Before you read this post, please know: The purpose of this post is to provide context as to why modern day weddings cost what they do. It is also written in gentle defense of the accusation that the wedding industry is a price gouging racket. (eww)
Yes, your mom probably got married for less than half of what you are trying to spend. What must be remembered is that wedding day expectations have evolved and inflated over the years. What today’s couples deem “required” has not always been the norm. We have been normalized to a certain formula, presentation and aesthetic pressure. This post is explaining the cost of hitting all those marks.
We are not suggesting that you must spend $$$ amount in order to have a wonderful wedding day. That’s all. 🙂
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There is a lot of sticker shock when beginning to search for wedding vendors and collect quotes. There is skepticism from couples assuming that once the word “wedding” is spoken, rates are jacked sky high.
It’s just not that simple.
Yes, wedding rates for a coordinator may be higher than, say, coordinating a birthday party. The reason is not to take advantage of the couple because they have money to spend, but because an experienced professional understands there are different and more long term demands associated with a wedding.
There are bigger emotions to handle, more cooks in the kitchen, the navigation of a lot of questions – it all equates to more time needed from the business and thus they charge accordingly.
Over the past two months I have collected responses from established and reputable businesses* in Seattle, WA.
The commonalities between the businesses are:
- These are established and reputable businesses.
- The business is the owner’s main income source.
- These businesses are priced in the mid to high range for their region and service.
The cost of being a legitimate business is mentioned by every expert. Taxes, insurance, equipment, maintenance, continuing education and TIME are variables not seen in a styled magazine feature. They are a not-thought-about piece of the pie, which explains the surprise many couples experience when viewing estimates and rates.
So what did the experts say when I asked:
Why do you charge what you charge?
Custom cakes have a broad range of pricing, and I believe what sets us apart in pricing is the time spent on decorating the cakes as well as the quality of ingredients we use.
The ingredients we use for our cakes are from small and/or local business in which we like to support. Sometimes the cost of working with a smaller business, as we know, can be more costly than going through a larger company where the quality may not be as good.
All of our recipes are made from scratch and as customizable flavors. Because we don’t have decorations premade, all are custom design are made especially for each cake. Our decorations are hand cut, hand painted, created with precision, and clean design which takes a lot of time. Combine this labor with the fact that everything has to stay fresh. We’re working with perishable products!
Delivery is another factor that can get costly, but it is more peace of mind for the client knowing that the professional knows each step it takes to deliver the cake safely. If there were any mishaps, we would be prepared and knowledgable on how to fix it.
Wedding DJ rates vary greatly and depend mostly on experience and reputation. It is wise to select a DJ vendor that provides the same caliber of service as the rest of your all star vendor team. Read reviews and trust your vendors, they have seen it all and can recommend DJs to match the level of service that you want for your entire wedding. With this in mind, here are 3 basic things to understand about DJ pricing.
1) DJing is a profession and a business
A truly great DJ is successful enough to turn his or her DJing into a viable business and not just a side hustle. The cost of being a business owner is the same with any business and includes the expenses of professional development, licenses, taxes, insurance, advertising, marketing, music inventory, equipment and more! These expenses are continuous and ongoing. A professional DJ must charge the appropriate amount to be competitive and pay the many costs associated with being a full-time business.
2) DJ equipment is expensive + the setup is labor intensive
There is a lot of equipment + hard labor necessary to provide the music for your wedding. From multiple DJ setups needed for your ceremony and reception in different locations to special effects like uplighting and lighting that enhance the party atmosphere. Because of the time intensive nature of setup and breakdown, the DJ is the usually one of the first vendors to arrive but is definitely the last vendor to leave your wedding. Professional DJ pricing reflects the cost of having and maintaining quality equipment and the labor charges for setting it up properly.
3) A DJ’s Reputation is Hard Earned
It takes years of experience and tons of weddings to learn the finer details of reading crowds of all backgrounds and adapting to situations. There is no accredited school or regulated license you can obtain to become a DJ, so the respect gained from the wedding industry and trusted vendor partners is everything. Professional, reliable and skilled DJs will be priced along the lines of your other trusted vendors.
