Why Weddings Are Still So Horribly Expensive


The Internet has made so many, many things cheaper. At the very least, it’s easier than ever to comparison shop until you find the best deal or until your eyeballs begin bleeding (whichever comes first). So why are weddings still so nightmarishly expensive?

Today, The New York Times tackles the question with some insight from actual economists. And for starters, you’d be hard-pressed to find a market less transparent. (Funerals used to be worse, but the FTC now requires itemized price lists.)

You can pop over to Kayak right now and compare prices for almost every flight to Miami originating from your local airport. But if you want info about a caterer, or a bridal shop, or a florist, though, you’ve got to jump through hoops, because it’s not sitting on the Internet a few Google keywords away. Even the Knot and other guides to your options often only provide ranges (“$$$” means diddly squat to me) and even those could be out of date.

Often to get anywhere you’ll have to set up a face-to-face meeting, and even then, you’ll be dealing with some seriously mobile goalposts. The Times says:

Wedding vendors seemed to be trying to size me up to figure out how much I’m willing to pay; consumer advocates say this is a common practice, as is charging more for a given service for a wedding than for a “family function” or “corporate event.”

Even if someone did manage to create a clear guide, tricky vendors could assign different names to the same thing, or drive the price up with hidden fees. They don’t call it the wedding industrial complex for nothing.

Then there’s the fact weddings are so tailored to individual tastes, so it’s not necessarily easy for vendors to provide a crystal-clear guide, even if they wanted to. Peonies or garden roses? Top-shelf liquor or signature cocktails? Do you want uplighting? Buffet or seated dinner? Chiavari chairs? It all makes a difference to the bottom line.

In fact, that’s probably the real problem: People want what they want, first and foremost—then they want it at a price they like. That’s not the case for everyone; plenty of people want and need to get married without spending a fortune. But weddings are just so very, very much a commodity that it’s hard to introduce any price pressure into the equation.

And so the Internet is probably hurting more than it helps. What’s Pinterest but a big suggestion engine for additional ways to spend money on your wedding? (Those customized hangers, man.) Of course there’s the Facebook peer pressure factor, which I’m convinced is responsible for the rise of engagement photos. Don’t even get me started on Style Me Pretty.

Image via Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

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