Last week the New York Times published an article in their economics column of the magazine that was a new take on the old “evil wedding industry” label that has been in the recycling bin of news stories for the past 5-10 years. For some reason, when a publication like the NY Times runs a story like that, and slaps an “academic” label on it by having it written by an “economist” it has an even more harsh sting… because it’s not only exhausted material, it’s one that comes with absolutely no practical examination of the wedding “industry” as a whole.
I wrote a response piece that the Huffington Post was gracious enough to run. Many of you have certainly read it (and I thank you for the Feedback and the RT’s and Facebook shares and likes), but if you haven’t, you can read it here.
In the week since I wrote it however, I’ve been doing some thinking about what it is that rubs authors like Ms. Rampell the wrong way. As an industry (an expression that I’m more and more loathe to use since it plays into this idea of a massive, churning complex of intertwined business endeavors drumming up schemes for money…So I think I will adopt Liene Stevens “Wedding Market”). As Marketplace as a whole, we’ve done such a great job of marketing our abilities as creatives, that we have in many ways hidden from view the fact that we are actually businesses created to generate profit.
We’ve hidden this fact from the public eye so well, that couples get downright disgruntled when they discover that your time, creativity and products cost money… more than they could have imagined.
Part of this is because numbers make brides and grooms nervous. Prices are the fork in the road between fantasy and reality. This is true generally, but it’s doubly true of weddings. We’ve been conditioned as a market to keep the bride happy, and in many ways that’s created a culture that’s ironically shy to talk about pricing… not because we’re trying to cajole anyone into something they can’t afford, but because we don’t want to be the person that tells a bride to be that she has to reverse the vehicle on fantasy lane, go back to the fork and bear right onto Reality Road.
I’m wondering if we shouldn’t rethink some of this.
We have to be less shy about introducing the reality of money, budget and price to our prospective clients, particularly in the Luxury segment of the market. We need to be clear from the beginning on how we charge. We need to be as upfront as possible on what our “starting rates” are.
“Average” wedding budgets make BIG news in the media… but those press releases never come with a look book. Don’t be shy to explain to a potential bride or groom what YOUR average client spends. Be knowledgable about statistics and realistic about the differences between a luxury wedding and an “average” wedding. Educating the customer about the business of weddings can actually be an effective part of your sales pitch…. it has been for us for years.
YES we are fantasy makers, but YES we are business owners too and hosting a wedding is a milestone, but it’s also part of a commerce exchange. Shielding a couple from this fact doesn’t make the reality any easier…it just makes the inevitable band-aid removal more painful.