April 6, 2021
Why are weddings so expensive? According to The Wedding Report, the average Wisconsin wedding cost $22,869 in 2019, and Wisconsin is one of LESS expensive states to get married in. Now, there’s some nuance there. Average does not mean the most common or middle number, which means there are a lot of weddings that are less expensive and a lot that are more expensive. All that said, it’s almost impossible to throw a wedding with any more than 10 guests and keep it under $10k. But WHY?
The wedding industry is huge. I think it’s incredible and wonderful that anyone who wants to get married can find vendors whose ONLY job is to make sure your wedding day is exactly what you want it to be. The only reason it’s possible to find vendors who are amazing at their job and easy to communicate with is because they charge enough to maintain their business.
You may have heard that before. You may have wondered how expensive running a business could really be. You may have wondered how it could add up to the prices you see in the wedding industry. After all, a family photographer costs anything from $100 for a mini session to $800. So why does a decent wedding photographer cost at least $2k??
No matter what kind of wedding vendor you are, you have owned or rented space and/or equipment requirements to do your job. As primarily a wedding photographer, I don’t have a studio, and I work from a home office, so my only cost here comes from my high-powered computer (for editing) and $20k+ of camera equipment that had to be purchased in the first place, and now must be maintained, fixed if it breaks, and replaced as it becomes obsolete or outdated.
For a vendor like a venue, real estate cost is probably more than your rent or mortgage payment. They also pay HUGE utility bills to heat and cool large spaces, run kitchens, and power other vendors’ equipment. With 300 happy, partying humans in one place, things are bound to get broken. Messes are bound to ruin carpets. Venues generally tell you it’s not a big deal. Why? Because they’re financially prepared for it!
Speaking of broken things, almost all legitimate wedding vendors are insured. Insurance pays for everything from broken or stolen equipment, fire damage, liability in case someone gets hurt during the event, and a million other things. Business insurance isn’t cheap. Insurance companies know that you’re more likely to use them for large sums as a business owner than a home owner or owner of a vehicle, so premiums are high.
“Cost of doing business” is a blanket term used by business owners to basically mean “every expense I’m required to pay in order to do my job and bring in new clients.” As a photographer, these expenses are things like my website and domain name, advertising, programs for editing and sharing images, programs that keep me organized so that I can serve my couples well instead of being a scatterbrained mess, fees so that my couples can do everything online (like sign contracts and pay with a credit card), plus the basics like office supplies. For a venue like a vendor, these costs just get higher.
You might already know that it costs money to become a legal business. Did you know that legal businesses have to pay fees every year just to stay legal? Tax time gets complicated for businesses. We don’t have an employer to automatically take out income tax, so we have to manage all of that ourselves, or hire an accountant to help out. And that sales tax we’re charging you? Don’t worry, we don’t keep a dime of that. All of that sales tax, and sometimes a little more, goes straight to the state of Wisconsin.
If you’re paying $10k for a wedding photographer, you can bet they are going to provide a next level experience! From little bonuses along the way (a free engagement session, a gift on your wedding day, guides to help you plan your wedding, etc) to a customized experience, you can bet you’ll be getting the best service and the best images. If you’re paying $1000, you’re much less likely to see any bonuses, next-level service, or consistently great images.
Higher cost vendors, and even some lower cost ones, may be paying for lots of little things along the way that you don’t know about just to make your experience incredible. As a wedding photographer who likes to give my amazing couples a next-level experience, I can tell you that those things add up!
I know almost no business owners who don’t need to hire other people. Earlier, I mentioned that many business owners choose to hire an accountant specifically for tax time, but they also may hire an accountant to manage monthly expenses and help keep track of exactly what’s going on financially with the business. A venue likely has staff to serve food and drinks, set up for events, clean up after events, manage landscaping, maintain the building(s), and more.
As a photographer, I hire a second photographer for almost every wedding I photograph. Even if your photographer is a husband/wife team or some other pair, two people still need to go home with a paycheck.
Re-investing in our businesses will look drastically different for different vendors. In photography, reinvesting in the business may look like updating equipment, paying for education, updating my website, attending networking events, upgrading editing tools, expanding services offered, or a million other possibilities. Every time I’m putting cash back into the business, I’m working to serve my couples even better, and that is so important to me.
After all of those other expenses, you’d think we’re done! Not quite. In a traditional job, you receive a paycheck and you receive benefits. Your benefits aren’t taxed. You just have insurance through your company. You may receive a lower paycheck in order to receive benefits, but the income taken out is usually not subject to income tax.
If you work for yourself, you have to provide your own benefits post-income-tax. And private insurance is pricey! After all the business expenses, and all the expenses that a company usually takes on and offers as benefits, you finally have a paycheck.
I just threw a lot at you, and it might be a little difficult to picture what that really looks like. Does it really add up to the high prices in the wedding industry? Let’s walk through an example. There’s a little bit of math in here, but if you’re hungry to understand, I promise it won’t be too hard to follow!
At the end of the day, for my own business, I’m only taking home about 40% of what you pay me, and that’s before income tax. Let’s do a little simple math.
Median Income in Wisconsin: about $32k per year
Most photographers photograph 20-35 weddings per year, since most people don’t want to get married in the dead of winter.
To simplify, let’s say I photograph 32 weddings in a year. I need to take home $1000 per wedding in order to make the median WI income. If I’m taking 40% of your payment home, I need to charge at least $2500 per wedding to hit that median income.
If I want to support a family with my wedding income, I need to charge closer to $5000.
My business is just one example, but it’s a similar story with the entire wedding industry. As a bride, I heard over and over again not to mention that my event was a wedding if I could avoid it because “they will charge more because it’s a wedding.” Now that I’m part of the industry, I can tell you I’ve never found that to be true.
The wedding industry is tough. It’s competitive. And you can bet we’re charging you as little as we can while paying ourselves what we need to. If you find a photographer whose work you love, you can support them even if they’re outside of your budget.
Whether you hired a favorite wedding vendor for your wedding or not, there are lots of ways to help out wedding vendors that don’t have to cost you a dime!
We love connecting with you on social media! Save photos you love to let Instagram know you love us! (We won’t even know if you save a photo.) If you stop to like something, also stop to write a comment! Even a quick one word comment means so much to us. If something we said really hit home or was helpful, that share button is pure magic for our businesses!
Even if you’ve never hired a photographer, if you follow and interact on social media, you have a pretty good idea of what our business and personalities are like! If you have a friend who’s getting married, or a friend who needs some other service (see the next section), mention us! It means the WORLD to wedding vendors when our couples send their friends to us.
Venues, DJs, and caterers are needed for all kinds of events — weddings, proms, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, retirement bashes. Florists sell flowers to more than brides. Photographers often photograph more than just weddings — families, seniors, maternity, newborn, boudoir. If you’re looking for the perfect Mother’s Day bouquet, reach out to your wedding florist and see if they offer some! Expecting a little bundle of joy? TRUST ME, your photographer will be over the moon if you shoot them an excited text or email sharing the news and asking them to photograph this next step for you.
If you found this article helpful in understanding why are weddings so expensive, hit that like button, leave a comment (any comment!), and maybe even click share. It makes a difference!
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