There is no doubt about it:
Weddings these days are EXPENSIVE!
According to TheKnot.com, the AVERAGE cost of a wedding in America is a little over $35,000.
Trust me, that is WAY more than I spent on my wedding 17 years ago.
But, a lot of folks do spend that kind of money on their wedding. If, for example, a potential bride goes to their friend's high-budget wedding and see the sparkle and the glamour, that potential bride (Whose budget may be significantly smaller than her friend's) will want the same feel and "luxury" at their upcoming wedding.
But, not every bride has the same budget, so naturally, some folks pay for the vendors they CAN afford, and for the rest, they try to cut corners.
But at what cost?
In general (Budget-wise) there are 3 kinds of weddings, all of which have the same awesome, wonderful outcome; A married couple!:
The Low Budget Wedding - $10,000-ish or less. Usually at the church of the bride or groom, and a reception is generally on the property of the church. My wife and I fell into this category 🙂 so there is nothing wrong with it in my book!
The Middle to Middle-High Budget Wedding - $10,000-ish to $40,000-ish. This is a big range because it's where most weddings fall and this is where virtually all my clients fall into. Keep in mind that a wedding in Arkansas on average, will be less expensive than a wedding in, say, Manhattan, NY
The Super-Expensive High-End Wedding - $20,000 to even, yes, $100,000+. Nationwide, this is about 5% of all weddings.
So clearly, not every bride can afford "the best" vendors in every category...
...and that's okay!
Let me just go ahead and say that many brides have a perfectly awesome wedding day when friends and family help make things happen. I did a wedding in 2016 where I was the ONLY wedding vendor that was NOT a family or a friend, unless you count the venue... and things went PERFECTLY... half the guests even stayed late to clean up and put up tables and chairs!
But in most cases, this comes with a great risk.
While you may not be able to afford the BEST florist, photographer, DJ, etc in your town, there are still many great, experienced vendors out there. The risk comes when a bride bypasses the best, AND bypasses the great and more affordable ones, only to end up hiring vendors that have little to virtually zero experience.
The Wedding Day Learning Curve
Brides trying to save a few hundred dollars will inevitably hire a friend or family member (We refer to the family members as "Uncle Bob" in the wedding industry) to do things that the bride assumes can't possibly be that hard:
Your cousin owns a Canon DSLR camera so you consider her as your photographer.
Your fiance's roommate from college has an iPod full of awesome tunes so you ask him if he can be your DJ.
A guy at your church runs the camera in the balcony so you ask him to make your wedding video.
Your uncle bought a "really expensive" drone at the hobby shop last week.
These all have the potential of saving you thousands of dollars. And some maybe even have the potential to work perfectly well with your style of wedding. But as someone who has been in the wedding business for almost 10 years I can tell you that these "vendors" often come with a steep price, and sometimes can impede the other vendors.
Of the ones that actually show up, there is a huge learning curve. Weddings are not easy-going events for vendors. Professional, seasoned vendors work very hard to make sure the day goes smoothly for the bride, so she has no idea of how hectic day really is. (Side note: If a bride feels stressed on her wedding day, she has hired the wrong vendors or she chose to not hire a wedding planner or coordinator and decided to be the coordinator herself... BIG mistake unless you thrive on stress.)
A wedding moves fast, there are many moving parts. Knowing how to work well with the other vendors is crucial. Knowing where to be and when to be there is top priority. Do you want YOUR wedding to be the one that someone uses in order to get their sea-legs?
I actually worked with a "DJ" who was a friend of the bride and groom. Some of his songs stopped mid-way during the reception dancing. Everyone would stop dancing, and look around, puzzled. Then he would apologize, saying his data connection ON HIS PHONE kept dropping. He was streaming "YouTube" videos to broadcast those songs. Do you want to risk such a buzz kill on your special day?
What's in it for Them?
If you hire a friend or family member to do your photos or video and you've paid them next to nothing, what's their incentive to get your photos or videos out to you in less than a year? I did a video for a couple 7 years ago. They hired someone they knew for a low price to be their photographer. 7 years later they still don't have a single photo from their wedding. My video is all they have.
But what happens more often than not is that these fly-by-night vendors just decide not to show up. I get planners and other vendors frantically calling and texting me to see if I am available to fill in for a videographer who didn't show up, or they ask me if I know any DJs who are available. It's really kind of sad.
And what's the real risk for them? They aren't risking their reputation because they don't have a business. They aren't risking losing money because they've charged you very little or even nothing at all. Just this week I had a venue owner contact me desperately asking for some vendor recommendations for her bride that is getting married in 3 weeks. One of the friend-vendors bailed. One story I heard was the friend/family member was invited to go to Florida the weekend of a wedding they were asked to work. They chose to go to the beach and left the couple without a videographer.
When these people bail out, you are left scrambling at the last minute to find any available vendor. And trust me; all of the good ones were booked a year ago and you will be left with the scraps, IF you are able to get anyone at all. By trying to save money you have potentially forgone any opportunity to have nice photos/videos taken of your most important day. Or that big party reception you always dreamed about now turns into just a nice, quiet dinner with family and friends. Or, people realize something is missing from your wedding photos. Oh yeah; flowers!
Is the risk of this stress worth it?
Keep some things in mind when budgeting for your wedding:
This day is more than a party. It is truly a ceremony of two families joining together to form a brand-new branch on a family tree. It IS worth capturing, and it IS worth remembering. It IS worth "passing down" to the next generation. Your venue will not allow your children and grandchildren to visit their property to "remember" your wedding day. Your caterer will not prepare another meal for you on your 50th wedding anniversary for free. Your cake will lose it's taste in a few weeks. Your flowers will be dead in a week. Your photos, video, dress, and wedding ring are honestly the only items you get to keep forever and pass down to countless generations from this day forward after your wedding day.
"Going cheap" is never a good idea with any wedding vendor, but some provide a product that outlasts the others and hiring those vendors and being assured they WILL show up (Because their contract says they will), is important.
Hiring a friend or family member as a wedding vendor isn't the problem. The problem is hiring a friend or family member who aren't professionals in their field.