02.Shadow shop preparation
Businesses were selected in Melbourne and Sydney to provide a good cross-section of suburbs and demographics. To see if the W-word would make a distinct difference in prices our two shadow shoppers contacted 60 businesses – 30 in each city – and each was contacted twice, once by our bride and once by the birthday girl.
- Florists were asked to provide quotes on flowers to decorate the venue only – no bridal bouquets were requested.
- The photographer was told they were only needed for the reception and not the ceremony, as this was being done by a friend.
- For the cake, flowers and car enquiries, the birthday shopper used the same details confirmed for the wedding scenario.
Wedding enquiries were conducted first. Our prospective bride made a phone call to ask about pricing and request a quote. Once this enquiry was completed, the second shopper called the same business with exactly the same request, but claimed the event was a 40th birthday. The second call was made approximately one week after the first call.
As suspected - more than half the wedding suppliers approached by our shadow shoppers quoted a higher price for the bride than the birthday girl.
What do industry experts say?
That wedding customers are often far more demanding than other customers - and this is why so many suppliers are inclined to charge extra.
John O’Meara, Chairman of the Australia Bridal Industry Association, argues that in some cases charging a price premium is justified.
“A wedding is a one-off, and as a result people are often very demanding and very high-maintenance customers. In many cases, a wedding customer is going to expect so much more in terms of quality and service than another customer. Most of the suppliers are small operators and they have to work hard to make
the client happy."
Wedding celebrant Megan West sees a lot of overstressed brides with sky-high expectations. “Some brides are so stressed about trivial things like place cards that they lose sight of what their wedding is really about. I had one woman who was so obsessed with everything being perfect she actually forgot to write her wedding vows!”
With so much money to be spent, it's hardly surprising there's a growing number of wedding suppliers eager for a slice of the action. Glenn Findlay (managing director of Australian Bridal Service) says car hire companies, photographers and make-up artists are typically the most complained-about services, many of whom are start-up amateurs hoping to cash in on couples ready to spend up on their big day.
The Choice verdict?
Our shadow shop shows it doesn’t pay to mention the word “wedding” if it really isn’t critical. If you’re planning a wedding, be clear on what you are willing to spend, don’t be afraid to haggle and always be sure to shop around.
CHOICE believes that for services such as a DJ and car hire there should be no difference in the quality of the service provided or the cost.
For reception venues, cakes, flowers and photographers it depends on your individual requirements and the contract you enter into with the provider. One CHOICE member (see Don’t blow the budget) saved a fortune by asking for a catering quote from a venue before disclosing the event was a wedding!
Take note! There is no governing body for the wedding industry in Australia, but consumers can take complaints to the Office of Fair Trading in their state or territory.