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.

No one ever talks about how some wedding suppliers are entitled to charge the higher price they do, to reflect the superior level of craftsmanship, or planning, or design, or handcrafted application of detail. No one ever talks about how it’s OK to spend money at this level because you might appreciate that level of craftsmanship or the painstaking number of hours something has taken to produce. Instead, wedding consumers are made to feel like they’re being ripped off by a cut-throat industry out to bleed them dry of as much cash as they can.

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.

Annabel

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We Need to Talk About The Wedding Industry (Business + Money Let's Talk Wedding Talk )

Annabel/

Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, two daughters Eska and Leanora and three dogs. If she's not being a Blog Queen or practicing her photography, you'll find her fighting her way through a renovation dust cloud as she and her family transform their forever-home.

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32 thoughts on We Need to Talk About The Wedding Industry

  1. Yes, yes, yes! I saw the inane Stylist film, told them what I thought, and also the subsequent apology (which wasn’t really an apology at all). I’m not part of the wedding industry, but I am planning a wedding and my experience has been a truly lovely one so far. I’ve met, spoken with an emailed a wonderful bunch of hard working, helpful and amazingly talented suppliers, and it’s been one of the joys of the whole experience. I’m constantly amazed the vitriol levelled at both those in the wedding industry and couples planning weddings, and it’s certainly time for a change. As you commented to the Stylist, Annabel, they could have taken the opportunity to use the feedback from the film and turn it around into something positive, but they didn’t seem to want to engage with their viewers and readers that way and just deleted their film after a lacklustre apology. Cheap shots are easier I guess, but it was disappointing all the same. Thanks Annabel and the LMD team, and all the lovely and talented suppliers out there for all your hard work to raise awareness and push for change. Xx

    1. Thank you for your ace comment Laura – I really appreciate you taking the time to leave it. It is both my pleasure, and my duty, I believe to help educate consumers! As a colleague said to me this evening, the demand for instant stories and the desire for quick payback in terms of likes and social media traffic means that pretty much all mainstream media providers tend to have a very short term view and less time for careful analysis. I however feel it’s really important for blogs like ours to make a big effort to support our industry and help educate consumers with balanced content and facts – not those that are heavily weighted towards the lower cost segment of the industry always. It’s so unfair.
      Thank you so much again,
      Annabel x

  2. A very thoughtful and well-written response to a cliche dig at the industry. I attended The Most Curious Wedding Fair and found it an amazing place to see just how many talented, independent business owners there are in the industry – and I am proud to have chosen several for my wedding in the summer. We do not value enough the time it takes to build creative skills (my partner is a musician and he is paid tuppence) and I hope that Stylist right their wrong with more than an apology.

    1. Thank you so much Clem – so pleased to hear you had a good time visiting the Most Curious Wedding Fair – the organising team work so hard to make it such an exciting and rewarding event for all involved.

      I agree entirely that not enough time is taken to appreciate and value skill level and craftsmanship.

      It would indeed be very cool if Stylist offered a proper apology – in print. Have a feeling that’s not going to happen though!

  3. 100% agree! When I went fabric shopping for my dress I was horrified at how expensive lace is but helps you put into perspective why that designer dress is so expensive- craftsmanship!
    I also love the keeping local and British as much as possible I can’t wait to see how our day looks!

    1. Hi Georgina!

      Thank you so much for your comment – and how wonderful that you are so keen to support British suppliers! Good luck with the remainder of your planning.

      Interestingly, we had a query this evening in our private Facebook group that I thought would be useful to share with you here as it relates to the cost of fabric:

      “I have been to a few Bridal boutiques on my search for “the one” and I have found a couple that I do really like. However, both of these dresses are made from polyester mix fabrics. I am so confused as to why a polyester dress is worth £1500+?? It’s becoming a real sticking point for me(!!) so I would love to know what you think.”

      Here was my response:

      “….a polyester dress takes the same investment in design, cutting, fitting, sewing (many specialist seamstress hours) as a non polyester dress and synthetic fibre is not necessarily less expensive than natural fibre. Both take a lot of fabric development.A dress made from a synthetic fibre will by its nature be easier to adjust to an individual’s fit.

