You may have heard that vendors automatically hike up prices when they hear the word “Wedding.” So is it really true that you pay twice the amount for a wedding cake than you would for a birthday cake that’s exactly the same in every way?
Businesses were selected in Melbourne and Sydney to provide a good cross-section of suburbs and demographics. To see if the W-word would make a distinct difference in prices our two shadow shoppers contacted 60 businesses – 30 in each city – and each was contacted twice, once by our bride and once by the birthday girl.
- Florists were asked to provide quotes on flowers to decorate the venue only – no bridal bouquets were requested.
- The photographer was told they were only needed for the reception and not the ceremony, as this was being done by a friend.
- For the cake, flowers and car enquiries, the birthday shopper used the same details confirmed for the wedding scenario.
Wedding enquiries were conducted first. Our prospective bride made a phone call to ask about pricing and request a quote. Once this enquiry was completed, the second shopper called the same business with exactly the same request, but claimed the event was a 40th birthday. The second call was made approximately one week after the first call.
As suspected – more than half the wedding suppliers approached by the shadow shoppers quoted a higher price for the bride than the birthday girl.
To be fair, we’ll tell you why this is so from the vendors’ perspective first. John O’Meara, Chairman of the Australia Bridal Industry Association, justifies charging a price premium in some cases. Because a wedding is a “once in a lifetime” occasion, brides and grooms can often be very demanding and high-maintenance customers. In many cases, they have much higher expectations than another customer. These vendors fell that they have to work extra hard to make the client happy, and are inclined to charge extra.
On the other hand, shoppers are often directed to pricey “wedding packages” that include a lot of unnecessary extras, and don’t allow for individual requirements. The bottom line is that if you don’t want to pay more than a service is worth, it’s important to shop around. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to find out why they are quoting the price that they do, and sometimes it’s even OK to haggle! If you think it’s fair, you can ask about hour rates or quotes for certain services, and only after receiving a figure, mention that you’re planning a wedding.
For example, 7 out of 10 car hire companies quoted more for the wedding than for the birthday. Some photographers quoted up to 150% more for the wedding than the birthday, only offering expensive all-day rates. On the other hand, of the 10 florists, half quoted more for the wedding while the other half quoted more for the birthday! Again, it does pay to shop around, especially for services that you should be paying for by the hour.
A true story:
George Paul called the venue he was interested in to get quotes for his wedding, describing the event as a birthday party. He says organizers were fine with the requests and sent him a quote. Later, when confessing he and his partner planned to marry on the day, he says the staff went into in a flap, claiming a wedding required a different menu because there were “different packages for weddings”. When asked why, the response was “that’s just the way we do it.”
When George checked the wedding package, the quote was about 60% more than the original for the same venue, drinks and a slightly different menu. “I told them I only wanted to pay for the birthday package they originally provided. Once they recognized they’d been caught out, they agreed to let me have the wedding there at the price I was originally quoted, no extra cost.”
After Choice published these findings, they realized that this is a hot topic among consumers, industry experts and media. They invited some of Australia’s most influential wedding suppliers and lifestyle, food and consumer bloggers to weigh in on the debate in a roundtable discussion. Here are some interesting insights into the many complex views on this issue and its potential impact on both the consumer and supplier.
Expert Advice for Consumers
• Come prepared with a budget outline
• Ask as many questions as you can of your supplier so that you receive the level of service you’re expecting
• Ask exactly what you get for your money and what are the extra charges, if any
• Be transparent and say it’s for a wedding. This will help the supplier to understand what extra work is going to be required
• Research supplier reputation: Websites, forums, social media and through word of mouth
• Always have a one-on-one consultation with your supplier to make sure you get along with them
• Don’t be pressured into packages and when offered, make sure you ask about flexibility
• You might be working with these people for 18 months or longer, so make sure the relationship remains healthy and open
This “Wedding Flowers” video will make you chuckle and cringe at the same time: