Welcome back to the Wedding Planning Collective blog! Today I want to talk about a common wedding planning misconception known as the wedding tax. This refers to the idea that just by using the word wedding, you're going to be paying a lot more for a product or service than if you said you were planning a different kind of party.
Before we get into it though, I wanted to acknowledge that just like any industry, there are some bad apples out there. Unfortunately, some people do try to take advantage of couples while they're planning their weddings.
The main thing I do want to emphasize though, is this is not the norm. And though you need to be smart about your decisions, I don't want couples to be overwhelmed with the fear of being taken advantage of. Yes, weddings do generally cost more than a birthday party, an anniversary party or a graduation party, but there are good reasons for that.
And that's what I want to talk about today. The most common examples that I hear reference to when it comes to the wedding tax is for DJs, photographers, hair, and makeup, and then venues, or your caterer. Let's go through the examples in each situation for why their services might cost more for a wedding than, say, a 50th anniversary party.
Starting off with a DJ first, they usually have more detailed song selections. For an anniversary party, you usually give them favorite bands or songs that they like. But other than that, they're kind of on their own for what they are going to play. They don't need to worry about certain selections for introducing the wedding party or first dances or any of those other formalities that come along with a wedding reception.
One of the biggest roles for your DJ is also serving as the MC of the event. They're the ones that are going to help the guests navigate the flow of the event, announcing certain activities, introducing those giving toasts and helping the evening flow from one event to the other. A DJ is typically going to have at least a couple of pre-wedding meetings to go over the timeline, name pronunciations, and all of the logistics and layout of the space. They often need to bring more equipment to cover the ceremony, cocktail hour and toasts or speeches. They're often onsite for a wedding reception much longer than they would be for any other kind of party, getting there well in advance of the guests arrival. And they're often the last ones there at the end of the night.
Most importantly, the difference between a cheesy club DJ (that most of my clients say they want to avoid) and a professional wedding DJ is going to be with their experience. A wedding DJ has experience with weddings, and that is a big difference. If you don't want that cheesy club DJ, there's probably going to be a higher price point that comes with a DJ that can incorporate all of the things we just referenced that makes them a professional wedding DJ.
Moving on to photographers. Just like a DJ, there's typically much more prep work that's involved in wedding photography. They often need several pre-wedding meetings to go over the timeline, what family photos and groupings are important to the couple, and personal details and family dynamics that might come into play. For example, if your parents are separated and haven't been in the same room together since a not-so-amicable divorce, it will be really important for your photographer to know not to try to push them together in the same photo.
Photographer's equipment for a wedding is most likely going to be much more involved than a regular party. Most wedding photographers will bring multiple cameras and different options for lighting. If you're in a darker church or venue, your photos aren't going to come out nearly as gorgeous as they could if you don't have a prepared photographer.
A wedding day for a photographer is often much longer as they're covering getting ready shots, the ceremony, wedding party photos, and all of that happens before they even get to the party portion of the day. Most importantly though, they can't miss a moment. Unlike an anniversary or birthday party, many of the moments on a wedding day can't be recreated.
They happen naturally and at certain times, and if the photographer misses it, they miss it. Having an experienced photographer that knows when to anticipate when these moments are going to happen and is ready to capture them is so important. But of course, often comes with that higher price tag.
Hair & Makeup
Hair and makeup services often come up because it's easier to see on menus at a salon what a normal updo is going to cost than what you're quoted for bridal hair and makeup.
There are many reasons for the differences in the price. Most commonly is that for bridal hairstyling and makeup, it's often going to include a consultation or a trial. Just like a photographer and a DJ, most stylists will take more time with a bridal client than they will for somebody just going out to a party or an evening on the town....did I just say an evening on the town? Yikes.
Additionally, hair and makeup needs to last a full day, which is much longer than a normal party where you'll have your hair and makeup done late afternoon/early evening, and it just needs to hold up for a few hours. They need to take more time with their styling to make sure that the look holds up.
They often use higher end products to ensure that the look does hold up too. Especially if you're going to use any hair pieces or a veil. And in some cases, they'll either shut down the salon or offer bonuses like bringing in mimosas and refreshments for you, which makes it a fun experience for you and your wedding party.
Venue & Catering
Finally, as we talk about a venue or your caterer, one of the main differences is that people want to have a special meal at their wedding. The pressure is on when it comes to food for the wedding, and it shouldn't be a surprise that the price tag is typically higher when it comes to food at your venue or the offsite catering component. Again, there are a few different reasons why their pricing might be different than if you were getting a quote for a regular birthday party or anniversary.
Most couples want more choices when it comes to their wedding menu rather than simply picking from a preset version that they might have for other events. Often tastings are included and additional appointments to finalize the details. There are often typically more courses as well, starting with appetizers when the guests arrive, moving onto a salad course, entrees and dessert.
Couples often want a more formal feel for their wedding than a typical party, and that often means that we're adding in additional staff or catering needs so that everyone is happy and served quickly. However, the biggest component that comes to pricing when we're talking about food with your venue or your caterer is, you guessed it, it takes more time to plan for. And you caterer needs to coordinate with all the other vendors, work with them on their arrival times, the rules for the venue and work on the other details of the wedding with you, not just simply what is on the menu.
Off site caterers essentially recreate the kitchen for every event. So they need to spend a lot more time preparing to make sure when they show up on the day of the wedding, they know exactly what to expect. They also want to make sure that they're not just pulling up or unloading their trucks right when the ceremony is happening in the backyard. Pre-wedding attention to these details is very crucial for a successful event.
Now I could go on and on and list the differences for each one of your vendors in what they would do if they are working with a couple on their wedding versus a more simple birthday or anniversary party. But I'm guessing that you see a pattern here.
For most couples, weddings aren't just a party. They've been thinking about this day for years, and in some cases, maybe even decades. In the end, yes, a wedding is most likely going to be more expensive than what might seem like a comparable anniversary party. But there's so much more that goes into a wedding than goes into a regular party. More prep time, hours on the wedding day, products provided, and definitely more skill and expertise.
More work goes into planning and working a wedding, which is why you're going to see that they typically cost more. So while you might come across the unfortunate few that are trying to take advantage of a couple by increasing their pricing simply because it's a wedding, in my experience that is very rare. A professional vendor is going to have solid reasons for why their pricing is what it is.
Don't hesitate to ask them if you have questions or if something feels off to you. If you have a question about the validity of a price that you've received from a vendor, let me know. I want to hear about it in the Wedding Planning Collective Facebook group. Head on over there and share your thoughts! I'll see you in the next episode of the podcast, or the next blog.