      Also, post Brexit, silk has become astronomically high in cost. To put this into perspective – I was chatting with one of our boutique advertisers only the other day about this and they told me that the only 100% pure silk dresses they stock now are virtual nighties and coming in at £3000 retail, which includes import duty (shipped from the US). They have no trains and not a shred of embellishment.

      Let’s look at the cost though. If the gown costs £1500, take away the VAT leaves £1250. If the supplier is a healthy business, then gross profit on that amount is around 40%, so around £500. Out of that, the supplier/boutique would have to buy the sample, house it, sell it pay staff and rent too – there is very little margin in bridal wear. Some brands have next to no margin at all – others carry a higher margin, smart boutique owners will stock a good mix that not only helps them balance the books but provides a good choice for their consumers too.

      So in all honesty, it’s not about the fabric, it’s about the made to order/made to measure/one off economics, cool design, brilliant levels of customer service etc.

      I really hope this helps!”

      1. What a brilliant and thoughtful response, as the owner of a small bridal boutique sometimes it is hard to find the words to express these thoughts. Thank you.

      2. What a truly thoughtful response Annabel. As another boutique I really appreciate how this has been conveyed. It’s something that often crops up with us too so thank you x

  4. I got married recently and had a very low key wedding wearing a high street dress and shoes. But I have to say that the talented wedding suppliers that I did deal with; photographer, florists, town hall, venue and jeweler went out of their way to make sure that I was happy with their service. Even though I only had a tiny untraditional wedding I was really touched by the effort that they all made and the planning was honestly a lovely experience. Wedding suppliers definitely deserve the premium they charge.

  5. Dear Annabel

    such a powerful essay – my business and role in this industry is in everything, similar to yours: i run http://www.simplesmentebranco.com, the most relevant wedding blog in Portugal, for the last 7 years. We took the hard road – we broke the mold of old views on the wedding market and built a community of creative, hard working people, with a fresh take and attitude on weddings – and the market bloomed…
    Lately, as it is seasonal media time to talk about weddings, lots of poorly articles popped everywhere… and it was terrible and biased, totaly detached from reality, as usual, but somehow worse this season. Everyone wants a part of the wedding business/subject – literaly everyone, but only a few actually know what they are talking about…!
    On top of this, here comes the price subject, “what a rip off, when you utter the word wedding…” how did we end up in this place?
    Well, missinformation is a powerful thing, and no one in the industry is speaking out, delivering the right message, clear, honest, transparent and pedagogical… we just lay down, watching, resenting, complaning to our partners and peers, but not much than that.
    That is our fault…
    Until someone starts to do so, to pick up that megaphone, to straight thing as they shoud be straighten – as you are doing with all the means available to you, your own. This is what need to be done, this is the message: education/information – it never fails you and in the long run, results will shine trough.

    This is great: #weddingindustrysolidarity but not enough :) we need a speak up movement, tell it like it is.

    Warm greetings from sunny Lisbon.
    *Susana

    1. Thank you so much for taking time to respond Susana, I really appreciate your comments. Warm greetings in return from the North East UK! Believe me, people in our industry *are* speaking out – and will be more vehemently in the coming weeks and months too. Watch this space x

  6. Thanks for speaking out on behalf of uk wedding suppliers, I am just starting out, considering making that leap and leaving a well paid job to do what I love, but I am already feeling disheartened at the general attitude to prices, I have invested thousands to train with the worlds best in my industry, and I know I offer a unique and more premium product but it costs me so much more to make than my more traditional, high street counterparts, I’m hoping that my designs will speak for themselves and those that love and appreciate them will seek me out and pay a little bit more, I won’t ever be a millionaire, but I just need to cover my bills! So thanks again for the moral support!

    1. My pleasure Jade – I feel very passionately about this issue and supporting businesses and individuals like yourself who are working very hard, doing something you love and providing truly excellent products and services. Much love to you and all the best of luck with your business venture! Love Annabel xx

  7. One of the search queries in my analytics the other week was ‘reasonable wedding cakes’…

    ‘Affordable, budget, cheap are all in my negative keywords but I respect that for many folk that is what they are looking for, but ‘reasonable’…? The flippant insinuation that suppliers (after spending years learning their trade, continually developing skills, the work behind coming up with something original and owning that – and that’s before you get to the end product itself) are routinely trying to rip brides off really got my goat.