When pricing ourselves, wedding photographers often look at three crucial areas: time, experience, and cost of running business. These three things, added up, provide you with a price that should, for most experienced photographers, fall into a similar range. The biggest misconception is that our time and talent start and stop on the wedding day.
Time spent prior to the wedding day involves communicating with our clients, consultations, admin work regarding the wedding.
Then there is the wedding day where we shoot it non-stop so we don’t miss a moment.
Post production is editing every deliverable image. This takes hours.
On top of that, the more weddings we shoot, the more we can provide our clients with a good experience. There is value in our knowledge. Knowledge that allows us to understand all lighting situations, location scouts, quick problem solving, adapting to any and all weather conditions, knowing where to be and when, working with other vendors, following strict timelines, etc. This experience comes at a cost because just like our creative eye, it has taken time to develop.
Lastly, there is the cost of running our businesses, and to be frank, it isn’t cheap. The operating costs of creating our art (i.e. cameras, lenses, flashes, stands, memory cards, film etc. ) can be extremely expensive — and while we don’t always “carry” all of that gear on us while shooting (computers, back-up drives, software, insurance, website maintenance, taxes etc.) they are valuable assets in order to perform our jobs professionally. Overall, if it seems too good to be true with a wedding photographer’s pricing, it often is.
Many people do not realize that lighting equipment is not all created equal, and that the expertise of the professionals designing, installing and controlling the lighting makes a huge impact on the final look.
We pride ourselves on investing in higher-end higher-cost equipment, which is not the typical equipment other companies offer. We are also a full-service company, not a traditional rental company: we take care of our clients from start to finish when planning and executing their vision, and our clients benefit from working directly with us, the husband and wife co-owners.
The cost for event lighting varies based on each unique project — we take into account the client’s vision, venue, and the scope and scale of lighting required, and create custom proposals. Our proposals provide transparent line-by-line pricing on the equipment and labor needed. We determine our prices by comparing rates with competitors, and taking into consideration both the demand for and quality of our offerings. Our prices reflect our high-end equipment, design expertise and award-winning, 5-star rated services.
Listen, I’m married so I know how quickly the wedding total can add up! We try to be very reasonable with our pricing while at the same time keeping our business running smoothly. We’ve been creating killer photo booths & adding to fab fêtes for over 6 years (phew, that went by fast), which means we know what we’re doing and you’ll appreciate that when we show up on time, have back up photo booth paper, and a support team on call.
As a business we value quality & fun, so we keep our photo booths up to date with technology, trends, and account for wear + tear.
The person working your event can make or break your guests’ experience so we hire & pay our attendants and customer service people who are working with you from initial inquiry to send off accordingly!
What else goes into our pricing? Probably with any business we’ve also factored in taxes, insurance, a little bit of advertising, license fees, and replacements/updates for equipment.
If you’re hoping to invest in a quality wedding film, you should expect to pay the same or more as you would for your photographer. When our company considers pricing, we’re factoring in time (before the wedding, on the wedding day, and post-production), experience, equipment and the costs of running a legitimate business (i.e. taxes, insurance, etc.).
When we create a wedding film that captures the once-in-a-lifetime moments from your wedding day, we bring with us expertise in audio & camera equipment, cinematography, lighting, and–an aspect that can’t be ignored–the familiarity with weddings.
Filming weddings is a unique niché which requires many things: an understanding of the need for sensitivity and compassion on one of the biggest days of your life, the knowledge of how to collaborate with other vendors (particularly your photographer, DJ, and planner) and the intimate understanding of what to expect on a wedding day.
When you invest in an experienced professional wedding videographer, you’re not only investing in a high quality film and all that goes into creating it, but you’re investing in the peace of mind that these fleeting moments won’t be missed.
