Last week, the BBC published this feature on how to have a wedding on a budget. Their suggestions included ‘do it in November’ and ‘get help from your friends’, or ‘serve prosecco instead of champagne’.
Maybe not the fresh and inspirational kind of advice readers might have been hoping for – perhaps the Beeb journalist had taken her eye off the ball to enjoy the glorious sunshine. The article left me unhappy. Not because of their money-saving, creativity-lacking suggestions, but this specific remark;
‘Every time I call a supplier – whether it’s a florist or the printers, the quotes I get are always so much higher than I expect….It’s like you need to add a zero on anything that is wedding-related. Everything seems to cost so much’. – BBC News feature –
I want to put the record straight on the cost of weddings. I’m not going to rant, or get all righteous about something I feel strongly about. I want to expose some of the hidden costs that wedding suppliers have to account for when pricing their products and services. I also want to provide some really honest and truthful feedback from suppliers themselves. I would like for this feature to be a resource to educate readers to the costs involved when planning a wedding, and to provide sensible tips to keeping these costs manageable and within budget.
This is quite a long post, but well worth taking five to read, so before you push to the ‘TLDR’ file, consider this:
My first and most valuable advice is that you do not need a single ‘wedding’ product to get married. You need a registrar and a registry office and two witnesses. Any other cost you should actually enjoy adding. Be pleased to part with some hard earned cash for a celebration. – Emma Meek, Miss Bush Bridal –
It isn’t usually long after we’ve started planning a wedding that the internal dialogue starts niggling away; Why is my wedding dress so expensive? Why does this photographer want over £2,000 just to shoot my wedding for a few hours? Why is the venue hire so expensive? I shouldn’t have told them it was for a wedding! Over £500 for wedding flowers? Who are you kidding?!
Weddings can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like, but the view I have always held is that if you want to enhance your planning and wedding day experience by employing professional services, then you must expect to pay a fair and reasonable price for them.
The hours spent on e-mails, the time lingering over meetings, the extras, the travelling, the little things done to make someone’s special day even more special for no extra cost. Suppliers just don’t rock up on the day, do a job and get home by 6pm for an evening with their feet up. They plan, they prepare, they work relentlessly on the job and then they’re tidying up, sorting out, clearing away and finishing everything neatly afterwards. – Tamryn Lawrence –
As you may or may not already know, Tamryn Lawrence is a member of the Love My Dress team. She is also founder of The Candid Apple, a wedding PR expert, published author and former multi-award winning wedding planner. She knows a thing or two about weddings, and she has a healthy and realistic view of the wedding industry.
‘Some wedding industry suppliers do over charge for their services. I’ve been in the industry for over 11 years now and I’ve met a few suppliers that frankly should be paying to attend weddings, not the other way around. Happily, I’ve met hundreds and hundreds more super talented, uber committed and downright fabulous people who work their backsides off going above and beyond for their clients. If you think working in weddings is an easy gig and a quick way to make big bucks, then come and give it a go.’
Honest, refreshing words. Now, given the nature of the BBC feature, I’m particularly keen to focus on the subject of wedding photography. Wedding photography is often the first to get a bad rap by the press for being extortionately priced. Thing is, most people planning a wedding will not ever have invested in professional photography services before, so in all honesty they’ll be unlikely to fully appreciate the associated costs, skill and expertise involved.
There is a common misconception that, with the rise of modern, cheap digital cameras, photography i easy. It isn’t, and running a wedding photography business is not cheap. – Tom Ravenshear, Photographer –
Professional wedding photographer Tom Ravenshear charges £2,300 to shoot a full wedding. The fee covers Tom’s attendance from early in the day through to dancing and evening celebrations. He also meets and spends time with his clients, exchanges many emails before the wedding, and his fee includes a set of edited images accessible via the Internet.
‘As with every other photographer in the industry you work backwards from what you want to earn – so you set your salary based on your experience and skill, add on you costs, divide by the number of days worked throughout the year and there you have it. The one main thing to remember with wedding photography is that you usually only shoot one wedding a week – on a saturday. and not all year round – no wedding photographer I know shoots every saturday, 52 weeks a year. I usually look to do 25-30 weddings a year – and even that is a lot to manage.’
Photographers charge what we do not because we can get away with it, but because that’s what its worth. – Tom Ravenshear –
‘If I shot 30 weddings at full price, this would give me an annual turnover of £70,000. But factor in running a car, insurance for cameras, cost of camera gear (I have £30,000 worth of cameras at £1000 a year insurance costs), computer and software costs, advertising costs, marketing, accountancy fees and this leaves enough for around a c.£50,000 annual salary. This is above average, but photography is a highly skilled profession and I have 15 years experience of shooting weddings. A photographer is expected to have the skill to capture some of the most intimate moments of your life, having known you for the least amount of time out of all the guests at your wedding. That is a skill that takes years to hone.’
Would you suggest that £50k a year for a skilled photographer who spends most week days editing and running his/her business, and the majority of weekends working away (possibly long distances away, for long days) as unreasonable? Remember, wedding photography is a highly competitive market, so it’s not in a photographer’s interest to simply overcharge for the sake of it – they need to remain competitive to get the work. It’s important to point out that the vast majority of wedding photographers won’t earn anywhere near as much as this – Tom is in a small minority having developed his business over 15 years.
Get a photographer, with skill, good equipment, a great personality, professionalism, a lot of experience, whose work you love, and who has public liability insurance (a must for any business). You won’t get all of that from a ‘friend with a camera’ or anyone who charges less than £1000 per wedding. – Tom Ravenshear –
Wedding photographer Eliza Claire says she has a number of factors that affect her pricing. ‘My prices start from £1500 and go up to around £3000 depending on the length of coverage, and what albums are included. All packages include a second photographer and all final images fully edited in colour and black and white for the client to print and use as they wish. In setting my prices, the most important thing to consider was the ability to earn a living without having to supplement with a second job that would take away from my business and time for my couples. In addition to this, I looked at the demand for my work, how many weekends a year I am able to work and what my outgoings are.’
Perhaps this comment left by photographer Pete Cranston on the Love My Dress Facebook page last week sums it up best, ‘I have a mortgage, taxes and mouths to feed. This isn’t a bloody hobby’. This photographer’s reaction to the BBC piece also struck a chord with industry colleagues.
It doesn’t matter whether I’m photographing a wedding on a Saturday in August or a weekday in October, I still have to find childcare for my on. – Alexandra Davies, Photographer –
The BBC piece made a dig at venue costs too, so I spoke with Laura Caudery, the leading lady behind Fetcham Park, a wedding venue in Surrey. Fetcham Park is available for exclusive use hire on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays for £7,000 inc. VAT.
Can you hear that internal dialogue again? (£7,000 + VAT for one day? Are you serious?)
Laura explains how this fee was set. ‘Our fee ensures couples have the use of the house from 9am on the day of their wedding until midnight, and support throughout their planning process (access to trusted suppliers, two in depth planning meetings and ongoing support from a dedicated wedding coordinator). Fetcham Park is only available for exclusive use hire for a limited amount of days per year, but the level of service that is delivered for every wedding is unwavering and likened to that of a 5* hotel. Like most businesses, the venue itself has running costs, which include garden maintenance, housekeeping and the upkeep of all the rooms amongst many other things. Grade II* listed houses are expensive to maintain and our maintenance and improvements are ongoing. Not only so that we can preserve the house for future generations but so we can ensure it looks its very best for each and every couple.’
‘A team of highly professional individuals are employed by us to undertake a multitude of tasks – from liaising directly with the bride and groom (which on average, adds up to 300 emails and a day of face-to-face time), to ensuring Fetcham Park has an online and offline presence, and most importantly ensuring we are keeping abreast and ahead of industry advancements so that we can offer our couples the best service. Our staff are working 7 days a week – often late into the night so we can be available at times that suit our client – not just on wedding days and I think that’s often forgotten. There’s also the many hours that are spent liaising with suppliers for each wedding; there are usually a minimum of 7 different suppliers on a wedding day and there can be more than 20. In brief, it’s the man hours and behind the scenes costs that are often overlooked but when put into context, demonstrate just how reasonable our charges are. The day itself is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our costs.’
Laura reveals some of the more hidden costs that wedding professionals have to account for when setting their prices. It certainly makes you think a little deeper about what your wedding budget is being spent on, doesn’t it But my venue is charging me a fortune for corkage – £10 per bottle – £20 for champagne!
I know, I hear you. Corkage fees (<— a MUST read) are where your sensibilities need to come in to play. Are you really prepared to pay £10 – £20 per bottle to be opened? If your venue is posing a problem with things like corkage fees, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere? Remember, be sensible, and always follow your instinct.
I asked Laura for her views on booking a venue during the winter months to save money.
‘Most people understand the relationship between supply and demand as it’s apparent in day-to-day life; happy hours during the week, cheaper haircuts on Mondays, sales on clothing at the end of a season. The price of stock and service is all relative to how in demand they are, and the same can be said of summer weekend weddings vs weekday winter. However unlike most venues, Fetcham Park is only available at weekends and is just as desirable in the winter as it is in summer. The time and effort devoted to each of our couples – and our expenses – don’t change depending on the time of year so therefore neither do our prices.’
And what about the dress ladies? The average price of a wedding dress is around £1,500. Can you justify buying a dress at that price when you are only going to wear it for one day? I fully believe you can and I respect the time, energy, love and craftsmanship that goes in to the design and creation of each dress. Not to mention the professional services provided by the boutique/supplier selling the dress. Emma Meek, owner and Managing Director of Miss Bush Bridal in Surrey says she and her team spend 16 hours on average (often much longer) on each wedding dress sale. This time covers everything from emails to checking order confirmations, fittings and more.
‘From the shop floor to the car door as you collect you have a huge team of skilled and dedicated women employed in a retail environment like no other.’
So we’ve established that weddings are not cheap and there are good reasons for that. But one fact often overlooked is that what a consumer encounters in day to day life is simply not scaleable for a wedding. Take food for instance – Laura Caudery explains this further.
‘If you were to go to a restaurant chain for a meal, and have a few nibbles, starter, main, dessert, cheese, coffees, a bottle of wine and water – you would probably expect to pay around £60 + per head. Bear in mind that this restaurant has reduced costs because of the high turnover of business they do. The level of service and attention a wedding is given is over and above what you would expect in such a restaurant. Menus are bespoke, teams of people are brought in especially for you and in some cases, the quality of food will be comparable to that of a fine dining restaurant. Plus whereas you are sat in a restaurant for a couple of hours, our team will be hosting your guests for up to 12hrs!’
‘It’s the same with other suppliers – florists for example. We’re all familiar with picking up a cheap bunch of flowers with our weekly shop but people don’t think about the workshop space required, the transportation, 2am starts at the flower market, the pressure of bringing flowers to bloom at just the right time, temperature variations, hand-wiring – the list goes on! My point is that whilst a bunch of flowers from the supermarket might ‘cost’ £10, a bespoke bunch from an independent supplier (which the majority of wedding suppliers are), is going to cost significantly more. That’s not because you’re being ripped off, it’s because we simply don’t and can’t have the same economies of scale as mass-produced products.’
There is no ‘wedding premium’, but there is most certainly a ‘skills premium’ needed for weddings and that is greatly undervalued and under-reported. – Laura Caudery, Fetcham Park –
Should those planning a wedding ask for discounts?
Well it depends who you’re asking really. Photographer Tom Ravenshear believes there is no harm in asking, as long as you ask politely. ‘Yes, lets chat – but don’t be surprised if you can’t get a discount on a saturday in August. And please ask nicely. Also, never force a price down just for the sake of it. I went to shoot a wedding I agreed to do after the bride pleaded with me, but on arriving, I discovered the bride had purchased two dresses, four pairs of shoes and countless other items suggesting she clearly could have afforded my services. It’s a shorthand way of saying ‘I don’t care enough about you or the quality of your work.’
Photographer Eliza Claire says she is happy to adjust her packages rather than provide discounts, ‘…if the client can’t afford a full day’s coverage, or they want an album but don’t have the money yet, I can offer deferred payments or shorter day coverage etc.
I also offer an album registry so their guests can contribute to their album. However, I don’t offer discounts as it would not be fair on my couples who have paid the full price.’
Emma Meek of Miss Bush Bridal illustrates why discounts are not usually possible when it comes to your wedding dress purchase, ‘Take the £1795 average wedding dress price tag, remove the VAT of £299.17 and the shop nets £1495.83. Remove the trade price of the dress, rental costs (shop & studio), labour for 16 hours, phone, email & electricity and the shop nets somewhere nearer to £380. From this sum we have to invest in new samples, market and advertise our services, spend on rather dull items like stationery, printer ink, sewing machines, steamers, insurance, overlockers & branded storage bags.’
‘There are delivery costs levied by the designers, water coolers need to be kept supplied, cleaning has to happen. The net will be closer to £250. There are Employers Contributions to be taken from this sum and if by some miracle this sum is not further reduced will have to pay tax on this profit. Imagine the tiny sum that is made when the dress starts off at £1000. You can see how easily discounting would wipe out any profit. I have had to help an alarming number of brides this year from shops that have closed, all of which had been heavily discounting.’
‘Even if we were the most generous individuals on the planet it is not an option to not make a profit The simple fact is that out credit card terminal providers will not supply their services if we do not, neither will our dress designers if we look a bad credit risk.’
The one that that irks people is saying that wedding suppliers are expensive. As the famous phrase goes, if you think we’re expensive, wait until you hire an amateur! – Emma Meek, Miss Bush Bridal –
I warned you this piece would be long, but I really hope it has helped you understand a little more about why weddings may seem expensive and why suppliers charge what they do.
I’d like to end with some sensible suggestions of our own for couples managing a wedding budget:
- Be open and honest with suppliers about your budget. Tell me your real budget and I can help even if it is simply to point you to the best budget retailers I know. (Emma Meek, Miss Bush Bridal)
- If you need to spend less, spend less. Find things you can go without, look at your priorities, exercise some self restraint and ask yourself what’s really necessary and what’s truly money saving. (Tamryn Lawrence).
- Be realistic about what you can afford. Work out what is most important to you right from the start, and try not to get carried away with everything you see on Pinterest! (Laura Caudery, Fetcham Park)
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your supplier. Experienced suppliers know what they’re doing and can take the pressure off you so that you can concentrate on enjoying the run up to your day. Professional suppliers will help you avoid a (potentially costly) problem before it even happens. (Laura Caudery, Fetcham Park)
- Be mindful of expectations. DIY isn’t always cheaper and it certainly isn’t easier. Accessories and other stuff from auction sites doesn’t mean you’ll get a bargain (or indeed anything you actually want to use). (Tamryn Lawrence)
- Prioritise what is important to you. Work out what’s important to you, and place the money there. I have seen so much money wasted on fluff that just wasn’t necessary. (Tom Ravenshear)
- Choose your suppliers wisely: Look at reducing the amount of hours you need for wedding photography – 4 hours of amazing coverage is always better than 10 hours of average quality photos. (Eliza Claire)
- Set yourself a realistic not idealistic budget. If a wedding dress is over budget then you simply cannot afford it. If you push to £3000 when you really should only spend £2000 you will start to resent perfectly acceptable charges like alteration costs. (Emma Meek, Miss Bush Bridal)
- Check for hidden extras: always check prices include VAT and make sure there are no ‘hidden extras’. We’ve recently been told of a venue charging £8 for bottled water! (Laura Caudery, Fetcham Park)
- Keep a healthy perspective: I’m sorry to sound cynical but the best wedding we’ve hosted was planned in just 5 weeks – it wasn’t about a big budget or years spent obsessively planning but rather a couple that just wanted to get married surrounded by their favourite people. A single day can never be worth getting yourself into debt over and whilst it’s an incredibly special day, I also don’t believe it will be the best day of your life…how depressing would that be?! (Laura Caudery, Fetcham Park)
Now it’s your turn. Leave your thoughts comments and queries below. Are you grappling with a wedding budget? What are your thoughts on the general expense of weddings – do you feel the cost is justified or extravagant? If you are a supplier, do you provide discounts? What ways can you suggest to help manage the wedding budget? Has this feature enlightened you and are you able to add anything to our list above? I’m keen to receive all feedback and experiences.
- Why it’s OK to spend money on your wedding day
- This is a great Facebook thread on the price of weddings
- Corkage fees, catering costs, recommended suppliers and other money matters
- The Nitty Gritty wedding venue check-list
66 thoughts on “Why Are Weddings Expensive? Putting The Record Straight + A Guide To Managing Your Wedding Budget”
How refreshing – as a photographer the BBC’s article certainly rattled my chains too. As Emma from Miss Bush says, all you need to get married is a registrar, anything else is a luxury. Weddings are expensive IF you feel you must have everything, fortunately the industry caters for all budgets and all styles and it’s lovely to read reasoned explanations got the costs involved.
A Fantastic and very balanced piece. I’m currently planning a wedding and, yes, at first we were unrealistic about the cost of everything. However, as we looked into things like ‘budget’ photography, we soon realised that we’d rather prioritise our spending in areas where true professionalism and expertise are required. We are going to do a bit of ‘DIY’ – partly as I love crafting and partly to allow us to splurge in other areas. But as Tamryn points out above, DIY isn’t always easier. My mum and I will tackle the flowers together and we will save money – but it will be more stressful. So in hiring talented professionals, not only are you paying for their hard-earned experience, but your own piece of mind.
Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 It’s great to hear that you’re doing some DIY because you love it AND because it’ll allow to you splurge elsewhere. I love crafting so wouldn’t hesitate either but it’s balancing what you’re capable of, the time involved and the potential stress of taking on too much that some people miss. I’m chuffed to see you’ve got it sorted and I hope that you have the most amazing wedding day xx
Many thanks Tamryn. Hopefully all is in hand – all about planning my time well!!
Planning is the answer for sure! Have a lovely day & thanks again for getting involved with the discussion 🙂
This is a great piece, Annabel – really interesting to hear the perspective of suppliers in specific areas of wedding planning. As a photographer I find you can very quickly distinguish between couples who are, and who are not, really interested in the service you offer; to me that is a huge differentiator as to whether they are willing to agree to your fee – essentially, pay what you are worth. Coming in to plan a wedding, there is of course a real shock factor for couples when it comes to pricing; general public do not know how much these services cost as they are mostly not used in day-to-day life (if only I could have a florist decorate my home each day!). So it’s great to have some rounded education on the subject by way of articles like this. -Krish
This is a really interesting piece, albeit quite depressing for this bride-to-be on a tiny budget. My fiancé and I have been lucky in finding a venue which is a charitably run location: one of the terms of the bequest that set the place up is that they offer an affordable wedding venue. I don’t know what we would have done without them! We have chosen to accept that we might have to miss out on photos because we can’t pay the rates a professional needs; we won’t insult someone by asking for a tiny price, or risk wasting our money to get poor photos from a cheap photographer. We’re going to be doing a lot of DIY in the interests of saving our cash, fortunately I’m quite crafty, as are several of my friends/family members. I think what I’m trying to say is that there are (I hope!) ways to get hitched and have a special day without it costing the kind of money that would get you a mortgage, but there are compromises to be made to achieve that, and they shouldn’t be made by professionals who are just trying to make a living.
Annabel, I think this is one of the best articles you have ever written! You have absolutely nailed it here and many thanks to the wonderful suppliers involved for their candour.
I fully appreciate that wedding costs can come as a shock to a couple – if you haven’t done anything like this before, how are you supposed to know what things cost?!? – but please don’t blame the wedding professionals for charging what they charge. We carefully think through our needs (mortgage, bills, childcare, food etc – all the same life costs that couples getting married face!), the business running costs (premises, staff, stock, insurance etc) and what is appropriate given our skill/experience level/the quality of the product we are selling. We also need to remain competitive so can’t possibly arbitrarily throw huge figures at potential clients. We would go under in no time if we tried that!
As Emma rightly says, everything above the church/registrar is already a luxury, but there is a supplier to suit EVERY POSSIBLE budget. It is all about being realistic and setting your priorities. If you can’t afford a 5* luxury all the way, so be it. Your wedding isn’t worth getting into debt over and can still be utterly fantastic on a tighter budget.
When buying a house, you quickly learn to accept that things cost what they cost (the house itself, the solicitor fees, stamp duty, removal company etc). OK, you can make an offer lower than the asking price on the home you want, but you aren’t surprised if it comes back a ‘no’. Maybe you buy the dream home in the perfect location at the top of your budget, but have to compromise on decorating it the way you want to in the short term.
It is the same for your wedding: If £2000 for photography is a huge chunk of budget for you, but photography is a priority, then go ahead and spend it, and opt for cheaper options elsewhere (potted plants from the local garden centre for the dining tables for example).
I completely agree with all the advice you have given here. Be open with potential suppliers about your budget. If the one you approached can’t help you, I bet they can point you in the direction of a wonderful supplier who can! If they aren’t prepared to assist you in this way or are dismissive of the budget you have/try to press you into buying what you can’t really afford from them, then they weren’t ever going to be the right supplier for you and it’s best to move on to the next option!
Wonderful wonderful piece Annabel and team! Thank you.
I have to agree with Nods, by paying for a professional you are paying for their expertise and your own peace of mind. As a wedding planner, people automatically assume I am expensive and not required, but I’m not there to simply make money from you, I’m there to help you with aspects you won’t have thought of, aspects you haven’t even considered and then the aspects that you will have never dealt with before. Some people have never planned a bit event with a large group of people and have no idea what a table plan is, let alone put one together. That’s what I’m there for. To help, offer advice and support when you need it and finally be there on the day dealing with all the little things so the Bride and Groom can relax and enjoy their day. I’m not out to make a fortune from you, but like most people, I have bills to pay, a mortgage and child care to take into consideration. I do ask that my experience and level of expertise is taken into account, I have been working in this industry for 13 years, I haven’t just done a quick events management course and expect you to pay me ££££’s. Thanks for a wonderful article, I hope it helps people understand a little more about all the wonderful people that work in the wedding industry and why we’re not all just out to rip Couples off!
You know, this article has highlighted for me even more clearly how important it is to approach your wedding day in a practical and grounded frame of mind. My wedding budget was very, very small. We knew it would be and we knew we could probably manage it because we are a family of very crafty people. We knew that my mum could make my dress and my sister and I could make the cake and all the decorations. We knew some wonderful professionals with very kind hearts who offered us their services for a smaller rate than than they would usually charge. I am fully, fully aware that we were extremely lucky in this respect.
The services that I paid full whack for (because I knew they would do a better job than I could) was my venue/food and the florist. I am SO GLAD I didn’t scrimp here, I love flowers and our florist did a wonderful job. I love food and our wedding breakfast was yummy. Our venue was relaxed, inviting and most of all, everything happened so seamlessly that I didn’t give it a second thought! We could fully enjoy our day knowing that our guests were being fed and watered to their hearts content.
If, like me, you are working with a small budget, instead of feeling depressed and disappointed at all the things you can’t afford follow the advice in the article and really narrow down what’s important to you and spend your money there. Forget all the other fluff. If you don’t have a creative bone in your body then don’t put pressure on yourself to make things for your wedding. Choose somewhere that’s lovely without loads of decoration. Remember that you are meant to feel amazing in your wedding dress and choose with that in mind, not what seems the most appropriately ‘weddingy’. It doesn’t even have to be a bridal gown! However if you want to feel like a princess then there is no better place to go than a great bridal boutique.
Thank you Annabel for the reminder of how important it is to respect the skill and dedication of those in the wedding industry, and for debunking that silly BBC article that just seemed to feed all those whispers about extortion and ‘wedding premiums’. It is so important to be practical and sensible in your choices, but also go with what you love- that’ll be what makes your wedding day successful, if it comes from your heart.
Love Susie x
Very interesting post- I love discussion pieces!
Like hundreds of other couples, when my husband and I started talking about our wedding budget we were very unrealistic about what it would cost, because like most people, we simply hadn’t bought this sort of thing before- I’m an events organiser (not weddings) so the cost of venue hire and catering etc wasn’t a surprise, but as someone mentioned below- who regularly books photographers, florists, buys high end dresses in their everyday life? The costs for these elements were therefore higher than I’d expected.
