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Monday, March 18, 2013

Want To Buy My Canceled Wedding?

A wedding party is pictured on the south shore of Rice Lake, east of Toronto, in May 2010.  (Stacey Wight/AP)

A wedding party is pictured on the south shore of Rice Lake, east of Toronto, in May 2010. (Stacey Wight/AP)

Wedding season is approaching and arrangements are well underway for the two and a quarter million weddings planned every year.

But what happens to the 250,000 ceremonies that get canceled?

At an average investment of $27,000 for the venue, caterers, photographers, DJs, the dress and more, couples who decide to cancel their wedding might want to become part of a new experiment.

The Charlottesville, Virginia-based website www.BridalBrokerage.com aims to buy and sell canceled weddings.

Marketing director Jeff Smidt told Here & Now’s Robin Young that the number of interested buyers has surprised them.

“We launched thinking that we were going to really appeal to military deployments and maybe pregnancies or elopers or folks that needed to get married on a timeline,” Smidt said. “But what we found is that people really not only want the deals, but they don’t want to go through the hassle of planning a wedding.”


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  • Lewis

    The high costs of marriage.Think before you invest this kind of money in marriage or anything.Use some common sense. But as Voltaire stated over 240 years ago:Common sense isn’t so very common.

    I also noticed the chemtrails in the photo above.

  • Tom Buttaccio | XO Pictures

    As the owner and primary cinematographer of a small wedding film studio, I would be very leery of any 3rd party brokerage firm’s involvement in any of our contracts.  I would only deal directly with the client in a situation where a cancelation occurred.  

  • Molly Schemper

    I own a small catering company in Chicago and would love to hear the point of view of some vendors. From my point of view we develop a very personal relationship with our couples, after developing a custom menu for them/meeting them on more than one occasion, it’d be hard to just transfer that to another couple.

    • Emotional?

      Right– but the point the speaker was making is that there are many couples who don’t really care about that stuff. It’s the difference between people who like to plan every minute of their vacation, and people who like to buy pre-packaged vacations so they can avoid all decision making. If you think about it– many couples would love this opportunity. Weddings can be the most stressful arrangements, and I can only imagine certain personalities not really caring if they’re having fish fillet or sirloin for dinner– as long as they’re married. However, I’m sure it would not be that difficult to arrange tweaks here and there for a higher cost.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9118194 Ryan Richardson

        It’s true that there are some couples that just don’t really care about this stuff and some couples that just want a deal, but as a wedding photographer I spend an awful lot of time and effort trying to avoid those couples. At the end of the day I want to work with couples that are excited about me and my work because everyone in that scenario ends the day happier.

        Plus, price shoppers are almost invariably the worst customers for anyone but the Dollar Store.

        • Emotional?

           Right– but at the end of the day this business is very hard

      • Emotional?

         Okay– fair, but on the same note, you can’t jump to a bunch of conclusions about how evil this is to vendors. If anything, I see something that could be beneficial to many. I know enough about this business to know that it’s all about right relations, so this company would not go very far if they’re intent was to screw the vendors over. It’s not like they can force vendors to  work with them– so therefore cooperation  is essential, which means that it’d only serve them to treat all parties with fairness.

    • http://melissapazen.net/ Melissa Pazen

      Ms. Schemper, I’m the type of woman who would love to have things ready.  If I were to decide (as I did ten years ago) to marry and needed a date within a month, I’d be thrilled to have you transfer someone else’s menu for me.

  • Jamie | Greenhouse Loft

    I am the co-owner of a smaller event venue.  We also work very closely with our clients, in the unfortunate situation where someone needs to cancel, we work one on one with them and would never feel comfortable  working with a 3rd party brokerage firm.  I was actually approached by this company recently and found it to be a very questionable.  In the end I was able to work with the couple and family to legally cancel their contract and try to move forward in rebooking the date.  Our contract is between us and the client, it’s not as easy as “subletting” an apartment – which is how the whole thing feels.  This may work with more of a hotel venue where it’s more inclusive, but not with smaller more independent vendors.

    I too wish this story had included more points of view. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.toulouse.weddingcreativo Sarah Toulouse

