Wedding professionals are often accused of charging ‘ridicules’ rates. So many potential clients I see spend a fair amount of consulting time complaining how ‘expensive’ things are when it comes to a wedding. Weddings seem expensive to an average citizen because they do not generally entertain large numbers of people and seldom take a moment to break down the wedding into components to understand how prices are calculated. It is not a conspiracy to ‘rip off’ as for wedding suppliers offering their respective services is the way of earning a living.

Before I go on, I would like to make it clear that when I refer to a wedding, I  refer to a bride and the groom who decided to get married at the wedding venue, invited guests and would like to have a wedding which they wish to be photographed, captured on film, decorated and have all general attributes of a modern wedding as depicted and made popular by print media, social meaida and TV.

Wedding professionals offer wide range of services that allow couples to experience the modern notion of a wedding – a beautiful, stress free, fun and memorable wedding day which becomes part of couple’s memory bank investment.

Per weddings, there are minimum of 8 main suppliers involved – planner, wedding venue, catering component, decorating company, photographer, videographer, musician and DJ, cake specialist, stationers, dress designer/bridal boutique etc.

Before we start discussing the price structure let’s introduce another very important component in the modern wedding planning world – the Pinterest. The wonderful social media tool that allows images of gorgeous weddings to be shared worldwide.

Let put some things into perspective:

Why your wedding venue is “so expensive”

A wedding venue is place where a couple can host a large number of guests. The venue offers adequate banqueting facilities, kitchen area which can cater for a dinner, toilet facilities and a garden area. Most venues offer wedding ceremony site too. The general upkeep of a decent wedding venues goes into millions of rands per year – water, electricity, equipment, furnishings and staff to run and service the venue. When you hire a venue for one day, you are renting this multi million rand estabilshment for one day, so if the net worth of an average venue is R60 million rand then a R30 000 venue hire is 0,05% of the net worth of your venue that you are paying for.

Why is waiting staff so expensive

Waiting staff is charged at the market related rate which combines a minimum wage plus experience level of the waiter. The more training and experienced the waiters employed by the venue, the higher the rate. When the staff at the venue is adequately remunerated for their services, they re able to generate a good salary to take care of themselves and their families and are not interested at pick pocketing at a wedding. When you hire cheap staff not only the quality of the service is not good, but those are the weddings where things go missing.

Why is my photographer so expensive

A professional and experienced photographer invested in their own education and invested into top equipment. On average, photographers’ gear is worth R250 000 – R500 000 – which they actually bring to a wedding – cameras, lenses, memory cards and other important paraphernalia which allows them to deal with outdoor/indoor lighting. On top of that, they require licensed software, fast processing hardware and subscriptions to various programs which allow them to create album layouts. Their insurance premium is high considering their high risk profile (driving to and from Muldersdrift every weekend with R500 000 worth of equipment is considered high risk). When your photographer charges R30 000, a third of that rate goes towards printing of albums. A portion goes towards paying an assistant photographer on the day of the wedding, travel expenses and wear and tear on their vehicle (as most wedding professionals put their vehicles through rough drive almost every weekend) and a cell phone communication. Photographer’s rate works out to around R150 – R350 per hour depending on their packages. Given their talent, skills and net worth, the rate you are paying is bellow market related professional and experienced specialist charges R1 000 per hour in the corporate environment.

Why is wedding video company so expensive

Just like photographers, videographers own very expensive equipment worth more than half a million of Rands brought to a wedding. Usually the crew is made up of two to four cameramen (depending on the wedding). Post wedding production requires sophistcated software and hardware and skilled editors to create a wedding film of good quality. A 90 minute film takes almost 2 years to produce and wedding video companies have 10 hours to shoot documentary style, work with real people and then produce a wedding film that is clear, has excellent sound and interesting to watch and at R14 000 – R23 000 for all equipment, crew and skill this is reasonable.

Why are flowers and decor so expensive

Next to the catering company which works with consumable products and tight timeline, decorating company has the most demanding, physical and time pressured responsibility at a wedding. When brides think of wedding flowers, they think of flowers. Flowers need to be purchased, conditioned, arranged, packed and delivered to them venue and then set up. Decor needs to be cleaned, packed, carried and loaded and off loaded. An established decorating business is worth millions in stock, packaging set up, cold room, hundreds of buckets, delivery vans and a spacious set up required for processing of thousands of stems. They require refuse removal services, large amount of cleaning materials and they consume a lot of water to keep flowers alive and a lot of electricity to keep the flowers cool and fresh. The human power needs to be adequate in order to be able to work under pressure.

When decorating a wedding, there are three main component required – raw materials (flowers, candles), hardware hire (table decor items, linen, chairs, etc) and adequate human resources to execute a wedding set up and break down. On average, 170 hours is dedicated to this service. At the moment, most decorating companies are lucky to make anything more then R20 000 per wedding (before deducting operational costs) and that means that you are paying R118 per hour for a million rand set up, a team of around 5 people and deliveries. Florists and decorators are underpaid and carry on doing what they do because they love their craft but it is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

When a bride comes in with her inspirational images that were created by international firms charging hundreds thousands of US Dollars per event, and a local florist is given a budget of R20 000 for ‘everything’ for 100 people wedding, it is just insulting.

Wedding florists and decorators are not magicians, they cannot conjure up flowers and decor out of nothing. They cannot wave their magic wand and have your reception set up beautifully. They require adequate resources to purchase raw materials, they require a mode of transportation that is big enough to fit all these items and yes they need to be paid for skills they bring to each job.

What is insulting is when a potential clients screen wedding companies and judgements are based on where their are working from, how many staff they have,  what vehicles they drive, what stock/equipment they use and then they dismiss wedding rates as ridiculously high.

Reality check – most wedding suppliers have to work from home because their rates are just enough to cover their existence. No most wedding suppliers are not rolling in the dough, in fact most of them are sinking deeply into debt because they are continuing to subside weddings out of their own pockets.





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