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Wedding Vendor Tips | Manolo for the Brides

Are Experts Empowering Brides? Or Pushing Unrealistic Expectations?

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I was alerted to this story by multiple readers – thanks, y’all! – recently, and I thought it could definitely inspire some discussion here. We wedding bloggers often push a that-look-for-less mentality because, hey, why shouldn’t a bride without a huge wedding budget get to look and feel gorgeous on her wedding day? Truthfully, there are plenty of wedding dresses, accessories, floral arrangements, etc. that can indeed be had for less. There are also those that can’t – but I could see how wedding vendors could feel pressured to undercharge because so many more brides, empowered by us wedding bloggers, are insisting upon getting the biggest possible bang for their bucks.

Paul Pannone touched on this topic in a post at E Wed News:

The effects of information being provided to consumers by so-called experts is felt to be impacting business owner’s ability– or inability– to keep up with rising cost of operation. Struggling consumers are being empowered by information that placates them from voiced opinions of perceived authorities, confirming that somehow merchants should not be allowed to make a profit for their hard work and efforts.

Some are said to be up in arms over statements and comparisons made by a representative from The Knot. Anja Winikka, Editor of TheKnot.com, appeared on the popular TODAY show and compared several wedding items including wedding dresses ranging from $5,000 dollars to $600. But it was her statement that a less expensive center piece with the same color pallet could be had for “less than a hundred bucks”.

Is The Knot or are the wedding bloggers empowering brides to a deleterious degree? While wedding vendors don’t have to do what they do at a discount, the consumer can impact the perceived value of goods and services. At the same time, if a bride comes to a wedding vendor with unrealistic expectations, isn’t it up to that vendor to educate that bride? I don’t think it’s that surprising that brides don’t know how much certain flowers or fabrics cost or how much time is worth to a wedding professional.

Jenny Scala of the Society of American Florists did just that, writing to Anja Winikka in the wake of the gaff.

We thought you would want to know we have heard from member florists who are concerned the segment gives brides an unrealistic expectation of the price of flowers. In fact, several florists from various parts of the country priced what they saw in the arrangements and came up with a retail price that was twice what was quoted on the show. Some even speculated whether the costs were possibly at wholesale prices vs. retail, which includes all supplies used in the bouquet, plus labor, delivery and installation.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. I’ve always advised brides to ask for whatever kinds of discounts they think they can get, but I’m also quick to caution that wedding vendors are free to say no. Thoughts?

9 Responses to “Are Experts Empowering Brides? Or Pushing Unrealistic Expectations?”

  1. Indian wedding planners May 21, 2010 at 5:29 am #

    Actually it can be bits of both the aspects here. If the vendor purely thinks of business and goes unethical, providing unrealistic solutions to the bride then you cannot expect the bride to think whether or not to consider the suggestions. I think if there is transparency, then there won’t be any sort of a mis-judgement from the bride as well as no unrealistic suggestions from the vendor just to have an inflated invoice.

  2. Rosanna May 21, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    One big problem I’ve found so far in the wedding industry is… the cost of design. I am ALL for paying for the cost of the material plus the labor, delivery and installation. The real problem is that many many florists charge DESIGN fees for stuff they haven’t designed! By no means I want to single out florists… invitation people do the same. I realize that there are florists who do design, but they are by no means the majority. Many of them sell the same design over and over… but at the same price! Now, imaging going to an invitation lady, buying an off-the-peg stationery set and then having to pay it as much as a couture one. It’s just NOT HONEST.

  3. Melissa B. May 21, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, I think it’s good for consumers to be informed, and to think about their spending priorities. On the other hand, I get kind of annoyed when I see people on message boards complaining that they can’t find a professional photographer under their photography budget of $500, especially when they say that photographers don’t deserve to make what they charge. (Photographers seem to be a major target for this kind of ire.)

    I’m guessing what bugs vendors is couples with a sense of entitlement — “I should get exactly what I want for exactly the price I want to pay for it.” I’m not saying couples should go over budget if they’re not comfortable with that, but it’s important to be realistic about what your budget can get you. Can $500 get you a photographer? Sure, if you’re willing to go with a student, someone new in the business, or only have the ceremony photographed. Will $500 get you 8 hours of coverage plus an album from the top photographer in your city? Almost certainly not.