    Why were no venues or small wedding businesses interviewed for this story?
    This brokerage company is indeed new, and while the concept is based on
    good intentions, practicality and transparency are not apparent. I’m
    sure this brokerage company is not
    providing their services for free, so why was that question not asked?
    That inherently costs someone something, so who foots the bill for
    brokerage? Brides or wedding businesses? Many venues and other service
    providers will give a cancelled bride a refund IF we are able to
    reschedule a date, and no other industry sector outside of weddings will
    do this for consumers. Why should wedding businesses pay brokerage
    fees to do something we already do on our own? Frankly, why should
    wedding industry be the ones to bare losses for customers who
    voluntarily contract our services, then for personal life decision or
    circumstances decide to cancel their wedding plans? When cancellations
    happen at the last minute, wedding businesses take a big loss of income
    when we cannot rebook the date. We are largely small and independent
    businesses earning modest income to pay our bills and feed our families
    like everyone else. Practically speaking, typically couples hire
    several different companies to provide services and goods for their
    wedding. How is it even feasible to have all companies on-board to
    resell an entire wedding? Most businesses will very likely be opposed
    to dealing with a 3rd party instead of directly with their client. And
    what about consumer responsibility? When couples buy a house or car
    together when engaged or later get divorced, will the bank cancel and
    take a loss on the mortgage or car payments? No. Will divorce lawyers
    not charge fees because it is an unfortunate situation? No. Yet, many
    businesses in the wedding industry are NOT heartless and often do their
    best to work with couples when cancellations happen. Nearly 15% of
    engagements break up…wedding businesses already deal with inherent
    loss when plans don’t go though, and consumers should at least be
    responsible for their part when THEY decide to cancel and breach their
    contracts with companies. Clients bare the financial risk and
    responsibility when they choose to plan any event. Anyone can go to a
    courthouse and get married for $10, so no wedding business is forcing
    them to have 8-16 hour day-long event. They voluntarily hire service
    providers for their event, and these businesses in good faith hold dates
    and prepare services and goods months in advance and turn away other
    couples and their ability to earn income from other customers by acting
    in good faith with the contracted client. No one at NPR thought to
    interview one single venue, catering company, florist, etc.? Can I just
    sent NPR a press release about my business and basically have free air
    time to promote my business too? Failure on many levels with this
    segment: to ask important questions of this “experimental” brokerage
    company, provide consumers with practical information, and frankly just
    very lazy reporting.

    • Emotional?

       But isn’t working with a an event planner kind of like working with a “third party”– for that matter, everyone who is not the bride and groom is technically a third party and I’m not sure why that matters as long as the people involved agree to the arrangement. Also– the segment made it seem like  vendors profit from this because they get a new bride and groom who is willing to finish making payments on the previously bought weddings instead of just taking the lost they would have taken otherwise.  I’m having trouble understanding how this is wrong– if anything it sounds fiscally responsible. You’re right, people lose money everyday– but if there’s a way to limit how much money we waste in this country, then so be it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.toulouse.weddingcreativo Sarah Toulouse

        No, clients contract directly with each business separately, so the wedding planner is not a third party for the other vendors.   I don’t know if the services of this business are beneficial to businesses or consumers.  Why, because I cannot make and informed judgement because the only information provided in this story is from the brokerage business marketing director.  The reporter did not ask any questions that did not seem to come directly from talking points provided on a press release about the company.

  • Jeff, CMO, Bridal Brokerage

    Jamie, thanks for your post and, again, my apologies that we couldn’t find a way to work together.

    With our buyer database, Bridal Brokerage merely thinks we can be more efficient rebooking a venue cancellation than that venue working on its own. And if we can rebook, that means money back to the seller and the venue being made whole on the existing contract.

    I’m sorry you find the business questionable, but we appreciate that this is a new model. We just think of ourselves as innovators, and we’re really only trying to help.

  • Outwiththejive

    Wow, lots of concerns from small vendors who somehow feel like this business threatens their own. Is this business really such a threat to the way you do things? I don’t see how a wedding brokerage threatens to put small vendors at a disadvantage–as stated in the interview it seems that this helps ensure that the weddings actually happen and that the vendors receive the full value of the contract. Isn’t that a better situation than having a cancellation and having no work to perform on the reserved date? 

    But perhaps there’s another motivation behind the complaints. Could it be that some vendors actually LIKE the cancellations? Perhaps there’s a moral hazard created when you get to pocket a healthy deposit and do absolutely no work in return. So in some ways, maybe this brokerage business threatens vendors who benefit from frequent cancellations or reschedules, since there’s the possibility that someone else will pick up the contract and expect delivery of services.

    The fact is, the transfer of business contracts (including those for wedding services) is completely legal and legitimate. And Sarah’s post actually seems to support the idea of wedding plan transfers: if 15% of weddings cancel, then that is a HUGE market that might benefit from this service. If you’re afraid it may take business away from you, then perhaps you should provide a better service. Yes, clients do bear the financial risk when they enter into a contract–this business just provides a way for them to transfer the remaining risk to someone else and recoup some of their costs. It’s completely legal and legitimate for them to do so. In fact, it’s usually illegal to prevent a contract transfer. From the client perspective, this is a win-win. 

