Wedding vendors across the US are up in arms about the release of WeddingWire’s Cost Guide. Many wedding professionals felt that the costs that this guide presents to couples are far from realistic and are much lower than what they charge.
Personally, I think the people at WeddingWire mean well, I’ve spoken at WeddingWire World and they were fantastic to work with, but they’re doing a serious disservice to vendors and couples alike with this cost guide. Of course, this is an issue because WeddingWire is a huge company in our industry and they have an impact on what couples think and expect when it comes to industry prices, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, there is a lot of opportunity for you here!
Before we get into those opportunities, let’s dig into the data from the WeddingWire Cost Guide. The guide allows you to choose a category (unless you’re a stationery designer because I guess invitations aren’t a thing) and a location to see average costs.
I decided to look at the cost of wedding planners in San Diego and herein lies the problems.
Underneath this graphic, there is text about what wedding planners do, and you have to scroll to get to a point where they actually talk about the different types of services and packages that planners provide. For a lot of planners, this is WAY below their prices and I completely see why you would feel that WeddingWire is misleading people. I too think averages are an asinine way of providing meaningful data.
I reached out to WeddingWire to find out how they came to these numbers and they told me…
“The WeddingWire Wedding Cost Guide uses aggregated pricing data collected on an ongoing basis to help educate future engaged couples on price expectations. Couples have the option of including pricing information, in addition to details about their experience and photos of their wedding services, when they write vendor reviews on WeddingWire. Vendors have the option of including pricing and FAQ information as part of their account Storefront. This same information also allows users to search and filter by price in the vendor directory on desktop, mobile and the WeddingWire app.
The pricing data was analyzed to find the low, average, and high cost of various wedding services in regions across the U.S. and on a national level as well as statistics (like 32% of videographers offer drone footage) that may be useful to couples during their planning process.”
The problems with the methodology here are numerous and I could spend a lot of time dissecting it, but the main issues stem from:
- The data coming from vendors and couples on WeddingWire. Your ideal client may not even use WeddingWire so this may not be representative of them, or you, and that’s fine.
- These findings are based on averages. The average human has 1 testicle. Accurate? I mean, I guess so. Helpful? Not really.
- There is no nuance for different packages. The cost of a day of coordination package is very different than the cost of a full planning package.
- This puts the focus on what other people spend and not on value.
And that my friend, is why the WeddingWire Cost Guide may be in wedding industry news, but it really doesn’t matter. Of course, setting an unrealistic expectation for wedding vendors is a shitty move on their part, but you certainly aren’t beholden to them. You can take control of this.
I dug into the discussion forums on WeddingWire and found a lot of people asking about wedding budgets to try to get a ballpark idea of costs because they have no idea about the pricing and want to get a general picture, but that in itself isn’t very helpful. Some of them felt very misguided and disappointed by the advice they received. And companies that promote this way of crowdsourcing a budget aren’t very helpful either. Most people who are getting married have never done this before. They’re going into this blind. You know what they do need? A guide who will be honest with them.
Asking “How much does a wedding cost?” is pretty similar to asking “How long is a piece of string?”. It depends on a million variables and presents an opportunity for you to educate and help your potential clients. When you’re engaged, starting from square one, and know nothing about what you’re paying for, that’s the question you ask. It’s up to you to guide them to the more important questions.
For example, your wedding budget is going to depend on your own personal budget, what you want it to be/feel like, the experience you want to provide, and what you care about most. Our own priorities drive so much of our spending choices. Personally, I value a car at $0 because I don’t need one where I live, it wouldn’t add value to my life. I do place a lot of value on where I live and I’m willing to spend more on rent than I ever have because of what I get in exchange for that.
I’m sure you make the same choices for yourself. If you care a lot about food, you may spend more trying new restaurants than someone who isn’t much of a foodie. If traveling means more to you than anything else, you probably cut back in certain areas so that you can travel more. The same thing applies to a wedding budget. You have the opportunity to educate your potential clients about this aspect of wedding planning because not every wedding is the same, nor should it be.
People spend money on things they care about, and maybe they don’t care that much about what it is you offer, or maybe you’re not communicating the value you provide. So much of someone’s willingness to pay more for something is directly tied to the value they perceive.
There is a reason why some people buy $20,000 cars while others buy $100,000 cars, and others still spend multiple six figures on cars. Practically speaking, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the parts that different car brands use, but that’s not what you buy when you buy a luxury car. It’s not about the parts. It’s about the way it makes you feel, the way it makes others feel about you, the way it improves your life. Just because Nissan sells a car for $16,000 does not prevent BMW from selling a car for $80,000. They provide different value for people who care about different things.
Just because WeddingWire says the “average” price in your market is $1,200 does not mean you can’t charge 10x that amount. You just have to position your business to be the perfect fit for your ideal client and effectively communicate the value you provide.
Here are some things you can do in order to make lemonade from WeddingWire’s lemons.
1. Educate couples on setting a budget for their wedding and that averages are just that. This can work so well as content marketing for your business. Write a blog post about what they should consider or the top mistakes couples make.
2. Evaluate how you’re communicating the value you provide. Are you competing based on price and the features of what you offer instead of the benefits? Now is the time to change that up.
3. Get clear on who your ideal client is and what he or she cares about. Appeal to those things in your marketing! Need help with that? I wrote a book that will guide you through it!
4. Look at how you’re positioning yourself. If you’re charging 3x more than your competitors, are you making yourself stand out or does it just appear that you’re both essentially the same at different prices?
5. Don’t be so invested in what someone else thinks you should be charging. It’s your business, you make the rules. You can book many clients at lower prices, few clients at higher prices, or something in between. Don’t let WeddingWire running some averages dictate what you charge. Pricing is so much more than that.
6. Ride the marketing and PR coattails of what WeddingWire is doing. Write about what they got wrong and what couples should consider when setting their budget instead. Do you think they’re setting couples up for disappointment? Share that and offer your take.
What WeddingWire is providing to couples is the equivalent to a personal finance website providing a budget template based on what people spend on average. It doesn’t matter and probably won’t apply to most people. What really matters is value, priorities, and positioning. The great thing is all 3 of those things are in your hands.
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