As I’ve gotten older many of my friends have celebrated engagements, started wedding planning and at one time said the words to me, “everything costs more when you say it’s for a wedding” or, “when you say wedding they stick an extra zero on the end”. Some I have protested against but few really understood my reasoning. So I want to put my side of the story across. You can make your own decision and you may still feel like the wedding industry is trying to rip you off but at least you’ll have made an informed decision and I can’t ask for more than that.
I know weddings are expensive! I get it - I really do. I’m not even going to try and argue that many services that appear like-for-like aren’t more expensive in the wedding domain. What I want to discuss is why it’s more expensive - because you’re not comparing like-for-like. As far as I know the wedding industry isn’t made up of blood sucking, money hungry villains who just want to rip you off on your wedding day (though there’s no official stats on that!). The wedding industry I know is a hard working bunch who really do want you to have the best day ever. I have one of the best jobs on the planet but not because of a fat ass pay check - but because on the best day of your life I get to see you smile, know how happy you are and know I had a small part to play in this amazing day for you. As corny as that sounds!
So to the point - yes it does cost more because it’s your wedding day but it’s not because we heard the word wedding and we saw your wedding as an opportunity to make a tonne of cash. I promise you it’s because you get so much more from us.
I can’t speak for everyone in the wedding industry so let’s take hair and makeup for our first example. Yes I know you can pop down to your local blow dry bar and get a blow dry for £30-£45. So why does The Tori Harris Pro Team charge between £100-£150 for a bride and £50-£75 for your bridal party? Because it’s your wedding day? Well actually yes! But here’s why:
- There are 13 Saturdays between the start of June and the end of August - this is the peak wedding season when most weddings will take place. For me that means that I need to earn the bulk of my annual salary on those 13 days. Yes I will get some weddings outside of this time and yes I’ll work some other days but almost all weddings fall on weekends during the summer so I work every weekend in the summer.
- We offer a mobile service for weddings so we’ll come to your house, hotel or venue to ensure the morning is as relaxing as possible for you. This is a luxury service so should cost more than you going to your local blow dry bar. It also means because we’ll be travelling we will only take on one wedding booking per day. So those 13 Saturdays are precious to us. We’ll spend a couple of hours traveling to and from your wedding on top of the time we’re there with you on your wedding day.
- We don’t just turn up on the day, I will often spend hours emailing brides regarding the timings of their day, their concerns regarding hair and makeup, advice on skin care or extensions or what they can do to achieve their desired look. To be honest, any advice you’re looking for, if I know the answer I will give it to you, but that’s just who I am. We spend hours working on timetables and adjusting them because Jane didn’t want to go first and your mother in law needs to leave earlier. We make sure the timetable works for everyone and has you all ready in time.
- I’ve got years of experience from hundreds of brides. I know what is going to last and what won’t, I’m up to date with all the latest trends (so when your bridesmaids find a video on instagram of a hair rose - I’ll give it to them). I’m going to be honest with you and tell you if something won’t last all day and work out what we can do to make you feel and look amazing from 10AM to midnight.
- We don’t just do your hair and leave. We usually stay right up until you leave for your ceremony. We’re there ushering your bridesmaids off to get dressed on time, putting your veil in or posing for those beautiful getting ready shots with you. You name it we’ve probably done it - from helping to clean up and lock up before leaving to sewing bridesmaids into dresses when a zipper broke! It’s not in the job description but it’s a part of the role. My job is to make sure you leave for your wedding day looking and feeling amazing - whatever it takes!
Now I can’t speak for everyone and maybe some people aren’t as genuine and I won’t argue you on that point. Sadly we live in a world of scammers and those looking to make a quick buck. But I’m not that guy and neither are most of the hard working small businesses, independent trades and one man bands that I know in the wedding industry.
Most of the wedding suppliers I know - and again - this does not stand for everyone - are small businesses, often sole traders working hard, long hours in a creative field to bring you the very best they can.
