Lifestyle Magazine

What’s Wrong with the Wedding Industry — and How YOU Can Fix It

By Claire

1. The wed­ding indus­try is a cir­cus made of your money

Top of my list for a rea­son — the wed­ding indus­try is a great big merry old round­about made of fifty pound notes held together with gold dust and dreams. Aver­age wed­ding bud­gets, pres­sure to spend, wor­ries about money… why should being in love cost so much?

It’s as if an engage­ment ring flicks a switch in our minds, and sud­denly we’re cajoled into throw­ing cau­tion and half our brain cells aside to spend thou­sands of pounds on a party. We’re encour­aged to spend an insane amount of that on a dress, food and drink, and hir­ing an aristocrat’s house for a few hours. Fine if it’s what you’ve always dreamed of. But if you’ve been in love for a while and haven’t thought about wed­dings, sud­denly being thrown into the world of wed­dings can be quite an experience.

royal wedding
Money is at the cen­tre of every­thing in the wed­ding indus­try. When and where did this hap­pen… surely the focus of the wed­ding indus­try should be love? Love is old-fashioned, but it’s afford­able to every­one. It doesn’t take £20k to show you’re in love — but the wed­ding indus­try makes you think it will.

We’re pres­sured to spend, spend, spend. Wed­ding mag­a­zines have pages and pages of adverts and ideas-with-prices-on. Even wed­ding blogs full of wed­ding ideas can be taken the wrong way: I always try and write Eng­lish Wed­ding blogs as ideas — with­out any pres­sure to get / spend / buy.  But when you see the wed­ding press and TV it’s easy to see why brides and grooms think they need to spend to have a ‘proper’ wedding.

It makes me sad that cou­ples who can’t afford a wed­ding like this feel they have to live up to the industry’s own standards.

Fix it!

Only spend what you can afford, not what your venue / friends / sup­pli­ers think you can afford. Don’t get into debt. Keep track of your finances and focus your spend on what’s impor­tant to the two of you. Decide your wed­ding pri­or­i­ties and make your wed­ding a per­sonal cel­e­bra­tion of your love.

And when­ever you pick up a wed­ding mag­a­zine, remem­ber it’s a busi­ness — wed­ding pub­li­ca­tions, press and events are all designed to make you spend money!

2. The bore­dom factor

Just ask your guy about this one. Wed­dings have the poten­tial to be pretty samey — much as we try to set ours apart by being just a lit­tle bit big­ger, bet­ter, quirkier. The expec­ta­tions we have for wed­dings: that the venue will be dec­o­rated, that you’ll wear an expen­sive dress, that there’ll be a nice meal for every­one — are lim­it­ing. These are nice things to have — but there’s noth­ing wrong with a wed­ding that doesn’t have all of this, is there?

And wed­ding plan­ning can be a chore. That’s why men steer clear! Few grooms choose to spend end­less week­ends order­ing sta­tionery, flow­ers, favours and the hun­dreds of lit­tle things we’re pres­sured to organ­ise. For a cou­ple of weeks I imag­ine it’s fun. But every week­end for a year or more… must be a killer, and post-wedding stress is the proof.

Have your col­leagues told you to stop talk­ing about the wed­ding yet? Has your fiance asked the same thing? Some­times stress can get too much for brides — it’s no-one’s fault. Just don’t let wed­ding plan­ning stress kill the romance. Take time out and for­get about your wed­ding plans every once in a while!

Why do peo­ple think wed­dings are all a bit samey? Because we’re not look­ing past the dec­o­ra­tions. Wed­dings can be so dolled-up we can hardly see the lov­ing cou­ple behind all the rib­bons and tulle. They might look  samey. But really they’re not! We want to see you, share in your love, enjoy your per­son­al­i­ties. Guests don’t come for the favours or the band: guests come to your wed­ding for YOU. So don’t hide your­self behind frills and friv­o­li­ties — it’s not what wed­dings are about: they’re about being in love. And that’s some­thing we all do in our own unique way.

Fix it!

Focus on your love, not your decorations.

What’s wrong with the wedding industry — and how YOU can fix it

photo credit: Mark Tierney

Get cre­ative with your think­ing as well as with your wed­ding invi­ta­tions. My cousin’s friend had a night time wed­ding (hand­fast­ing) in Decem­ber. Get mar­ried at night, and sud­denly the usual for­mu­las don’t apply: you get to do what­ever you like with the food, the danc­ing, the order of the day. And plan­ning is more fun if it’s creative.

You don’t need to get mar­ried at night to make things inter­est­ing, but know­ing that some­one did should open your eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties: break a few wed­ding rules. Even your fiance might be keen to plan with you, if it’s going to be fun!

3. Being judged on your wedding

What’s wrong with the wedding industry — and how YOU can fix it
I watched ‘4 wed­dings’ — but only once. The premise: four brides go to each other’s wed­dings, award marks out of ten and win a prize. The most dis­gust­ing con­cept in the wed­ding indus­try of today, if you ask me!

It’s a reflec­tion of how peo­ple can be, though, and real pres­sure comes from want­ing peo­ple to like your wed­ding. The sad fact is that peo­ple do judge: is your wed­ding smaller, more osten­ta­tious, busier, more tra­di­tional than your friend’s was last year? Will your aunty be telling her neigh­bours, “I didn’t think much of the cake”?!

We’re all too quick to judge. Part of the prob­lem is being fed so many real wed­dings, in the press, via wed­ding blogs and on telly. We’re sup­posed to say ‘I like that one, love her dress, what a lovely theme’ — fine.

Fix it!

Just don’t be tempted to say ‘Her dress is dull, I don’t like her hair, such-and-such looks cheap.’ Because that’s NOT an ok thing to do. If you’re in the habit of judg­ing other wed­dings (as the wed­ding tv com­pa­nies want you to!) you’ll expect yours to be judged, and you’ll worry about it.

And if you have a par­tic­u­lar guest who you think will judge or crit­i­cise your wed­ding, scratch their name off your list right now!

4. Wed­dings are for girls

Can you imag­ine walk­ing into WHSmiths and see­ing the wed­ding mag­a­zine sec­tion — and it being blue instead of pink? No? Ever seen grooms jostling for the lat­est issue of Wed­ding Ideas? Been on a main­stream wed­ding forum full of grooms? No. Me neither.

Why is the wed­ding indus­try so hor­ri­bly pink? Why do we alien­ate grooms from every­thing wed­dingy? They’re just as in love as we are, aren’t they? Is the indus­try putting them off?

That’s a big fat YES from me. And it leaves me feel­ing so frus­trated. It might even be a sub­con­scious thing, this overuse of lip­gloss color schemes — but it appears as if the groom shouldn’t be involved. And that’s so wrong!

By exclud­ing the boys with our mag­a­zines, our mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, our blogs and pro­mo­tions — pretty much every­thing we do — we’re pil­ing every­thing onto girls. And here’s where a lot more pres­sure comes into it.

The mod­ern wed­ding is a pink-fest, a cel­e­bra­tion of mak­ing things pretty rather than a cel­e­bra­tion of being in love, which is the one bit which does include the groom. And grooms step right away from the plan­ning: after a wed­ding fair or two it’s no sur­prise if they think “I’m not wel­come in pink-land, I’ll come back for the bit where I can be in love again.”

- Inter­est­ingly, if you go to a wed­ding show this month you might notice the over­all decor of the show is pink and flow­ery, yet exhibitors’ stands are less so. I’ve often got the impres­sion that it’s the organ­is­ers of shows, and not indi­vid­ual wed­ding sup­pli­ers who want every­thing to look pretty in pink. Exhibitors and sup­pli­ers wel­come grooms… but pink ads for shows, pink cov­ers on wed­ding mag­a­zines don’t!

