The Truth About Weddings

Hi friends, thanks once again for checking up on my weekly blog here, I greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to connect on the website here. As a long-time wedding filmmaker here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, I can tell you one thing that couples hate, the overall cost of weddings keeps going up and up each year. 

If you’ve been reading up on the costs of weddings in the US, you know that the average is close to $34,000 according to theKnot.com (and $25,300 adjusted for our region of Virginia), but what they don’t tell you is that average can vary greatly from region to region and there are some hard truths to the wedding industry that I’d like to share with you today.

The truth is, you don’t need a BIG, expensive wedding, in fact you don’t need any of it, not me, not a wedding photographer, a wedding venue, a dress, none of it.

All you really need is a marriage license and someone to perform the ceremony, fill out the form and mail it in, that’s about it oh, sure some basic wedding bands too.

Honestly, you can get married for a few hundred bucks as the bare minimum.

I know what you’re thinking at this point - “Josh, hello, why in the world are you tell me that, aren’t you supposed to be selling me a wedding video or something?”

Well, yes and no. I’d love to work with you on a wedding film, but not if you’re taking out a 10 year wedding loan to pay for everything, wedding video is not something everyone can afford and I get that.

But that aside, the truth of the matter is that you don’t need a fancy wedding to get married.

What I will tell you however is that a wedding brings two families together in order to celebrate a new-found marriage together.

Couples want to offer friends, family and loved ones to partake in the special day and create life-long memories, which is one of the most important in their lives. That’s why we do weddings. To celebrate their love for one another and to cherish the ones you love.

A Common Misconception About Wedding Vendors

Perhaps the most misunderstood thing about us wedding vendors is that we make hand-over-fist with pockets full of cash. In fact, more than 82% of wedding vendors in the United States are breaking even or making less than 10% profit each year.

I understand that you’re thinking about that statement say saying, how can that be?

Well, simply put, it takes a lot of capital to start a business, including a wedding business. As any wedding venue, they sink hundreds of thousands of dollars if not a million or two into their facilities and you get charged say $2,000-$10,000 for a wedding.

Scenario 1

Let’s run the numbers on a sample wedding venue for a moment. Say you bought land and setup a wedding venue and the bank loan was $300,000. That’s money for land, a building and some basics like tables, chairs, lights, landscaping and to hire 3-4 people to help run the place.

Your venue does 25 weddings a year at $2,500 per couple. That’s $62,500 a year, not bad. But then you have 3 employees part-time making each $18,500, That leaves you with $7,000 in change. You still have the mortgage payment, the power bill, advertising, marketing, business license, taxes and other odds and ends.  I highly doubt you can do that with seven grand and having to pay back the $300,000 you borrowed to begin with. Many people that get into the business have no idea how much overhead is really involved.

Scenario 2

Wedding Photographer Where the Money Goes Annually

Typical Spending Habits of a Wedding Photographer making $50,000 a year

You decide to become a wedding photographer and you set off to buy new gear on your credit card. You need a high-end DSLR, Let’s say a basic Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, well that’s $2,000 then then you have the lenses for that, let’s just say a basic 50 mm prime lens at $1,000 refurbished and 24-700 mm zoom at $1,500. Then you have batteries, lights, bag, memory cards and a decent computer with Adobe Creative cloud, say $1,800 modest.

$6,300 and you still don’t have a website, branding, or any of that other stuff. You do 25 weddings at $2,000 each bringing in $50,000. Paying down the credit cards that leaves you with $43,700, then taxes taken out is about $30,590. That’s about $2,550 a month. Not bad, but there’s insurance, replacement gear costs, travel, etc. The costs add up.

My point is that most wedding vendors are not making large sums of money, many are doing okay at what they do, but they are not crushing it as many couples think.

One thing I will point out however is a wedding vendor that’s full-time vs. part-time, there is a difference and usually that translates into costs too.

Someone that is full-time is required to work more and often charge more for their work in order to make it within the wedding business, yes there’s always exceptions, but generally speaking that’s the case.  Part time vendors usually are retired or have a full-time job so they can be more flexible with their product or service costs, many times it will save you a few bucks.

When I was a full-time filmmaker, I needed to charge a minimum of $2,200 in order to get by at what I did. Today, after selling my business in 2015 and returning to it part-time, I can charge $1,400 on average and still come out ahead, it’s a more reasonable rate and I’m offering the same types of films from years ago.

Is it Worth the Investment, having a Wedding?

The short answer, yes, it is.

Having a wedding can be fun, joyous and extremely memorable.

BUT, you shouldn’t have to go into massive amounts of debt to have a great wedding and honestly, I’ve seen couples here in the Roanoke valley that have had amazing weddings, me included in the cost, for about $19,000. Sure, that’s still a lot of money, but it’s much cheaper than the national average.

Listen, I’ve filmed weddings where the couple spent $125,000 here in Roanoke (at St. John’s and the Hotel Roanoke in 2002) to backyard BBQ weddings that cost maybe $1,500 total.

There is NO right way or wrong way to have a wedding and budget, while important, shouldn’t be the overall factor into having your wedding. Yes, you need a budget first and foremost and you need to stick to that if possible.

What Us Vendors Don’t Want You to Know

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this little secret but here it goes, vendors of all types are able to negotiate on prices for their services.

