The American Marriage Industry

Seth's Vacation Adventure: Days 2 and 3
Happy New Year and Worldy Wednesday: Junk Mail

Marriage Industry 1I’m sure that this post will diverge from the regular themes of this site but as it is part of my personal story in my search for a bride, I thought that I would add it. For those of you that have never been married, I’m sure it will be insightful for you in many ways.

My first, second and lasting impression of the marriage industry in the United States is that it is a huge scam that leeches off of the ignorance of so many young women who have no experience in sales or negotiations. Again and again I run into vendors who refused to engage in (what I would consider) honest negotiation practices. More than 80% of the vendors that I have contacted have a “no budge” policy on their overblown prices. And this is only if you can get a price. I’ve been shopping for wedding venues, caterers, DJ’s, florists, dress makers & jewelry stores. The vast majority of my interactions went something like this:

Me: How much does package “A” cost?

Vendor: How much do you want to spend?

Me: I want to spend as little as possible, how much do you charge for package “A?”

Vendor: I need to know how much you want to spend so that I can custom-tailor your package.

Me: I want package “A,” how much does package “A” cost?

Vendor: Well, that depends on how much you want to spend.

Me: I want to spend $5

Vendor: No reply

And so, it went on like this again and again. I’m slowly gaining ground; I’ve found a DJ for what I think is a fair price. My bride-to-be is having the same problems with ordering a wedding dress. It seems that not only does the price of a dress change with the size of your checkbook, but also on how much “lead time” you give the dress maker. Interestingly, I can go to Men’s Warehouse and have a suit ready in a week. Most of the wedding vendors scoff at the idea that we’re planning a Spring wedding, “Oh, we need at least six months lead time to sell you a dress,” (insert arrogant indignant voice) “most brides plan their weddings 12-24 months in advance.”

The more and more I deal with this industry the more and more I realize that these vendors would rather bid one or two weddings per month where they can charge ridiculous fees versus two weedings each weekend at a reasonable profit margin. Clearly, there are some dumb young women who are willing to drop $50k on a wedding (on a credit card or using Daddy’s paycheck). If not, there would be much much more competition in the industry. We’ve even tried some wedding planners and their attitude isn’t “Here’s what I can do for you,” it is “What I can do for you depends on how much you want to spend.”

Marriage Industry 2

Well over 1/2 of all of the vendors I contacted did not reply to my emails. I’m doing ALL of this via email and this is perhaps our problem in getting replies. Most every email reply we get goes something like this:

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Me: How much for package A.

Vendor: Call me on my cel phone and I’ll get you a quote.

Me: I prefer to get a quote over email.

Vendor: Well, there are a lot of variables, what’s your #, I’ll call you back.

Me: I’m overseas, you can’t call me. Please just email me your price.

Vendor: You don’t have access to a phone at all?

Me: I’m calling you from a Mongolian lodge-tent in the middle of the Gobi Desert, the only phone in town only calls to Ulaan Baatar.

Vendor: Oh, can you call when you get home?

Me: Ugh!

* I’m beginning to wonder if this person wants my business at all. It seems that he wants me to call so that he can hard-sell me this or that. Many of the vendors won’t give a price over email OR by phone, you have to have a “consultation.” We eventually went to a “consultation,” also called a “tasting” for the caterer that we are considering using. I just want the price and to taste the food. It turned into four hour long sales pitch that resembled something out of a time-share sales presentation.

And the food wasn’t very good.

3 days later, I received the “quote” to feed 70 people. $15,000

Uh, that’s like $200 per person. I could walk into any restaurant in town, hand each of my guests $60 for dinner and $40 for beer & cocktails and come out for 1/2. Not to mention not having to deal with all of this silliness.

It really occurs to me that one should not get married unless they really really really know that this is the Woman for all time. Despite divorce court, just getting a damned price from a caterer is worse than dental surgery.

I’ve worked in sales for years and I understand how to negotiate. I believe that these people don’t want to give me their business because they don’t want to negotiate. They want easy prey. In this case, its the girl with Daddy’s checkbook. It reminds me of going to get my oil changed.

Oil clerk: Well, here is what we found…

Me: (cutting him off) I just want the oil changed.

Clerk: Do you want to hear our diagnostic?

Me: No.

Clerk: Ok

I sit down and watch a woman walk in and he tells her that her transmission fluid is dirty and needs to be changed, she needs fuel injection cleaning and needs synthetic oil, etc, etc. The lady ends up forking over $500 when all she wanted was a $35 oil change. For this reason my Mother has one of her Sons take the car to get the oil changed.

At least in the oil & lube shop, you can say, “Just give me the regular oil change.” In the wedding industry, “Just give me the price for package A,” ends in no reply to your email.

I begin to see why shows like Bridezilla have such appeal. Thank God that I am marrying a Woman that thinks logically rather than emotionally in regards to planning this wedding. She has a sales job and knows how to negotiate and she too is in shock at what a goat-rope this whole industry is. She commented to me again and again that we should retire to wedding photography because as best as we can tell, some of these photographers are making six figures and their photos are quite amateurish.

Marriage Industry 3

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Seth's Vacation Adventure: Days 2 and 3
Happy New Year and Worldy Wednesday: Junk Mail

2 thoughts on “The American Marriage Industry

  1. There are a lot of contributing factors as to why people are even willing to spend so much on a wedding.

    In the old days, a husband received a dowry from the wife’s family. This sum was to represent her inheritance and was intrusted to the man prematurely to be used in the wife’s best interest because divorce was extremely rare and most societies did not allow women to own property.

    Additionally, in contemporary times, men are viewed as an accessory. Something I read somewhere. Men are just a catalyst needed to metamorphosis the woman into a wife, a higher social status. Women will plan this “Big Day” like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly; at no other time will it’s wings be so colorful and lustrous, so everyone must pay attention to mememe! After that…well, we don’t have to discuss that do we?

    Having worked in the marriage industry for over a decade (selling formal wear) our pricing was simple. Wholesale cost of the item (typically wedding dress) was doubled, +$100 for shipping. Most dresses made back then were about $200-$500 from the wholesaler so customer cost was somewhere from $500 to $1200. And this was the good stuff, Forever Yours, Maggie Sottero, etc. All new stock as well. Everything from the year before (stock dresses we got for free) were marked about half off, so we had some $99 stock for the budget busters.

    I can attest to the 6-months to order a dress. Normally you place the order and the overseas manufacturer does a massive “cutting” of the dresses ordered for all the stores in the area (maybe even the country). It was possible to do a “rush-order” that only took 3 months, but it cost a little more depending on manufacturer. If you needed one sooner you had to buy off the rack, which we did but some placed did not. Tuxedo’s/Suits obviously did not take as long because (a) there is more demand for suits during a man’s life vs a once per life (ideally) wedding dress and (b) the skilled labor to size, fit and alter a suit exists locally.

    I worked in a family owned store, others charge much more exorbitant prices (check the price of Maggie Sottero’s online). It was a truly glorious experience: All the alterations/dying/stocking was done in house. People had stake in sales (without being on commission). Special insider relationships with the dress reps gave us some perks. Best of all, we could show trouble customers the door. Bringing back some nostalgia over here. Being the only one tall enough to flip those dresses inside out. That one size zero dress in the window that no American girl could possibly fit in. Memories.

    Anyway, most Western women see The Wedding as Princess’s Special Day. Men are just along to fund it.

    • I understand the historical context of it and I can understand a couple wanting to make a grand showing & for some parents to flaunt their wealth. But it is amazing that a plate of food and a glass of beer costs 100-300% more for a wedding than for a birthday, a reunion or Grandma’s birthday.

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