Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Insight into The Wedding Industrial Complex

Sometimes the Wedding Industrial Complex feels like an amorphous and ethereal thing, and other times it feels very concrete and real, like in this newest message from The Wedding Report, which provides "Wedding Statistics and Market Research for the Wedding Industry." It's designed for businesses within the Wedding Industry, and it's creepy to get a "backstage pass" into their conversations with each other.

The editor talks about the threat of the DIY movement to the wedding industry. He introduces and explains the Do-It-Yourself approach to wedding planning:
If you are not already feeling it, then you will soon. The explosion of DIY (Do it Yourself) in the wedding industry is hurting many businesses. When I say DIY, I’m talking about DIY invites, friends and family digital photographers, iPod DJs, wholesale flowers etc.
His solution to combating the damaging effects of the DIY movement on the wedding industry is to "promote the profession." He goes on to explain:

It really boils down to: what is the benefit and value of hiring a professional over DIY? It could be cost, time or any number of things. Any marketing expert will tell you, if you show the true benefit and value of what you offer and it is greater than the perceived cost, you can charge whatever you want, and get it.

He's right. If the perceived benefit is greater than the cost, you'll probably pay for it. The really sick part is that the wedding industry tries to tap into our psyches by feeding us crap about our weddings being "The best day" of our lives and our one chance to have "The perfect day." With that kind of pressure, of course we're going to think that the benefit of hiring profesionals outweighs the cost. We become convinced that we need a professional to write our friends' and families' addresses on invitation envelopes or to put flowers in a vase or cover the chairs at our receptions.

Suddenly, all of these things that would never seem necessary for a regular party feel like non-negotiables for our W-E-D-D-I-N-G-S. We start to doubt our ability to have a meaningful and memorable wedding if we can't afford all the professional services (or--gasp!--choose not to use them).

I'm not criticizing anyone who chooses to use professional services at their wedding. People can elect to use professionals for a variety of totally valid reasons, like saving time, decreasing their stress, or supporting local businesses--just to name a few.

However, I am criticizing an industry that feels threated by the DIY movement and therefore decides it needs to promote itself by convincing you that your wedding needs to be "professional" rather than homemade or handcrafted. They are literally starting a "campaign" to promote "the profession."

All of this means that we have to be conscious consumers. When we need or want something, we have to stop and ask why. Is it because we're falling prey to the Wedding Industrial Complex's rhetoric about what is required to have a real wedding? Or is it because it makes the most sense given our individual budgets, values, and goals?

Answers to those questions look different for every couple, but the questions are worth asking.

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Sara said...

I love this post!

We've started referring to our wedding as "the party," since we decided that it helps us de-mythologize, as you put it so nicely, our W-E-D-D-I-N-G. Undocking our party from the linguistic force field of the wedding industry really helps us keep it all in perspective. :)

Sarah said...

Wow wow wow. I knew there was a conspiracy!!

I do agree somewhat on the part of professionals and photography. The field is being "diluted" (not quite the right word I'm looking for...) by people who buy a very nice camera, keep it on automatic, say "Hey, I'm a photographer!" and charge the same as professional photographers. In that sense, DIY can be a threat to people who have actually studied photography (either in school or on their own) and who understand things like light and composition.

But that's completely different from having a friend snap a wedding with her camera with the understanding it's not professional.

We're opting for the same approach as you guys (everyone has a digital camera, so we'll have 'em upload it to a pro-account on Flickr-- thanks for the idea!) because we don't see the need for professional photographers.

Kaitlin Wainwright said...

This doesn't come as much of a surprise, really. The wedding industry is an industry, built upon capital gains, profit, stockholders, and all those other things that make other industries go around.

It's still sick, and it's part of the reason why we're trying to make myself really aware of what we want in our wedding. But this conspiracy isn't that surprising.

Anonymous said...

i say let them conspire! as their prices go up and they get super pushy - they will really really open the gap for those of us who want to DIY. I have a friend that got married a few years ago and she is already amazed at the ideas I've found for DIY projects versus what she saw only a few years ago.

Besides, market if you want - if I don't have the money, I don't have the money. I have found beautiful invitations, but $500 for gorgeous letterpress invites just doesn't make sense. So instead, I figure out a way to DIY it for a fifth of the price. The DIY movement isn't going anywhere as long as the prices stay ridiculous. The only way they are going to get me to go professional for some of my items instead of doing it myself is to drop the prices to a reasonable range. Marketing isn't enough.

Married In Chicago said...

Do you a have a link to the text you quoted? Just curious to see more of it . . .

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ The Introitus: It's sent to me in e-mail form, and I already deleted the e-mail, but you can find some of it here: http://pro20.sgizmo.com/survey.php?SURVEY=WDU1Z9455QIAXAVIY013G1U7PQMU20-131312-30939084&pswsgt=1241441651&_csg=34SLguQ0Qgwo2&notice=DO-NOT-DISTRIBUTE-THIS-LINK

Uh oh. It says "Do Not Distribute This Link". I don't know what that's about.

Kaitlin Wainwright said...

As an aside to this, I find it incredibly fascinating that theknot has 1716 pictures of reception decor, and only 530 of the ceremony decor...there's no money to be made in ceremonies folks!

