Bait-and-switch brides: would you lie to vendors to get a better deal?

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Bait-and-switch brides: would you lie to vendors to get a better deal?
I must not tell lies – temporary tattoo from Bad Wolf Cosplay

If you're planning a wedding, you've probably realized just how much wedding vendors will mark up their prices when they know it's for a wedding. You may be pretty peeved that you're having to pay a “wedding tax” for something that would cost less on any other kind of occasion. But in a lot of cases, these extra costs are incurred with good reason, especially for service-oriented vendors like DJs and photographers. Weddings usually take a lot more time, effort, equipment, and generally just extra care than other social gatherings. Despite this, some couples are trying to snag a better deal from their vendors by withholding the fact that the service will be used for a wedding instead of, say, a vow renewal, family party, or similar. We've heard these called “bait-and-switch brides.”

Some vendors, like those providing DIY materials or finished products, may never even find out what your event is before making the sale and probably don't care too much if it's a wedding or not. But some, like photographers, DJs, or hair and makeup artists, need backups in case of emergency and will go to greater lengths to make sure things run smoothly due to the pressure of the event. You might balk at a higher price for an updo or wedding day makeup, but the artist could be using different products to make sure it lasts well into the night.

In a lot of cases, the services you'll get by paying for “wedding services” will be different from other kinds of events. Delivery, packaging, level of service, interacting with other vendors — all can be different for a wedding. The quality is often higher, as are the risks and potential drama that can occur at a wedding versus a birthday party or family reunion.

Alternately, there may be some vendors, a hands-off venue with no service aspects for instance, where a mark-up in price for the venue makes no sense. But a venue where the service is clearly different for a wedding (ceremony to reception turnover, extra servers, extra equipment, higher expectations, juggling communications with lots of other vendors), the wedding markup can make total sense. Sometimes it's not completely apparent what the differences in service will be or if they'll be identical. It's worth an ask.

For me personally, I find that when all of my vendors are aware of what kind of event this will be, it's easier for them to coordinate with each other if necessary and also to anticipate wedding-specific issues that could come up and be adequately prepared for them should they arise. I feel like the more everyone knows, the smoother things will go. But budgets are budgets and sometimes you have to cut costs somehow.

My question is this: do you think it's ever okay to lie to your vendors and not mention the wedding aspect to get a better deal?

Engaged couples: are you seeing the “wedding tax” and are you actively trying to avoid it?

Vendors: what are some examples of extra effort/equipment/time that goes into a wedding event versus any other kind of event?

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Comments on Bait-and-switch brides: would you lie to vendors to get a better deal?

  1. We told our reception venue it was a lunch to “celebrate our marriage” (as we are eloping) and when we met with them and they realized it was a wedding related event, they wanted to charge us $2000 more for use of the space (no tables/chairs/ladder/staff just the empty space) I held my ground and we got it for the original quote. No regrets at all in how we phrased things in our emails.

  2. We had an offbeat-ish wedding, and we didn’t want a lot of the fuss that comes with more traditional weddings. We tried to avoid vendors who didn’t understand our plan. We interviewed several wedding planners before we found one who was a good fit. We didn’t do hair, makeup, or cake; the DJ was a friend as well as a professional; the flower vendor is actually a wholesaler who sells to the public and we went very simple. Ironically, the only vendor I was dissatisfied with was the caterer, who does a lot of weddings and ended up creating the only drama.

  3. It’s kinda worth mentioning that budget sages like the UK’s Money Saving Expert encourages the bait and switch. Having read the other side I think clarity and disclosure should win the day. An empty space having a price hike, unless they’ve booked a longer time slot, makes no sense, but if the vendor is expecting more costs at their end, then I don’t think it should be kept a secret.

  4. No, it’s NOT okay to lie to your vendors. What you’re doing is KNOWINGLY misrepresenting. And, when you’re knowingly LYING upon entering an agreement, it can be considered fraudulent misrepresentation…which is kinda serious.

    Doing this can give them (who you lied to) the legal ground to rescind your contract AND go after you for possible damages as well.

    For example, as a DJ if you tell me it’s a party, then after booking, it comes out that it’s actually a wedding reception, not only do I have the legal ground to cancel your contract (which I’ve done before), depending on the terms of the agreement when this lie was determined, you could also be held liable for the remaining balance. And, there isn’t much you can do about it.
    Yeah, a vendor could just charge you the difference, but why would they want to work with a liar & one who is disrespectful?