    It’s the same for many industries though, everyone wants a Bentley for the price of a Skoda…

  8. Thanks so much for such a well balanced view. I know most of us the bridal world are passionate about delivering value to our clients & I want to ensure every bride has an amazing experience in choosing their dress . Value is obviously subjective but as with most things you absolutely do get what you pay for and for us buying a dress is about making key memories which is not always about the cheapest price. Small businesses have enough challenges so we need all the help we can get ✨

    1. You are welcome Sarah and my apologies for the late response – I was travelling to Barcelona for bridal fashion week the day you commented! :) I really appreciate your taking the time. Thank you.

  9. Thankyou for such a Fantastic write up supporting our industry
    As a boutique owner I too tire of seeing the same cliche sayings passed around “oh you put wedding in front of it and they just add a few zeros to the price'”

    Brilliant!
    Thankyou x

  10. Thanks Annabel for such an informed blog! I’m one of those who changed career to pursue a creative dream after getting married again and not being able to find an outfit suitable for my mature age. I was probably the oldest fashion design student ever ! I focus on the niche market of sustainable/eco fashion design and wholeheartedly agree with all you’re saying about media coverage. I always welcome people to my home studio, love meeting brides to be and engaging them in a participative design process. It’s never about the money. With a seamstress working from home, brides can choose their style and be in control of the budget to a significant degree. Thank you so much for raising awareness.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and engage Suzie – this post seems to have resonated with a great many. I am really just beyond bored and fed up of seeing the same wedding bashing and unimaginative journalism occurring, it’s insulting and damaging to an industry who work so very hard to offer quality services and memorable experiences.

  11. Thank you Annabel
    As a bridal shop owner we are truly seeing the effects of all these negative words and thoughts and all the recent media articles about how you can buy your dress from a supermarket now for £50!!.. It’s refreshing to see us hard working decent business people being stood up for, especially when all we want to do is create very happy brides :-)

    1. You have my sympathy Ramsey – I know that everyone in business needs to learn to adapt to market forces and that there will be victims but it baffles me as to why the media continue to push out the same old cliched wedding tat all the time – when so much has happened in the past 8 years that I’ve been involved with it taking it to the vibrant, creative, responsive, innovative industry that it is today. Thankfully many of our readers who are women from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of budget, see the mainstream media as the clickbait that it is.

  12. Thank you for this contribution to our industry! I am a bridal boutique owner…this was a ‘chosen path’ for me after many years in a very different industry. I don’t do it to make millions (many of you in this sector will understand that), yes, I make a living, but a living loving what I do – it’s creative; it’s social; it’s a challenge; it’s forever changing and different. I am so disheartened and angry with the current press/social media publications! I get it, there are cheaper options out there, it’s no different to any other industry, I also understand that it’s every customer’s right to shop wherever they want, I know I do…but the message of the current media attention is on “don’t go to bridal boutiques, they’re ripping you off”. You get what you pay for, if you want cheap and cheerful, fine but not everyone does, they want the fine fabrics, the attention to detail, the well constructed garments that won’t fall apart and above all the whole top notch customer service that goes with shopping at a bridal boutique. High street chains delivering bridal; Factory outlet style chains; then bridal boutiques, they are all very different types of bridal retail – stop comparing us purely on price!

    1. You are very welcome Debbie, thank you for taking the time to engage and reply.

      You make the perfect point; ‘STOP COMPARING ON PRICE’. There is so much more to take into consideration.

      Thanks so much again,

      A xx

  13. Brilliant post, I agree on so many levels! I have given up a very well paid job to run Paperless Wedding. I love weddings and I know I am not going to make millions, I am doing it for the love of it. The Stylist video shocked and angered me. I have only attended one wedding show and I met great couples who genuinely seemed interested. If you aren’t interest don’t leave an email, or just say thanks it is not for me and move on.

    My product is slightly different to most wedding suppliers. Our wedding website with matching digital invites are often compared to the free website and an emailed invite. Free means no personal support, or love of weddings. It is faceless. It is full of advertising.