    Sarah further asks why a third-party brokerage should do something that vendors are already doing on their own. The answers are fairly obvious: First, many vendors do it poorly. And any business that is perceived as providing poor service for a lot of money is ripe for some creative destruction of their business model. (note: I’m not saying all vendors are poor service providers–just making a point). And many good vendors should be glad to see a company help them with the cancellation/rescheduling process–what a great opportunity to contact new clients! Second, it is probably very convenient for the cancelling party to be able to work with just one point of contact (the third-party vendor) rather than emotionally dealing with every single vendor. Think about how hard it must be to call the caterer, the band, the venue, the cake service, the decorator, the car rental service, the florist, the printing company, the travel agency, etc. and explain your situation. How miserable! Of course some people would find value in paying a third party to handle that for them. Finally, like the interview mentioned, this can provide an excellent deal to couples wishing to get married without the hassle and expense. Again, it could be wonderfully convenient to just buy a pre-planned wedding at a discount. Sounds to me there is value shared all around.

    So it’s not ripping anyone off (vendors, clients, or potential customers)–in fact, there seems to be shared value for all parties involved. And it appears to me to bring some decency and cohesiveness to a market that is currently very fragmented. I hear the vendors complaining, but I just don’t see the basis for their dismay. I don’t think this interview suffers so much from lazy reporting; perhaps the complaining vendors could do  a little more research before posting their angry comments about a business they obviously don’t understand and haven’t spent much time thinking about. They might find this brokerage actually provides them with some excellent opportunities to gain more clients, if they could just see past their own threatened business models.

    Full disclosure: I have absolutely no affiliation whatsoever to this brokerage or the wedding industry in general. I just think it’s an interesting idea, and long overdue. Heck, I would use them if I wasn’t already happily married  :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9118194 Ryan Richardson

      Why do I not like the idea? Because so much of what makes a wedding resonate can be intensely personal.

      Every year I photograph dozens of weddings and just showing up and taking pictures is such a small part of what I do. There’s an awful lot of time and effort that goes in to the client relationships – finding the right clients, educating them and building up our connection so that on their special day they’ll barely notice the camera in my hands (and hopefully they’ll avoid the dreaded duck-face). 
      There are album swatches and Pinterest boards to comb through, and that’s before we’ve even started tweaking the timeline (because most brides don’t have planners to remind them that everything will inevitably run late so they should pad everything out by at least fifteen minutes). Then well ahead of the wedding we’ll usually have done an engagement session where the couple gets comfortable with the camera (and learns a few poses) and we build further on that foundation (and maybe make a guest book).
      Unless they’re total jerks, I’d feel horrible if one of my couples called it quits before their wedding - not elated that I can sleep in on Saturday. We’ll usually offer the retainer back if we can re-book the date (minus any expenses that have been incurred).
      The TL;DR is that I spend a lot of money making sure the clients I have are the clients that are excited to work with me, clients that will be happy with what I deliver. Selling off contracts would throw that a little bit up in the air and I don’t  know if the new client would get the same level of customer service I’m used to delivering to regular clients and I don’t know if they’d be as happy with the results because I’m not necessarily the person they wanted, just the photographer they got.

      I mean, it’s the same reason I stopped doing so much work for the wedding photography mills. I just got the feeling that these people weren’t my clients and I think that lack of a connection diminished the value of the work. I still did a great job, they were still happy but I just might not have been the best fit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.toulouse.weddingcreativo Sarah Toulouse

    “Outwiththejive” is not fooling anyone and has zero credibility posting anonymously.

    1. No one is threatened by this brokerage business.  Except maybe uninformed consumers who stand to lose when they cannot make an informed decision and make a direct agreement with companies that they hired.

    2. No one attacked or made accusations about this broker business unlike Outwiththejive’s unsupported and false claims about wedding businesses and how they work with the small percentage of couples that cancel their wedding contracts.  This brokerage business has been in operation, what, maybe 6 months?  How many clients have they had?  Three, a half dozen, 100?  What is their experience? 

    3.  Any business, wedding broker or otherwise, that is based on profiting from unfortunate/undesirable circumstances of consumers, and cannot answer basic questions of transparency and accountability….well consumers can judge for themselves if that service seems sound and valuable to them or not.

    4. Absolutely no one in the wedding industry wants or relies on cancellations.  I think you are confusing us with Groupon or something.  Cancellations come at a significant loss to any business as we cannot earn our income for the date and in most cases it is too late to rebook with another couple.  What would you do if you were expecting to receive your paycheck on Friday so you can pay your bills, but oops, sorry no you’re not getting paid this week, we cancelled your paycheck this week, and you will never be receiving your pay for the last two weeks you worked.
    Clearly “Outwiththejive” has a motive to cast honest small wedding businesses as the bad guys.  Otherwise your business plan does not work very well, does it? Placing unfounded and false fears on the public is a old trick in business and politics.  Ambulance chasers have been doing it for years.

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