I recently read an article that told brides not to worry about rain on the wedding day and their dress getting ruined, because they can just send out a bridesmaid to pick up a bunch of golf umbrellas, on the day of the wedding.... and maybe even in the wedding colors.
Because it's that easy.
Reality? The bride and her bridesmaids are probably in hair and make up and there isn't exactly time to have someone from the party run out and pick up coordinating umbrellas. It's also probably very early in the day and many stores aren't even open. And where exactly are you getting golf umbrellas? Did you also know that only bright colors show up in photos, i.e. white, pink, yellow and so forth? Golf umbrellas tend to be black, or have logos or designs on them, and all of that photographs horribly. But hey, send out a bridesmaid to fetch a few and just like that, photo magic just like you've seen on Pinterest!
And that was just one piece of advice in one article from one website. With more and more couples planning their weddings from their smartphones, it is no wonder brides and grooms are confused and overwhelmed on a daily basis. Hundreds of sites are competing for couples to visit their site over the rest so that they can get advertisers to spend money with them. Advertisers will take their money off the table if they aren't getting new brides and grooms. So how does a site get the brides and grooms to keep coming back?
By telling them what they want to hear.
Who is even writing half of these articles? Anyone can be a blogger, but who is writing the articles for wedding website hotspots? Ever google an author's name from an article with brilliant advice like the golf umbrella nonsense? Would it surprise you to find out that many authors have little to no wedding background and that their full time and real jobs include anything from bartender to yoga instructor?
As long as couples are relying on the internet for inspiration and answers to their questions, there will be piles of outdated answers, half-truths and flat out lies. And while it's impossible to educate everyone with real facts, it's irresponsible to not even try.
So here are the top 10 "helpful hints" you are reading that are complete and total crap.
1. What to Book and When
Treating weddings like they are all based on some mathematical formula is insulting and flat out stupid. Just because you give an app your wedding date and it spits back when you need to book your venue and all of your vendors, doesn't mean it's correct. Yes, there are basic parameters including booking your venue at least a year out and purchasing the gown at least nine months before your wedding date. But what happens when you get engaged and your wedding is three to six months later? How about the fact that certain wedding gowns can be ordered nine months out and some only need six months? If you have a Fall wedding date in mind (think: September-October), there is a strong possibility that you will need more than a year out to book your venue. These "wedding planning timelines" are, at best, full of suggestions. Kind of like speed limit signs.
2. In Season Flowers and BYOC
There is this "thing" about only having in season flowers at your wedding in order to save you buckets of money. In reality, if you want a certain flower and it is in season, but I can get it somewhere else (Columbia, Holland, whatever) at a wholesale cost for less, then that's what I'm going to do. This means going into a florist and demanding only "in season" flowers is a waste of time. A better idea is to go to a florist with pictures, ideas and the budget you are working with. Let the professional tell you what can and can't be done and go from there. Also, ignore that bit about renting or buying your own containers and giving them to the florist to work with. Many times this won't save you money and you'll spend weeks and weekends looking for containers that measure the exact height and width necessary for your florist to work with. Plus, wedding professionals have relationship with wholesale companies (flowers and containers) and can absolutely get a better deal than you could. So, let them.
3. "Wedding" is a Four-Letter Word
Do not waste your time arguing with every venue, caterer and vendor about what their costs would be if this was just a birthday party with 250 of your closest friends. Despite what these blogs want you to believe, just because you say it's a "wedding," doesn't mean the cost is going to triple. A peony costs the same no matter what the event. The flower doesn't know it's an engagement party and not a wedding. I cannot give you a lower price on pipe and drape because it's not for a wedding... Why? Because the fabric costs what it costs, and the team I have charges the rates they charge to set it up. Plenty of times my set up staff doesn't know (or doesn't even remember) what kind of event they are even prepping for. Why? Because it doesn't matter. So, being snarky to the baker with cute questions like "what would this four-tier cake shaped like a rose cost if this wasn't a wedding?" doesn't make much sense. Plus... I've seen plenty of birthday cakes cost double and more than certain wedding cakes.
4. Barns, Museums, and Other Creative Spaces Save You Money
It is trendy to get out of the ballroom and into a creative space. Barns are hugely popular and now plenty of couples want someplace different, including mansions, museums and private homes. Blogs will tell you that spaces such as these will save you so much on decor because there is so much to look at that who needs centerpieces? Um, well, let's just say that's true (it's not, but let's say that it is). These spaces are creative. Creative is an industry way to say "cool, unique and raw". Raw is slang for "you are bringing everything in". So, how much are you really saving here on decor? Minimal to no flowers needed on the table because the surroundings are just that good, but hey, you actually need to bring in those tables. And chairs. Ceremony and reception. And. And. And. Another industry term? "Estate Fee", which translates to "the cost of walking in the door and using the space". Some creative spaces have $30,000 estate fees attached to them, making them not exactly the best way to save you money.
5. Buffets Are Less Expensive Than Sit Down Dinners
This was pretty much true for a very long time and if you show this to your parents they will say that it still is. As the wedding industry has grown and evolved, this too has changed. Buffets absolutely can be less expensive, but there are plenty of times where that simply isn't the case. For instance, if your venue is one of those creative space types and you get to bring in your own caterer, there is a strong chance that a buffet will run you more money. Think about it: when you're invited to a wedding, your RSVP card frequently will include your food choices and you will select one and send it back. A catering company then knows exactly what to prepare and the quantity of each dish. This means less waste and a lower cost. While a caterer can absolutely estimate how much of everything they will need based on your guest count, they know they are going to waste more than if it was a plated dinner. Sometimes this can save you money but it is not the rule anymore, so you have to ask and not assume.
