Bringing Your Wedding Vision Into Better Focus Than 20/20

ABC television, in a recent broadcast of its 20/20 program, aired a rambling episode that they called “Wedding Confidential.”  This episode consisted of several segments, one of which was an attempt to portray wedding industry professionals as scam artists who gouge engaged couples at every opportunity.  In case you missed it, you can watch the entire show by clicking here.

Many outraged members of the wedding industry have offered insightful rebuttals to the 20/20 segment. If you want to read some of the commentary about the 20/20 program, please visit the blogs of my colleagues Alan Berg and Andy Ebon.  Since I have previously commented on these kinds of accusations in another blog post, I will not repeat my prior observations here.  But after finally watching the program online and mulling over the massive outcry it generated, I wanted to offer a slightly different, and hopefully helpful, perspective.

Yes, there are a few bad apples in every industry, and the wedding industry is no exception.  But what is truly important for the engaged couple is to know how to avoid the bad apples.  Brides and grooms certainly won’t learn that by watching 20/20, a program that was designed to entertain, not educate.  So in the paragraphs that follow, I want to take this opportunity to offer my advice to couples on how to make sure you are getting fair value for the wedding services you need.

The single most important thing you can do to ensure that you’re paying a fair price is to obtain proposals from more than one service provider in each vendor type that you need for your wedding (i.e. florists, photographers, caterers, etc.).  And it’s fine to inform each vendor you contact that you will also be getting other quotes – most vendors would expect you to do that anyway.

Make sure that you ask for similar levels of services from the vendors you contact, so that you can make an accurate comparison of the quotes you receive. Getting 2 or 3 proposals from qualified service providers is typically enough for you to make an informed decision.  (Getting 20 to 30 proposals is unnecessarily draining on everyone’s time – especially yours.)  Your decision on which vendor proposal you prefer may be based on the price quoted, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you consider – you may, for instance, decide to select a more expensive photographer because you liked their style the best.

Assuming I’ve convinced you of the value of getting multiple proposals, an important question may still be nagging at you – “How can I be sure that all the vendors I am contacting are qualified, capable and trustworthy?”

My advice is to look for service providers that have credentials, experience and established reputations.  Many qualified vendors belong to non-profit associations that seek to advance the level of professionalism in the industry.  These associations include the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, the International Special Events Society and the National Association of Catering Executives.

If you’re looking at wedding websites to find qualified service providers, check out listings of vendors that have been carefully screened, such as those appearing on Here Comes the Guide or Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book.  With these listings, the service providers have all received rave reviews from couples as well as other respected professionals in the wedding industry.  Other website listings may only require the service provider to pay a fee to be listed, so there is no mechanism in place to confirm the qualifications of the advertiser.

So I hope the above advice will help you find reliable service providers that you can count on to make your wedding day a wonderful experience.  But before concluding this blog post, I wanted to address one more issue that was brought up in the 20/20 program segment – whether service providers typically charge more for weddings than they do for other types of events.  The answer is that sometimes they do, and let me explain why that can be the case.

I can assure you that the amount of time you will put into planning your wedding will far exceed the amount of time you would put into planning another event, such as a birthday party.  After all, birthdays happen every year, but a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you will want to fondly remember your wedding day for the rest of your life.  Your wedding vendors want that for you, too.

But this means that your service providers may also need to spend more time working with you to prepare for your big day, to ensure that your wedding celebration is a much more special occasion than a more “ordinary” event like a birthday party.  So it’s not the selections of flowers for your centerpieces, or entrees for dinner, or music for dancing that are themselves more expensive – instead, a somewhat higher price can occasionally result from the extra time that your service providers take to make sure those centerpieces, entrees and tunes are exactly what you want for your wedding.

Overall, the vast majority of wedding service providers work very hard and earn a very modest living.  What motivates them the most is not making money, but making all your wedding dreams come true.

A great example of the kind and generous spirit of most wedding service providers was clearly (and ironically) illustrated in another segment of the same 20/20 program.  This other segment told the story of a bride who supposedly had terminal cancer (she actually did not have cancer, but that is beside the point I’m trying to make here).  What did local wedding service providers do when they heard about this bride’s terminal cancer?  Did they try to overcharge her because she wanted to get married quickly?  No, they offered their services for free or a deep discount because they wanted to help her!  (Unfortunately, since the bride was faking having cancer, it was the wedding service providers who actually got scammed.)

So let me finally wrap things up with what I think is the moral of this story:  If you do your homework to find qualified service providers, and put your trust in these knowledgeable professionals, they will skillfully implement your beautiful wedding vision with much more sharpness and clarity than the producers of 20/20 could ever envision.

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