Why cost is not king. Or Queen.
The article every bride needs to read before deciding if a wedding vendor is within her budget.
I consider myself a pretty typical woman. And I think was a pretty typical bride. I asked for vendor recommendations, looked at their website and decided whether or not I wanted to contact them based on the pricing. If the vendor made it too hard to figure out how much they cost I closed the website and moved along. When I went to bridal shows I collected pricing information from everybody and once I got home I divided it into two piles: vendors I could afford versus vendors I couldn’t afford. Before ever speaking to a single person I had a set amount of money in my mind I wanted to spend and I wasn’t willing to compromise on that. Maybe it was because I was so young and had a very limited budget but I feel like even today that’s pretty much how many brides at least start the process. Dividing up the recommendations between those they feel are within their budget and dismissing that they feel are outside their budget.
However, what many fail to realize (and I certainly did) is that cost is not king (or queen in this instance) when it comes to the value of the services wedding vendors provide. There's a higher ticket price attached to weddings, and it's for a good reason. No, it's not that we are all out to price gauge you and take all your hard earned money just because it has the word "wedding" attached like many blogs will have you believe. Blogs written by people who have never worked a day in the wedding industry I might add. The cost is much higher due to the level of attention these events need and the extra time, stress, and security of service that goes into them. There are no "do-overs" for wedding days. Yes, a birthday party or anniversary party is just as important to many people, but a wedding is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and if someone screws something up, you're going to be a little more pissed about it than if they spelled Uncle Bob's name wrong on his retirement cake right?
A well run business is going to be fully licensed, insured, and pay taxes regardless of the industry it operates in. That goes without saying. The cost of doing business is roughly the same when it comes to the back end. But when you get into weddings, those costs naturally go up on our end as well. Your florist isn't buying cheap flowers from the grocery store that will look wilted by the time photos are finished. Your caterer isn't using cheap cuts of meat or canned vegetables. Your baker is going to be adding layers upon layers of decoration and quality ingredients into your wedding cake so that it is a beautiful masterpiece worthy of those Pinterest photos you've got inevitably pinned. Your photographer has extra lenses, memory cards, batteries, and gear to allow them to photograph every moment as it happens without worry. They have backups on backups and often extra staff to be extra safe. Your hairstylist and makeup artist aren't using products from CVS to make you look beautiful for just a few hours. It's high end products that will keep you looking flawless from early morning to late in the evening through dancing, kissing, eating, drinking, and maybe even a healthy does of (happy) tears. These upgraded materials have costs equal to the higher prices charged.
Not only that, weddings require so much more time than any other event. When you book an appointment for a haircut or color, it takes all of what- five minutes? When you are booking a vendor for your wedding hair, it takes several emails and phonecalls for scheduling, invoicing, contracting, and scheduling for the trial run and wedding day times. It's not uncommon for me to email brides upwards of 30 times over the course of 6-18 months before their wedding answering questions and keeping the planning process running smoothly. I don't do this for free. The time I spend running my business costs me just like any other vendor. I also spend a lot of time cleaning and sanitizing my kits, packing and unpacking, driving to and from the locations, and social media/marketing/blogging/updating my website. All wedding vendors need to invest their time into these duties as well in order to keep a professional and dependable business in business.
Weddings cost more money than other events. So what does this mean for you, and more importantly what does it really mean for your budget? No bride really cares about how much it costs to do business. I know that. I don't give a hoot how much it costs for my mechanic to change the oil in my car or the grocery store to import those special cheeses I like to cook with. The bottom dollar is really what most of us are interested in. We think in terms of "can we afford it" rather than "should we invest in it", and that's where a budget can be smooth sailing or take a nose dive. Before you make any investments in your wedding, you should first decide if it's a priority or not. You'd be surprised at how much money you can save when you cut out the things you think you should have and invest in the ones that you really want to have. Are chair covers nice? In my opinion yeah, for the three photos and 30 seconds you're sitting in the chair, they are really pretty and the rest of the time a waste of money. But is it my wedding? Nope. It's yours. Invest where you see the value in it.
Naturally, I'm going to advocate for investing in professional quality hair and makeup. I mean, besides the fact it's how I make my living, it's in every single photo you're in. How you see yourself in the mirror on the the morning of your wedding day is going to have a huge impact on how you're feeling the rest of the day. I'm also going to advocate for having your whole bridal party serviced by the same company. Sure, Betty Lumanizer over there may have the most popping highlight in the club on Friday nights, but that doesn't mean she's going to be picture perfect or wedding appropriate on the big day. And while sweet cousin Sally doesn't usually wear makeup and doesn't think it's worth spending the money on, chances are doing it herself is going to be quite obvious in the group photos. I would love to show you some bridal party photos where some got hair and makeup done professionally and some didn't so you can see the difference (and the glaring obviousness of it), but I'm never one to call out past clients like that. However, take a second to google the wedding photos of Amy Schumer from last February, and compare her two bridesmaids. If it's something that matters to you, maybe scrap a detail elsewhere and either gift the services with your bridal party or go halfsies.
If I could re-do my whole wedding over, even after the hundreds of weddings I've worked and thousands of photos I've researched in the last decade, here's what I would invest in:
1. Photography. When the flowers die, the music stops, and the food has been eaten, we are left with the memories in our hearts and the photos we leave to our children. What story will those photos tell? Were you rushed and stressed? Were you comfortable with the photographer? Did the moments that really mattered get captured? I have a total of two photos from my wedding day I didn't hate, and let's just hope my house never burns down because I'd be taking the memories of those two photos to my grave.
2. Food. No joke, the food at our wedding sucked. I'd definitely go with an outside caterer for our wedding if I got a do-over. Definitely one that uses fancy cheeses.
3. Hair/Makeup. I went to a salon that didn't do many weddings, but they were willing to open early for me on a Sunday morning, and it wasn't horrible. But they made everyone run super late, and we had to rush back to the hotel to get dressed. I did my own makeup, but it would have been nice to really relax and be pampered.
4. Flowers. I hired a guy out of his garage to do our flowers. He was just starting out, so his prices were great. However, the bouquets were nothing like I'd asked him for, and it all looked cheap. I wish I'd invested in an amazing bouquet for me to hold, since it was in all my photos and a nicer ceremony decor. The rest was in a dark lit reception room, and we were mostly too busy to take notice of them anyway.
Overall, I got what I paid for with just about everything, and if I'd had more money at the time I'm sure I would have invested in my wedding a little better. But knowing what I know now, I'd have spent the money in areas that meant a lot to me instead of in the details I thought I was supposed to have. (Colored napkins, monogrammed matchbooks, and useless favors anyone? No? Wish I could say the same.) In the end, all that truly matters is that I married my best friend. It was a meaningful celebration of our love with family members, but for every "regret" I have an equally epic story or moment I will never forget.
What's my point in all this? It's not about how much a vendor costs on your wedding day, but what they bring to the experience. Do they provide meaningful value to you as a couple? If it's something you care about, the cost is worth it. If it's not, incorporate that money into something that is. So don't let anyone tell you where you should spend your wedding budget. Just make sure that you put your money to it's best use where it's going to make you happy. And if that means you say screw it all and elope in Jamaica, well just remember I travel, and my makeup services are totally humidity and sweat-proof. :)
Photo courtesty of Nicole Colwell Photography