I know you saw my above statement about there being 13 peak Saturdays and thought well you can do another job around that! It’s only 13 days per year! Yes that’s true but so much work goes into everything I do before I even get to the wedding day. As a small business you have to do everything yourself. So for you to even find me I have to build a website, maintain and update it, be active on social media (not just scrolling through Facebook!), email clients, network with wedding suppliers, do pre-wedding trials, talk to brides on the phone about why they should book me. That goes into the other five days a week I work too.
So service based jobs - someone physically there on your wedding day maybe you can see why that costs more but wedding dresses, bridesmaids’ dresses etc - they’re all so expensive right!?
You could just buy a dress on ASOS for £50 and be done? Well, that is an option yes. But not if you are looking for that shade of sage green to match the ferns in your bouquet.
The reason why bridesmaid dresses are more expensive than traditional evening wear on the high street purely comes down to economies of scale. As bridesmaid dress companies offer all of their dresses in a huge range of colours, often well over 50 shades, each dress is made to order. Whereas ASOS can be huuuuuge reams of fabric in one shade to make 5,000 of exactly the same dress, the bridesmaid dress company will make perhaps only six! And they have to purchase their rolls of fabric in all those 50+ shades on the off chance that a bride may order the colour, but some may never get ordered at all.
Many bridesmaid (and bridal) dress companies are small, independent businesses. They are placing very small production orders at their factories and so their production costs are huge compared to the much larger high street or online chains. For you to have the vast choice of beautiful, designer dresses in so many colours that are literally made just for you and your bridesmaids means the price has to go up.
And perhaps you don’t want to be ordering your bridesmaids’ dresses online? If you want that experience of going to the beautiful bridal shop and twirling in dresses, picking out colours, touching and feeling fabrics, trying on before you buy, that’s the additional service you get for your wedding. You get a dedicated appointment with our specialists just for you (no queuing for changing rooms like in H&M!).
We don’t charge for appointments at The Boutique, which is in all honesty becoming rare now and I can understand why - it costs so much in staffing, rent and everything else for that one hour slot (it costs us over £100k a year just to be open!) ideally you need to know you’re going to make some money. For now though we’re trying to buck that trend - we believe in our product - it’s well priced and we think that our brides will love it!
That’s not to say we’re constantly fighting the online market with brides-to-be coming to us, trying on items and then looking online to find a better price. Sadly we don’t make any money that way. So we’re always careful at The Boutique not to be undersold anywhere online. For all of our appointments you’ll be the only one at that time - so if you’re trying on wedding dresses or bridesmaids’ dresses you’ll have the whole lower ground floor changing area to yourself and while other customers may browse upstairs you’ll have a staff member’s undivided attention because your custom means so much to us we want you to have the best time trying on dresses!
So what I am trying to say is we’re not charging you extra because we can or we want to - we’re charging you extra because we’re giving you extra. Our time, expertise and care. We’re working unsociable hours - almost every week I give up my weekend to work in the wedding industry and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Yes, weddings are expensive - you do get charged more but not because we heard the word wedding but because what you need and want is different. You want your wedding hair and makeup artist 100% dedicated to you and your bridal party, at your venue, on time and possibly even with an emergency sewing kit on hand. You want 120 meals served at once which means you need more chefs and waiters. You want bespoke bridal headpieces made in your exact colours, not just picked off the shelf at Accessorise. You want your bridesmaids’ dresses in literally the perfect shade of blush pink.
So by all means - compare prices but can we compare like-for-like - service-to-service. You wouldn’t compare a Ford to a Ferrari or Primark to Gucci. Yes you can save money, no your wedding doesn’t have to be frightfully expensive. But if you have a certain expectation of a service, of someone’s time, that will cost you. So if you need to cut costs think about what is important to you, what you are willing to pay someone to do and maybe what you can do yourself.
Tori has worked in the wedding industry for 7 years. She runs London wedding hair and makeup agency - The Tori Harris Pro Team which works both with celebrities in TV and fashion and on weddings. She also co-owns London bridal and bridesmaid shop - The Boutique in Fulham , a bridal shop which caters to every part of the bridal party from wedding, flower girl and bridesmaids dresses to shoes and wedding hair accessories from The Boutique co-owner Victoria Millésime.