our wedding.

  25. Paul knight says:

    I sometimes get customers phoning me up for a price and when I tell them they say “I can get a DJ for half that amount” So I end up having to explain to them why there is such a big difference. We are fully licensed PAT tested and insured where as most budget DJs wont be, We use high end professional sound and lighting equipment which more often than not cost us more for one fixture than Mr Budget DJ spent on his entire set up for example we use multiple Robe moving head scanners that cost over £2000 each, Mr Budget DJ uses two or three £50 lights he purchased from a discount electrical store, why does that make such a difference? you may ask well its like comparing a beautiful top of the range Rolls Royce or Bentley to a kids pedal car. the kids pedal car may be fun but it won’t have the WOW factor or class and lets face it folks it’s the wow factor and class that every girl wants on her wedding day. In simple terms you get what you pay for.

  26. All experienced wedding DJ’s have a certain amount of stress about equipment failure. That’s why a good DJ will always carry back up equipment!!! That alone is worth few extra dollars.

  27. Kathy says:

    Great insight. It does take hours of training and if you want excellent services you must be prepared to pay for them. The service industry is grossly underpaid….

  28. I’m especially pleased to see the bit about photographers. Most weddings, it’s a race between the wedding photographer and the planner to see who can log the most hours outside of the actual event.

  29. Suzette says:

    OMG, this is SO TRUE! For me, it’s not just “I show up with a camera and shoot your wedding”. I’m in the car doing site visits (at least two if I can) to go over angles and trying to be prepared for the day, and even then the unexpected could happen, and I have to be “Janey on the Spot” and know how to fix it. I’m thinking how to tell the couple that what they want to wear for their engagement shoot won’t photograph well, and still have them speak to me. It’s hours of editing, album layout for their guest book (for example), travel to and from the wedding PLUS schlepping around TWO cameras that weigh as much as an overweight cat for 8+ hours. PLUS taking classes in business operations as well as photography technique to stay current. If this were just a hobby, I could choose to not take classes – as a professional, I have no choice. And classes aren’t free, and have to be taken every year. So, YUP – what you said! 😀

  30. Great article!

    Most QUALITY wedding DJs will spend 25-30 hours on a 5 hour event. This includes many things, from meetings to go over music, events, lighting, researching music, visiting the venue, loading/unloading equipment, drive time, setup time, tear-down time, making custom mixes, custom introductions and a whole lot more! As one bride told us, “Wow, you guys do so much MORE than just play music!”

  31. Leslie Adair says:

    What a wonderful post I love, ‘Wedding professionals are not a commodity item. You’re hiring a unique personality, talent and experience set.’

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