    There are even buzz words many vendors pick up on when people try to get something cheaper. For a service provider, it doesn’t matter how “small” your reception is going to be or that you’re “only doing a few things.” It’s a wedding. Period.
    It doesn’t change the fact of how much time is dedicated to that special day.

    Don’t lie (misrepresent).

    • So I have a question about this, but before I dive in I want to make it clear that for some services (photography, DJing like your example), the wedding markup totally makes sense to me and I don’t think it’s cool to lie or equivocate to those particular vendors/service providers.

      My question, essentially, and for the whole thread, not just you, is: what exactly constitutes a wedding in the eyes of a vendor? What differences justify a high markup compared to, say, the same services for a benefit or vow renewal?

      My partner and I don’t plan on having a legal ceremony, ever. We don’t think that the state should have the moral or legal authority to decide what is and is not a marriage, and neither one of us is particularly religious. As a queer and polyam woman who is a bit of a Marxist at heart, this point is really important to me. This will really only change if the political climate ever looks like it will threaten our other rights (next of kin, inheritance, health…) that can’t be solved easily or cheaply through other legal docs (our wills, power of attorney…).

      So does our “wedding” count as a wedding? Or does it count as a “celebration” or a “party with vows” or a “vow renewal” because it lacks the religious/legal aspect of marriage? Where exactly do we draw the line in deciding how much a particular vendor or service should cost, and why exactly is a wedding more “important” or more “drama-prone” than, say, a family reunion or other type of large formal event?

      The wedding markup seems pretty arbitrary to me, but maybe I’m missing the mark here. Idk, just food for thought.

      • Just a note to the mods as above,
        I’m a random person too and I had access to edit Morgan’s post above…

      • i have to agree, i guess i don’t understand the difference in price if i’m not asking you to emcee and don’t want things like a father daughter dance etc. why the difference in price?

        • I’m a DJ and I’d be happy to answer this, as it’s a common (and totally fair) question.

          For me, the difference is in the prep work. For a wedding, I do up to 12 hours of work before each wedding, and about 12 additional hours on an average wedding day. After I set aside tax, the price I charge you has to account for up to 24 hours of time. Where I work, I need to set aside about 30% for tax. So – take 70% of what your DJ quotes you, divide that by 24, and that’s their hourly rate, which doesn’t even account for expenses (DJ equipment purchased, music downloads, insurance, advertising, licensing… you get the picture.)

          Here’s what fills those 12 hours of prep that goes into an average wedding:
          – 2 pre-event meetings, plus travel to each meeting
          – email correspondence
          – A site visit, if needed, plus travel to and from site visit
          – searching for and downloading special music requests
          – organizing music into folders specific to your wedding
          – pre-listening to all of your ‘special’ music to make sure there are no glitches or weirdness
          – renting any additional gear
          – communicating with any other family/vendors/bridal party necessary
          – getting my equipment and clothing ready
          – travel to your wedding

          Sometimes this adds up to only 6 hours of prep, but sometimes it’s more like 20 hours.

          On the contrary, when I get an enquiry for a 50th birthday party etc., here’s the prep that usually goes into it:
          – email correspondence (usually a pre-event meeting isn’t necessary)
          – downloading any music requests
          – preparing event-specific music folders
          – getting equipment ready (usually much more casual events so clothing/makeup doesn’t take the same amount of time)
          – travel to the event.

          That’s usually less than 4 hours of prep. And when I get to the event, I don’t need to run around coordinating with a wedding planner or parents or bridal party to make sure everything runs smoothly… There’s usually a table set up, and someone uses my mic to give a toast and say “now it’s time to party!”, and that’s how I know it’s my turn to perform. There is a significantly smaller amount of stress involved. For some wedding clients, I have spent 4 hours on travel to and from pre-event meetings alone (when couples choose the meeting time and place. obviously, if it’s up to me I find a meeting place close to home!). That time needs to be budgeted for – it’s part of my work day and I can’t afford to work for free.

          With that in mind, I often drop the price for non-wedding family gatherings – even up to 50% off. But my wedding package price is my starting point. If you’re planning a more casual wedding, and let me know what it will look like, and respectfully ask for a discount based on how awesomely low-maintenance you are, I’ll always consider it! It’s just a matter of understanding the value of my time and effort, and being able to reason why your wedding is less time and effort.

          Not all DJs operate like I do, but I hope that helps you get an idea for the reason in price difference. 🙂

          • In that case it sounds like one option, for both parties, would be to draw up a written contract in advance stating exactly what the service will cost and exactly what’s included in that. That provides an opportunity to discuss what does and does not need to be included. (For example if it’s a very informal wedding and none of the guests will be wearing fancy clothes or special makeup they could let you know you don’t need to do that either.)

    • What DJ has the money to bring this to court? I would hope the difference in wedding/normal services isn’t THAT significant.

      At a salon, why does it make sense to pay significantly more for a wedding updo vs. a prom updo? IT’S ALL HAIRSPRAY. My updo for prom lasted well into the next day. If you’re being charged a “wedding price” then the vendor should be able to provide specific examples of where that money is going, and why it’s necessary.

      I feel this entire “issue” only exists because it’ culturally acceptable (and even encouraged) to spend extravagantly on your wedding. No one would be willing to rent a venue, hire a caterer, DJ, etc for a family reunion at the price many would be willing to spend for a wedding. Are we truly paying for higher quality from the same vendors just because it’s A WEDDING? Doubtful. My fiance and I chose a venue (literally just the empty space) that had a flat hourly rate, in part because we don’t want to play into the idea that we should blow our entire savings on one (admittedly special, but still just one) night.

      • In some ways, I think a markup for attention to detail (as one might expect greater attention to go into a wedding style than for another event), highly specific desires, and even higher expectations from the customer might be warranted, but I generally agree that some services are overpriced for the reason that they *can.*

        However, venues, caterers, DJs, and photographers (along with other wedding-related service pros) have a lot more on their plates and a lot less wiggle room with weddings than with other events simply because of the expectations from couples and wedding guests that everything go perfectly smoothly. Photogs in particular have extremely high pressure to capture every important moment that the couple *might* want (and hopefully have the foresight to discuss it ahead of time), are often shooting in extremely challenging environments (lighting in churches and other indoor venues is often TERRIBLE for portraiture), and have to make an even greater effort to stay out of the way and not be a distraction during the ceremony and other important reception events. Other kinds of event photography are rarely as demanding, as exacting, or as high-pressure as weddings, and the pricing should reflect this. Weddings might also call for more assistants, supplemental lighting equipment, preparation time, more particular or detailed editing, practice for shooting a specific style the couple wants, and often the inclusion of an engagement shoot so the couple and photog can determine if they can really work together and what kinds of angles look best for the couple.

        As a photographer and artist, that’s the angle I can best speak from, but the level of demand in many cases is just HIGHER in weddings, and people rarely take into account the stresses and demands that places on the vendor’s time and resources. If you’re just thinking about materials cost and the day of, you may be ignoring a whole mountain of BTS work.

        I absolutely DO think that you’re within your rights to ask where the markup comes from, and even ask what they would charge for a general event with X number of people, etc., beforehand, and then ask for the wedding price. If there’s a hike and they won’t explain why, then you’ve either got room to negotiate or walk.

        • I 100% agree – vendors should be able to give reasons for the difference in price! I also don’t mind when couples ask for a discount or ask what they can do to make my services cheaper. I know why I charge what I do, so if they’re willing to be flexible, so am I. I’m married, wedding sticker shock is a thing, I totally understand. Just ask for those discounts and price breakdowns respectfully, and I’ll do what I can to keep it in your budget!

  5. I didn’t lie to any vendors, but sometimes I didn’t mention it because I didn’t consider it relevant. For example I bought my dress almost a year in advance and somehow lost weight in between so the week before the wedding I had to get it taken in. It’s a blue prom dress from a department store, lovely but not a wedding dress. Quotes for wedding dress adjustments were roughly double the cost of the dress and when I asked why I was told it’s because wedding dresses are so much more ornate or “because of all the embroidery” (this dress has none) or literally “because it’s a wedding dress dear”. So I went to a fabric shop in town and got a recommendation for a woman who does adjustments on all kinds of clothes and she gave me a quote AFTER seeing the dress and what needed doing to it. The quote was based on the work required, and the fact that I said I was planning to keep it and re-use it so I wanted it to last. She never asked and I never told her it was a wedding dress. It cost £25.