As shared by Anne Bradfield, Creative Director
When you order custom floral designs for your wedding, you’re hiring an experienced professional who takes your inspiration images and ideas, then translates them into a tangible artistic expression — one that conveys the vibe and mood of your wedding.
Sure, “playing with flowers” is part of the job, but your florist spends far more time than you might imagine on the administrative side of the desk. As the Creative Director at my studio, I source product, keep tabs on what currently looks good, what’s going out of season, and what new product is coming on crop that might be perfect for your event.
I create a recipe spreadsheet for each event, accounting for every stem that goes in to every arrangement (but also allows for overage in case of broken heads, snapped stems, etc.). When ordered product comes in looking bad, I figure out the best substitute — sometimes shopping from up to 4 or 5 wholesalers to get what is needed. And before the designs can even be created, there’s the prep work: processing the flowers, cleaning vases, sourcing hard goods, figuring out the mechanics for trickier or more complex installations.
After the wedding, there’s the post-work: cleaning buckets, putting away all the rental inventory, making order of the studio’s creative chaos. Beyond all that, the cost of your wedding flowers reflects labor, insurance (both business and vehicle), studio overhead, and — if your florist is dedicated to his or her craft — continuing education. Flowers aren’t cheap, but anything that evokes mood and triggers such positive sensory experiences as flowers do has enormous value.
The bar is one of the “hot spots” of your wedding day. By hiring a reputable bartending company you’re insuring that your guests have a fun and safe experience while they are celebrating with you.
Rates for a bartender in the greater Seattle area are, on average, around $45/hour. This price reflects a competitive wage for employees, L&I insurance, taxes, and the proper liability insurance for every event. There is a lot of liability associated with serving alcohol, and safety measures we legally must abide by. To hire the right kind of staff and abide by the laws we are entrusted with, our rate reflect the costs involved to accomplish this.
Staffing also uses this pricing philosophy. Staff are the backbone of your event. They are the unsung heroes and keep the machine running, while getting little notice for it – as it should be! Well trained event staff should be able to execute an event without adding stress or bring attention to the “back of house.” In order to ensure this, there is invested time from the business owner for training and the offering of competitive wages to attract qualified workers.
Catering is typically one of the biggest expenses for a couple getting married. Keep in mind that catering generally encompasses more than serving the perfect Dungeness crabcake or beautifully grilled asparagus. Most full service caterers provide event planning services to coordinate rental equipment (i.e. china plates, glassware, linens, tents, tables and linens) but they also provide trained staff to trouble-shoot on the the day of, manage your bar (and the safe service of your delicious cocktails) and do the heavy-lifting with setup & teardown.
Prices vary greatly from one catering company to the next for many reasons. The quality of the product, the care they take in preparing it, how mindful the caterer is about safety and sanitation will all affect the final price.
Top caterers will also offer more consistency of product because of their long-term relationships with vendors and attraction of a more seasoned culinary & event team because they offer more regular work and benefits.
The overhead for more experienced caterers also results in higher prices because they are paying for insurance & employee to be in compliance, investing in on-going training for their team, and the infrastructure/experience of many years of executing successful events.
As shared by Sheena Kalso, Owner
Wedding coordinator rates seem to swing greatly, but if you compare coordinators of similar experience and reputation, you’ll find that rates are pretty consistent.
With any of our services, we consider the hours we spend on a couple’s wedding and multiply it by an estimated hourly rate. Our hourly rate must cover:
- State, federal and payroll taxes
- Operational overhead such as internet, phone, day-of equipment, client meetings and office supplies
- Business growth overhead such as memberships, advertising and marketing
- Legal overhead such as licenses, insurance and accounting
- Take home pay for the coordinator
Not to be forgotten is that when you hire an experienced pro, you benefit from all of their knowledge and hard learned lessons as well as their connections. This is a time and money saver. Mistakes or bad judgement calls on a wedding day are expensive and upsetting. A professional will help you avoid them.
* We are aware that not all important categories are represented in this list: Venue, Invitations, and Specialty Rentals, to name a few.