Reprinted with kind permission of Judith Johnson, interfaith Wedding Officiant for over 23 years, and author of “The Wedding Ceremony Planner,” a bestselling book on wedding ceremony design.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
I thought it would be helpful for couples to hear from Stephanie and Jeff Padavoni of BookMoreBrides.com who are the best kept secret among wedding vendors. They are the #1 marketing resource for the wedding industry — teaching vendors how to effectively communicate with and serve wedding couples. They combine many years of first-hand experience as wedding planning vendors with their mastery of social media marketing savvy, and tremendous empathy for the challenges and needs of both couples and vendors.
I asked them recently for their best advice for couples on how to find the right vendors who will work together to exceed the couple’s dreams of their wedding day. Here’s what they had to say:
1. When you are hiring a vendor, you are purchasing their expertise as well as their time. And, it takes lots of time behind the scenes to create the final product.
Couples are often shocked at the price tag attached to wedding services. “But I’m only hiring you for four hours!” is a common reaction. In reality, vendors spend many hours outside your wedding day timeline on planning, communication, rehearsals, meetings, travel and all the logistics necessary to make their contribution to your day look easy and effortless. This doesn’t even take into account the necessary time and financial investment in initial training and education, as well as ongoing study and investment to keep skills sharp and equipment and offerings up to date.
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. Those who charge more are often worth more, but their value is often difficult to measure in terms of dollars and cents. It is based on intangibles such as how well the vendor creates a rapport with you and seems to understand and care about your specific needs and desires. The amateurs you can hire for a dime a dozen are usually worth exactly the price you pay for them.
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.
3. The truth about the “wedding markup.”
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. The truth is that 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 planning services often requires a greater degree of skill and specialization.
4. Make sure that your wedding really matters to your vendors.
Again, this is another intangible, but pay close attention to whether or not a particular vendor seems more interested in being of service to you or closing the deal. A real wedding professional knows that each and every wedding has the potential to make or break their reputation. Make sure your vendors discuss their “Plan B” with you of what they will do in the event that something goes wrong. Make sure they are tending to the details and not just giving you sweeping generalities about what they do and how they do it. The details are their responsibility for delivering on your expectations.
5. Listen to your vendors’ advice — it can save you time, money, stress and disappointment.
There is a fine line between being unique and different from other weddings and being trite or inauthentic. A seasoned vendor has seen it all and can and should tactfully temper your enthusiasm when you are crossing that fine line. What may seem clever to you may be something your vendor has seen done before with disappointing results. Trust their experience and draw upon it. Know that when they suggest changes to your dream wedding scenario it may be because they have your best interests at heart. Do take advantage of a vendor’s knowledge and experience.
6. If you only have $10,000 to spend on your wedding, don’t expect your vendors to make it look like you spent $100,000.
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, don’t expect it to be a carbon copy of the Royal wedding. Great vendors share their skills and experience to help you create a wonderful wedding, but they are not magicians.
7. A “DIY” wedding usually ends up taking more time and money than hiring a professional!
There is lots of hype on wedding blogs and wedding reality TV about saving money by doing things yourself. Unfortunately, they 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.
Wedding planning is overwhelming and stressful enough without trying to set up a craft factory in your garage to create clever favors for 200 guests or to arrange your own flowers.
If you think you’re going to save money by having the wedding in your backyard — you are heading for a rude awakening. When you add up the cost of the tent, rentals, food, alcohol, place settings and silverware, you end up spending MORE than you would hosting it in a traditional wedding venue.
8. Your wedding day will not be perfect, but a great team of vendors can make sure it’s as close as possible.
When it comes to your wedding, don’t forget that there is no such thing as a perfect wedding — something always happens that you didn’t expect or anticipate. Maybe 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, you can relax into the moment knowing your team will be doing their best to help make it right.