Mean­while brides have the world heaped on their shoul­ders. With­out the groom to share wed­ding plan­ning 50/50 all the respon­si­bil­i­ties for book­ing, plan­ning, craft­ing and bud­get­ing fall to the bride. Is it any sur­prise some girls turn into bridezil­las, and oth­ers suf­fer from depres­sion both before and after the wed­ding day?

Fix it!

Start your plan­ning together, and it’ll be eas­ier to keep on work­ing as a team. It’s not about involv­ing your groom in deci­sions; it’s about appre­ci­at­ing they’re his deci­sions as much as they are yours to make.

Remem­ber you’re a cou­ple and your wed­ding should be about you both. If he doesn’t like pink, don’t use any. If he doesn’t care about color schemes at all, work out what is impor­tant to him and make that a pri­or­ity instead. Who says the nap­kins have to match the brides­maids’ knick­ers anyway?

Most of all, nei­ther of you should feel excluded from your wed­ding — and you should both want to be involved. If he doesn’t, try and under­stand why, then work out between you what will fix it for you.

5. Wed­ding pro­fes­sion­als are rubbish

(I’d bet­ter just explain that one!) Some of us are lovely. But if you’ve been to a wed­ding show you’ll have met some of the same slimy, false, smooth-talking pro­fes­sional sales­peo­ple I’ve had the plea­sure of meet­ing. There’s at least one at every local hotel-based wed­ding show. There are many of these frankly scary peo­ple at the major wed­ding shows.

I heard a story about a bridal store owner dis­cussing options for wed­ding shows. There are two major shows in the Cheshire / Man­ches­ter area. Tat­ton Park is seen as the posh one, and this bridal store owner was keen to exhibit. Her charm­ing views on the wed­ding show at Man­ches­ter G-Mex? “Too many fat brides.”

I wish I could pub­lish her busi­ness name with­out being sued. Suf­fice it to say this is the kind of pro­fes­sion­al­ism which lurks behind some of the flimsy smiles at wed­ding shows. We really should be past prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion like this — but we’re not. And while money is dri­ving the wed­ding indus­try relent­lessly along, smarmy sales­peo­ple will stay in the game and take advan­tage as much as they can.

It’s not just the big shiny com­pa­nies who care­lessly chase your spendy-buttons. It’s guys with cam­eras who think  it’s easy to be a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, brides who decide to set up shop on eBay mak­ing cheap, flimsy invites because Aunty Joan said theirs were pretty. But a busi­ness requires ded­i­ca­tion, train­ing, tal­ent and com­mit­ment to cus­tomers as well as to a long term strategy.

There really are peo­ple in the wed­ding indus­try who will take you for a ride and shake you upside down until all your money’s fallen out. Beware startup busi­nesses who don’t seem pro­fes­sional — many aren’t. It’s really, really easy to set up a wed­ding busi­ness. Web­sites are free. Any­one can set up some­thing that looks a lit­tle bit good, and get enquiries from forums, blogs, mag­a­zine ads and wed­ding shows. But what if the busi­ness folds? What if the work­load is too much along­side a full time job? Because it does happen.

The dodgy busi­nesses make the rest of us look bad. It makes me angry because some startup busi­nesses are the most ded­i­cated, hon­ourable and inspir­ing peo­ple you could ever meet. And every one of us in the wed­ding indus­try began some­where — we weren’t born with expe­ri­ence and busi­ness skills. For a gen­uine, devoted designer start­ing out in busi­ness, it doesn’t get much worse than stand­ing next to a smarmy, patro­n­is­ing suit sales­man at a wed­ding show — trust me! Start­ing out and becom­ing a suc­cess is hard.

Fix it!

Use your instincts. Meet sup­pli­ers. Use your heart to find sup­pli­ers you trust and get along with, some­one who lis­tens to you and inspires you, some­one who cares about their busi­ness and appre­ci­ates how impor­tant your wed­ding is.