6. What Things Cost, Especially "Too Good To Be True" Numbers
The same websites giving out that super handy planning timeline based on formulas, are the ones telling you what everything costs. Here's the deal: the national average cost of weddings is a very easy number to find. However, the national average is just that: national. That number (roughly $29,000) always has a little note next to it like this: *, and you're supposed to go to the bottom of the article to find out that areas such as the NYC Metro area are about $20k higher. Many times, no one sees that little piece of information because they are being (mis)directed to another part of the site where your entire budget can be broken down by category. How helpful! I also hate to bring up that other word, but I'm going to: average. Do you want an average wedding? What's an average wedding anyway? And where do these statistics come from? Ever wonder? I can tell you: Various areas such as magazine submissions that ask the couple what they spent, surveys that pop up on social media sites, and so forth. It's a very flawed system to get to that $29,000 number. This brings me back to sites telling engaged couples what they want to hear and encouraging them with stories of how couples just like them planned a fabulous wedding for only 2 dollars. If the number seems to good to be true, it just might be. Keep an open mind when vendor shopping.
7. Substitute Candles and Decor Instead of Flowers To Save
Especially helpful for couples that don't like flowers or want to use something else, there are plenty of articles touting this as a great way to save money. First of all, not all flowers are the same price, and there are plenty of options. If you want flowers, get flowers, and work with an experienced florist and designer to create the look you want for the amount you can afford. But, if you don't want flowers and prefer rental pieces, candles, or anything else, don't let anyone tell you that this is a money saver. A trip to a craft or home good stores (online or in person), will illustrate just how much money you will actually need to budget. A side by side comparison of a centerpiece using affordable blooms versus one using vases and floating candles can yield similar numbers. If you buy these items yourself, then keep in mind that you will need to store them before the wedding, pack them up once the reception is over, and then be stuck with them. Forever. Because, let's be honest, while selling them on websites seems like an easy way to make your money back, it's not always a guarantee and it's a lot of work too.
8. A Day Of Coordinator/Month of Coordinator, Same Difference
Hiring a full planner for your wedding can be expensive and you might not have it in your budget. Websites that are already putting together your planning timelines for free are always going to suggest a "day of" coordinator as an alternative. They will define a "DOC" as someone who is there just on the day of the wedding to make sure everything runs smoothly exactly like you planned. The problem comes up when a couple starts reaching out to planners only to find out that "day of" is a media myth and "month of" is more realistic. However, a "month of" coordination fee could be higher (and is higher) than many couples expect because the words "day of" are engrained in their minds. I have been contacted by dozens of brides telling me they just needed me there on the wedding day, not two months before organizing a timeline with their vendors and so forth. The thing is, if a coordinator agrees to just show up to your wedding day without doing work beforehand (you know....coordinating work) then they are a hack job and you'd be better off just setting your cash on fire.
9. This Chain Store is AWESOME
It's typically painfully obvious when a website is trying to sell you something, which is why people are getting slick about it. Sure, you have your banner ads and features, but embedded in some articles are cute little advertising tactics. There are plenty of huge chains that partner with wedding websites and bloggers, and the angle of the articles is to get the couple to shop with them. In fact, plenty of times a write-up might have nothing to do with the store or even what it sells, but rather a funny wedding story or just some advice. Chain stores serve their purpose, but a couple would be better served at a boutique store where they will receive personalized attention and be working with someone that has been in the industry for a long time. When you shop at a chain store for anything (not just wedding related), you never meet the "owner", and your salesperson could have started yesterday and be on to the next job by the time your wedding date rolls around. One of the best parts of the wedding industry is that it is filled with amazing small businesses to choose from. They might not be in those articles you're reading, but they are the better choice.
10. Details Don't Matter
Be honest, you've looked at real weddings for inspiration. You've probably noticed that the majority of the pictures include shots of the invitation, the rings, the shoes, the table numbers, etc. They throw in a handful of people pictures, but that is never the focus. Why? Because the details pull the design of a wedding together. A cost-cutting tip spreading faster than poison ivy right now is to ditch the details. You don't need the letter press invites/calligraphy/altar decor/cufflinks/sequin cake table/whatever, according to the internet, and just like that you have extra money in your budget. Look, maybe you don't need that stuff, but maybe you want some or all of it. It's OK to love the details, and if you want your wedding published, it's mandatory to focus on them (and have a photographer get the right shots). Details can be affordable and they can also break the bank depending on what they are. All it takes is a little research and creativity, and you will find the details that are right for you (if you want them).
It's a scary new wedding planning world out there with more and more couples relying on what they find online. Less in-person appointments are made, and more Skype and phone call consultations are happening to book vendors. There are millions of articles out there, and plenty of conflicting pieces of information. Truthfully though, if planning a wedding was just as easy as surfing the web, then planners, including yours truly, would be out of a job. Don't get hypnotized with everything you read. Do your research, Google the authors, and watch out for hidden advertisements.