We are very concerned about articles online at popular wedding planning sites purporting to educate and advise brides and grooms about how to plan their weddings that we feel are detrimental to both the industry and to clients looking to hire their perfect vendors.
The most distressing article we came across advises brides to “be indifferent” to their vendors when discussing their wedding plans with them. We cannot understand this type of advice. Your relationship with your vendors needs to be built on trust and mutual respect. It also needs to be built on openness. Whoever you choose to work with will be sharing your most intimate day with you and your family. If you cannot open up to these vendors and provide such things as your contact information, your budget, and tell them what your hopes, dreams and vision for your wedding are, then they are not going to be able to service your needs. It is putting vendors at a disadvantage that is ultimately not in your best interest. Personally, we like to have a relationship with each of our clients. We see each and every one of our clients as part of our family; and we want you to feel that way for a good reason. The truth is that as vendors we cannot service your specific needs without knowing what they are. If you are indifferent toward your vendors and don’t share your dreams and your wishes and your limitations then there is no way that a professional business can help you. What chance does a business have of communicating their passion for what they do and of informing a client about how and why they are different from other businesses if they are not given the opportunity to have a personal connection with the client? In our opinion one of the most important pieces of information that you need in order to make the right decision is finding out why each vendor is different from the last one you talked to. THAT is how you make an informed decision. If we as vendors aren’t allowed to have a personal relationship and establish a personal connection with our clients then we can’t flush out what the bullet points on our price sheet really mean. For instance, saying “editing of images” does not fully describe what we do. If we never get the chance to talk about and show our clients what exactly they are receiving, then the consumer does not have all of the information and will be unable to make a fully informed decision. In the end this kind of advice is leading to people making their decision solely on price and not on the individual merits, personality and experience level of the vendors they are considering. This can never be a good way to make a decision, regardless of one’s price point.
This particular article goes on to encourage brides to “Find out what other vendors offer for the same price point, and use this as leverage. Ask about every single thing that’s included in your package. Then find out in advance what extras are going to cost … and whether those costs can be waived.” True professionals insist on providing you with all of this information up front before you sign the contract. True professionals don’t want to have any room for confusion, misunderstanding or disappointment. There are plenty of inexperienced, unprofessional vendors out there in this industry that are more than happy to take your money without being fully transparent and up front with you. And believe me we get calls every year from brides whose photographer flaked on them just weeks before their wedding, or who found their engagement pictures looked nothing like what was on the photographer’s blog and website, or who realized too late that they would have to spend an extra thousand or more dollars to get their CD of images. All of these experiences add up to leave these clients frustrated, disappointed and sometimes stranded and without much choice at that point. But truly professional studios really want you to know everything about how they work for you, because they want you to make the BEST decision possible for you. When you make the best decision and that decision turns out to be to work with us, then we know you are going to be happy. And happy clients make positive referrals for us. It is a WIN-WIN situation. Everyone benefits and everyone wins.
To consider comparing various price sheets without taking into consideration very important aspects of the vendors being considered, things like customer service, years in business, business reputation, experience level, creativity, style, etc, is a bad way to choose someone that will be such an important part of your wedding day. This is how one might go about buying a new car: you get Consumer Reports, you go online to research the specs of the car you want, and then you call dealerships and locate the best deal. You don’t even have to visit a car lot. A lot of people would probably say that this is great advice for purchasing a car, the reason being that all other things being equal, the car itself doesn’t change from shop to shop unless of course you’re buying a custom Rolls Royce or ordering a Mini-Cooper that has to be hand-built to your specifications. But weddings are the most highly personalized experience you are likely to have the chance to create in your lifetime. Your car is not. Your car is not personalized like your wedding menu is likely to be, or your invitations are surely going to be, or the style of your photography is going to be, etc. This is simply not a smart way of hiring your wedding vendors, certainly not the ones that will be with you for most of your day. Each vendor’s personality, each vendor’s sense of style, each vendor’s creativity is going to impact your wedding day. If you make your decision based strictly on comparing price points and trying to leverage down each and every vendor you’re likely to be left with the least common denominator; the person willing to give you the best DEAL however is usually the LEAST likely to give you the best of everything else … service, reliability, timeliness, talent, experience, passion and creativity. We noticed that the articles providing this type of misleading advice to brides conveniently leave all of these related insights out.
