If you've ever visited Reddit and scrolled through the r/weddingplanning group you will see posts from couples complaining about wedding vendors not being transparent about pricing. I get it! It's super frustrating and time consuming to reach out to all of these vendors only to realize they are far outside of your budget. However, a lot of couples create their budgets based on what they are comfortable spending/have been gifted from family; not necessarily what things actually cost in their area.
I also see the questions of "why are weddings so much more expensive than other events?" The answer is simple. There are very few events where the expectations are as high as a wedding. People dream about their wedding days for years and they want it be near PERFECT. No one is dreaming about their business dinner for years. Yes, both events may have 120 guests and serve a three course meal but there is a huge difference between a business dinner and a wedding reception.
Number 1) expectations.
Number 2) number of hours each vendor is working that day
Number 3) total number of vendors needed
Number 4) logistical complexity
Number 5) amount of time spent planning the event prior to the actual event day
Why don't wedding vendors put their pricing on their website?
Weddings have a lot of variables. It is very difficult to have the same pricing for every couple that is inquiring. This is why a lot of vendors like to have a conversation with couples first before giving out pricing information. When you put starting prices on your website, it is difficult to get couples to move beyond that base number. Every wedding will require a slightly different number of hours and guess what? Wedding vendors are running businesses. As business owners, we do need to make sure we are actually making money taking on your wedding. For example: some weddings have multiple locations which require additional staff, more hours, more logistics. Whereas some couples are having a simple one location wedding with under 100 guests. Weddings on prime dates will also incur a higher fee. No vendor is going to contract at their base rate on the busiest wedding date of the year when they know they could book another couple for 3 times more. It's just simple business.
Should a couple having a simple wedding pay the same as the couple with the very logistically challenging wedding? The answer is no.
Wedding Vendor pricing explained
Let's examine wedding vendor pricing. Let's say a photographer is charging $7,000 for their 8 hour package with a second shooter.
Package cost $7,000
Taxes (30%) -$2,100
Credit Card Processing Fees -$150
Second Shooter Fees -$750
Software fees (contract software, gallery software, etc.)-$130
Profit after direct expenses $3,870
*This is not factoring in costs like business insurance, advertising fees, website fees, domain fees, accountant fees, legal fees which are spread across all weddings.
Hours they are working for your wedding
1 hour - phone consultation
1 hour - sending contracting/ answering questions
5 hours - pre wedding prep (gathering timelines, family photo lists, etc)
2 hours travel time
8 hours wedding day photography time
40 hours post wedding editing
57 total hours
Most photographers limit the number of weddings they take per year. Let's say the photographer in this hypothetical situation does 15 weddings per year. 15 weddings at $7,000 per wedding is $105,000 revenue before taxes and expenses. After taxes and expenses they are profiting $58,050...which is not that much with reinvesting in your business (buying new gear, business licenses, business insurance, advertising costs) Oh, and actually paying yourself a salary! Let's not forget your vendors also need to live in Washington, DC and pay for things like rent/mortgages, living expenses, and all of the things!
An important thing to remember: Wedding professionals are running businesses, which means making a profit is imperative. In all honesty, most vendors are not becoming wealthy doing weddings. In fact, a lot of vendors are not charging nearly enough for their time, expertise, blood, sweat, and tears. Most vendors need to have revenue double if not triple a living salary in DC in order to be comfortable and have a profitable business due to all of the expenses we incur as business owners. A living salary in Washington DC, is estimated to be $82,000 according to the Washington Post.
Things to consider as a couple reaching out to vendors:
If your wedding day is very logistically challenging your costs will be higher.
If you have a large guest count 200++ your costs will be higher.
If you are getting married on a prime wedding day, your costs will be higher.
Be transparent about your budget. Most vendors will see what they can make work for you if you are upfront about your budget (as long as it is within reason) or they can direct you to vendors who may work within your budget.
Respect their prices.
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Owner & Lead Wedding Planner
Kolena is a wedding planning professional with over 10 years of experience. She owns and operates Blue Sapphire Events a boutique wedding planning firm based in Washington, DC.