Use your head. Inves­ti­gate your photographer’s back­ground and expe­ri­ence; ask on wed­ding forums for gen­uine rec­om­men­da­tions for sta­tion­ers and jew­ellers. Find online reviews of your wed­ding sup­pli­ers before you book — if any­thing doesn’t ring true, ask!

Con­tracts for wed­ding sup­pli­ers are essen­tial. If a pho­tog­ra­pher doesn’t have one, warn­ing bells should ring. The same goes for your major sup­pli­ers: cake design­ers, florists, wed­ding plan­ners, bands and venues.

Talk about what hap­pens after the wed­ding day. Pho­tog­ra­phers, for exam­ple, will still be work­ing on your images and albums to show you. How long will it take? How good are they at cus­tomer service?

Cheap can mean nasty. If some­thing seems too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is. A pro­fes­sional busi­ness won’t under­sell their prod­uct — if they believe in what they’re try­ing to sell you, the price will reflect that.

The solu­tion is sim­ple — though per­haps eas­ier said than done. If we stop buy­ing from unpro­fes­sional wed­ding sup­pli­ers, they’ll go away. The wed­ding indus­try has a lot of work to do in rais­ing stan­dards. Per­haps the rise of social media, the impor­tance of pub­licly Lik­ing things and the ease of shar­ing online reviews will help towards get­ting shot of the bad guys.

A final word on this one: if you’ve had fan­tas­tic ser­vice from a wed­ding sup­plier, if some­one deserves to be pub­licly praised, if you can help other brides by telling them about your florist / cake designer / pho­tog­ra­pher then please: write an online review. Whether it’s on their blog, face­book page or google place page, every review will help some­one out there.

6. The wed­ding mag­a­zines are wrong

What’s wrong with the wedding industry — and how YOU can fix it
Where do I begin with wed­ding mag­a­zines? I don’t like them. I’ve read plenty, adver­tised in a hand­ful, been crit­i­cised for slag­ging them off, and reviewed them in detail to see if I was being overly crit­i­cal. Turns out, while they have a few good points I still don’t like what they stand for, how they oper­ate, or the influ­ence they have on brides and the wed­ding indus­try.

Wed­ding mag­a­zines make an absolute for­tune from adver­tis­ing. They have a huge pro­por­tion of adver­tis­ing space (on aver­age, 139 pages of ads per wed­ding mag­a­zine!) — and that’s not count­ing the prod­uct ‘ideas’, most of which are pro­vided by their adver­tis­ers and show prices. Like cat­a­logues. How do they jus­tify the cover price for what’s essen­tially a very pretty wed­ding indus­try sales brochure?

I’ve adver­tised with wed­ding mag­a­zines. It’s expen­sive. You pay your money, you get your (small) ad, you can sub­mit your prod­uct images for fea­tures. Along­side the other hun­dred or so adver­tis­ers. There’s no guar­an­tee it will work — and for many wed­ding sup­pli­ers, it doesn’t. Often their adver­tis­ing teams are sales teams: they’re given the stats they need to sell adver­tis­ing space, but if your adver­tis­ing doesn’t work for you they can’t help other than by giv­ing you more space (at a price!).

There’s also crit­i­cism of the wed­ding mag­a­zines for being bland, unin­spir­ing and expen­sive to buy. I’m more hes­i­tant to agree with that: in the issues I reviewed for Eng­lish Wed­ding there were fea­tures by Rock My Wed­ding and some quirky ideas in there. But over­whelm­ingly, the wed­ding mag­a­zines are about how your wed­ding will LOOK and what you should buy to achieve a cer­tain look. There’s no bal­ance with advice, emo­tional sup­port, dis­cus­sion or arti­cles about marriage.

The last thing I dis­like about wed­ding mag­a­zines is that they’re seen as required read­ing by so many brides. In the age of the inter­net I’d love to see more brides sav­ing their money and find­ing free wed­ding inspi­ra­tion and advice online: not just from blogs, but from local wed­ding web­sites, even the mag­a­zines’ own sites (which in my opin­ion are bet­ter than their printed pages!) and wed­ding forums.

Fix it!

This wed­ding indus­try issue’s an easy one to fix: only buy wed­ding mag­a­zines selec­tively. Don’t sub­scribe! They’re great for occa­sion­ally curl­ing up on your sofa with, espe­cially at the dress-shopping stage. But if you ask me, one issue is all you ever really need.

7. Wed­ding shows and fairs / fayres are so dull!

It’s a rare bride who’ll enjoy more than a hand­ful of wed­ding shows. Don’t get me wrong, the shows do serve a pur­pose — but if the organ­is­ers extracted their heads from their bot­toms most of the shows would improve.

Again it’s about money: every exhibitor at a big show will have paid thou­sands for the priv­i­lege. Even at a small fayre (a word we invented — it wasn’t used in the olden days, fact-fans!) exhibitors will have paid over £100 for their table for the day. As a bride, don’t think you’re the focus of wed­ding show organ­is­ers: you’re far from the most impor­tant per­son to visit a show because you don’t bring the money.

So wed­ding shows are big busi­ness. They should be all about inspir­ing the bride; instead they’re all about per­suad­ing you to spend. It’s not all bad though: there’s no bet­ter place to meet poten­tial wed­ding sup­pli­ers. You can peruse pho­tog­ra­phers’ albums, chat to plan­ners, get to know essen­tial sup­pli­ers who’ll be there on your wed­ding day. And it’s hugely impor­tant to meet these people.

What’s wrong with the wedding industry — and how YOU can fix it
Unfor­tu­nately you’ll meet some smarmy wed­ding sup­pli­ers at shows. Never feel pres­sured into buy­ing on the day: make appoint­ments, not promises. And while some wed­ding shows are great, forward-thinking and gen­uinely inspir­ing, oth­ers can be dull, drab and depress­ing. Be warned!

Fix it!

Have real­is­tic expec­ta­tions when you visit a wed­ding show! Find out who’ll be there, decide your bud­get and pri­or­i­ties before you go. Aim to make appoint­ments if you like the sup­pli­ers you see: never buy on the day.

Research wed­ding shows before you go. The big arena events will be insanely busy, espe­cially on Sat­ur­day after­noons. You’ll at least get a chance to talk to peo­ple if you go early. If a wed­ding show looks a bit old fash­ioned and you don’t think that’s really you, don’t go unless there’s an exhibitor you really want to meet.

If a wed­ding show has a feed­back form, fill it in hon­estly. It’s often a nice lit­tle trick for the organ­is­ers to give you a com­pe­ti­tion entry form so they can get your con­tact details. If they ask for your opin­ion on the show too, let them know what you think!

8. The truth about wed­ding indus­try events and awards

2012 should be a great year for the wed­ding indus­try with the launch of the 2012 Wed­ding Indus­try Awards. Pre­vi­ously awards have been dished out by the indus­try, to the indus­try — like a great big slap on the back / pat on the head (depend­ing how you see them) from other suppliers.

It’s quite a nov­elty for brides to be the key deci­sion mak­ers where wed­ding awards are con­cerned! Pre­vi­ously the major wed­ding award cer­e­monies (remain­ing name­less

) have been open to votes from sup­pli­ers. And if twit­ter is any­thing to go by, sup­pli­ers have cast the vast major­ity of votes. For each other, based on friend­ships and social networking.

What this all means for brides is a bit of a mis­lead­ing pic­ture. The ‘best’ busi­nesses as iden­ti­fied by major award-givers are just the most pop­u­lar. An award might mean they spend more time on face­book and twit­ter than any­one else. It’s no indi­ca­tion of qual­ity, cus­tomer ser­vice, expe­ri­ence, or any­thing else that you’d think would make a busi­ness wor­thy of a pink rosette. (oops.)

