I received an email a couple of weeks ago that was troubling, to say the least. In it, an author named Brenda Westwood was asking me to use my MyDeejay blog to promote her e-book, “Wise Wedding Planning: How You Can Stage A Successful Wedding That Fits Your Budget.” She wanted to exchange links and for me to become an affiliate seller and use her guest content on my blog.
Immediately, the email struck me as fishy. No, more than fishy. It was shady to the point of being ridiculous. Was I being Punk’d?
For one thing, Ms. Westwood claimed her book, priced at $49.95, is “a lot more affordable than most books in this category” (Amazon would likely disagree, seeing as how it offers e-books on budget weddings for $0-12).
Better yet, affiliate sellers earn $37.46 per sale — that’s 75% of the price!
That might not be so bad if it wasn’t a book marketed to “budget brides.” Brenda Westwood is basically charging $50 for a PDF, delivered wirelessly, and giving three-quarters of that money away to her affiliates. I guess wedding business owners are supposed to jump at the opportunity at making $37 and change per sale, all to promote cost-cutting above all else?
So, out of morbid curiosity, I then wandered over to the URL she gave me. What I read there made me feel sick.
(Before I go into detail, let me explain how annoyed I am at the depiction of the wedding industry as a bunch of greedy vultures, out to suck the lifeblood from poor, hapless brides. That disgusts me. Weddings themselves are a luxury — the only thing you need in order to get married is the license and someone to make it legal, and everything else is just a bonus. Wedding business owners, regardless of where they fall on the pricing spectrum, are offering a luxury service: a completely nonessential, luxury service that exists to make couples’ weddings more personal, more beautiful and more special, and in many cases, less stressful, too. Just because some wedding products and services exceed some couples’ budgets, that does not make the wedding industry predatory by nature. The auto industry isn’t considered predatory simply because Bentleys cost more than Kias; the apparel industry isn’t considered predatory simply because Saks charges more than Walmart. Why should the wedding industry be any different?)
Whew…now that I have that out of my system, allow me to share what I found at Ms. Westwood’s site:
First, a pretty bold promise: “I’m Certain I Can CUT The Cost Of YOUR Wedding By At LEAST 50% Without Sacrificing Any Of The Quality. And Some People Will See Up To 85% Savings.”
I’m just going to go ahead and call bullshit on that right now. I’m certain that in calculating those percentages, Ms. Westwood is going to be comparing apples and oranges. And who’s the arbiter of “quality” here?
Ms. Westwood goes on to say: “See, when businesses hear the word “wedding” they see the money signs $$$$..See, businesses are used to ripping people off on their big day, because they KNOW people will pay it…It’s their big day.”
She specifically calls out cake designers for charging “10 times” more for a wedding cake than a non-wedding cake. Again, apples and oranges. I am completely positive that if I called one of the talented cake designers I know and respect, they would quote me the same price for an elaborate, 100-serving, multi-tiered cake with fondant and hand-formed sugar flowers, all delivered and set up — whether it was for my wedding or my dad’s retirement party (not that he’d want the sugar flowers!). Ms. Westwood’s claim is bogus. She calls out hairstylists and caterers using the same premise. Calling us all ripoff artists, essentially — and I assume she’s saying this so that she can advise brides to lie about the purpose of their celebration. I’m sure that’ll go over well.
Ms. Westwood states, “…The wedding industry is designed in such a way that makes you spend more than less. Wedding suppliers know how important this day is in your life and they feed on your fear that it won’t be as perfect as you’ve wanted it to be…This is the strategy that they use to get you to spend on things you don’t really want or need.”
So…where does she get her expertise? On her site, she shares that she has spent three years as an “assistant coordinator” and that, a year ago, she was a “blushing bride” herself. Now, she’s apparently figured out how to “outsmart the suppliers into giving you a fair price.” She claims that, with her sage advice, she will “remove your need for a wedding planner.” (Note, also, that she calls out wedding coordinators as expensive, and states, “…You know that they also get commission from all the suppliers they will be using on your wedding. So you can just imagine the additional $$$ that gets added to your total bill.” She says this as though any reputable wedding professionals deal in commission. That’s pretty rich, coming from someone who pays out 75% of her book prices as kickbacks to her “affiliates!”)
I almost forgot to mention: Ms. Westwood claims on her page that her e-book is “truly a bargain at $99.95 $49.95!” And that it’s “so affordable” because it’s a digital e-book, whereas a printed copy would raise the cost to $129.00!
I’m disgusted, to say the least. Not so much that the book itself was written — there are books out there on every topic, for every audience, and I don’t have to like them all — but that (a) the author, after supposedly working in our industry for three years, has decided to capitalize on the damaging and completely misleading notion that wedding business owners are greedy scam artists; (b) that she’s hypocritical enough to price-gouge her own customers to the tune of $50 for a freaking PDF file; and (c) that she expects wedding business owners to actually promote this nonsense.
I wrote back to Ms. Westwood and told her that I didn’t like the premise that her website seemed to promote, and that I’m not in the practice of endorsing products of which I have no firsthand knowledge, but that if she’d like to forward a copy of her e-book, I’d gladly take a look. Of course, I never got a response. Guess I’ll have to draw my own conclusions based on how Ms. Westwood is marketing her book to brides and to potential affiliates.
So, to Brenda Westwood, I say screw “Wise Wedding Planning.” From all outward appearances, it’s overpriced, hypocritical, sensationalist garbage that’s feeding the “I deserve my dream wedding without having to pay for it” monster that is causing some small business owners to go under and making the rest of us crazy. No self-respecting wedding business would support your muckraking, and if they do, I don’t want to know them.