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

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.

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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.

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