Most couples, when they're contacting a wedding vendor, will usually jump right to the heart of what they think the matter is.
“What's the Price?”
That's actually the last question you should ask after you've asked everything else.
Why? That's because price and value are actually not related the way lots of people think they are.
For instance, if you're looking to provide dinner for your guests and you've got three caterers to choose from, with the first offering a fancy meal at the highest price (let's say $50/pp), another offering an unispired but OK meal at $40/pp, and the third offering chicken nuggets and Ramen noodles at the lowest price of $10/pp, what's the best value?
The best value in this case is, without a doubt, the highest price meal. Not because it costs more, most people would think that the best value would be the lower cost meal, but for only $10 more per person you're getting filet mignon instead of frozen chicken. That's what we call the added value. At that point we're examining the fixed costs associated with caterers (serving staff, washing dishes, broken glasses, office rental, kitchen costs, food costs) and looking at how we can get the most out our experience.
Meanwhile, if you'd gone to a caterer and said “we can afford $35/pp” and judged their proposals you'd have a great opportunity to examine where those values really are. The biggest flub a lot of couples make is they come at a vendor with a budget that's unrealistic. If you've budgeted $400 for a dinner of 100 people you're going to have to hit the McBurger drive-through and hope your aunt is nice enough to serve everyone.
Obviously, setting a budget is crucial, and we recommend talking with lots of different people to start getting a sense of what costs really are, and then you need to identify what's most important to you, but pricing isn't as important a questions as you might initially assume.
On of the main things we hear is 'Why is everything in a wedding so expensive?” I remember working for another company years ago and they offered videography. A client called and said, “Why do you charge so much for a DVD of our wedding when I can buy a DVD at Wal-Mart for $10?”
Oh – so they've got YOUR wedding video there? So they sent videographers out, spent 20 man-hours capturing your wedding, spent another 30-40 editing, and then the additional 8-10 hours rendering and converting it? All while using unique skills, professional equipment, and techniques developed over years of effort?
It's the same with photographers. They spend 3-4 times the amount of time they spent AT your wedding working ON your wedding pictures. That 10-12 hour day they just pulled is just the beginning for them.
Again, this goes to the heart of the matter of VALUE.
For most of our clients, a great party is the single most important thing. Not that they don't put serious thought into the other details of their event, but it's the experience of having a great time with their friends and family that matters the most.
For you, it might be something different, you might be more focused on the dinner, or the florals, or the guest gifts.
That's where we start really assigning value.
Once you've identified what's most important, start looking at the vendors who might be able to help you make the most of your event. That's why price is the LAST question you ask, because you're really interested in the true VALUE of the service they're providing, and that value is only really determined once you take stock of what their offering really is.
I see this all the time with different vendors. Yes, a photographer might be $1000 more than another photographer, but you're probably getting a full-time pro with more experience and a catalog of work that really speaks to you, versus a photographer who's part time, with less experience, and who's work doesn't exhilarate your soul. Would you budget the difference and maybe back off the florals, cake, or accoutrements a little?
If I book a high-end photographer for $3500, who puts 10 hours in on the wedding day and an additional 30 hours on the back end editing and preparing my photos, that averages $87 an hour. If I've got a guy who's offering to shoot my wedding for $1500 but will only give me the raw files that's not as great a value because I'm paying nearly twice as much per hour and not getting the highest quality edited and prepared images of my wedding day. The value of the high-end photographer is easy to see.
It's somewhat similar to Djs. Yes – there are lots of Djs and it's a little harder to make sense of it because no DJ is going to say “Yeah, I'm bad, but I'm cheap!” Everybody's going to tell you how amazing they are, but there are a few things to look for, and follow this link a list of the questions you should be asking.
Yes, Stylus is more expensive than a lot of other Djs, because we're full-time, do better work, and put more effort, time, and energy into a wedding than most other Djs.
If you're looking at flowers, check with several different florists and find out what options are available at different price ranges and see how it aligns with your goals. Again, if flowers are more important, you're going to want to really invest in it and downplay other elements. But, you're not going ask about price until you ask the other important questions: How long have you been doing this, are you full-time, what are your back-up plans, what's your philosophy on design, are there things that you do that really set you apart...
One of the biggest mistakes couples make (and we've seen it a hundred times) is trying to do EVERYTHING instead of really focusing on what matters. For instance, I didn't do a lot of flowers at my own wedding because I was more interested in transforming the room with lighting. I wanted the WOW factor instead of traditional big bouquets. Because we were on a tight budget, I also didn't do a traditional food service because I wanted to make sure I put my resources into the things that were most important to me (the party).
When I'm assigning value to something, it's not necessarily the cheapest thing, it's the one that thrills me and makes me happy with my purchase. Most of us would rather pay a little more than be stuck with something we wish we hadn't gone the cheapest route with. That's why I don't drive a jalopy, eat nothing but mac n cheese, or wear tattered clothes, because the true value of something isn't just how cheap it is - it's how well it's done.
As Aldo Gucci said, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory “