How To Avoid Insane Wedding Prices

by Lily Feinn

In 2015, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. climbed to an all-time high of $32,641, according to leading wedding website The Knot. If you are wondering where all this money is going, Johnny Harris, a Vox contributor and videographer explains the high cost of weddings in a new video that lifts the veil on the disturbing economics behind this notorious industry.

Harris, who runs a wedding videography company with his wife out of Washington, DC, has plenty of experience when it comes to the tricks of the wedding trade. The "once in a lifetime" mentality can lead couples down a slippery slope. As Harris says, "It’s hard not to splurge when you put so much weight into one day." For many brides-to-be, staying in budget is the key stressor when planning forthcoming nuptials, and 40 percent of couples find themselves having to up their budget during the planning phase. But how can you approach planning a wedding when transparency is not a currency that vendors are happy to deal in?

In the video "Why Are Weddings So Damn Expensive?" Harris explains that for many couples putting together a budget, it is a challenge to find out the cost of services. Oftentimes, vendor websites will not state their price range, encouraging the couple to call for more information.

This gives the vendor a chance to pitch the couple over the phone or in a meeting before talking cold hard cash. By avoiding the dollar signs and preying on the emotional weight of the event, the vendors hook the sale. This can be incredibly frustrating for brides and grooms who need to stay within budget, and do not have precious time to waste badgering their would be florist for the price of a Dahlia.

And while vendors may often be working to make you forget that there is a price tag, the bride and groom may not even be sure what things should cost in the first place. Those planning the wedding have limited experience (or no experience) shopping for specialty items such as the wedding cake, dress, linens and bouquets. The vendors, on the other hand, have far superior knowledge of the industry, and this asymmetric information makes it easier for vendors to inflate the price — essentially "ripping off" their clients. The couple is trapped in a vicious cycle: how should they know what a service should cost when vendors do everything possible to not give them a quote?

Location plays a key role in price as well, so even generalized online research may be skewed. For example, renting a venue in New York City (where the average wedding costs over $82,000) will be far more expensive than a venue in Kansas City (where the average price tag is a bit over $24,000). So then how should a bride know what she is expected to spend on a 125 person space?

But wherever a couple chooses to wed, the services rendered for their event will most likely be priced higher than those for a similarly-sized formal event. The dreaded "wedding markup" phenomenon seems like an egregious inflation, but it may actually have a reasonable explanation. "Many vendors use the term "high-touch" to describe the relationship with a wedding client. Unlike other parties, weddings are supposed to feel unique, personal, and completely seamlessly executed," writes Harris. "It's a lot of effort and pressure for all those doing the legwork."

Wedding planner Karson Butler explains in the video that brides and grooms tend to demand more specialized attention, "There’s a lot of time and energy spent on those flowers, and that’s going to be reflected in the cost."

Harris' advice to those about to tie the knot: "Demand a price range before hearing a sales pitch. Vendors might hate it but it's the fair thing to do."

Images: Pexels; Vox/YouTube