I do think the advice about deciding how much you can realistically afford to spend and working round it accordingly is a very good one- its simply unrealistic to imagine you can get a church-full of flowers, buttonholes, bouquets for yourself and 3 bridesmaids and centrepieces for all tables for £100 for example, but instead of trying to push some poor florist down to that price, you could consider paying for your bouquet and the buttonholes, and perhaps purchasing flowers from the florist to do the centrepieces and bridesmaids flowers yourself and foregoing the other flowers in lieu of something different (we had some branches in terracotta pots and I loved them!) equally, as someone else suggested, if you can’t afford a full day of wedding photography, you could consider a half day package or just a few hours instead? You still get some amazing pictures to remember your day by, but within your budget. Establishing your own priorities is important and (it sounds harsh but it isn’t meant to) realising that unless you have an endless budget (and who does?!), you simply can’t have everything- you have to decide where you want to spend your money and accept that this is someone’s living and 99.9% of suppliers out there aren’t trying to rip you off- the reality is that weddings are a luxury really, beyond the ceremony itself, as MB said. The nice thing is, weddings on a budget are just as lovely as those with a lot of money spent on them 🙂
My Mum really made me re-think the way I was approaching things for our wedding when I was getting worried about the money and said something similar to what Miss Bush mentioned- that everything above a licensed venue and registrar is a luxury, and as a wedding is a celebration, why not see it as such and just enjoy spending money on a celebration of a very special day in our lives, obviously within your means, but to treat it as an opportunity to, for one day, have things just as you want them- and for that, you need skilled and professional suppliers, who are worth the money you spend.
As my Granddad always used to say- ‘You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!’ Its very true- if you want professionalism, skill and suppliers you are pleased to have used who will do their best to make your day the best it can be, then you need to be prepared to pay for that- I’m not by any means suggesting that only those with money can get good suppliers, as there is someone for every budget and the best doesn’t always cost the most, but you do have to be willing to pay a fair price, and to be prepared for what is a realistic, acceptable cost.
I’ll stop rambling now!
This was such an interesting read. I’m getting married on Saturday and I will admit that some prices surprised me during the early stages of planning. However we understood that quality costs and we had a conversation about what exactly we were able to spend and where we needed to reevaluate our budget. In the end we opted for supporting our local independent retailers as much as possible and avoiding the larger corporate business. This has unexpectedly saved us a little bit of money but has payed dividends in the quality, personalised service we have received and I have really enjoyed getting to know people working in our town and the town that we’ll marry in.
For the things we wanted but absolutely couldn’t stretch to we’ve gone DIY where possible and involved our family and friends. I have to say that I’m pleased we have as it’s been so much fun and helped us to make our day exactly that – our day!
Thanks for your insight into the industry Annabel
Supporting local and independent retailers is so important- they might be a touch more expensive, but there’s a reason for that!
I was thinking about this the other week whilst chatting with another photographer who shoots studio work. They charge a lower rate if you break down what we both do into hours but they quite clearly told me they wouldn’t dream of shooting weddings because they couldn’t deal with the pressure and stresses associated with the day. We have one chance, very little control and a hundred plus strangers to work with! I love all the pressure, the unknowns and the pace of weddings, in fact I thrive of it, and a good wedding photographer is someone who can produce quality work under all these constraints…..like all wedding suppliers you are paying not just for their ability to produce a quality product or service, you are paying for them to do this within the pressures, constraints and sheer importance of somebodies wedding day. The biggest day of their lives.
What a fantastic and informative read. As both a professional wedding photographer and a bride to be, I seem to live in a world where I am forever required to justify why we charge what we do for our services, or why we are spending “so much” for the services of others.
The reality is that we aren’t, but the constant cycle of articles and advice columns being written by people who have no idea what they are talking about allow the wedding premium myth to continue to flourish. The BBC article is a prime example of this.
The wedding industry is, unfortunately, an easy target for lazy journalism. The single greatest thing that we can all do as professionals to help combat this is to stop undervaluing ourselves and to charge what we are worth. You’d never dream of walking into a place of work and expecting someone to do their job for 50% less because it was a Wednesday in October- don’t allow someone to do that to you.
Weddings can be very expensive but they don’t HAVE to be. I think it’s important to decide at the start what is important to you. I have paid £000s for some things and eBay pennies for others. The money has bought me experience, expertise, trust and a relatively stress free run up to my wedding next week as I have confidence that everyone is going to do a fabulous job. However there are definitely neon pound signs in some areas when it comes to weddings but I think more from suppliers who aren’t wedding ‘specialists.’ e.g. I’m having black cabs to take me to the venue. No frills, no decorations I just wanted a taxi. The first company wanted to charge me £75 for a £35 fare. The next call I made, I didn’t mention the fact that the journey involved taking a bride and I was quoted the £35 I expected. Prioritise where you want to spend and where you need to save and trust your gut! 🙂
Excellent post! I think part of the reason many people are critical of the wedding industry is that it is seen as entirely feminine, ‘women’s stuff’, and therefore not a serious industry. Things associated with women – their skills, their achievements, their rights – are very often dismissed and undervalued. Also – yes! – if you want professional services it is reasonable to expect to pay for them. Work is work – your wedding dress is work, designership, skill; your photography is work, time, artistry; and your musicians are years spent training, rehearsing, working. Fair pay for fair work!
An excellent point
I love this reply! Thank you so much for saying it so perfectly!
So glad you said that about musicians! Thank you! (I’m a singer and it’s ridiculous when people ask me to sing ‘for the work experience’ – just insulting!)
Agree that you don’t require a big budget to get married, as an independant wedding florist i have had couples with a small budget making enquiries where despire not much to spend, are asking me to decorate their whole wedding which just can’t be done on a shoestring.
i don’t offer discounts ( my mark up isn’t big enough for my business to take the hit) but alongside my bespoke service (where i offer the bride a detailed quote and image boards-often half a days work) i also offer packages which are cheaper than bespoke as the bride supplies me with colour preference and i have free reign on everything else , saving a lot of admin and meetings time and less pressure. The packages still aren’t cheap as i like to use the best flowers i can get and at anywhere between 85p and £2 per stem for a beautiful peony, cheap just ain’t possible!
I find many couples are willing to spend a lot on a photographer,and thats great-good photographers need to charge what they are worth. What has offended me is twice this year two brides have asked me to work on small budgets stressing how they didnt have much money at all to spend on their wedding-one turned out to have booked a top rate photographer and the other booked an expensive photographer for 3 days-it made me feel very undervalued. If they had just explained that their flower budget was low without giving me the impression they had little money overall i’d have appreciated the honesty.
If i take 50 bookings at £1000 average per booking (which is a lot of work) my salary wilk be around 15k-16k, thats why i have now set a minimum spend, and its why i dont discount.
The bbc article is such lazy journalism, thanks for writing this post and allowing brides and suppliers to have their say.
This is not to mention the pressure put upon and professionalism needed to ensure that everything is perfect and spot on for what is to be one of the most significant moments in a persons life. Can you put a price on everything going perfectly? employing someone who pays that attention to detail and provides you with peace of mind as well as being highly skilled in their area is priceless. I once heard of a ‘reasonably priced’ photographer who made mistakes with the film and therefore lost all images from someones wedding – this isn’t a day that can be replicated.
In my opinion if something is out of budget for you you must remember that there are other options. It is possible to balance the cost of one item for another that may be more expensive but also much more important to you. Also just because the Jones’s had this that and the other doesn’t mean it has to be done for you. Everyone is individual, and at the end of the day we should embrace each others differences / different ways of celebrating their day and a wedding is after all a celebration of two people – the rest of the celebration is an addition so if something is out of budget – get creative with your day, think outside the box and list whats most important to you.
I cant express how strongly I feel about the lazy reporting from the BBC but Annabel this article is not only informative but fantastically written – I hope somehow it gets seen by the press and stands as a beacon to inform people of how much work actually does go into each item or service people invest in.
I think the cost just comes as a shock to couples, and I totally understand that. But this “Isn’t* like organising a party. It’s your wedding day! And the love and care and importance you feel is mirrored by how your suppliers will treat your day; I had some lovely feedback from a groom last year who said that I made them feel like I didn’t do this every day, that their wedding was really important to me to. That’s because it was. Its an industry that is all about the personal, the detail and the attention. I charge £1300 for a full days wedding coverage, and about £650 for the equivalent hours for a commercial job. But thats because I invest about three times as long in a wedding job, and it has different practical & operational requirements. Business clients would neither need or expect fine art products and details, they would want their images delivered quickly by digital download. Equally, they would often do some of their editing in-house – its just a different kettle of fish & there is no comparison.
But weddings do have a budget (mine was £641, 14 years ago, and my photographer was the one supplied by the Las Vegas chapel! – I would change lots!), so I totally understand why couples need to marshall their money well. Often that means they can’t afford me, and that’s sad, but they need to be sensible. There are lots of things I want that I can’t afford, too. So when a couple does book me, I appreciate the investment they have made in me & my skills, and the honour they have given me by asking me to be part of their life-changing day. But for all this sappy stuff, I need to be a business woman who is able to feed my children – and at this time of year that can mean working 80 hour weeks, at less than minimum wage! No one is being ripped off….:(
A fab, measured response to a incendiary piece – thanks Annabel
Hi Angela, thank you so much for taking the time to reply.
“I had some lovely feedback from a groom last year who said that I made them feel like I didn’t do this every day, that their wedding was really important to me to. That’s because it was.”
I love this comment in particular because it highlights how passionate most suppliers are about providing a service for their clients.
And this one paints a very clear honest picture to me:
“But for all this sappy stuff, I need to be a business woman who is able to feed my children – and at this time of year that can mean working 80 hour weeks, at less than minimum wage! No one is being ripped off….:(”
Thanks for your kind words about the piece too Angela, much appreciated,
The problem with Wedding photographers is that no matter who it is, you can guarantee that what they charge is what they firmly believe Wedding photography should be. If a photographer charges less than them, then they must be rubbish, and if they charge more than them, then they are ripping people off. Thing is though, it isn’t true.
Using Tom Ravenshear above as an example, he charges £2300 for an all day Wedding. A substantial amount and obviously a price which he is able to attain. However, his paragraph: “… photographer, with skill, good equipment, a great personality, professionalism, a lot of experience, who’s work you love, and who has public liability insurance (a must for any business). You won’t get all of that from a ‘friend with a camera’ or anyone who charges less than £1000 per wedding.”
is his opinion, but is an opinion based upon his belief that what he offers is the best available. Thing is though, it isn’t true. Sure, it is very unlikely that friends with a camera would be able to offer anything even close to what someone who does it for a living, but to rubbish photographers who charge less than £1000 is crafty marketing and should be viewed as such. If a photographer needs to criticise other professionals based purely on price then it indicates an underlying fear of them as opposed to anything else. What you have to remember is though £2300 is a substantial amount of money, it is by no means the most expensive. Some Wedding photographers charge double or triple that price. Photographers such as Tom know that, yet are unwilling to apply their own logic to their own business, because to do so would be admitting that they are inferior to photographers who charge more than them when in reality they aren’t. Told you, it’s marketing.
Choosing your photographer should be based upon their photos, their personality and their professionalism. It’s THOSE things which are indicative of a good photographer, not the fact that they charge more than most.
Great article. Working with independent, exclusive businesses is more expensive than buying off the shelf and when you can only take on a maximum number of bookings per year, because of the number of available Saturdays and also to ensure your service to clients remains of a consistently high standard, you need to price not only to reflect the quality of your service but also to be able to live. There are, however, suppliers for all budgets. A newer, less experienced photographer will charge less than someone who is established with more experience. You can buy a ready to wear or second hand wedding dress. You can choose a venue to suit your budget. You get what you pay for and if you don’t want to pay for a premium service you don’t have to but by the same token don’t expect to be able to obtain that premium service by bartering for it.
We have been every price over the past 5 years. We started out charging £450 for all day coverage and as our experience and knowledge has grown we have steadily increased our price.. £600, £850, £1000, £1250, £1500, £1650, £1850, £2000. When we started we had no idea how to run a business or what to charge. I had basic equipment.. I had been to a total of two weddings my whole life and I had mainly been taking photos of my cat and my husband. I was super cheap but I was super inexperienced. Our couples were taking a chance on a ‘newbie’ with little experience and the price reflected that. After shooting for a year, maybe 18 months we began looking at how much the business was costing.. How much time we were spending on it.. How our skills were improving (dramatically). We looked at how many weddings we wanted to shoot in a year.. We looked at all our expenses and outgoings and worked towards making them match. And as the business grew.. both me and my husband Pete began working together full time.. we outgrew our home office.. other expenses began to creep in and now we regularly assess our business and personal outgoings to make sure that the price that we charge for a wedding and how many we do a year means that we can afford to live and keep the business going.
Some people are shocked to find out that we charge £2000 and actually when we looked at our finances we were shocked ourselves that our expenses were so high. Running a Photography business is expensive.. camera equipment (you can be looking at £10 – £20k worth of equipment).. computers and laptops.. editing software.. a decent vehicle for all the constant travel.. business insurance.. a website (can cost around £1500-£3000).. an accountant.. hard drives.. packaging to send the images to your couples.. stationery.. postage.. web hosting.. sample albums.. advertising with blogs or magazines.. wedding fairs. Then you have to make sure you’re putting 20% away for your tax bill and because it’s your own business then you have to put money aside yourself for a Pension or maternity or sick leave. For us, we also have to support both our ‘wages’ as we both work full time on the business. So our fee is definitely an educated pricing structure and because of that, we have got a lot better about confidently saying how much we cost.
In response to some vendors charging more if it’s a wedding.. as a photographer any other job is completely different to weddings from the coverage time on the day to the time spent before and after the wedding.. It is a completely different level of work. Most of our couples we have a relationship with for, on average 18 months.. So that’s months of emailing beforehand.. Meeting up or skypes.. Then we shoot the wedding and then spend another couple of weeks editing the images, maybe designing an album so the whole process from start to finish can be nearly two years. Because of that I expect it’s a similar story for most vendors in that there is a lot more communication either side of the wedding.. maybe more detail in the finished product if it was say a cake or flowers than if it was a different event. Also every single vendor I know puts their absolute heart and soul in to what they do and genuinely care about their couples. They’re never out to rip people off and for many of them charging what they are worth in terms of their skill and the huge amount of time they dedicate is something that they struggle with constantly. Most of the time, if they were to look at all their costs and what their actual hourly rate is.. they’re actually, probably not charging enough! They adore what they do and want to give the best value for money they possibly can but at the same time have to make sure they can pay their bills.. Just like everyone else.
In terms of asking for discounts.. articles about how to budget on your wedding day always seem to advise that bartering is the way to go. To be honest.. most vendors I would probably say, prefers honesty. If a couple comes to us and says they genuinely can’t afford our price then we could look at ways to help them.. whether that’s reducing the coverage or a payment plan or just going for our basic package. But if a couple comes to us stating that they can’t afford us and that they haven’t got the budget and then on the day we arrive to photograph two dresses and a pair of very expensive shoes and they’ve both just had a pre honeymoon to top of the tan before the wedding day.. then being totally truthful.. we feel pretty cheated and feel that they don’t value what we do.
We also have to remember that not too long ago, if you booked a wedding photographer you would receive an album (with photos stuck in to it) of around 40 photographs from your wedding. That is all you would get. Then if you wanted more photos you would have to buy the physical print from the Photographer. Now.. we give couples around 600 high res images which they can print and share to their hearts content. By giving our couples the high res images we are losing the opportunity to make money on the sale of prints after the wedding.. so we’ve had to incorporate that difference in to our price. You also have to think that in terms of ‘cost per wear’ of your photographs.. those images are going to be looked at by your children.. your children’s children.. they are a huge part of your family history.. and to me, as corny as that sounds.. that’s bloody priceless.
I think this is a fantastic article that gives an insight to how wedding vendors work and how much time, work and money we all invest.. but, the biggest thing that alway shines through is the amount we care about our couples. This isn’t just a business where you pay and we provide a service.. it’s so much more than that.
Emma & Pete were our biggest wedding expense – and they were worth every penny! We scrimped on lots of other areas that weren’t very important to us but I wouldn’t have dreamed of cutting corners on photography – along with the rings it’s the only part that you get to keep forever.
You can keep your stationery forever too. 🙂
Great article – it really gets me when journalists needing a quick and dirty article take a pop at the wedding industry. For me the issue is not that individual services are expensive, but that brides are encouraged to want everything. And I think we (as an industry) do need to take some responsibility for that (though there are plenty of us that encourage responsible budgeting!).
But for me the bigger issue is that it’s actually really hard for small, independent suppliers to make a profit – especially those without the experience to justify top of the range prices. And that actually, undercharging is far more prevalent than overcharging.