What do I mean by that?

Well, everything has a cost and that cost isn’t always a fixed one, you can always adjust cost. That doesn’t mean you walk into a wedding venue that cost $5,000 for the day and demand you pay $1,200 for it, that just won’t happen. But what we don’t want you to know is that by working the numbers here and there, you can spread your costs around and make a better wedding.

Think of it this way to help better understand.

Where you get your dress from, it may cost $1,000. Well, the truth is you’re going to wear it for less than a day, let’s be modest and say 12 hours. Then, never again. Instead of spending $1,000 on a dress, spend $500, you just saved yourself $500 and you can take that and hire someone like me to film the ceremony.

Instead of one $1,000 item you’ll get no use from after half a day, you bought a dress and scored a wedding ceremony video, while basic and while the dress might not be the one you really wanted, you’re thinking about where to spend and where to put those dollars at too.

The wedding dress shop isn’t going to tell you to spend less, after all they’re in business to make money.  That’s just one example of many that you can do in order to help maximize the use of your money.

100% of the wedding vendors out there want you to work with them and many will go to great lengths through marketing to sell themselves to you, I’m no exception here.

But while you will only work with a few vendors for your wedding there are some key elements that you should look for in a wedding vendor.

What to Seek when Hiring a Wedding Vendor

First, see if they’re available to do their product or service at your wedding. If you make first contact with a wedding vendor, just give them your wedding date, they may already have taken it. If they did, there is no sense in going down a long path only to find out the dates already taken.

My old Studio on Williamson Rd Roanoke

My old Studio on Williamson Rd Roanoke

That happened to me in 2014. I had a studio on Williamson Rd. and a bride reached out to me from Blacksburg. I asked her about her date and when it was but throughout the email communication, she told me everything but the date. After about 3 days of emailing back and forth, she wanted to come in and book me. 

So, I finally got her into the studio along with some of her friends and low and behold she finally told me the date, well I had two weddings that day and I wasn’t able to help her so make sure your wedding date is known ahead of time when talking to a wedding vendor.

Second, interview them if you will. When you meet or if you communicate through email or text, ask great questions. Each and every wedding vendor has a way of going about their communication but during that process ask questions about how long they’ve been in the business, have them give you examples of their best work and their worst, yes worst.

Providing a story about their worst and overcoming it will show you they have the ability to work around issues on the fly and that’s very important!

My point, see if they are a good fit for you as many of us do the same about you when meeting up.

Finally, see if they will work within the budget that you have setup for their products or services. Sometimes you will be, sometimes you won’t but investigate that too.

STAY ON BUDGET

If you’re like many couples, you will have a budget to work with for your wedding. The most important point here, stay with it!

Yes, you can adjust it if you need to do so, but if you do adjust something else within the budget to compensate it.

Every wedding vendor will want you to spend as much money as you can with them, buying upgrades or little things that add up to bigger amounts later so if you have a venue budget of say $4,600, stay within that budget.

Being able to navigate the wedding industry with money can be difficult if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing but stick with it as much as you can. Here’s an example.

If you want to hire me for the wedding day but you only have $1,100 for a wedding video, purchase my services that fit into that price even if it doesn’t include everything that you want.

TRUST me, you will be much happier having a service or product that fits into your budget (slightly over or under it) rather than to have to fork out another $4-500 to get something else added on.

Well, the same applies to all vendors, stick to your budget and bring it with you to all your meetings to help you keep focused.

Wedding Vendor Politics

Why yes, there are politics within the wedding industry right here in the Roanoke Valley (as well as every market out there) and that’s something that just about all the vendors don’t want you to know.

It could be that one vendor talks about another behind their back or they spread rumors about another wedding vendor, but the truth of the matter is that it does occur just like any other industry.

I’ve seen it more so with wedding photographers than any other type of vendor in the area and it’s mostly a pissing contest honestly.

Arrogance gets in the way of the real task at hand, providing great couples great wedding services and that arrogance will sometimes get in the way of others too.

As an example, I worked with a wedding photographer from Lynchburg where they (husband and wife team) treated me like a second-class person while at a wedding I filmed. They didn’t communicate with me and did a horrible job of including me in shots, then decided to talk smack about me to other vendors months after the wedding.

Well that does one thing, gossip.

Listen, no one needs it and honestly no one really cares.

Within the wedding industry those that do their job and do it well.

Then you have those that are okay at what they do but they play games by talking badly about others, others in the industry as well as couples they work with.

My point is that clients looking to hire you don’t want to hear your pitter-patter.

But there is something that you should do as a couple getting married, ask vendors if they work well with others and if they have anyone on a “blacklist” of vendors.

Some just don’t play well with each other and if you know that ahead of time, you can prevent any sort of drama at your wedding that will eventually effect your services at your wedding.

I’d say that 99% of us wedding vendors have one or two vendors they don’t like working with but for the most part, you should be good.

As a couple getting married all you need to know is that politics within the wedding industry happens and if someone tosses another business under the bus with harsh words, don’t always take that to heart, research for yourself and determine whats what.

Well friends, there you have it, the truth about weddings and the wedding industry. Sure, there is always an exception to all the rules but generally speaking this is how the wedding industry is and operates. As always, I appreciate you stopping by the wedding blog here, hope to hear from you soon!