Surprise Wedding said...

I have a mental image of the overlords of the WIC wringing their hands and worrying about the effect of brides DIYing aspects of their wedding on their business.

And it's crackin me up.

Anonymous said...

Awh I wish I could read the article! If you ever find a working link to it, please post it.

And thanks, as always, for keeping it real. :)

MidwestElle @ iowabride.blogspot.com

Marissa C. said...

I think this has to do more with the nature of our society as a whole and less with the wedding industry specifically. Of course, price gouging for things like chair covers especially highlights the problems facing this industry, but this sort of marketing is ubiquitous in everything. You can see this in anything targeted towards new parents. Capitalistic advertisements use fear tactics liberally to imply that if you don't buy 'X' product, your baby will grow up unhappy and diseased. Most advertising, in any industry, relies on the fact that you need to fee deficient in some way in order to buy a product.

Meg said...

Now I can't wait to get home and read the release. I lovelovelove that these releases are sent to US promoters of the DIY movement. Great job PR reps, great job.

mandyrosy said...

I agree with Marissa C, - this shouldn't really be surprising. Any industry works to market its products to as many people as possible for as much money as possible through any means that work. That's kind of the nature of capitalism.
While we might really hate that whole "this is your special day, you have to spend a lot of $$$" mentality, the wedding industry is not that different from any other.
And in my opinion, it's our increasingly materialistic culture that has pushed marketing in this direction. Fortunately, people like the ones that read this blog are pushing back against the idea that money buys happiness! Keep fighting the good fight, ladies and gents!

Ms Bear Cub said...

this -
- disgusted me more than a bit. I especially like how the WIC thought the bride was being manipulative because she didn't want to be charged inflated prices for her buffet!

the Lady said...

Ugh, that is so sick. And you know what really sucks? Magazines like Martha Stewart Weddings - I think most people think of Martha as DIY, but that magazine is ridiculous - it showcases things like 100 invitations, beautifully done,... for $1,000 dollars. A thousand freaking dollars for invitations? I don't think so! Who could afford that, realistically speaking, other than a millionaire? Or a really well-off person?

And so it sucks that you have Martha mags, which people think of as DIY, promoting these unnecessary items with unreachable price tags. They create this want-based "need" and then literally thousands of people think they need something that they totally don't, just because they've been told that they should have the ideal. It's messed up.

megan said...

bland, run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter.

sometimes i feel that all of the weddings on the knot or in the wedding books feels the same.

how horrible to say that putting a loving and creative touch into hand- crafting YOUR perfect day is unacceptable. hopefully those who want to DIY will stick to their guns regardless of the WICs sneaky tactics.

Great post!

The Thirty-Something Bride said...

Awesome insight, thanks for sharing. I think what the WIC needs to do is embrace the DIY movement. What this economy is about (from a "staying in business" standpoint) is lowering margins, increasing revenue and giving your customers what they want. Clearly, couples are looking for more affordable ways and means. Give it to them. You might not have the revenue and margins from 10-15 years ago, but you'll stay afloat, make your customers happy (gasp!) and be seen as a proactive and creative industry.

love-v said...

The WIC should also market against the internet and bridal blogs, that is where the DIY movement is spreading like wildfire: all of us coming together and spreading a message that we can reclaim our weddings and bring it back to the ideal of a day celebrating a relationship. Thank goodness for the internet.

amber and joe get hitched said...

thanks so much for your blog, and for this post. while i agree that the WIC is the worst, the DIY wedding blogs can be just as bad! the etsy anti-industrial complex can be super expensive, and you can be made to feel you suck if you don't handcraft every single element of your wedding.

i really appreciate your attitude about people doing what makes the most sense for them!

Anonymous said...

i agree with amber and joe get hitched. any industry can make an outsider feel totally out of place, the DIY industry included. there is a danger of trying to do the "nonconformist" way too much...because we end up conforming to another idea, and step on people who don't do it your way in the process. DIY-ing is a good idea, but it's not the be-all and end-all of a memorable start to married life.

thanks sara for reminding us every now and then to do what we feel is right and perfect for us. it varies from person to person, and knowing that makes us more confident about the decisions we make about our wedding!

Unknown said...

I think there's a place for balance.
We did use a coordinator for the event and for the dinner we had it at a restaurant and they managed everything. But that's what we wanted and what worked for us.
I've been to several weddings that had diy elements. But each wedding reflected the couple and itsn't that what its all about?

Caroline said...

I think it depends on the couple and their financial status and what their personalities are like. It sometimes depends on the couples schedule. It can be easier to just hire someone to do the planning to hire someone to do the photography because you don't want to worry about it yourself.

turtlebird said...

oh i love love love love love this post..... you have a way of taking my muddled and complicated feelings and laying them out in such a clear, concise, logical way. THANK YOU!!!! i will bookmark this and refer back to it often, as i proceed with my planning... keep on keeping on with your bad self :)

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for this post!! I am in the midst of planning my own summer 2011 wedding and DIY projects its so reassuring to know that I'm not alone in wanting my "wedding" to be more about sharing it with loved ones and friends, and it being a celebration/party then a formal "reception" and all that crap that is being shoved at me everyday...
keep up the good work and the helpful posts!! Cheers!!

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