My wife and I went on a few long road trips recently, and we passed the time in the car listening together to the audio version of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. The book ended up sparking a number of deep conversations and questions, and Suzanne even took notes! Through the process, I learned a lot about my wife, the perspective of professional women, and what implicit biases I personally have.
I liked how Sheryl was very realistic and honest about her own struggles and the (sometimes blatant) discrimination she faced and which others routinely face. I liked how she gave concrete examples/scripts and shared a lot of meaningful personal details.
I learned to appreciate much more how hard my wife works to achieve her goals and gain respect in ways that men receive a lot more by default in professional settings. I understood much more deeply the difficulty of balancing work and family life for a woman, and I really liked Sheryl's tips for professional couples. I saw my wife learning a lot from Sheryl's example and feeling like she's not alone in many of the feelings she has, like "imposter syndrome" (which I share too) and struggling against the default stance of not leaning in when there are risks. I learned some new ideas and models for how a couple can raise a family while also pursuing meaningful goals as independent adults. I also recognized better the role I can play in supporting her and pushing her to go after her dreams and believe in herself.
Below were our biggest takeaways from the book. I feel lucky to have Suzanne in my life and to have been able to share this experience with her, learning about each other and the world around us.
I had a lot of fun helping to plan my wedding, and through the experience, I learned a ton about event coordination, business negotiation, and dealing with difficult personalities. It was all worth it, but I just wish it didn't have to be so tough.
As I see it there are three general problem areas with the wedding industry right now:
1. Insane prices. The moment you mention "wedding," the tone immediately changes. All of a sudden, the other person is so extremely "nice" and warm, sprinkling congratulations and feigning curiosity into the details of the proposal. They aren't faking their delight, though; they are so extremely happy to have another person they can totally overcharge. Because saying "wedding" is basically the same as saying, "please charge me 50-100% above normal."
I may sound a bit cynical, but it's just from being shocked so many times in hearing prices for various everyday things that are out-of-this-world high and which one would never pay on a regular day. For example, with venues, flowers, and invitations, I had numerous experiences of realizing that prices are sort of in their own "wedding universe" rather than based on cost or value add. This price bubble is further heightened and sustained through all the various media that cover the industry and that speak of $100K budgets like they're the new normal.
The unfortunate thing is that in this industry, just like almost everywhere else, you get what you pay for, and if you pay top dollar, you likely will get better service than if you choose something cheaper. However, the general magnitude of prices in question is what is so frustrating.
I wish vendors were more honest in the sense of not taking advantage of the joy of a wedding and the guilt of not paying for the "best" for one's "most important day" and simply provided great service at a reasonable price. That's obviously too much to ask (though I was lucky to find a select few vendors who did in fact do that with grace).
2. Sub-par quality. You'd think that with high prices comes amazing performance. Sometimes that occurs, but from my limited experience, it's less often than not. Unfortunately, wedding vendors are amazing salespeople who will show you their "best of the best" portfolio instead of their average wedding (like from a recent weekend), and so consumers are making their decisions on the wrong basis. Consumers do have a burden to do proper due diligence, but it would be nice if the industry didn't make their job more diffcult.
It's frustrating to have to constantly fight for every "concession," where concession often means simply getting what was originally promised or discussed and which now turns out to be something premium or extra. Sometimes sub-par quality can be even worse, such as when your bride's wedding dress is destroyed by a dry cleaners that decides not to take responsibility for it (yes, true story). It's really unbelievable.
3. Poor ethical standards. This last point can be summed up simply with, "Be a man. Do the right thing." Or more elaborately, be a professional. This means being honest, not needing a contract to spell out every detail of behavior, and doing what you say you're going to do (something I realize most people can't accomplish).
In the height of vendor negotiations, I had a long checklist of all the various contract sections that would always need to get added or removed and things to explicitly check in every contract or estimate. Nothing would ever be preset in the "form agreement" that was in your favor or as discussed or "sold" to you; it would all have to get argued to get included explicitly. It's frustrating when someone promises something and yet can't commit in writing.
Besides contracts, which few will ever really enforce, actual ethical behavior is what's sorely needed. I remember visiting one cake vendor who rudely scoffed at our requests and said that she didn't want our business but if we forced her she would charge us $x (where x is an order of magnitude more than the next most expensive vendor). We also had one cake vendor who promised to do our cake but then bailed when we wanted to sign a contract ("sorry, got a celebrity wedding"). We even had our DJ bail on us the day before he was supposed to play ("sorry, stuck in Europe [partying]") -- it was a lot of fun hiring a new DJ on my wedding day.
I realize this post has somewhat of a ranting nature, but I know I'm not the only one who's felt this pain. It'd be one thing if the prices were low and I were dealing with shady vendors; it's unbelievable when it's with ostensibly high-quality vendors charging ridiculous prices. That really needs to change. People need to step up, and prices need to step down. 'nuff said.