Weddings are different from any other business transaction that you will ever make in your life. Planning your wedding is actually a collection of decisions to be made that will result in one day that CANNOT be done over again. The memories from your day will stay with you for the rest of your life. If you hire someone who doesn’t have the experience that you wanted and you arrived at the decision to hire them based solely on price, then you are likely to be left with an experience that doesn’t make you happy. And you will remember THAT experience way more than the happy memories of your day. When we tell people what we do for a living they usually very quickly share all the details about how bad their own wedding photography was at their wedding. These people usually admit that the vendors they hired they hired based on cost rather than based on experience level. For an example, we’ve had a few people tell us that they never received their images. We’ve had clients hire us after hiring a different photographer because their engagement session images didn’t match their expectations. One bride told us their photographer kept telling them how uncomfortable they looked during their engagement session; after seeing their pictures they fired him and hired us. The list goes on … but the single common theme between all of these people is that they did not use a reputable business. Instead they focused on the great deal they got. It is unfortunate that their memory of their wedding is wrapped up in this negative experience they had with this particular vendor, all because they chose them because of price and NOT because of the relationship, quality, experience level, or other myriad factors they could have decided on.
We totally respect having a limited budget for your wedding. Working with a limited amount of resources is completely understandable and should be respected by all of your vendors. Likewise, high quality vendors who are trustworthy, respectful and have an expertise in their field deserve the respect for what they charge. These vendors are not weekend warriors who have second jobs and they are not hobbyists who dabble in this very serious profession. True professionals are people who dedicate their lives to ensuring that you have beautiful imagery, a flawless day, gorgeous flowers, amazing video, access to amazing gowns wherever you live, great music, hair and makeup done flawlessly, food that your guests will remember for the next 20 years, a plan b in case of catastrophe (not to mention the ability to quickly execute it), and so forth. This group of individuals puts their heart and soul weekend after weekend and week after week into creating your special day. If you cannot afford to have the very best of every vendor because your budget is limited, then you need to prioritize your vendor list and invest the most money where your priorities lie. This is the advice echoed by every event coordinator we know.
But some of the budget tools we see online are misleading to brides and grooms and paint unrealistic pictures of what is possible with today’s wedding budgets. Accurate budget planning needs to help brides and grooms, who have usually never planned a wedding before, to understand what the costs and process for budgeting for a wedding should be. Instead the popular online wedding budget tools don’t take into account individual priorities and local/regional pricing. This first point we cannot stress enough. We work with clients of all means and all budgets. The one common thread with our clients is that they prioritize high quality, artistic, modern, creative wedding photography. Our clients are often willing to go without other things because they have arrived at the decision that for them photography is of utmost importance. Oftentimes they contacted our studio, having used an online budgeting tool that does not give them a true picture of what a photography package will cost or include. Whereas these budget tools suggest that location and food should be expected to cost 48-50% of the total budget, only 10-12% is recommended to set aside and be split between photography and videography. But if photography is THE most important thing to you, then budgeting 25% or more on photography is not unrealistic. Because we only know pricing for photographers we can’t really speak about other vendors but we assume the point is the same across the board. In the end more important that what things cost in every category is what category of vendors are a priority to you because your budget ultimately needs to reflect what your priorities are.
The thing we find most disturbing about these planning articles, in addition to the inaccurate budget planning advice, is the current emphasis on removing the relationship between the vendor and the bride and groom from the decision-making process. We cannot stress enough how harmful this can be both for the industry at large and for each and every bride trying to decide who to work with. The wedding industry at heart is a very personalized, relationship-based industry. Like your engagement ring that was personally selected or created just for you, the wedding industry is full of creative individuals committed to creating the day of your dreams. It is crucial that you have a relationship with them so that they can help fulfill your dreams for your wedding. You have to be willing to take a chance and fall in love with each and every one of your vendors, to have a personal relationship with each person you consider hiring, and to build trust with each of your vendors, so that the partnership between you and each of your vendors, being first established in a positive place, results in your perfect day. In the end, you’re far more likely to get a better DEAL from a vendor you establish a personal connection with than someone you don’t.