    I get asked for money off or discount codes when my product is less than £100. I care about my couples even though I never meet them, or sometimes I don’t even communicate with them, as it is all automated. However in the background a mum of two young kids is putting in a lot off effort in design, testing on multiple platforms, blogging, curating interesting social media content and running an independent small business.

    So thank you for talking about the backstage area of the wedding business that makes peoples dreams come true.

  14. What a fabulous Blog! I started making Cakes as a hobby after starting my little family 10 years ago. It grew and I found and still find it very difficult to be confident about the prices I charge for my Cakes. I spend hours upon hours ensuring perfection in the completed design! I work hours similar to that of a Surgeon on most of my cakes! I still have a way to go before it will be anywhere near my previous pay packet, but I LOVE what I do now and it’s not a chore but a joy to start the baking! All of the Wedding Fairs I have attended have been thoroughly enjoyable and important in being able to meet other creatives within the industry and network. We should all shout about the industry and give ourselves a ruddy good pat on the back! Obviously there needs to be prices to suit all budgets but that goes for both ends of the spectrum! Well said Annabel x

    1. It’s no co-incidence that pretty much most of the people I know in the industry don’t do this for money – but for the pleasure because they love their craft and gain so much from making couple’s happy. And they frequently, actually, don’t charge anywhere near what they probably ought to based on actual time and love spent on creating/delivering a service.

      That’s one thing I adore about this industry – that it is full of passion and people who adore their jobs.

      Weddings are an easy picking for media who need to fill a gap in their pages. The same will happen next year when editors realise that wedding season is looming and topical and that they need to start publishing some weddingy content. Sigh! Best we can do is continue to educate our readers through honest pieces like this. And they do read and take noticed, believe me they do – it’s one of the reasons I love having closed communties on Facebook for our readers.

      Thanks so much Dawn.

  15. I have been very disheartened by the media portrayal of weddings, From Internet blogs, newspapers to Loraine Kelly – promoting High Street multi nationals, rather than independents. Bridal Boutiques especially are being targeted . This industry is a difficult one. We have suppliers now selling to the public directly, opening showrooms and telling their customers to cut out the middle man – (the middleman being the boutiques who have supported their business for years. And who they still expect to support them). We have Wed2be offering “drive by” dress choosing, saying they are cutting out the middleman, Rather than admitting they are also cutting out the quality of product, the advice, the knowledge, and the help shops provide to a bride, and also taking the styles from genuine designers. (You can spot many of the gowns with their inspiration taken from well known designers – more than a coincidental few). . Brides have the misconception that independent stores are simply given the sample gowns, without any understanding of the investment it takes to have the latest collection in store. It is like comparing a .99p burger with a 5* meal – yes you will get fed, but only one will be a memorable experience. The portrayal of bridal store owners as stuck up men and women, looking down at brides, and making them feel inferior could not be further from the truth. The majority of bridal owners are so down to earth, who are passionate about what we do, dedicate long hours, sacrifice family time, have sleepless nights worrying about customers, overheads, minimums, staff etc., It’s brutal, relentless and totally soul destroying – yet so rewarding when a bride finds her dream dress, it’s a privilege to be part of such a moment. But it is being devalued – the products are being devalued, quality and originality of design are being watered down, and Brides are being told that they, and especially their bridesmaids are not worthy of decent products or services, and if they want them, they are labelled as frivolous.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I’m aware of the challenges facing the industry and boutiques in particular right now and it must be so hard to have to contend with. It’s so hard, isn’t i t?

      Your comment captures very eloquently what so many others will be feeling. I’m determined to help educate brides through Love My Dress. It’s not about comparing on price but helping individuals realise that quality and services levels and knowledge and talent and expertise all too play a huge role in the purchase experience.

      The industry and boutiques have my absolute loyalty and I will do all that I can to keep drip feeding messages of positivity to our community.

      Thank you again for you honest and heartfelt response.

      Love Annabel x

  16. An astute article and one I enjoyed reading. You’re completely right; no-one is forcing couples to spend big on their wedding, and just about most vendors are charging a fair price for the type of service they provide. I’m a photographer and it’s the biggest question on all couples’ minds: how much. Ultimately, you will always find a supplier who will do it cheaper than you, no matter what service you offer. But it’s a cheap shot for media to undermine the excellent service that most vendors provide.

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