A bride recently asked me a great question...As you've probably read in this column and elsewhere, those of us "in the wedding industry" often will tell brides that "you get what you pay for" or "beware of the cheapest vendor." But how do you know a good vendor when you see one? Before we answer that, it will be helpful to consider some basic business facts:
Like in any industry, from cars to toasters to weddings, there is a price range for each product and service,and this range varies from state to state, city to city. A big part of eliminating stress during your wedding planning is to understand these costs, and look for VALUE over PRICE. You must also be reasonable.
By "reasonable" I mean, you wouldn't pick up a car magazine from 5 years ago, and then go into a dealer expecting the same deal. So don't expect a wedding vendor to give you the same deal your sister got 5 years ago...time shave changed and so has cost of service,materials,etc. Also,you need to base your vendor budget not on a percentage of your total budget (as many magazines will advise), but on actual prices in the market.
For example if you are trying to plan a $15,000 wedding, and have budgeted 5% of that for a Videographer, that's $750. That sounds ok, but when you consider that the AVERAGE price for a videographer in Metro-Detroit is $1700, you will actually be hurting yourself severely by trying to find one for $750. Using the car analogy, imagine you walk onto a car lot and say you would like to buy a car, but only have $750. You may be able to get a car, but it won't be a good one, and there's a reason that price is so low. You may not even realize the lower quality until you drive it off the lot......the analogy being that cliched line again, "you get what you pay for."
Am I saying it is "bad" if someone offers a great deal or a significantly lower price? Yes and no actually. But here's how to tell the difference between a "good deal" and a potentially "bad" purchase.
You need to educate yourself before you make any major purchase, for your wedding as in life. You don't just walk into a store and say "How much for a dress?" There are a variety of styles, colors, fabrics, and sizes to choose from. Some may be over-priced and worth it because they are of higher quality. There may be some bargain values if you look hard enough.
The point is that the same goes for your wedding planning. You don't go in and simply buy the "cheapest" dress, you go in and try to find the "best value." These words, "value" vs. "price", are significant, because you can't just spend, spend, spend. But the "cheapest" option is rarely the "best value."
So think of it like this, you could buy the cheapest dress in the store for $20, or you can buy a dress you found that is name-brand, fits perfectly, and is higher-quality for $60...and it's on sale for $40. Although it's more expensive than the $20 dress, it carries greater value.
Only professionals can explain to you why one dress is $20 and the other $40. So begin educating yourself about all of the various components you want for your wedding, then seek out industry professionals. Ask others about their experiences. Keep a budget in mind, but try to look at finding "value" over "cheap."
Comparing Apples to Apples
So once you understand how the market is set up, and you have educated yourself, many will tell you to get a few different price quotes from a few different vendors. This is a good idea. Keep in mind the "average" price for a service in our area, and if you find a vendor that is dramatically off of that number, try to find out why. For example, the average for Photography is around $2200. If you find one that is charging $4000, find out why. It could be they are far superior in quality or experience...but make sure you can notice the difference from one charging $2000. Vendors should be able to tell you how they are different, and what makes them unique...If they can't tell you this then I'd suggest moving along.
You also want to make sure you are comparing the same things when you go to compare vendors. In my field of videography, it is common to add a "2nd Videographer" to the package, for example. One company may list this as $150 whereas another may list it at $500. Without thinking, some brides choose the company offering the $150 to save money. What they may not know is that the company charging $150 is sending out a teenager, to help the 1st Videographer carry bags and equipment, and just hit the record button. The company charging $500 might have been basing this on the fact that they send out another trained and seasoned veteran videographer, who by adding to your package will bring more creativity and quality to your finished video.
So as you see, there is more "value" to the $500 videographer. Whereas the $150 videographer may be cheaper, it isn't really adding to your day, or your video.
In the End It's not possible to go crazy, you should make smart decisions and stick to a budget that is affordable to you and your family. But don't rely on magazine suggestions based on percentages of your budget. Build your budget based on actual numbers, and how much things actually cost...Then whittle away the list into something that works for you.
Tom Santilli has been in the Detroit wedding industry since 2002, and in that time has established himself as one of the top in his field. His company, Complete Video Solutions , was named as the #1 Best Wedding Videographer in Detroit by local brides and Channel 4 5 consecutive years, 2010-2014, and was currently inducted into TheKnot.com's "Vendor Hall of Fame." He also has won several awards for his wedding production, and is a member of WEVA (Wedding & Event Videographers Association.) As the Detroit Wedding Examiner, he has helped hundreds of brides with their weddings, with a local knowledge not found anywhere else. Being in the industry for so long, he is an expert in all areas of wedding planning, not just videography. He welcomes your questions, article suggestions, or feedback, and he can be reached