  4. Christa Terry May 21, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    @Melissa B. I think photography can get singled out because now with digital versus film, people look and don’t see the same level of overhead as there once was with film and traditional printing. Which isn’t to say that digital cameras or good photo printers are cheap (which they aren’t) but just that it used to cost money to take more photos and now a photog can snap 800 pics without it costing any more than 80.

    People can also neglect to take things like experience and talent into account. Time is another thing folks forget costs money. For example, the photographer I really loved, I couldn’t afford… not because his equipment was better than the photographer I ultimately chose but rather because his photos were about a gazillion times better and he included touch-ups and editing in the price.

  5. Eliza Bridal May 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    I have been saying for a long time that expectations have far too much influence on the outcome of a wedding. It also puts undue pressure on the bridal couple to ensure that the expectations are met. Makes no sense to me. What is good enough for you should be good enough for the expectations of your guests.

  6. Toni May 24, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Christa,

    Yes, maybe it doesn’t seem like it “costs” a photographer more to take 800 photos instead of 80, but beyond the extra wear and tear on the camera, simply uploading, weeding through, and organizing all those extra photos can take a significant amount of time. That’s not even including editing.

    I’ve been working retail for the last year (bummer economy) at a popular fancy home-goods store, and it just amazes me how many people come in and expect a discount “just because.” “That other rug is on sale, so the one I want should be on sale, too.” “I only want to pay $15 for this $40 item, can’t you make that happen?” People always want to buy the floor models, for a discount of course. They don’t stop to think that if we sell the floor model, we’ll just have to pull out another fresh, packaged item from the back and put that on the floor to get dinged up, which will then have to be sold at yet another discount. Unless an item has been discontinued, buying the floor display is NOT a favor to the store.

    If you don’t think a service is worth the cost, then don’t pay it, but don’t complain just because a professional is trying to make a living.

    [Sorry to throw my work-related rant into the middle of this discussion about wedding stuff.]

  7. Toni May 24, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    And Christa,

    I addressed the note to you, just because I was making a gut response to one specific line in your post. However, I realize that you generally champion paying professionals, businesses, etc… what they’re worth, and want you to know I realize that. Looking for a bargain and being reasonable can go hand-in-hand. It’s the difference between asking “is there a less-expensive flower that can give me a similar look?” and “can you remove the delivery fee so I can afford these fancy-schmancy flowers?”

  8. Christa Terry May 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    @Toni No worries, I know – and I hope you know that I wasn’t my opinion that I was sharing, but rather what you kind of hear around.

    As a writer, I understand the plight of the professional in my core – consider the poor slob writing copy or essays or articles or whatever for a living… It’s so easy to assume that they have no overhead, so how much should words cost! I’ve been constantly flabbergasted by clients who assume that they don’t need to pay me for the time I spend researching, traveling, making calls, etc. for an article. Then there are clients who just want to chat. For an hour. About nothing!

    I think there’s a tendency to devalue anything these days that doesn’t have a clear dollar value. Artistry, for example. A wedding cake might be a good example, when you think about the raw materials. Eggs? Flour? Butter? But when the bride and groom pay $500 or however much for their cake, they’re also paying for the baker’s skill at making an amazingly delicious cake, their ability to make fondant look like real ribbon (which they had to pay to learn in classes, usually), their time (including delivery, set-up, etc.), the cost of the giant industrial fridge the cake lived in the night before, etc. There are a lot of hidden costs, particularly when it comes to things that are part substance, part artistry, and you see that a lot in weddingish prices.

  9. Neil Smith August 22, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    People will always ask for whatever discounts they think they can get away with. We as professional wedding vendors (I am a wedding DJ myself) charge what we need to charge and can’t expect brides and grooms to be schooled in the finer points of our industry. If they don’t understand our pricing, we simply explain it to them in a pleasant, respectful and non-condesceding manner, even if there is a bit of misinformation floating around (that’s life folks! People will mis-speak sometimes!). If they still choose to go dumpster-diving for their providers, that’s a risk for them to take. We do what we must, operating in good faith and ethics as vendors who care about what we provide and they make their choices as clients. Either your business can manage in this environment or it can’t. If it can’t, you won’t be in business long and it’s a moot point. Play nice out there kids!