Planning “budget” weddings in Los Angeles is nearly impossible. And by “budget”, I mean my entire year’s salary. When I first started planning (secretively three years before I actually got engaged), my imagination seemed realistic.
I didn’t want an outrageous dress or tons of people I didn’t know or a crazy amount of food and flowers. All I wanted was an intimate ceremony outdoors with my closest friends and family and a delicious dinner with dancing. I didn’t have to have the best of anything or the most gorgeous setting there ever was. To me, these expectations seemed doable on a $30,000 budget.
Imagination and real life are vastly different worlds. When reality sets in, you find yourself having to decide on items that easily cost an entire month’s paycheck or rent, just for one day. It’s a thousand dollars here, a couple thousand there, 500 on this one other thing–before you know it, your “special day” has you in debt up to your earlobes.
Even when you choose the most affordable options, like the $5,300 venue instead of the $12,000 venue, the $60 dinner instead of the $120 dinner, the $2,500 photographer instead of the $6,000 photographer, all of the costs quickly add up.
With every decision I have to make, I find myself wondering why weddings in Los Angeles are so expensive. Why does the videographer charge $6,000 for a 5-minute highlight reel? Why is cake $6 per slice? Why does the venue charge two months of my paycheck just to be able to use their space? There are a handful of reasons why weddings in Los Angeles are so expensive and here’s what I think:
Beautiful Outdoor Space is Scarce
One of my best friends lives in Northern California where people have the ability to get married in a redwood forest for free. Her entire wedding budget is $5,000 and she’s able to have a gorgeous, classy wedding for that amount. The reason why they don’t charge for the space is because it’s literally everywhere. Drive five minutes in any direction and you’re surrounded by breathtaking, towering trees.
In Los Angeles, there are a handful of parks and gardens and everyone wants to do their wedding there. Because there are more people that demand this commodity than the amount that’s available, venues are able to charge steep prices for use of outdoor space. You can’t just walk to the nearest tree canopy and have your wedding because, frankly, there aren’t very many from which to choose.
Rent is Insanely Expensive
Restaurants have to pay to keep the doors open and the price of rent is higher in Los Angeles than almost anywhere else in the country. A one-bedroom apartment is already over $2,000 a month so you can only imagine how much these expansive locales have to pay.
More people living in a city means that a higher percentage of people are getting married in general. But there’s only so many photographers, cake bakers, etc. to go around. If these vendors are fielding requests a year or two in advance, they are more in demand and can thus charge higher prices for their services.
The situation is a lot like Disneyland: no matter how much Disneyland raises their prices, people are still going to pay to go. Disneyland has a limited space and can only fit so many people in that space. They also offer an experience that can’t be found elsewhere and can charge a premium for that experience. I went to the park on Valentine’s Day, after everyone had made a hubbub about annual passport hikes and closures, but Disneyland was the most crowded I had ever seen it. Higher prices is sort of like population control; by making the park more expensive, they are making it harder for people to get in, thus hopefully making the parks less crowded.
A similar idea applies to weddings. When there are less green spaces, photographers, planners, etc. to serve the high population, then the prices for those services will rise.
Sentiment vs. Practicality
Getting married actually costs very little. All you have to do is go to city hall or a courthouse, sign a license and have a short, binding ceremony. On the other hand, having a wedding is an extravagant luxury. Every item on this day, from the peonies to the pastel-colored pastries are things you don’t actually need, but want. Sure, you can say that tradition mandates a certain expense, but it’s your choice to subscribe to that.
Everyone in the wedding industry knows this ; they are catering to your lifelong hopes and dreams. You’ve dreamt about this day ever since you were a little girl, haven’t you? Your wedding is going to be the happiest day of your life, isn’t it? Weddings are sentimental events that create memories you’ll cherish forever. Because your happiness is priceless to you, vendors are counting on you to make decisions with your heart, not your head. Priceless to you, ten grand for them.
Higher Price Equals Higher Quality
Or so we assume. There are numerous cases where charging higher for a product or service makes the customer think that it is of higher quality. Charge too low, and the customer will wonder what’s wrong with it/you. I heard an anecdote about a man who was competitively pricing his service, but he wasn’t getting any customers. He tried doubling his price and quickly became completely booked.
Humans are conditioned to think that higher cost equals higher quality. We apply this logic to our food and to our entertainment. Organic food costs more, so we believe it is better for us. More expensive concert tickets mean that the seats are better. If prices are too low, we see it as a red flag and won’t want to purchase it.
Even if that quality is fabricated by the vendor, to the unsuspecting bride, it will seem like true quality. Once you watch a dozen (or in my case, a hundred) wedding videos and realize that price and quality do not necessarily go hand in hand, you will then be able to make an informed decision.
Now that we’ve figured out why weddings in Los Angeles are so expensive, our next post will focus on how to save and still have the day of your dreams. Are you currently in the bouts of wedding planning in Los Angeles or somewhere else? Tell us about your experience below!