11/18 The Wedding Tax: Myth or Reality?

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I’m writing an e-book about planning your wedding in six months or less. It’ll be out in time for Christmas. 🙂 Anyway, I’m finishing up the budget planning section, and one of the the things I’m talking about is whether or not the “wedding tax” is actually real or not. You know, that vendors charge more once you open your mouth and say “Wedding.”

Flowers, Construction, Idea. And the picture itself. Worth the cost? (Courtesy of Studio EMP)

I’m not sure about that. Granted, I might be a little biased, since I’m trying to make a living here, but I’ve talked about it a little before. For instance, say you go out to Olive Garden. Appetizers, a glass of wine, a salad, an entree, and a slice of cake – what you’d usually get at a wedding – hovers around $50 per person, including tax and tip. And, as much as I love the Garden, most people don’t think of it as the quality standard for wedding catering. Photography isn’t just the photographer showing up, there’s a lot of work beforehand and after in order to get you those beautiful pictures. Someone had to design and make your dress, and it’s not just a Vera Wang that gets  handmade. And even getting a special-occasion dress at Macys will be in the $100 – 200 range, without the tulle and the silk/sateen.  Invitations have to to be printed, and if they’re letter pressed they have to be printed a couple of times.  I got reality smacked into me a couple of months ago when I realized how much skill it takes to construct a wedding cake,not to mention pull it apart and serve it. And, your DJ runs the party.

Wedding stuff does tend to require more attention to details, and frankly, more details. It’s how they build the pretty. And the party. And there is a difference between being able to afford it and whether it’s actually worth the price.

But before I go to press, I’m willing to hear YOUR opinions. Where was the last place where you were sure that the Wedding Tax was being levied? Or was there a point where you looked at something gorgeous and time intensive and thought that it was totally worth the cost? Let me know below.

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • I don't necessarily think there is a wedding tax. For example, take the wedding cake. People tend to think in basics here. Flour, sugar, eggs are all inexpensive so why does a wedding cake cost so much? Well, the boards and structure usually cost around $50 for a 4-tier cake. Would you like me to recycle those to use on your cake to save money? UGH! Then there is the time it takes to bake, decorate (skill) and transport it to the venue. There is very little profit in cake baking for the time invested in making one. And for around $4.50 a slice per guest it's around restaurant dessert prices.

    As a wedding planner and former baker, I understand the costs are high but if you were to take 200 friends to a restaurant for dinner and then pay some additional staff how much do you think it would cost you? You are putting on a big dinner/meal for everyone you know so it will take the bucks!

  • Rogue Bride

    The cake is an interesting example. Christie O from Hindsight Bride and I just recorded a podcast specifically about wedding cakes in which we interviewed a baker who not only admitted there was a markup, but quit baking wedding cakes partially because of the pressure to "land the platinum bride." I hope it's ok to post a link to it ( http://www.blubrry.com/bridalkoolaid/1170408/brid… ) but you can find the episode on iTunes also under The Bridal Kool-Aid Cocktail Hour.

  • The only "wedding tax" I can really think of off the top of my head are hair/makeup and some venues. I remember getting an more elaborate updo for my prom at a fraction of the cost of my SIL's wedding day style (same goes for makeup, and both of these examples are us going to them during their regular business hours). I learned from her and kept my mouth shut for my own wedding day hair appointment. They didn't know it was for a wedding until AFTER we'd be quoted. Now, I fully understand the added cost of having these vendors come to you on a wedding day. As for the venue markup, I know a place in my town that charges $400 for a Saturday non-wedding event the same size of a wedding, but the moment you mention the word wedding, the price skyrockets!

  • lizcharm

    Hair and makeup does get a little complicated. Not only do they have to travel to you, but it usually has to continue to look good for 10+ hours AND for photography. And as former event planner, trust me, weddings are an entirely different animal from any other event of that size! But, yeah, those couldn't definitely count as wedding "taxes."

  • I definitely think there is a mark up on a lot of services. Think about dresses. You walk into a store looking for a sheath dress. You ask for a sheath bridesmaid dress, and you'll see price tags of $500 and up. Ask for a bridesmaid dress, and your're looking at $100-$300.

    Or photography. A few of the photographers I looked at had separate "wedding" and "event" prices. For example, one photographer said weddings would be $1500 for 6 hours, versus $750 for 6 hours at a different type event. Why?

    Or wedding rings. A simple .5 karat solitaire white gold ring that I saw today was marked $1000 because it was in the "wedding" case. In the promise ring case, however, was a very similar .5 karat solitaire white gold ring for $300. I can understand some difference in price based on craftsmanship, etc., but $700?!

    I don't think it's always there, but I think it definitely exists.

  • kittykanzashi

    The only wedding tax that I noticed was for the wedding bands which neither my partner and I could understand. How could a plain white gold wedding band cost £200?

    I suppose it depends on the suppliers you are hiring, some consider wedding as nothing unusual and will just charge the normal rate.

  • Dear

    I think there is a wedding tax to some extent, but I blame the big-production wedding ideal for that. For example, my would-be venue would allow any OTHER kind of party for $1500, same food, same hours. For a wedding with the same number of guests? $4000. They charge this because they just assume that the bride is going to want them to work harder and get every detail picture-perfect and there will be a lot of vendors, ect. It doesn't matter if your vision was a quiet dinner party, "a wedding is a wedding" to them.
    I think the most DISGUSTING example of wedding tax I have is a venue I didn't even consider. For a bridal shower everything is included. For a wedding with the same number of guests, they CHARGE you extra for real silverware, real napkins, real plates…everything was an extra charge. We just laughed until we cried. "Oh, congratulations on your wedding! Happiness will cost extra."

    • It seems a bit easier to see when you take the "big-production wedding ideal" into consideration. The venues and vendors that look like every wedding on tv or in movies or other media are ridiculously expensive, and don't even get me started on all-inclusive packages.

      Step off the beaten track, even a little, and prices drop a great deal. Venues like parks and libraries and art studios, etsy crafters and caterers who aren't wedding-standard are downright reasonable.

  • DIY Bride

    I think everything involving weddings is "taxed." The moment you mention wedding, prices for everything doubles or triples. It is ridiculous. I have been planning my 2012 wedding on my own and have found out that many of my friends spent 20,000 to 30,000 on a one day event. That to me is insane. I can even begin to comprehend that amount for a single day. Though, I agree it is in the details and if you don't want to do it yourself, you will have to pay someone an hourly rate for their labor. But I am even baking my own cake. Everything will be homemade, eco-friendly, and classy. I refuse to just spend for the sake of spending.

  • DIY Bride

    P.S. My wedding budget is $3,000. And we have nearly everything covered and still have around $200 left to cover additional cost 🙂

  • Veils. Nuff said

  • JuneBride

    Tablecloths… $456.00 to RENT 22 poly tablecloths…if it wasn't included with my venue I would have slapped the lady.