Hey, have you heard? The wedding industry is such a ripoff!
Over the weekend, a fellow wedding professional (whom I happen to respect tremendously) shared to Facebook a link to an article on Slate.com. In it, writer Will Oremus starts off with a reasonable point: that wedding sites such as The Knot are being imprecise in publicizing the “average” cost of a wedding, when in reality what they mean is the “median.” In other words, even one extravagant wedding would drive up disproportionately the purported average cost for a wedding, when all other weddings surveyed might cost relatively little.
The second page of the article is where things get offensive – or at least, that’s how some seem to be taking it. Me, I had to just yawn.
See, Mr. Oremus’ attempt at writing yet another “wedding industry exposé” is, at this point, just a snooze. Attempting to paint wedding vendors as money-hungry predators is miles away from incendiary, investigative journalism; instead, it’s tired, it’s boring and it’s old. Back when I still had feathers that could be ruffled, I ranted about this same tactic in a post about a garbage 20/20 segment called “Wedding Confidential,” and in a post about an idiotic email about an idiotic e-book. And those posts were only two times that I happened to take the bait – there certainly have been plenty of media jabs at our industry.
So yeah, this article was probably meant to seem hard-hitting, but really, none of the punches feel like they landed.
An example of Mr. Oremus’ attempt at provocation: “…People in the wedding business don’t just use the average numbers as a sign of the industry’s health. They use it as justification for their exorbitant prices and as a bludgeon with which to beat would-be frugal couples into submission.”
There’s so much wrong with this sentiment, it’s hard to know where to begin. Generally speaking, though, I have to wonder when the wedding industry became the enemy of so many. Is it because we’re monetizing a celebration that is associated with something so deeply personal as the union of marriage? I guess I’m not sure why choosing to spend more than “average” (or is it more than the “median?”) on an important life celebration is so much more objectionable than spending on any other purchase. We all allocate our money toward things we value, whether it’s clothes or cars or jewelry or travel or (in my case) tattoos. Why should weddings, which carry tremendous emotional and social significance, be any different?
Funny enough, I can’t think of any other industry that gets as much flak. While some people spend thousands each season on their wardrobe, I’ve found that most of the people who can’t (or choose not to) don’t even give it a second thought – it’s simply not on their radar. That, or they take pride in the opposite end of the spectrum, taking pride in bargain shopping and thrifting as a sign of their resourcefulness. Same with cars; I don’t see the Kia and Hyundai drivers I know losing sleep over those driving Mercedes and BMWs. Really, it seems to be only weddings that bring out this weird mix of contempt, disdain, and righteousness in people who are unable to afford the luxury.
And make no mistake –it is a luxury. I work with some of the most exorbitantly expensive (and commensurately talented) wedding professionals in this industry, and I don’t know a single one who considers his/her service to be essential to the actual act of marrying. I don’t know a single one who considers his/her service to be a necessity. And, especially among the most high-end vendors, I don’t know a single one who wants to “beat” anyone into anything. They have a client base who are more than happy to pay premium rates for a premium service or product, simply because they want to. Because they see the value.
(On a related note, very few wedding professionals I know, regardless of their price point within the marketplace, want much of anything to do with “frugal couples.” Because again, they acknowledge that what they’re selling isn’t actually needed – it’s something that at least some people want, and as vendors they’re trying to find and market to those people. You know, like every other business in every other industry.)
I should point out that, after collectively painting all wedding vendors as swindlers, and minimizing the significance of our work (professional photographers take “snapshots,” dontcha know?), Mr. Oremus ends his article with less of a roar than a whimper. “There’s nothing wrong with spending 28 G’s in 24 hours if you’ve got the means,” he snarks. Gee thanks, buddy. I’m sure that luxury wedding clientele were waiting with bated breath for your permission for their choices.
I sincerely hope no wedding professionals lose a moment’s sleep over this kind of lame, lazy “exposé.” Rather, I hope everyone will see it for what it is – a half-assed attempt at jumping on the Weddings are Wasteful train, which left the station years ago when so-called journalists first discovered they could get readers and viewers all riled up at the mere thought that someone else might be spending more on their parties.
We as luxury service providers have every right to feel proud of our businesses, and to feel confident that what we do brings value, beauty and joy to our clients’ lives. Of course, value, beauty and joy aren’t rights given to any of us by God or the Constitution – but they’re something that grown adults can choose to pay for, and there’s no shame in the sale.