Fix it!

What’s wrong with the wedding industry — and how YOU can fix it
Sup­port the 2012 Wed­ding Indus­try Awards. They’re based on gen­uine cus­tomer feed­back. The vot­ing process was rig­or­ous, and busi­nesses made the short­list on the strength of fab­u­lous cus­tomer reviews.

Look for the win­ners when you’re search­ing for wed­ding sup­pli­ers. They will be gen­uinely respected by brides for their com­mit­ment, cus­tomer ser­vice and ded­i­ca­tion to what they do.

As for the rest: don’t believe the hype.

9. Wed­ding plan­ning stress and depression

Wed­ding plan­ning stress is a seri­ous issue, and one I don’t want to treat lightly. The com­bi­na­tion of money wor­ries, plan­ning dilem­mas, fam­ily argu­ments and no me-time can cause depres­sion — and it does, all too often.

It’s very much down to our lovely lit­tle wed­ding indus­try: the pres­sures on brides are just too much. Most brides have never planned any­thing on such a grand scale, and with so much emo­tional impor­tance: The Best Day Of Your Life car­ries such respon­si­bil­ity.

Argu­ments in the run up to a wed­ding are com­mon. You might grow apart because you’re so busy — you won’t be the first cou­ple to strug­gle with this and there should be more sup­port out there.

I’ve heard on the grapevine there’s major research being done into post-wedding stress: it’s so com­mon for a bride to focus all her atten­tions and energy on the big day, and to end up feel­ing empty and dis­ap­pointed the day after the wed­ding. It’s under­stand­able — and if you’re feel­ing this way there is plenty of help with stress to be found.

Fix it!

Firstly, watch out for each other. If you or your fiance are show­ing signs of stress, be there for each other. Help. Be under­stand­ing. If you’re liv­ing with a bride– or groomzilla, think about what’s changed their behavior.

I went to the NHS (via google) for some advice. These are com­mon signs of stress:

  • tired­ness, headaches, aching muscles
  • indi­ges­tion and nausea
  • pal­pi­ta­tions, sweat­ing, fainting
  • lack of concentration
  • being mud­dled or forgetful
  • feel­ing inad­e­quate or hav­ing low self esteem
  • becom­ing irri­ta­ble or angry
  • feel­ing anx­ious or numb
  • being over­sen­si­tive

Any of these could be per­ceived as ‘nor­mal’ but it’s still impor­tant to take care of your­self: these are your body’s warn­ing signs to slow down a bit. You should.

It’s not for me to tell you how to cope with wedding-related stress. There’s plenty of advice online — I’ll share a few links below. Con­sider talk­ing to your doc­tor as well.

Is the wed­ding indus­try a lost cause?

Aware­ness of the issues and speak­ing openly about some of the industry’s prob­lems has to be the first step towards fix­ing all that’s wrong with the wed­ding indus­try. It’s cer­tainly not all cham­pagne and roses!

It frus­trates me that there’s so much money asso­ci­ated with wed­dings. It makes me sad to hear about all the pres­sures the wed­ding indus­try heaps onto brides.

I’m dis­ap­pointed when I read reviews of bland wed­ding fairs, pushy sup­pli­ers and dull wed­ding magazines.

We can all help to bring change to this indus­try: brides, grooms, sup­pli­ers, edi­tors and blog­gers alike. Per­son­ally I love to help pro­mote small, cre­ative busi­nesses on my blog. And as I’ve been writ­ing this post I’ve looked at Eng­lish Wedding’s color scheme, and changed some pink bits to blue! (lit­tle things can help!)

If we say what we really think, have open dis­cus­sions about the bits we don’t like, dare to crit­i­cise Wed­ding TV and revel in just being in love — I think we can make the wed­ding indus­try a nicer place.

What do you think?

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