“One of the biggest issues in the wedding industry is undercharging”.
I was chatting to a friend about this blog when I made that statement and she just looked at me in amazement. Like so many of her generation (today’s brides to be), she automatically associated weddings with rip-off prices and overcharging.
But when I talk to wedding professionals – and especially the small businesses which make up the majority of our industry – nearly all of them mention the difficulty of actually making a profit.
Here in the UK, politicians talk a lot about the living wage – the amount you need to earn to cover the basic costs of living. At the time of writing it’s £7.65 (£8.80 in London) per hour.
I’m willing to bet that, if many of today’s wedding professionals worked out their hourly pay, it wouldn’t just be below the living wage, but probably below minimum wage too.
So what’s going on?
For me the issue with the wedding industry is not over-charging but over-buying – or rather encouraging over-buying.
I remember reading an article by a respected wedding professional which said in effect “couples with a budget under $25,000 can’t afford to get married”. Utter nonsense of course – let’s not confuse marriage and the wedding we have to celebrate it – but symptomatic of a view that a certain level of extravagance is required to “do it properly”.
And we’re probably all guilty – tapping into the emotions of our potential customers and selling them the dream of a perfect day.
We’re certainly not alone. Nearly all marketing is about emotions. Take all those supermarket 3 for the price of 2 offers encouraging us to spend more in order to save a little. Or the coffee chains charging £3 for something we could make for pennies at home.
But one of the results is that brides do want all the trimmings and, to squeeze everything into an already stretched budget, the amount they can spend on each element is limited. Which is why many, many couples are choosing cheap options. Only sometimes understanding that they won’t be getting the best.
And there are plenty of wedding suppliers willing to provide those budget services. Competition is fierce and there is constant downward pressure on prices.
There are lots of reasons for this but 3 of the most significant are:
1. The wedding industry is a desirable place to be – most of us absolutely love what we do. Very few of us went into this to make a fortune.
2. The recession has meant more and more people look to self-employment.
3. Barriers to entry are low, especially for services like cakes, photography, stationery
All of which means a steady stream of newcomers. Some are good, some not so good. Many run their business part time. All of them are willing to charge low prices to get a foot on the ladder – and I’m not criticising them for that.
But it leaves the more experienced suppliers struggling to make a full time living. And those newcomers later wondering how to make the transition from hobby business to one that pays the bills.
What to do?
One thing’s for sure – moaning about it on blogs and social media isn’t going to solve any problems. It’s tough out there, but the ones who will survive and thrive are those who understand the economics, the marketplace and most of, their customers. How will you be one of them?
– be the very, very best you can be – it’s the only way you can build your reputation and become one of those sought-after professionals that couples are willing to pay a premium to work with.
– know your numbers and get your business model right. Understand where you can trim costs without compromising quality.
– listen to your customers. Understand their desires, their values and treat everyone you encounter with the utmost respect.
Despite all that I’m optimistic
There is still so much good in the wedding industry. Talented people who really care. And in this era of social media and online reviews, the mediocre will disappear (or up their game) very rapidly. It will be easier for the cream to rise to the top.
I hope you will be among them.