The great white lie: Would you lie to vendors about your wedding to get a cheaper deal?

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Throne of Lies mug available on Etsy.

Canada's Globe & Mail recently interviewed me for an article called “I do, but shhhh” about brides who save money by not telling wedding vendors that they're getting married. The article is no longer on their website, but I saved it for posterity here:

I do, but shhhh: Bargain-hunting brides keep mum to cut their costs

Originally posted by The Globe and Mail

On the morning of her wedding, Ana Blagojevic arrived for her salon appointment and asked her hairdresser to swoop her brown wavy hair into a simple updo.

About 40 friends and family were scheduled to gather by the river in Kingston, Ont., that Saturday in May to watch the 30-year-old medical student marry her fiancé, Filip.

But that's not what she told the hairdresser.

“I just said, ‘Oh, I'm going to a party. I just need my hair done very simply,' ” she said.

Blagojevic came clean, however, when the hairdresser asked what the party was for.

“Then she said, ‘Oh, why didn't you say so!' But at that point, the pricing was already decided.”

Like Blagojevic and her husband, couples who yearn for their special day to be low-key and (relatively) stress-free are intentionally omitting the m-word from their dealings with wedding vendors.

And they're not just saving fuss – they're also saving money, as many caterers, florists, salons, venues and other suppliers charge more for a wedding than they would for any old social occasion.

“Some people call it a wedding tax – the same bunch of flowers that would cost you X dollars would cost you one and a half or even two times [the amount of] dollars because it's wedding-related,” says Ariel Meadow Stallings, the Seattle-based author of Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides.

Often, the markup is justified, Stallings adds. Dealing with weddings is “higher risk, higher drama, higher quality.”

“That said, with things like flowers, with things like clothing, with things like accessories or shoes or decor, there's just no reason to ever mention that it's for a wedding.”

For many couples, it's the inevitable host of wedding add-ons that winds up getting expensive.

If she had said she was prepping for her wedding from the get-go, Blagojevic notes, she would have had to fend off the hairdresser's entreaties to add flowers to her ‘do or get her nails done. She had already had that kind of encounter with a florist who, when she did reveal her wedding plans, steered her in the direction of a $200 bouquet and other exotic, pricey arrangements.

“Just having ‘wedding' attached to it or ‘marriage' attached to it costs a little bit more,” Blagojevic says, acknowledging that more work is typically required to satisfy a bride as opposed to a regular partygoer.

“But don't try to sell me $200 flowers. That was kind of annoying.”

Despite the fear of fuss and aversion to financial headaches, others facing impending nuptials say honesty is still the best policy.

Christina Friedrichsen, the Windsor, Ont.-based founder of IntimateWeddings.com, an online guide to planning small ceremonies, says she has seen the fallout from disguising wedding receptions as a no-big-deal event.

A bride who blogs on her site almost lost her venue, a rental house in New Hampshire, just days before her wedding because she told the person leasing it that she was simply having a party. It took a lot of convincing that the wedding celebrations wouldn't get out of hand to ultimately secure it, she says.

“Over all, it worked out for her, but it easily could have gone the other way,” Friedrichsen says. “You're really taking your chances, but I think essentially people feel better in the long run just being honest about things.”

Weddings can also be a lesson for couples in being firm about their vision, whether they're tussling with planning pressures from family, from vendors or from both, says Alison McGill, editor-in-chief of Weddingbells magazine.

“You have to decide what are the non-negotiables and what are the negotiables,” she says. “In life, you can always be upsold, there's always something bigger and better. It comes down to a budget and, if you've only allotted X amount of dollars for your flowers, cake or dress, you've got to stick to your guns.”

If bargain-hunters do engage in subterfuge, author Stallings warns, they should remember to tread carefully with service people they may run into again, such as hairdressers or venue renters.

“If you're not going to tell someone, just don't tell them. Don't do an ‘Aha!' reveal.”

Whether they're going to a wedding or a party, anyone who comes in for an appointment at EvelineCharles Salons, a Western Canadian chain, are asked the same questions, marketing co-ordinator Kathleen Nixon says from Edmonton. “We're especially attentive to brides because it is a very memorable day of their lives. When they say it's just a party, it's not as specific.”

And brides, she says, usually have very particular ideas of what they want, she adds.

As she prepares to marry fiancé Nick Brown on July 6, Julia Lum has tired of the fuss associated with planning not only their wedding in an Okanagan vineyard but two other events later in the year to mark their union with friends.

