20/20 recently ran a rather negative hour on weddings, the wedding industry and, frankly, the depths of human depravity. (You can see the full episode here). The episode understandably got a lot of attention from inside the wedding industry, mostly because of its one-sided, negative depiction of wedding professionals.
I decided to wait prior to commenting on the episode, because after watching it, I felt angry and a little depressed. I didn’t want to lash out at the producers to tell them what I thought about the lopsided manner in which they reported about weddings. Our industry was depicted through extremes: a wedding where everything that could go wrong went wrong; Groomzillas, which displayed grooms with the most deplorable behavior; and a woman who faked terminal cancer so that her fiancé would marry her. 20/20 edited sound bites from wedding professionals, making it look as though all of us in the industry are out to empty the pockets of every last bride and groom until there is nothing left but lint.
The broadcast heavily featured authors Denise and Alan Fields, whose book is about helping couples navigate the pitfalls of wedding planning. From their perspective, the wedding industry is filled with greedy business people who are full of nasty tricks to beguile unsuspecting brides and grooms until they blow their budgets and wind up in debt before they return from their honeymoon. While I can appreciate the Fields wanting to educate couples on how to cautiously shop for wedding items, I think that the grand wedding conspiracy theory was a bit overstated.
I’ve been thinking about the wedding industry from my vantage point. I’m a business owner whose company helps couples plan their weddings in just about every price range imaginable, an advocate for couples as the wedding expert for Perfect Wedding Guide, and a motivational speaker to the event industry. Every day, I encounter intelligent couples who know what they want to spend and how they want to spend it, wedding professionals who need to make a living but are also dedicated to giving couples the goods and services they want for a fair price, and an industry that would benefit from getting a positive message out about who we are and what we do.
Positive stories may not get ratings, but if I were producing the show, here is what I might have changed:
- The “Hot Mess Express” featured a couple whose New Orleans wedding was a disaster. In the end, the couple was very happy, a fact that was a minor footnote at the end of the segment. The video clips of their wedding were beautiful. The story behind the wedding professionals who helped the couple fix all of the disasters would have been a compelling addition to the piece.
- In “Scammed at the Altar,” the bride faked cancer to get her fiancé to marry her. Not only did she dupe her husband, but she also fooled many in the wedding industry into giving her free products and services. I’m sure we can all agree this was a deplorable act. But rather than putting the emphasis on the con artist, why not focus on the wedding professionals who donated to her wedding with the best intentions? Better yet, why not do a story on Wish Upon a Wedding, a non-profit group of wedding professionals nationwide that gift weddings to couples where one is terminally ill?
- Finally, in “Wedding Confidential – The Secrets the Wedding Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know,” 20/20 threw out statements like we “treat brides and grooms like human ATM’s,” and terms like the “Mercedes Syndrome,” insinuating that we charge more based on what car the couple drives. Another one was “The Wedding Markup,” which suggested that we charge more for weddings than other events for the exact same services.
How about doing an in-depth report about the hours and hours of preparation wedding professionals do prior to the wedding to make sure that everything runs smoothly, or the additional time that is given at no charge on the wedding day if things run late, or if the couple needs extra time? The cost of continuing education for us to keep up on the latest trends or the money spent on expensive equipment to make sure that our clients have the best of the best would also be insightful.
The bottom line is this: unscrupulous people exist in every industry. Moreover, every industry includes people who charge various prices for goods and services, i.e. Mercedes or Volkswagen, Neiman Marcus or Target, a $150.00 an hour attorney or a $450.00 an hour attorney. Let’s concentrate on educating couples on how to stay away from the shysters and help them understand what they can afford to spend when they shop for their weddings. Let’s also recognize the wedding industry as a group of hard-working small business owners who are entitled to fair compensation for the stressful, detailed work they do day-in and day-out.
Maybe 20/20 doesn’t think that would be good for their ratings…but I think it would be quite sensational. What do you think?