Weddings - at what price?

Our investigation confirms higher quotes go hand in hand with the W-word.
Learn more

03.What we found

Reception venues

Wedding Venue iStockA venue can gobble up the biggest slice of your wedding budget. Our shadow shop indicates you’ll be charged more if you’re having a wedding – with one Melbourne venue wanting to charge almost double. Overall, the reception venues had a one-size-fits-all approach - with little tailoring to suit individual needs, and generally costing a lot more.

“You do see a lot of people getting pushed into doing the same things; often the wedding options are packaged up and there’s not much opportunity to deviate from what’s on offer,” says Terri Psiakis, author of wedding survival guide Tying the Knot Without Doing Your Block. “People also seem to feel pressured into having what their friends had. As a result, you can go to five different weddings from one circle of friends and they’re all the same. It’s difficult to remember whose wedding was whose.”

Beware the additional fee some venues impose to have your wedding ceremony onsite. Some charge an additional flat fee, while others charge per guest. One CHOICE staff member was recently quoted an additional $25 per head for her 70 guests if she wanted to have her ceremony onsite at one venue. When she queried what this extra $1750 covered, she was told it was for 20 chairs, a table, a piece of carpet and an archway.


Camera lens iStockThe photographer can spend hours with the couple before the ceremony and during the nuptials, travelling offsite for more formal shots of the bridal party, and capturing the revelry of the reception. Photographers are usually responsible for any post-production work and developing a wedding album.

In order to keep requests identical, the bride shadow shopper told photographers she only wanted photos taken at the reception, as a relative would be capturing the ceremony. Both scenarios required a photographer to take photos at the venue for four hours, with a mix of posed and informal shots to be delivered on a CD.

Our shadow shoppers collected some extreme discrepancies from the 10 photographers approached.

  • Only three photographers offered the same rate; and only two had a small difference with most quotes calculated by the hour.
  • Four businesses quoted a much higher price for the wedding. One photographer wanted to charge a massive $2200 more for the wedding - insisting there was only an all-day rate for weddings, despite our shopper emphasising she didn’t want or need this. When our birthday girl called, the same business was quite happy to provide an hourly rate at a reasonable price.
  • In the other cases, photographers quoted up to 150% more for the wedding, again only offering expensive all-day rates.

As with venues, wedding photography packages were offered with little flexibility and in most cases priced at a minimum of four to five hours. On several occasions, our bride said she didn’t feel the staff really listened to her specific requirements. Once again, the one-size-fits-all approach applies once the W-word is mentioned.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.



Wedding Cake iStockIt’s worth shopping around for any kind of cake -  on two occasions the birthday cake quote was 11% more than the wedding cake!

Our bride and birthday girl requested a modern style, white chocolate mud cake, decorated with fresh flowers and big enough to feed 80 people. Two of the 10 cakes shops quoted a much higher price for our bride, one quoting 75% more than the same cake for the birthday girl.

The cakes ranged from $160-$475 depending on the store, so our advice is not to let on that it’s for a wedding and be sure to shop around.


Obviously, a wedding is usually going to have different requirements to a birthday party. Wedding Flowers iStock

So, our bride was instructed to request flowers to decorate the venue only. Our birthday girl was scripted to ask specifically for
the same flowers that had been suggested by the florist to the bride.

Of the 10 florists, half quoted more for the wedding while the other half quoted more for the birthday – certainly an indication
that it’s a good idea to shop around if you’re looking to order flowers for any kind of event.

Hire cars and entertainment

Entertainment iStockSeven out of 10 car hire companies quoted more for the wedding scene.

Two Sydney businesses quoted our bride 54% more for the same car and the required hours. And, as with reception venues and photography, car hire had minimum hourly rates. 

The entertainment request was simple: a DJ to play for four hours, with a selection of tunes that guests of all ages would want to dance to. Our identical request resulted in less than identical quotes. Six of the 10 businesses quoted a higher rate for the wedding, with one quoting 87% more for the wedding.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments