There’s been an unprecedented level of media interest in weddings this past week; last weekend, The Guardian published this feature which focussed on the decline of the average cost of a wedding dress*, and every day this past week, The Pool have been sharing content under their Modern Marriage Collection.
About half way through the week, Stylist Magazine published a video on their Facebook page entitled ‘4 ways to boss a wedding fair’. The video was an eye-watteringly failed attempt at humour, at the expense of the wedding industry, which resulted in offending a good many of us, thanks to it’s thoughtless suggestions like ‘leave a fake email address with suppliers’. I encourage you to read these thoughts I left over on Instagram that contextualise why the video was so distasteful.
Stylist did in fact offer an apology on their Facebook page, but it woefully missed the point, resulting in even further irritation and the video eventually being removed altogether (to save face, I guess). *By the way – that Guardian post I mentioned above, it’s in response to a set of data released by Lyst that surveyed a mere 100 individuals. Just to put that into perspective, when we conducted our own reader survey last year, we had over 2,100 take the time to complete our questionnaire.
Google ‘Lyst wedding dress survey‘ now, and you’ll discover a ream of mainstream media articles that have been published in the last week in response to the Lyst survey. This coverage offers an interesting snapshot into the business of weddings in 2017. There was a big focus on how weddings are becoming less expensive, how you don’t need money to be married or celebrate a wedding – see the ‘Spending on Wedding Dresses Plummets as Brides to Be Balk at Paying Thousands’, for example. Consumers were positively encouraged to explore more affordable wedding dress options, thanks to a number of high street brands launching their own bridal collections (see Topshop, Whistles, Ted Baker – and ASOS too). And that’s great, truly it is, because I fully understand, appreciate and wholeheartedly respect that not every couple has a lot of money to plan their wedding. It’s excellent to know that there are options out there to encourage and inspire meaningful and stylish low cost weddings. As I’ve always said, the only thing you really need to be married after all, is a registrar and a ring.
But I’m a Libran and us Libe’s are all about fairness and balance, and I’ve noticed a distinct lack of media coverage this past week, or in fact, ever at all, on why certain elements of the wedding day are more expensive.
And that’s because we live in a culture where everyone loves to moan about the cost of weddings. The mainstream media make sweeping statements that bunch all wedding suppliers together as greedy money grabbers; dresses cost a ridiculous fortune, wedding dress boutique owners are cliquey bitches that will force you into gowns that don’t fit, venues charge through through the roof and you can betya as soon as any supplier hears the word ‘wedding’, they’ll triple their quote figures. Yadda yadda. Etc etc. At least that’s what the media will have you believe if you read/watch/consume anything wedding related at all.
Think of any weddingy TV programme; ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’, ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ – each of these programmes pitch the wedding planning antics of brides and couples as light entertainment. Yeah, it’s funny, if you want a laugh, but these programmes basically mock their subjects. Programmes are crafted to make brides look like needy, demanding, selfish individuals, or ‘bridezillas’. Husbands are made to look like they are trailing in the wake of their bride’s crazy wedding planning ideas, or struggling to create something honest and meaningful if given the task of planning the wedding themselves (see ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’). Wedding boutique owners take the brunt however – most often than not being edited to appear as an unrelatable gaggle of witches whose only role is to squeeze women into ill fitting dresses – or who actually haven’t got a clue how to run a bridal boutique business at all (see Mary Portas makeover of the Cranleigh Bridal boutique).
Weddings have become rich pickings for a mainstream media seemingly obsessed with calling out an industry on the reported average cost of a wedding today – and targeting suppliers for how much they charge. But there is barely, if ever, any education behind the costs of those more expensive wedding elements, which means many hard working suppliers are struggling to justify their charges.
I’m not making excuses for all suppliers, because there will undoubtedly be some, as there will be in any service industry, who could do with pulling their socks up. But it’s time to smash apart this antiquated perception wheeled out by the media again and again of how the wedding industry is going to rip you off. How if you choose to spend more on a finer quality gown produced using luxury fabrics, you’re being shafted. Brides and couples planning their nuptials today aren’t stupid. The media need to stop treating them as such.
Without fail, all of the wedding suppliers I know work exceptionally hard to craft a living out of what they do, be it photographing, film making, dress designing, stationery design, cake design, shoe design, planning and styling, entertaining or owning a bridal boutique. A great many of these people have left well-paid, secure jobs to follow their creative passion and true calling to work within weddings – in many cases, taking a huge drop in pay and massive leap of career building faith, because they simply love what they do. They work way past what would be considered a safe/healthy/acceptable level of working hours – evenings and weekends are a constant work/life challenge. But they do this willingly and lovingly because they adore their jobs and they love weddings.
Suppliers like these, that is, folk who will go out of their way and walk that extra mile to make your wedding day experience unforgettable, are worth their weight in gold. Hours and hours and hours might have been spent delicately applying the decorations to an expertly baked cake, or perfecting the pattern of a seamless dress so that it moves like magic. I could list many examples of where quality craftsmanship and expert planning and design come into play, but my point is, from initial planning and design through to execution, the amount of time, energy and toil that is invested by such talented artisans, crafts people, designers, makers, shop keepers and services suppliers in this industry, more than warrants the fees these individuals and businesses are charging.
I’ve written in the past about why weddings can be expensive and how it’s OK to want to spend on your wedding day if you wish to. A reader of ours recently and very eloquently wrote about justifying the wedding costs that you can afford. Through our blog, and through our Little Book For Brides wedding directory, we aim to direct those planning a wedding to suppliers who offer both more affordable and more luxurious products and services. Some wedding consumers might not value the same things as others and want to save, others may wish to spend, to represent their appreciation of finer quality and higher levels of craftsmanship. We trust our readers to be able to make their own choice.
The media need to stop their repeated whining about wedding suppliers and weddings in general. The industry I know is a thriving, creative community and hotbed of expertise – one I adore being a part of. Take the A Most Curious Wedding Fair and The Wedding Collective – two events that completely redefine the term ‘wedding fair’. The organisers are passionate about uniting creative wedding planning couples with talented artisans, craftspeople, designers, makers, entertainers and service suppliers.
The private/closed Facebook group that we set up for brides to be a good year ago now, has turned into a community full of warmth, understanding, kindness and complete lack of any judgement by anyone, ever. Even the most anti of anti-brides and ardent feminists will tell you so (this feature in The Pool last weekend was in reference to our closed Facebook group).
I’m tired of seeing my hard working wedding industry colleagues take flack for their chosen living and for charging their worth.
I’m tired of the same old, unimaginative ‘weddings are a rip off’ coverage dragged out each time the mainstream media are given a mandate to discuss weddings.
I’m tired of those who are comfortable spending money on their wedding being accused of being ripped off.
And I’m tired of the talent the British wedding industry has to offer being overlooked and written off time and time again for the more affordable options.
We need to have an honest and open mainstream discussion that offers some level of counterbalance to the whole issue of the cost of weddings, because, just as it’s perfectly acceptable to want to save money on your wedding, it’s just as OK to want to spend money on the occasion too and show support to our fantastic British wedding industry in so doing.
This piece is in no way a judgement of how much you choose to spend on your wedding. Frankly, that is none of my business. It is however, a massive show of support for an industry that has had more than enough of being slated.