“Because I knew that I might be charged more for a wedding, I just said in my inquiries that we were having a big party,” Lum, a researcher in Toronto, says about her search for venues. Initially, these additional gatherings in Vancouver and Toronto weren't part of the plan, but the wedding seemed to take on a life of its own, she adds.


The article uses an example of a bride who scheduled an up-do appointment with a stylist for a “big party” to avoid paying bridal styling prices. At the end of the appointment, the stylist asked what the party was for, and the bride was like SURPRISE IT'S MY WEDDING!

While I feel that it's maybe ok to lie by omission and not say that you're planning a wedding when purchasing supplies, I feel strongly that, in terms of personal integrity, it feels icky to straight-out LIE to folks performing a service for you … and doing a “GOTCHA!” reveal also feels extra sketchy.

Yes, there's money to be saved … but there are also people to be treated respectfully. Don't mention your wedding at all if you're buying supplies, but when it comes to getting services from people? Tread gently.

More ethical wedding debates

Comments on The great white lie: Would you lie to vendors about your wedding to get a cheaper deal?

  1. The thing about all this is that a lot of it has to do with assumptions.

    For example, one vendor might say: “We may be making the same food but have to make it “extra” special so that this memorable event will come out with happy memories! We hire more help for weddings and make our presentations more unique for that event” (thanks to Sarah, above).

    But that is all based on the assumption that the couple wants those special touches, those extra decorations. What if the people who are ordering services really are minimalist? Or are planning on doing their own special touches entirely differently? The truth is, it is a little unfair to mark something up (be it catering, or whatever), based on what you think someone meant to order extra, but didn’t.

    Why not just be up front about all associated charges? Like, “We could charge $200 for these extra decorations we usually do for weddings, would you like that included?” Leave it up to the customer, since they’re the ones paying the bill.

    I realize that the “wedding charges” in some cases (photographers, for example) are legitimate. But photographers can also clearly delineate why those costs exist. If a vendor can’t itemize that extra wedding cost, and if it can’t be negotiated, I say that’s a crappy vendor.

    • I was just about to make this exact point! Thanks so much for posting it. If what you’re really offering is a “Tier 1” high quality service and a “Tier 2” everyday quality service, why not just let people pick what they want? I mean, there could be some family reunions out there that would really like those “special day” touches.

  2. My future husband and I discussed this too. He was all for it – if it was someone that wouldn’t find out in the process, but I just couldn’t do it. The thing is though, I’m doing most of the things one would hire others to do. I don’t see the issue in not saying it’s a wedding cake, if you’re going to go pick it up, and the same with flowers, or even your dress, if you are wanting something simple/low-key/not a typical wedding dress. Personally I told my dressmaker. She does wedding dresses! But also, I’m too damn excited that I’m getting married to hide it.

    But as Ariel said, your venue, your photographer, your caterer, your DJ, these people are going to find out, and you know what, their services are going to be different for a wedding than just some party. Also, I can’t imagine them not being pissed that you lied to them. I mean, even if it didn’t change how they would service you, if I was in their shoes I’d be pissed just because it’s a shitty thing to do to someone.

    As others have said, if you don’t like their prices, look for someone else. I personally found a venue and a photographer with amazing prices!

    OMG, I am in love with my photographer! She offers SUCH an amazing wedding package, and we’re only having her for 4 hours!! Yet still she wanted to give us all these wedding extras. She rocks! And I think she’s worth every penny. So you know, it’s not all bad being up front with people!

  3. As a wedding photographer and a previous off beat bride. I’m all for not disclosing the information to non-service vendors when it’s small. Like you’ll need just your bouquet or need to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel (we did this because they would only block out for weddings held at their venue, so we said family reunion – but I got ready on location so they had no way of knowing). I think eventually vendors will catch on.

    As a wedding photographer I would be fuming to show up to an event that the bride and groom lied about. I wouldn’t give them sub-par service however I’m sure my mood & upbeat attitude wouldn’t be what it usually is. The reason why wedding photography costs so much is because it’s a once in a lifetime event. I’m on my toes from the minute I arrive until the minute the bride and groom leave the reception. I’m absolutely crazy about my memory cards and backing files up. I also bring a lot more equipment to a wedding – so you might not get the wedding images you see on my site that require extra lighting. With “family reunions” and “large birthday parties” our prices are cheaper because we’re not shooting continuously and organizing groupings of people or giving the guest of honor about an hour long private portrait session.