I’ve written about this this week: http://weddingbusinesssuccess.com/undercharging-the-big-issue-for-the-wedding-industry/
I really liked this article too, it’s really informative. I set myself a wedding budget and have tried to stick to it, some things I’ve gone over, on some items I’ve made savings and sometimes I ask myself “am I really spending this much on one day?!”. And if I end up overspending on my budget then it’s no-ones fault other than my own, no one has forced me to buy things I can’t afford, and I can’t blame a magazine, blog or supplier for the any of the decisions I’ve made.
I am of the opinion though that it’s OK to try to barter or negotiate with wedding suppliers, just like any other business, and I have done this with some but not all my suppliers. Not in a pushy or aggressive way; they wanted my business and I thought it was fair to see what was possible! I negotiated when buying my house & my car, I negotiate in my work and so to me it was no different as a bride – it’s a business transaction and it is possible to come to a deal where both parties are happy. I’ve not pushed small independent suppliers for a discount and I get that prices are higher because you are buying a specialist service and getting lower economies of scale. I also had no issue paying for a good photographer and even if she was making a big mark-up, she is highly skilled and I’m really chuffed I get her to photograph my day. I did barter on our wedding rings and received a discount, I bartered with my venue because it had come under new management and they needed bookings to help establish themselves so were willing to do a deal, and I inadvertently got a 20% discount on my dress plus free alterations because of my indecisiveness and the shop wanted to close the deal!
Also I just wanted to add about salaries. With our current price of £2000 (sometimes we get slightly more per wedding if extra hours or an Engagement shoot or album is added).. and shooting around 35 weddings.. that’s £70k. BUT our expenses last year came to £35k. Then take your tax off the remaining profit AND split it between the two of us.. there really is hardly anything left… (actually we’re probably a rubbish business model because there really isn’t anything left!)
But we LIVE this job 24/7 so although our personal wages aren’t very high we get other perks like travelling the country.. sharing amazing experiences with our couples and other vendors who we make friends with along the way.. getting to work together as a couple.. working for ourselves.. being creative.. being in a happy industry.. and ultimately.. doing something that we absolutely adore.. 🙂
This is not only an extremely well composed article but also very timely. We are Wedding Celebrants and Officiants and identify closely with the opinions expressed by other Wedding Professionals.
There are many who believe that being a Celebrant requires no training or experience and is an undemanding way to make a bit of extra cash.
We are registered as a Company in the UK and also have a decade of experience. So far we have conducted around 1,000 weddings and on average we travel around 40,000 kilometers a year throughout Europe to officiate (not ‘living the dream’ or on permanent vacation as many think!)
On average we conduct 150 ceremonies between us a year. Once tax, travel expense and any commissions are deducted we are left with around €350 profit for each ceremony.. if we are lucky. Apart from the associated costs involved we also have to take insurance cover.. and try not to get ill or have an accident..
Officiating a wedding ceremony is an honour but also a massive responsibility.. the wrong word or gesture could cause offense. You need to be mindful of other’s emotions and be knowledgeable and sensitive to the beliefs and cultures of couples and their guests.
Most couples book a year to 6 months in advance.. we do not limit the amount of time we spend corresponding… there are unlimited emails, phone calls, Skype/Face Time conferences, face to face meetings in the UK and in Italy. We also spend many hours (and long evenings) scripting original text and personalizing ceremonies based on answers via detailed questionnaires that we constantly refine.. we continually research new ideas, rituals, readings/poems, music..the list is endless.
Our vocation is a lifestyle choice and the way we earn a modest living. We go ‘above and beyond’ because we genuinely LOVE what we do..if we didn’t then we would not have lasted this long as the wedding industry can be very stressful.
We do not believe that we are expensive considering the quality of work we produce and the time we commit. In fact we have no free time to speak of for most of the year!
Most colleagues and couples are respectful and understanding of our work but there are those who do not appreciate how much skill and dedication is required. We are pleased to have had this opportunity to join the debate and hopefully to have enlightened those who have never given much thought to the work of professional Celebrants as opposed to amateurs… often they charge the same fees!
This is a really interesting debate. I got married last year and like many brides, I was a little shocked at how expensive weddings can be. We weren’t planning on a shoe-string, but we didn’t want to spend more than £12,000. Happily we were able to achieve the wedding of our dreams on this budget, but had to do our research carefully. Simply having our wedding in the north, rather than the south of England made a huge difference! We would never have been able to afford a comparable venue to the one we chose in the Lake District near where we lived at the time in Oxford and definitely not in London where we live now. I think our venue was actually incredibly good value and I have never felt so looked after – the staff were just wonderful! We did, however, spend on our photographer, who was simply brilliant and worth every penny. We also splashed out on rings, which were custom made by the same jewellers who designed my engagement ring. They were truly wonderful craftspeople, who had looked after my husband so well during the process of designing the ring and made the whole process so special. They were also considerably better value than high street jewellers. I could go on, but I think the point is to do your research, know what matters to you and have the confidence to prioritise your budget accordingly. The beauty of blogs like this is that they show that there is no longer a ‘template’ that you should be obliged to follow or a tick box of things you ‘have to do’. What matters is that you look back on your wedding with happiness and satisfaction, rather than the regret of having not invested in it or having overspent on things that don’t matter to you.
I would like to say very well written Love my Dress, but how can a photographer starting out compete with the extortionate price of a 10 year professional? I must say that upset me a bit Tom Ravenshear. Are you implying that because my first year at being a wedding photographer I am inexperienced or unskilled or not as creative as you at the art of photography because I am 20 years old, even though I have been a working photographer for 5 years? Have a look on my Facebook page ‘Naomi Fowler Photography’ and tell me my wedding work isn’t as good as yours? The only difference is I am £300 this year and you are 2.5K. How very pompous of you. My very own opinion is I wouldn’t expect to pay no more than £700(even then that is a good deal). On my day I will pay what ever is needed if I find someones work I love i won’t even give it a second though. I would just go with it. If you come across someone starting out with a fresh eye and creative heart why not give small businesses a chance.
this is supposed to say i wouldn’t expect to pay no less then £700. being a photographer i know what to look for in a professional and creativity isn’t the first thing i would base my wedding photography on. A personality to match is an essential part to having that extra guest at your big day.
Hi Naomi, thanks for your comments and i must clarify my comment about the ‘less than £1000’ remark. This was in no reflection of photographic talent, it was a reflection on running a business and the associated costs. I would find it impossible to run my business charging this amount – and i’m assuming that most photographers have these fixed costs (cameras, insurance, websites, marketing, advertising, a car, accountant, etc etc).
By implication in your argument, you only charge £300 for a wedding, with only have 1 years experience, so my point stands, i charge (what you call ‘extortionate’) my rate according to my skill and experience – as do you so we are no different in that regards. Im hoping that as you gain experience, you too will charge more – see Emma Case comments below about pricing.
Thanks so much for your really helpful comment Tom x
Where do donation wedding photographers come into this mix :p ?
I would like to say very well written Love my Dress, but how can a photographer starting out compete with the extortionate price of a 10 year professional? I must say that upset me a bit Tom Ravenshear. Are you implying that because my first year at being a wedding photographer I am inexperienced or unskilled or not as creative as you are at the art of photography because I am only 20 years of age. Even though I have been a working photographer for 5 years! Have a look on my Facebook page ‘Naomi Fowler Photography’ and tell me my wedding work isn’t as good as yours? The only difference is I am £300 this year and you are 2.5K. How very pompous of you. My very own opinion is I wouldn’t expect to pay no more than £700(even then that is a good deal). On my day I will pay what ever is needed if I find someones work I love i won’t even give it a second thought. I would just go with it. If you come across someone starting out with a fresh eye and creative heart why not give small businesses a chance.
This is a very well written piece, but I have to raise a couple of points that I don’t feel were quite covered.
Firstly, I have seen in action the difference in price between mentioning wedding, and choosing to describe it as a party or celebration. Same spec, same people, same dates, hugely different prices. I suspect this could perhaps been justified with a “but you’re treated like a bride if it’s a wedding package”, which just makes me feel bad. I don’t like the idea of paying for customer service.
What I also have issues with is the portrayal of certain wedding expenses as “affordable” by supplier, presumably to try and show high for such search terms on Google. There will always be more expensive options out there, but just because they’re wedding shoes, £300 isn’t affordable. A £4k venue is never going to fall in affordable category, and it’s unfair in many ways to the industry to portray these costs as affordable, making people think that this is what they “should” be having. etc etc.
This really isn’t aimed at freelancers (who I know have considerably more overheads that companies who provide the same services but probably not the quality), but instead is more a comment on some of the elements of the industry that have made me really uncomfortable when planning the cheapest wedding in the world!
I struggled to make it past the comment about £50k per year being ‘above average’ – a complete understatement, in 2013 that sort of salary (before tax) would put you in the top 10% of earners. Pause there for a moment, that’s more than 90% of the country. Now, if your skills demand that sort of remuneration then fine – but let’s not have any false modesty about earnings.
Did you not read the sentence in bold after it ‘M’?
“It’s important to point out that the vast majority of wedding photographers won’t earn anywhere near as much as this – Tom is in a small minority having developed his business over 15 years.”
I didn’t miss it – I still think ‘above average’ is an understatement when referring to a salary of £50k. As I said, if your skills warrant that (and people are happy to pay for that service) then that’s fine – but you’re in an elite category of earnings.
I was a bit surprised by some prices of wedding-related items, but we managed to have a wonderful wedding for 75 guests for about £9000 total – probably more than I would have said we should spend before I started planning, but which I now realise was actually quite good in the world of weddings. The things we did that helped were 1) make sure we had our priorities in order about what was important to us and what was not really, and 2) try to think outside the box a bit when it came to our suppliers. We used a local venue that does weddings but is not exclusively for weddings, which I expect means it can charge less because it’s income is more diversified, a local food truck provided the catering buffet style with casual BBQ which everyone loved. We bought our alcohol from a specialty shop that let us return unopened bottles up to a certain percentage and hired their staff to serve. Our wedding was on a Sunday evening, which was not our original plan but resulted in more suppliers being available at shorter notice (our whole planning period was 5 months). We had our photographer for the wedding only for 4 hours (no engagement session, no albums, no detail shots, minimal posed portraits, digital files only and a smaller number of photos total). He did a wonderful job for £500, which was the price he offered to us after hearing our requirements. I bought my dress online from America for £300, we used our local florist, and we bought our very minimal decorations ourselves. We didn’t have a bridal party.
This is all to say that yes, it’s expensive and for very good reasons that I am not at all arguing with. But if you’re working with a smaller budget, you can still have a beautiful wedding and get great suppliers at good prices without haggling (and I have a horror of negotiating, you say the price, I pay it or I don’t buy, I trust that you price your items for what you need to run your business). You just need to be a bit flexible, do your research, and be clear on what’s important to you and what’s not.
Thank you for this very well-written and informative post. I think many of the pulled quotes were spot on, it’s all the behind the scenes work that goes into creating something beautiful for clients. I also think this article will hopefully encourage those who are hesitant to price correctly and are underselling to price what they are worth. I agree with all the tips at the end, but especially number 10 by Laura…spot on.
Phylecia, you are so welcome. And thank you so much for contributing to the discussion,
When anyone says that wedding photographers charge to much, I always think. Well you should come and see my house. I bet it’s smaller than yours!
I would echo one of the comments: all you need is the couple, a priest/registrar, and two witnesses; the rest is extra.
Having officiated at a great many weddings over 30yrs I’ll add my own two-penn’orth:
1. Some of the least enjoyable and most vexing have cost the most – and vice versa
2. People spend far too long planning, over-thinking, and faffing about quite unimportant details, instead of the real reason and purpose: two people dedicating themselves exclusively to each other, and rejoicing in their love together with friends and family.
3. The best, most relaxed, and most enjoyable weddings have often been those arranged in least time at least cost.
4. You do not need a photographic record of every moment: photographs, unlike memory, do not colour (and sometimes improve!) with age and reminiscence; and most people, let’s face it, will not look at them more than once (apologies to the professionals out there, but it’s true).
5. This is real life, not a RomCom, not Disney.
6. As others have said: get as many people, friends & family, involved in doing, preparing, helping, as possible, they are delighted to be asked, and will feel much more part ofthe whole thing.
7. The most important thing that will be done and said on the day, is that the couple will face each other, hold hands, and exchange vows; the most important words are “I will” – the rest is fun.
8. What really counts is not the wedding, but the marriage – which is the work of a lifetime.
Thanks for leaving your points FR Richard, and thank you for having taken the time to share them (apologies that I’m only just acknowledging!).
Completely disagree with point 4 – I look at our wedding photographs very regularly and I know many of our readers do too. Perhaps it’s a girl thing 🙂
Completely agree however with your final point. And perfectly put it is.
Thanks so much,
A really thoughtful article that articulates a lot of my fellow wedding professionals frustrations.
I regularly view a variety of wedding groups on Facebook and my heart always sinks when I view posts berating charges made by wedding suppliers, these posts are usually accompanied by fellow posters stating “I can do that cheaper myself”.
Not every bride and groom will have the amount of money needed to employ the best of the best, be prepared or want to spend the money to ensure quality and experience. Everyone has a budget they need to stick to and what is a priority to one isn’t for another, the same can be said for any of life’s purchases whether wedding related or not.
Wow, Annabel….You have given the Wedding Industry a voice! Thank you.
Ha, you are so welcome Joanna – sorry it’s taken me 3 months to reply to this comment! xx
What a great and well balanced piece. We have a wedding venue in SW France and many couples don’t appreciate the amount of work that goes into planning, organising, interpreting wishes and desires as well as maintaining places so that everything is perfect on the day. I will certainly add you to my regular reading!!
I completely get what you’re saying here. In a lot of ways, you’re paying for the convenience of it all too – other people to iron out the nitty-gritty problems and who know what to expect and when to expect it. In the case of photography, you’ve also got to take into account the number of extra study or time that they put into their craft, perfecting it, be it before your wedding, honing the actual act of capturing that cute little moment between you and your sweetheart and so on, or after, carefully editing out that annoying photo-bomber or the weird lighting that was going on out in the random field you chose. Not to mention, crowd-control, which is a massive factor when you’re taking the family photos right after the wedding. An amateur generally can’t help you there.
My brother recently got married and he and his wife managed to get hitched for under $6000 AUD (we’re Aussies – hi!), but not without due toll – many were the favours they had to call in from family and friends and there were a number of hiccoughs! They got a beginning photographer to take photos and, while it was great that she was starting, you could really tell that she wasn’t used to coordinating it all. She wasn’t terribly good with organizing the group photos or figuring out the locations and the bridal party photos went over by a whole hour and a half, delaying the reception massively (they’d already factored in 2.5 hours for the photos). So there’s the pricing in that regard – you get what you pay for. Admittedly, they’re pretty alright photos – nothing mind-blowing, but pretty good.
In regards to pricing everything else, because we all knew what financial strain they were under (they’re both university students), we (the immediate family and close friends) all pitched in and contributed with what we could to help out, be it our time and effort or a bit of money here and there, or even, in my fiance’s and my case, our contacts (we’re musicians and helped out with the entertainment). It wasn’t the smoothest run thing and it was quite casual (we had subs delivered and set them up in a buffet style, for example, and the bouquets were made out of fake flowers ahead of time, which turned out to be good, since my new sister-in-law developed a pollen allergy 2 weeks out from the wedding), but that’s how they wanted it and, to be honest, they were really just glad to get married, surrounded by the people they love and weren’t too stressed by what people thought about it (which was great! And no one kicked up a fuss, which was equally awesome). They really prioritized what they wanted (for example, they drove their own cars to and from the wedding) and went for it.
But it’s really true – all you need for a wedding is the registry office. So many people forget that. If you want quality, expect to pay for it (not that my brother’s wedding wasn’t quality – it was, in many respects – but you won’t see it in any wedding magazines any time soon).
Hello over there in Australia,
My apologies that I’ve taken so long to reply.
“All you need for a wedding is the registry office. So many people forget that. If you want quality, expect to pay for it.”
Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
Two of our children got married last year. Our daughter got married last summer and just a week after the wedding our son announced that he was going to marry in November so we had three months between each wedding. Both weddings were lovely, personal days which were thoroughly enjoyed by all the family. Our daughter is quite sensible and saves very hard. Her priority was to have a family wedding which would be fun and relaxed and not break the bank. She achieved this by having her wedding on a Thursday in August.
The wedding ceremony was held in our local church and the reception was held in a lovely seaside village which is only six miles from our hometown. The hotel is a small, family run hotel and the owners were so helpful and provided a wonderful reception. My daughter accepted lots of help from lovely, talented friends and family members who could help. The music and singing in church was a family affair with my son, my other daughter and I providing the music.
The reception music was supplied by my son’s wedding band who played at a very special “mates rates”. The wedding cake was made by my new son in law’s aunt as a wedding present and was a beautiful and wonderful gift. My daughter was very hands off in terms of her wedding and I provided her stationery – invitations and Mass booklets. As a surprise we had the bride and groom’s Mass booklets trimmed with material trims from my wedding dress (my dress had been transformed into a Christening Robe and all my children christened in it) I also gifted her her flowers from a very talented florist.
My daughter chose the colour for her bouquet and we had a beautiful blue rosary incorporated into the bouquet for the something blue. The flowers in the church were all greens and whites and we were able to have the flowers transferred to the wedding reception and still left some flowers as our gift to the church. We also returned some flowers to the church after the reception. The bridal bouquet was red and the two bridesmaids bouquets were one hot pink bouquet and one pretty lemon bouquet. The men wore corresponding buttonholes.
We had a vintage ice cream van arrive at the hotel to supply the guests ice cream during the time the couple had their photos taken. We had a lovely sit down meal and for the supper had fish goujons and chips. We also had rock sweets for the tables. This all tied in with the seaside wedding theme and the vintage 50s theme of the wedding. My daughter had a beautiful 50s style wedding dress which was 450 pounds. Her headdress was a beautiful tiara that she had worn as a child on her First Communion day and which had been reset as a comb by a wonderful milliner. The bridesmaids had two vintage style dresses from a website which specialises in vintage style clothing.
Both dresses were slightly different styles in the same shade of green and both cost less than £100 each. The groom’s suit was bought in Designers at Debenhams in a lovely shade of blue and the two groomsmen were kitted out with navy Next suits and accessories at the unbelievable price of 130 per man (including shirts and shoes). This was even less expensive than hiring out wedding outfits and meant they could keep them after the event.
My daughter kept her numbers to a total of 90 guests and this also kept the overall costing to a level she and her groom were happy with. The couple had cute little 50s style cars – one black Westminster and one grey Westminster which had the most beautiful red leather upholstery. The photographer was amazing and was worth every penny of her fee. My daughter and her husband are both quite camera shy and she put them completely at their ease. She had a wee engagement shoot with them which helped her to see them and for all to get to know each other before the wedding. The photographs are really lovely. If you decide what is the most important element for you to spend on for your wedding then you can save a little in other areas of the wedding which are of less importance.
Our son’s wedding was a beautiful, intimate wedding with just the lovely couple and immediate family totalling 8 in the whole wedding party. Our son wore the designer suit I had bought him as a birthday present to wear for his sister’s wedding three months before and he had different accessories and shirt and tie for his own wedding. His beautiful, practical bride decided she wanted a very simple wedding dress and insisted that she did not want to pay a fortune for it so she threw caution to the wind and got really lucky with a wedding dress purchased from an online site. My daughter in law is tall and willowy and the dress was really beautiful on her. She paid a small fee to a local dressmaker who took it in and made it fit beautifully to her body. She also had a lovely, fake fur jacket to keep her warm. The wedding was held in our Town Hall registry office and the ceremony was held for the fee of £100.
There were no bridesmaids or best men so no one else for them to dress. Both of our daughters were witnesses and they wore beautiful dresses of their own choice. I supplied the wedding flowers for the couple and the bride had a beautiful red rose bouquet and the groom had a red rose button hole to match. The bride’s bouquet had a little Irish harp broach with a blue stone for the something blue. My daughter in law is Polish so the flowers in red and white and greenery represented the Polish colours mixing with the green for Ireland. All of the guests had button holes to match which I supplied. My daughter in law and I spent the night before the wedding in a lovely hotel as her mother was unable to travel to Ireland and on the night of the wedding the couple spent the night there as a wee gift from us. I supplied a cute wee white vintage Volkswagen car with an open top which looked lovely in the photos. The wedding was just a few days after Halloween and the reception was at a wonderful pub and restaurant which specialises in gourmet food in a relaxed environment. They also have wonderful Halloween displays and these look wonderful in the photos. The ring my son wears was his grandfather’s ring (his grandfather had passed away and my son was very close to him). I had the ring resized and polished for him. I had the cake made and it was a beautiful, chocolate fudge cake which was decorated with the red and white flowers and greenery (all edible) to match the wedding flowers. We had a wonderful, relaxed afternoon lunch and afterwards returned to our home town and attended a Musical, as the groom – our son – was performing that evening as part of the orchestra. The show was in the same hall in which the couple had been married that morning.
The couple then went to Poland for their honeymoon and as part of the time there they spent some time with the Brides family. They really enjoyed their wedding day as did we and as my son is in a wedding band he has been part of many others wedding day celebrations. He and his bride chose to do theirs differently by having a quiet wedding. On the evening of the wedding the couple were invited on stage and a wee presentation made to them to celebrate the nuptials. This was a shock and a surprise as the cast had heard about their wedding. It was a lovely gesture. Sorry for the long post but I just wanted to highlight the different types of weddings and the way that they all are beautiful and individual as each couple is.
Good luck to all planning weddings and remember that the day will pass and although you will have lovely memories just don’t stress and please yourselves and do it with imagination and within your budget.
Not sure why this comment has only just come through our system Caroline, but thank you for taking the time to write it!
What a fascinating read, Annabel!
As a wedding blogger myself, I write about ideas for making savings; but it hadn’t occurred to me to explain the legitimacy of associated costs. This is a fab idea! It not only benefits the vendors, but I feel certain that clients will be less resentful of spiralling fees when they appreciate where they are coming from and that it is not simply about lining pockets.
I will be sharing with my readers!
Thanks Kate! Really appreciate your kinds words and offer to share. Off to visit your website!
Love Annabel xx
Really enjoyed your article on wedding costs, made me smile! People do not understand the thought and time that goes into a wedding booking.
Few years ago I had an enquiry for a small wedding at a venue I was running. Showed bride around explained the packages available.She decided it was not for her wanted a more low key event simple meal with friends and left. She did book with my colleague but as an anniversary dinner in a smaller private room, 3 course menu very straight forward.We had a large wedding booked that day, but as this was a small anniversary ”do” in another room it was acceptable.
Alarm bells started ringing when her friends arrived wanting to decorate the room! Bride arrived in her lovely white dress we felt dreadful never had a bride arrived at our venue without the staff available to greet her, red carpet down and champagne ready! The worst thing was that our bride who was booked had to walk past her. We always promise only one wedding per day !
Hello Brides-to-be, Brides-already-been, and Bridal enthusiasts,
I just thought I would weigh in on behalf of photographers. I’m the daughter of a photographer (her website is listed above. Melbourne, Australia based brides check her out), and I can testify to how hard photographers work. Yesterday she did 2 hours of actually taking photos, and now (so far) she’s put in about 6 hours of editing work. There is so much more to photography then people realise, and so many people don’t realise the amount of work that goes into catching peoples memories.
I would like to say thank you to all the people who value the skills of the people who help make there big day special.
May you all have bright and happy weddings ( and lives in general).
My mothers website didn’t show up.
Janette Anderson Photography
Lots of good points in this article: and it’s useful to have a breakdown of costs: but it misses the central point. Why is the same venue – for instance – not offered at a standard party rate if that is all that’s wanted. I hear you that the venue is offered all day as opposed to hour by hour – but that’s the problem. People should have the choice not to have the whole package for a wedding, just the bits they want. The practice of rolling up all the extras into a wedding offer is called ‘bundling’ and it’s a classic way to up the costs. People should be quoted the same price for a party as for a wedding, for the same offer: an hourly rate and/or room hire and/or food hire, etc and if they run-over they should be charged more, as with any other extras. If wedding suppliers simply charged by an hourly rate for the same services they provide for non-weddings there wouldn’t even be this discussion. But they always seem to present ‘wedding packages’ and that’s where the problem lies.