We've heard about Bridezillas having tantrums, have seen moms and brides battle it out until she says "Yes to the Dress", and watched fairytales happen that makes us glare at our significant other and think, "Why didn't you do that?"
There's no shortage of in-your-face wedding planning on TV right now, but I was curious: What goes on behind the scenes that we don't know about? Are there... shall I say it... scandalous practices in the wedding industry? What happens behind closed doors?
Before you get up in arms, let me preface this by saying these stories are the exception to the rule! In most cases your vendors are honest people who want to give you the wedding of your dreams.
There's nothing wrong with vendors giving each other a thank-you for sending a job their way. However there are stories of wedding "bullies" that make you raise an eyebrow.
When the recession hit big about three years ago, wedding planners felt it -- hard. Some vendors, especially caterers, told me that wedding planners would (and still do) demand either a percentage or certain dollar amount from each plate sold to a couple. So what does this mean for you, the bride or groom? Take your catering service, for example: Imagine you are paying $40 a plate. Unbeknownst to you, the caterer (in order to book the job) now has to pay the referrer $8 a plate, leaving you with a plate that's actually only worth $32. It's unfair to you and bad for the caterer, who has to sacrifice quality in order to get work.
The top wedding planners suggest that you do not book your vendors through your planner, and instead pay the vendor directly. You will have an easier time negotiating a price with your vendors if they don't have to pay a commission to someone else.
There are also networks of vendors out there that only refer each other, and then get paid to do so. This system is not beneficial for clients: Imagine you want a gorgeous, lavish wedding using over-the-top florals and film noir-style photos, but you are being referred to vendors (within a network) who don't specialize in those things. You will end up paying over the market value for the service, since the referral source is getting a kickback, and you won't get the florals or photos you really wanted.
As one planner told me, "A referral should be 'paid back' with other referrals."
I couldn't agree more!
The catering staff works really hard busting their tails all night to make the wedding happen, and many times the bride and groom are thoughtful enough to leave a good tip for the staff. In fact, many catering companies make tipping mandatory. But catering directors don't always give staff their fair share.
As one source told me, "Many caterers have service and gratuity charges on their contracts, where you usually pay anywhere from $500-$1000+ extra for 'gratuity'. In one instance a catering director advised the bride that this fee was to make sure the staff was tipped, and I know from experience not one server saw a dime of that money."
After seeing this happen repeatedly, a former employee stated, "I've been around a lot of wedding vendors and I know no one is immune to it, even some of the big companies do it -- fool their brides with the 'gratuity' section or flat out keep the extra that [a bride] writes on the bill. I think it's a secret that brides and industry professionals should be aware of so that they aren't taken advantage of and so that the girl working her way through college washing dishes until 3 a.m. gets that boost she needs."
Another planner told me about two companies in which the owner or director took the tips for themselves. They tell their brides now, "If you're going to tip your staff, have individual portions ready to give to each person."
Perhaps the most shocking of these practices is the practice of "substitutions"; I was stunned to hear about it.
While doing research for this article, I heard stories from employees of catering halls who saw company owners substitute meats after promising the finest cut, or covered up lesser quality meats with sauces. One ex-employee told me that they would substitute pork for veal when the client paid for veal. They told me that, "most of the time guests can't even tell the difference. This can be very offensive to the guest especially if they don't eat pork, which many don't for religious or health reasons."
Other ex-employees told me that many halls sell top shelf liquor packages, but on the day of the wedding serve cheap liquor instead. They switch the bottles, or they are hidden behind the bar, so that when a guest orders a mixed drink, they are given the well substitute instead of expensive top shelf, saving the hall a lot of money.
Have you heard of any scandalous wedding industry practices? Share them in the comments.
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