    As a word of warning to any bride who would try this with a service provider, it’s most likely in your contract with your vendor what they’re providing the service for ie “family reunion”. If you had a really crabby vendor they can claim you breached the contract and refuse service. You did after all sign a contract for a different type event – They don’t have to honor it. And it could potentially lead to a lawsuit for you because if your reception site had to purchase & prep the food, hire waitstaff, etc.

  4. I am a photographer and don’t typically shoot “parties” , but like you said – they would be COMPLETELY different things with totally different coverage, and MUCH more editing and post production time involved. I feel like if some one did that to me, I would almost want to get out my contract and just say I was only hired to shoot group shots and the party – and that they could pay me my wedding fees to shoot the actual wedding. I mean, I cant imagine I could ever do that to some one (even if they did it to me) since I would not want to put them in that terrible place. But it would be pretty heartless to lie to people to save money – just for them to get underpaid.

  5. we told our caterer that we were having a family reunion because we got engaged. One month out, we told them we were getting married. We already had our price quote and knew what we were getting. The caterer thought it was clever that we decided to get married and didn’t get upset at us. She tried to make us change our menu at the last minute but we were dead set on what we wanted (gourmet pizza buffet!)…No hurt feelings! Plus, we didn’t spend an arm and a leg…

  6. I’m a photographer and if I came up against this I think I’d be extremely angry. I try my best to cater to what a couple wants on their big day – if you don’t want me to photograph the bride getting ready then the price is less than if you want me there from beginning to end. If I’m just photographing a family reunion the price is less than a wedding because I foresee less of a workload. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t put in any effort but I’m not expecting to do a ceremony, bridal shots and everything in between.

    If I was to turn up and find out that what I imagined to be a family party with a few group shots and a lot of candids had suddenly turned into a lot more I can imagine I’d feel pretty shafted by the couple. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to cause a scene on their wedding day but certainly a quiet word off to one side to try and sort out any miscommunication.

  7. I feel that lying to someone like my photographer about what I’m paying them to do by pulling a bait-and-switch is highly, highly unethical. Different events call for different types of photography, and weddings are definitely Big Deals, and I know if I were hired to do something casual and I found out I’d been lied to, I’d be very angry because working a wedding is WAY more intense than a simple family BBQ might be.

    Lying by omission about a tent rental? Meh, whatever. Just ask to rent a tent. Lying to someone who’s going to be putting forth work for you specifically on the day by working WITH you? Bad karma and very unethical.

    As for hairdressers, I wouldn’t mess with them either. They’re performing a service for you — treat them the way you’d like to be treated. If you’re getting really fancy hair done, pay what they’re asking you to pay, or find someone who will do what you want for less *honestly*. Plus, if you have an appointment for wedding hair, they may be more on-time with you, they may be sure to be running on time whereas if it’s a regular appointment, they may not realize that rescheduling at the last minute isn’t possible for you. You get what you pay for — if you try to wheedle around paying the proper price for what you want, you may pay less……and not get quite what you wanted.

  8. Holy Cow is right! I don’t even see how it is possible to lie to a Photographer like that. It is absolutely a breach of contract and just flat-out-wrong! Wrong. I feel so sorry for him/her. I agree whole-heartedly with Sarah: weddings are nothing like any other event. The stress level of the bride, groom, families, etc. is nothing like that at a family reunion. Not even close. Vendors have extremely strict deadlines/timelines, everything has to be perfect and in no way do they want to risk their reputation or disappoint their clients by doing a poor job. The stress, energy and the hours alone for creating something/providing something for a wedding warrants the price (in most cases).

    As someone who helps others plan events (mostly weddings) I only recommend vendors who are hard working, ethical people who love what they do. If you feel you are getting a shady markup, don’t go with them. There are plenty of people who would love to help you, and who will explain their prices for doing so…

  9. As a wedding photographer, the last thing you want to do is annoy the person who can airbrush the other way 🙂

    I understand the need to save some spendula on your wedding but a part of being professional is about being prepared and if I showed up to an event not knowing it was a wedding then I would feel a little, well annoyed but the couple really do not do themselves any justice as ultimately its them who lose out, you need an honest relationship with your clients to get the best out of them on film…….it takes a lot of talent and skill to be a photographer. Having said that my prices stay the same regardless what type of event it is because I still put the same amout of passion into all my jobs.

    • HA! I like that. “Oh, you wanted me to show your LEFT side, did you?” (mwahahahahaha!)

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