Friday, June 27, 2008

Wedding Do's and Don't - Why people go overboard

I have MSN Messenger on my workstation at work. It pops up with MSN Live! Today! or whatever marketing phrase they are calling it now a days, which includes tiny helpful elements, like number of emails, or the weather, large spaces for ads, and articles with popular entertainment news. Much of the "news" lately has been about weddings. Due to a sudden lack of crises at work, I clicked a link on wedding dos and don'ts.

It's written as a casual conversation between a handful of women. It's probably a raw transcript. The message of the article is to encourage simple weddings. Weddings today are massive affairs.

From the article:
"It is the biggest throwaway and means nothing later. It's the biggest waste of money and effort that I've ever heard of. It's like a big party where you just blow everything out; you have nothing left. It's got to cost $30,000."

So, what happens when couples and families spend this much money? A few things happen. I have seen couples go into $20,000 of debt right after a marriage. The husband felt that he should show his love for his wife through the wedding ring and engagement ring, which he spent $15,000 on. Why? It's what is expected. A diamond ring is a must, and it must be large. That is the message of the "Louder Yes!" campaign by Wedding Day Jewelers. A simple "yes" just isn't enough. You must provide, "pure, unadulterated elation." Of course, this elation won't come cheap. Now, you can spin this into buying a creative ring, but what companies like wedding Day Jewelers are looking for is financing opportunities. They want to fit you into a "manageable payment plan." All of this for some ring which is probably be lost, stolen, sold for much less, or damaged. Don't forget the ring insurance! No one should suffer economically for some piece of jewelery.

So, that's the guy's way of starting this mess. The woman takes over next, with her family, of course. Jeannette and I have argued over what should be done for a wedding, and the largest sticking point we've had has been over prices for things. From the previous article,
"But when it came time to actually get married, something from all those little fairytale books that she read when she was little came through. I think you carry that stuff in a backpack in your head. And she just wanted the glamour and the huge ... the romance of the whole vision. And we did. She had the biggest dress with the longest train and the most people."
All of the bridal magazines, wedding fairs, TV, and the rest of society with a fixation of materialism feed a many billion dollar industry which thrives on that "backpack in your head" of what it is like to get married, of what is expected. This is one expensive backpack. Only certain families can afford to throw this extravagant wedding people seem to be born with the idea of having. It's unrealistic and damaging. So, you buy the wedding dress, which won't be worn again, bridesmaid's dresses, which won't be worn again, accessories for your dress, and you're out a few thousand dollars for clothes which could be thrown away the next day. It's a waste, unless you can donate your clothes to people who can't afford what you've already bought.

Flowers can cost a few thousand dollars, the photographer can cost a few thousand dollars, transportation for guests can cost a few thousand dollars, tuxedo rental can cost a few thousand dollars, and facility rentals for ceremonies and receptions can cost a few thousand dollars. So, you're out $10,000, even before you pay for entertainment and food for your reception. Let's say you have 200 people at your wedding. An average cost of a meal is $18-$20. If you are providing drinks, you need to add another $10 on average per person. So, your food, including renting dishes, napkins, and other silly things which all have a line item, is $4,000-$6,000. And, that's if you do things cheaply. That can easily get to $10,000. A DJ or music can cost $1,000 to $2,000. Your total can easily get to $20,000 to $30,000, just for things which are expected.

What is the side effect of a $30,000 wedding? Immediate families, by tradition only the bride's family, but more often both families, will help pay for the wedding, or pay for all of it. Now, couples are paying for the event on their own, because immediate families have bills of their own, and can't take on the added burden. This then gets passed to extended families and friends with requests for money to help fund the wedding. From the article,
"the greed associated with weddings today is incredible. And the bridal industry, in recommending all these expensive things, is full of little hints about how to beg for others to help finance it, which is a revolting idea."
So, you can't afford what is expected, and it's your Big Day, and you're terrified that you'll be in debt for years and be miserable because of what you're going through to put on this one day. Brides get horribly stressed. Jeannette and I have been able to handle things pretty well. We're very lucky to know the owner of a restaurant who is providing catering. The reception will be very expensive, but we want to throw a fun party for our family and friends.


sacred slut said...

"we want to throw a fun party for our family and friends."

That's how they suck people in.

Also just mention "wedding" and the price of any item triples. If you buy three round white cakes at a bakery and have a friend set them up on Wilton cake tiers, the cost will be a fraction of what you would pay the bakery for a three-tiered WEDDDING CAKE. It's just wrong.

We did everything at home (we have a huge property), mostly ourselves. We had a caterer bring in and serve the food and clean up afterwards (total cost was <$1K), and we rented tables and chairs. We bought hundreds of the most absolutely GORGEOUS roses at Costco and my sisters helped me to arrange them (BIG job).

Everything was beautiful and we did things economically overall (because of all the work we did ourselves), yet we still managed to spend a lot and at the end of the day it was months of planning and work for just one day.

Pam Archer said...

I can appreciate some of the things you say, but the fact is, weddings are expensive, not because the vendors want to overcharge you, but because it is HARD work!

Flowers are very expensive right now, due to fuel costs and extreme weather. My wholesale cost for a single stem of hydrangea is $8.50. Multiply that amount by the 150 the bride wants, plus her 400-500 roses and dozens of other blooms and the actual cost of the flowers is astounding. And then, someone has to calculate all the flowers needed for the weddings, place the order, shop for containers, handle consultations, e-mails, and a gazillion phone calls. It generally takes a staff of 4-5 people 4 hours just to unpack the flowers, trim every stem, and get them into buckets that have been washed and bleached. Add expensive floral preservative to that,and we still haven't started working putting together flowers or decorations yet.

For a Saturday wedding, we work a full staff (5-15 people) for 3-7 full days prior to the wedding. Floral designers are skilled laborers. I have to pay $12-$17 per hour for their labor. And, let's not forget the cost of supplies, ribbons, tape, oasis, corsage pins, boutonniere pins, bags, and on and on it goes.

I'm an event designer, and even though I also do the flowers, I am not a florist shop. Most florists add additonal fees for weddings, because they are so labor intensive. Many florists refuse to do them now. It's just not worth what one has to go through to deal with the snooty and rude brides who want a lot without having to pay for it. They really should add an extra fee for having to deal with bridezillas and momzillas. We have been very fortunate to have only had a couple of those in our years of business.

On a wedding that costs about $3,000 for flowers, I do good to make a profit of $250, after paying all the bills and my staff. It's hardly worth it.

Sometimes it's good to look at the other side of the story.

Bjorn said...

The costs for flowers may be high, and the profit margins slim, but flowers aren't necessary, and you don't have to do "what is expected" and go all out with flowers.