image by Andrea Hubbell
Earlier this week, a very interesting article popped up on my newsfeed– “Why are Charlottesville weddings so dang expensive?” It was a C-ville Weekly cover story, written by a journalist I really admire, and it blew my mind. And not in a good way.
This is a conversation that my wedding industry friends and I have been having for months now; it’s a reality I know first-hand, having just gotten hitched on one of the most popular fall wedding weekends in 2012. And, as a girl who is building a career in the industry, the price of it all is in my face on a daily basis. Are Charlottesville weddings expensive? It’s all relative. It appears that our weddings are on par with weddings in Charleston and Southern California and other coveted wedding destinations.
I recently read another very smart blog post about the average cost of weddings. On average, couples spend around $28,500 on their weddings; in Virginia and Charlottesville in particular, that number creeps up to where $20-30,000 is considered “low budget” by the top end vendors in town. Yes– you could get a used car for that much and drive it to death for years. A wedding, on the other hand, is a mere party that lasts a day or a weekend– and yet its consequences last a lifetime. Is it worth spending enough for a college education on one single day? It’s all relative baby.
image via Borrowed and Blue
Here’s what I took issue with in this C-ville Weekly article:
1. The piece interviewed three of the area’s BEST and MOST COVETED vendors. Lynn Easton has been named one of the top 10 movers and shakers in the wedding industry on a national level. She has offices in Charleston and NYC, where people easily spend top dollar for their wedding celebrations. Jen Fariello is the Jose Villa of the East Coast. Shawn Cossette was a featured Martha Stewart Weddings floral designer last year. These people are the cream of the crop– and their clientele (and prices) reflect their quality. I’m not quite sure why this piece only interviewed the top tier vendors and essentially asked them, “Why are you so expensive?”
If you really wanted to get a well-rounded understanding of ALL the weddings that go down in Charlottesville, why didn’t you approach the vendors who charged less? I’m sure you’d see how couples with lower budgets have stunning, feature-worthy, and darling wedding celebrations in town. That just seems like lazy research or targeting people you’re actually attacking. Get all sides of the story and then decided whether all Charlottesville weddings are overpriced.
2. There were a lot of contradictions in the piece. The journalist has a secret pinboard with the most expensive diamonds, the most posh designer wedding dresses, the most over-the-top details populating her wedding day dreams. But then she turns around and says, “I like the idea of having a wedding—throwing a big party with my family and close friends—but I want my wedding to be about my partner and me. It’s not about frivolous details that quickly add up.” If that’s truly how you feel, promptly delete that secret pinboard and resize your expectations– yes, even in your daydreams.
A featured bride in the article said, “A wedding is mostly just a big party, so it seems very silly, and very wasteful, to spend a ridiculous amount of money on something that’ll last a few hours.” Yet the article also said the writer and her peers were of a “generation of social media-savvy brides who know what kind of wedding they want and deserve.” Deserve? No one *deserves* anything just because they are media-savvy. If you would like to spend the money on a luxe wedding, do it! And if you don’t, don’t do it! It’s that simple. You don’t deserve a $50,000 wedding just because you see other brides doing it. The overall tone of the piece was highly judgmental and slightly offensive. Which leads to my point…
image by Elisa B Photography
The wedding industry, in general, is ALL about supply and demand. Some brides decided they wanted more details in their wedding days. So they sought out vendors who could do that for them. Those vendors, in turn, had to work harder, had to step their game up, had to create unique celebrations every single weekend. Their quality increased, so their prices went up. That’s how it works. And brides pay them the prices they quote. Until brides take a step back and say, “No, I won’t pay that price,” quality vendors will continue to charge prices that reflect the high quality of work they’re producing. It’s that simple. For example: a vendor I know recently upped his or her prices. They were nervous to do so– but they sent one quote to one couple that was higher than they’ve ever charged before. The couple didn’t even blink and agreed to the price without question. So this vendor now has higher prices because couples are more than willing to pay it. Simple.
If you don’t want to be one of those brides, don’t seek out the highest quality vendor. There are dozens of lovely, wonderful vendors with lower prices. Perhaps your cake will have one tier instead of six; perhaps your photographer won’t shoot film; perhaps you won’t get the benefits of a full wedding planner– your planner will come in the day of and take over, but won’t help you craft all the details you’re coveting throughout the planning process; perhaps you won’t have a videographer– but Instagram has video now, so maybe your friends can string together various 15 second clips of your wedding day for you. But just because you’re not willing to pay the price for quality doesn’t mean there aren’t brides out there who will. And you cannot get angry about that.
Sidenote: don’t forget, you’ll have to pay money to put a party together anyway. You can pay a bit more to have someone else do it for you– or you can spend money AND TIME on doing it yourself. Just food for thought.
image via Pinterest
At the end of the day, there are couples who want the best. With the advent of the internet, weddings are now a commodity. They aren’t the private, intimate, friends-and-family-only celebrations they used to be before the world wide web. There isn’t enough space in the pages of a wedding magazine to feature every wedding. But suddenly, with blogs, there is! Everyone can get featured! Your wedding can be coveted and desired and envied. The pressure is on.
But the beauty of being a modern bride is this: THERE ARE NO RULES. No one is expecting you to keep tradition or wear a white dress or do what every other bride out there is doing. You have the luxury of doing whatever you want. So here are your choices: you can spend your $20,000 on emulating the featured weddings you see on Style Me Pretty. I promise you can do that in Charlottesville– invite 300 people, find a lower budget venue and vendors, and try to make it work. A cookie-cutter wedding in Charlottesville is one that looks and feels like every other Pippin Hill wedding that’s been done, void of real personality.
OR you could change your mindset. Spend that $20,000 on an over-the-top wedding day with 20 people; you can afford the highest quality vendors that way and then meet your friends out at a bar afterwards. If you don’t want to be “gagged by tradition, bad taste, and a lack of personality,” actually put your personality to use and have a wedding that’s truly YOU– not one hoping to copy all those pins you see on Pinterest.
I’ve worked Charlottesville weddings with budgets that ran the gamut. I was a Charlottesville bride with a budget that was a tad on the conservative side. It was, and still is, impossible to distinguish the high budgets from the low in the weddings I’ve been involved in, because ultimately even the “low budget” weddings had breathtaking, personal details. That’s really what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend– it’s how you use it.
See the C-ville article here. I’d love to know– what are your thoughts on the subject? Am I too much of a romantic? Am I totally crazy for being offended by this piece?
PS. All images are from a simple search for “Charlottesville wedding” on Pinterest!