Are You Being Overcharged for Your Wedding?

wedding fees
Photo by Jasmine Rose Photography

Have you ever wondered if that venue, photographer, or florist you’re getting quotes from is charging you MORE because you’re planning a wedding versus a birthday, meeting, or anniversary? According to a new report, there’s a good chance they might be!

Consumer Reports assigned reporters in Atlanta, Colorado Springs, Colorado, southeastern Maine, Minneapolis, and Ventura, California and asked them to call the same vendors (photographers, florists, caterers, etc.) at least a week apart to get quotes for a wedding and a 50th anniversary party that were almost “identical.”

The reporters discovered that “in more than a quarter of cases—28 percent—vendors quoted us prices that were higher for the wedding than for the anniversary party…Some photographers inflated their pricing when the affair was a wedding. For instance, photography for a Saturday night wedding in mid-October cost $300 per hour…For a 50th anniversary party of the same size at the same time with an almost identical package of services, though, the charge was $150 per hour.”

The “Wedding” Surcharge

One of the most concerning things they discovered were “built-in wedding-based gratuities of up to 26 percent.” At one major hotel chain in Austin a “24 percent taxable service charge and a 5 percent taxable event fee,” was added to the wedding. (NOTE: This is a very common charge at wedding venues.) On top of the sales tax that’s applicable to any type of party, an “$18,000 wedding reception becomes a $25,584 affair, an increase of 42 percent.” Crazy, right?

While some vendors–mostly caterers and photographers–had different price points for weddings vs. other events (such as banquets), they did find some that were willing to offer the lower-price package to the couple when they mentioned it..but for a Friday or Sunday and not on a prime Saturday. There would also STILL be additional staffing charges for a wedding, even if it was the same size as another type of party. Susan Doolan of Doolan’s Shore Club in Spring Lake Heights, N.J said: “On a wedding, there have to be some kinds of upcharges,” Doolan said. “People are expecting a different level of service and quantity of food.”

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Even though this all sounds pretty grim, there was a silver lining: Consumer Reports found a good portion of vendors they spoke to (from a group of 40 in across 12 states) were willing to work within the couple’s budget. For example, photographer Tiffany Dumas, owner of The Tiffany Studio in Brunswick, Maine, recommended a contract for just 2 to 3 hours of a 4-hour reception to save money. “By then you’ve got all your group shots, and some people already have left,” she explained. However, Dumas also defended the increased pricing some wedding photographers charge: “Before I even begin shooting, I’ve probably spent 3 to 4 hours getting to know the bride and groom, and planning the itinerary,” she said.

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So, what does all of this information mean for you? While you might not be able to get regular banquet pricing on a Saturday night, you should always try to get negotiate certain fees (such as facility rental fees at wedding venues) or try to get add-ons, such as an extra hour at your open bar or extra hour in your photography package. A survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that “consumers usually don’t exercise their bargaining clout.” Instead, they take on debt for their wedding ceremony and reception, which is something that can be avoided (at least somewhat).

Have you experienced any hidden fees or surcharges while planning your wedding? Let us know in the comments section, below!

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