So you pop The Question. The victim says yes. Congratulations! You’ve just entered… the wedding industry. But are you prepared to play by their rules? Here’s how to dodge the marketing tricks…
After getting engaged I soon discovered the wedding industry is composed of traditions no doubt invented by some slick marketer in 1963.
‘The Rules’ say daring to get married within eight months of proposing is too soon – unless you pay extra. I soon tired of The Rules, so I’ve written some of my own:
1. Never mention the ‘w’ word (and no, I don’t mean Which?) if you can avoid it – many businesses up their costs immediately if you do. The traditional fruitcake with icing can easily be £350 for 70 people. We’re getting our non-traditional cakes, with room for a couple of my model cars, made by mums who do it as a sideline from their kitchen for far less.
2. Everything can be bargained for. I knocked £45 off our £300 hire bill (for those handy extra fridges you find out you need) by even the limpest form of haggling. ‘Is this the best price you can do?’ I enquired. My toes curled; it’s horribly un-British. Do it anyway.
3. When you’re buying goods rather than services, hunt down businesses going bust. In a recession there are sadly plenty of these. So we got the booze from an Oddbins that was closing that day – half price.
4. Special offers are your friend – but lie in wait for the best of them. We got the fizz from Marks & Spencer, arguing (I’ll never straighten my toes out again) for the previous day’s offer to be reinstated as we’d been promised. £200 instead of £450. Boots got our vote for the disposable cameras as they were two for one.
5. Be aware of inherent quality versus perceived quality. For a simple ring to be made for me the costs were roughly: £250 for silver; £750 for palladium; £1750 for platinum. Palladium and platinum look exactly the same – but I opted for silver. The jeweller we chose talked knowledgeably about what we were getting and didn’t steer us up the price scale.
6. When twiddle after tweak gets piled on, it’s your job to call a halt. We got a little carried away with our florist and now we’ve had to say ‘Sorry, this is overbudget’. So we’ve wasted her time and ours in having to backtrack.
7. Ask for things to be chucked in for free – or at least check they will be. We’re promised more fruit baskets than can possibly be healthy for our honeymoon.
8. Small suppliers are often the best, so long as they know their stuff – something you need to get evidence of somehow. We’re very glad we auditioned our magicians.
9. Get decent wedding insurance as soon as you start shelling out for stuff. If your venue goes bust or a supplier lets you down you won’t have to panic about being out of pocket.
10. Think about getting a credit card that gives you cashback. You get Consumer Credit Act protection under section 75 as long as what you buy is worth between £100-£30,000, and you’ll be spending more than you ever wanted to so the cashback could add up to a couple of hundred pounds.
11. Accept you’ll go over budget – probably by about 15% if you’re not going bonkers. But don’t let ‘budget drift’ set in. Keep on thinking ‘what will this actually get us?’ and ‘do we really need it?’ Beware a predilection the wedding industry seems to have for quoting without VAT.
12. If you can, get a venue which you can control more and feel comfortable with. For the reception we’re very lucky (if it’s dry) to have my parents’ garden. If it’s raining then we’re in the world’s smallest marquee/tent.
We found mainstream wedding venues to be eye-wateringly expensive and incredibly rigid. There was the venue that had ‘our’ day planned out down to 15-minute time slots – not because they’d done exhaustive prep, just because they’ve got everyone’s day planned out to 15-minute slots. The same 15-minute slots. There was also the venue, in a pleasant enough Leeds park, which wanted more per head for food than Claridge’s does à la carte.
13. Go with the people you feel good about, the ones you trust to do a good job. We’re buying into our cake ladies and our jeweller because of who they are, not just what they make. Instinct works.
I hope some of what I’ve learnt helps you from falling into the wedding traps set to spring on you. Or perhaps you have some well-learned lessons of your own to share?