The television news shook the Brisbane wedding industry this Easter weekend as Nine News reported that The Bridal Centre had closed down. The shop had made a Facebook post, but it’s since been removed and a new Facebook page rallying the troops/brides has emerged.

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Luckily for hopefully many, the dressmakers, suppliers, and other dress shops are coming through to supply, help, and support customers that have been left in the lurch. And keep in mind it is the Easter long weekend, so by the time the work week is back in action we’re hoping that many brides will be dressed.

But:

There’s a really important lesson to learn here. Well, there’s two.

1) The wedding dress isn’t a uniform that all brides need to slip into so that they’re properly married. It carries no super powers and aids in no way to your marriage being everlasting. It does however play a really important role in making you feel really freaking good. You wear  a wedding dress that makes you feel spectacular. My hope is that if a worst case scenario happened and you had to get married in a non-wedding-dress then you’d still have an awesome party and an even more awesome marriage.

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2) Running a business is really really hard, stressful, and as a business owner and operator, your insecurities and weaknesses run wild like the wind! Now that’s no excuse for a business to rip you off or to not supply a product or service they’ve promised you, and you’ve paid for. But you’ll be much better served if you remember that in creative fields like wedding creation your suppliers were almost always an artist first, and business person second. If you talk to any artist you’ll find a tonne of insecurity surrounding making a living from their art. From that you’ll find so many suppliers not willing to charge a fee that allows them to run a business and have a day off. You’re getting a bargain whilst almost guaranteeing they won’t be in business for a long time. This is in no way your fault, it’s theirs.

It turns out that our Business Cat dreams of life being first class flights and briefcases will stay exactly that, dreams. The real work in business is in making it work in the long run. Business is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Running low-margin, low-cost, affordable businesses

There’s room for low-price and low-cost businesses, Jetstar is a good example of a well constructed business system that allows you to fly at a budget price within constraints. But they have thousands of staff and massive business and budgeting systems that allow them to run a profit from a low margin business.

Most wedding suppliers trying to provide a low price product or service, are doing so because they either

  1. don’t value themselves,
  2. don’t believe that the market will pay what they are worth, or
  3. they’re still learning how to run a sustainable and profitable business.

They also most probably don’t have the intricately budgeted and created business systems to help them run a low-margin business. They’re just doing it to undercut their competitors and they’re in a race to the bottom of the market. Seth Godin writes “the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.”

So although you have a win by getting a product or service at a lower price, the risk of your supplier not supplying, or worse, they supply with a poor attitude, is high.

Aiming to run a sustainable business

I’ve recently gone through this myself. The average celebrant is charging a pittance, and I used to charge $825 including GST, I realised that I couldn’t sustain this business at that rate. It meant I’d have to do too many weddings each year to make budget, or I’d have to rework my budget, which means less people might find out about my business, and so less people would hire me. Between fuel, tolls, office hire, web site costs, marketing, staff, training, travel, super, tax, GST, accounting, software, licensing, lawyers, and the million other costs to running a business, it’s crazy! I’m not sure how cheaper celebrants can afford to eat! Your average celebrant also performs around 10 weddings per year, I’m at quite a few more as this is my fulltime career. And each wedding takes between 8 to 12 hours of my time.

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So a few weeks ago Britt and I raised my local wedding fee to $1180 including GST and travel and anything that could be included. Not because I want to be rich. But because I want to still be in business next year for your wedding, and I want to still be in business in ten years, or in thirty, as I start a family and build a life with Britt. That fee might change some time in the future because business, and industry, is a river, always finding new paths and new ways. But for today I believe I can supply awesome wedding ceremonies at that price.

So simply put, as everyone’s been waiting for me to type: you get what you pay for. And my hope is that with me you’d get the world’s best wedding ceremony.

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So how do you avoid seeing your wedding supplier on the news?

Choose a supplier, a business, a vendor, that charges what the product or service is worth, that has an ABN, insurance, and a good reference. Choose someone you’d leave your child with for 30 minutes. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And I’d always be wary of businesses giving away discounts, left, right, and centre. Britt and I have a fairly strict no-discounts policy. This is our livelihood and a long term, successful, sustainable business is usually not teeming with discounts, bargains, offers and deals.

Finally, a wedding dress referral

And if you’re looking for a reputable wedding dress supplier, I have to send you towards one of my friends, Made With Love, Anna Dutton, Begitta or Silver Sixpence!