    • I had the same experience. I won tickets to an (on-beat) bridal show this winter shortly after getting engaged, like less than a month after we got engaged. Vendors at the show were APPALLED that I hadn’t picked a dress yet and were basically telling me I needed to start panicking, even when I expressed that I wouldn’t be wearing a “traditional” gown with a train, bustle, etc because it’s not within my budget. I know it is literally their job to up-sell me, but it was A Lot ™.

      When it came time to getting my wedding dress altered, the woman booking my appointment asked me a few questions about the dress. I told her the length, the material, the alterations I wanted done, and that it was billed as a bridesmaid’s dress (which it is, and I had planned on explaining that it’s actually for my own wedding when I got there irl rather than rambling incoherently on the phone). When she realized the wedding was in October, she suggested putting off alterations because it “wasn’t urgent” since I was booking in July. Even just the difference in attitude is incredible. I’m willing to bet that if I had called it a wedding dress, the alterations would have cost me a lot more even when I showed up with a simple blue velvet dress instead of a “traditional” white gown.

  6. I am a historical costume designer and offer the possibility of making historical style wedding dresses. I don’t have a standard “mark-up” percentage for weddings, but my wedding quotes are higher than my quotes for regular costumes, because for me it is more work. First off, my costs are way, way higher. While some of my regular costumes use fabrics that cost 5 or 10 euro per meter, white silks and similar high-quality fabrics cost 100 to 150 euro per meter. My dresses often contain about 10 or more meters of fabric, so you do the math. Besides that, a lot more attention to detail goes into sewing a wedding dress. Regular costumes for the theater are only seen from quite a distance away. So I can get away with a lot more machine sewing, which is visible up close, but you don’t notice at a distance. Now wedding dresses are often scrutinized and photographed in detail. To make it look good takes a whole lot of hand sewing, which is more difficult and takes way longer than sewing by machine. And then there is the fact that wedding dresses have to fit perfectly. Brides are often more critical about the way a dress fits than someone ordering a costume for a fantasy event or theater show. So while a regular costume takes 1 or at most 2 fittings to get to a point where the customer is satisfied, a bridal gown often takes about 3 to 4 fittings. Those are all points I take into account when someone is ordering from me for their wedding. When I get an order for someone who wants a dress that is easy, made of a cheaper fabric like cotton, and doesn’t mind if there is visible stitching or she is happy after one fitting, than the fact that they wear it to a wedding has no effect what so ever to the price. But in my experience, in most cases, the bride askes for things or expects things that require more work for me, so the price ends up higher.

    I often get the feeling from regular customers and brides alike, that most don’t understand the amount of work that goes into making a dress. And I assume that is the same for most service-based buisnesses like dj’s, musisians, wedding planners etc. If a vendor tells you: it is a lot of work, they are not trying to rip you off, they just do a lot more work behind the scenes than the work you see, especially in weddings. And I hope more people can respect that.

  7. I work for a big name bridal store (don’t really want to come up in google but it has a man’s name that starts with D) and for all wedding dress tryons we require a stylist with you for assistance. People sometimes come in and lie, telling us they’re shopping for a special event, and then they go pull wedding dresses themselves because they don’t want the attention. But for real: please just be honest. You can come in and say “I’m getting married but I really don’t want the whole bridal appointment experience” and (at least in my shop) that makes life SO much easier for us, because a stylist can be assigned to help without being intrusive. We know where everything is, we can look up sizing, we know what comes in what colors. And- this is the important part- we know how to clean up after you. If I never find a room full of crumpled, bagless wedding dresses from someone who snuck them in without telling us again, it’ll be TOO SOON. I get a lot of complaints from people about quality, but it does take actual work to keep dresses nice when people keep tossing them on the floor, and they are more work for us than the non-bridal, so it’s way easier for us to do our job if brides are honest.

  8. just be honest. You can come in and say “I’m getting married but I really don’t want the whole bridal appointment experience” and (at least in my shop) that makes life SO much easier for us, because a stylist can be assigned to help without being intrusive. We know where everything is, we can look up sizing, we know what comes in what colors. And- this is the important part- we know how to clean up after you. If I never find a room full of crumpled, bagless wedding dresses from someone who snuck them in without telling us again, it’ll be TOO SOON

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