This one question will save you thousands on your wedding day.

Tax. It’s a word that carries the double whammy of making your eyes glaze over and your sphincter tighten in the same breath. And it’s a word you might not expect to see shadow ‘wedding’.

But the ‘wedding tax’ is a concept that’s plagued the wedding industry for decades and as you might expect, it doesn’t have pleasant connotations.

The wedding tax refers to the theory that wedding vendors add a hefty surcharge onto their regular prices just for wedding bookings. Say the 'w' word and watch the dollar signs ring up in a service provider’s eyes.

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Even today — a decade after getting married — I still remember that fish-out-of-water feeling of being freshly engaged; virginally fumbling through the early stages of planning a wedding. 

The reality is most of us haven’t organised a party at the scale of a wedding before. And I remember the slap-in-the-face shock of some of the quotes I was receiving back from vendors I enquired with.


Given the novelty of the situation, it’s hard to blame any newly engaged couple for wondering whether things were getting a cheeky bump because of the so-called ‘wedding industrial complex’ (an idea to unpack another day).

The question is: Is it true? Does the wedding tax exist?

Is 'wedding tax' real?

Yes. And no. Let me explain.

The reality is that for a lot of businesses (not all, but most), weddings do hike up the price of services. But it’s not the money grab that the ‘wedding tax’ turn of phrase alludes to.

The real reason is pretty simple: weddings are more work than other type of event. More time, more people power, more stock and more skill. And we realised this first-hand once we entered the industry (and quickly got initiated into what it takes to pull off a once-in-someone’s-lifetime celebration).

Let’s start with the basics. When you book someone for a wedding, there’s more communication. More emails, more meetings — and all typically over a long period (the average timeframe of wedding planning is 12 months). More TIME.

There might be more premium product used. And there’s more care and attention taken on the job because of the significance of the event. It’s being able to make a wedding cake that can survive a car ride on a bumpy country road. It’s making floral arrangements that won’t wilt within 10 minutes of outdoor exposure.


There are often time pressures, which means there may be more team members required. For example, a florist, stylist or caterer might only access a venue several hours before the wedding kicks off which means they need more people on hand to turn things around in a tight timeframe.

The event itself is longer too — which means a photographer will be snapping and editing longer, the makeup artists’ work needs the staying power, the band needs to keep their energy levels up for hours — all things that require extra prep, skills and product.

And it’s high-stakes stuff. 

There are no re-dos. If your videographer or photographer misses an important moment, too bad. It’s why it’s always worth paying a wedding professional to capture your memories vs. booking even a professional in the lifestyle or fashion space.

You’re paying a (slight) premium because someone has honed their craft and they now instinctively know where they need to be to immortalise the emotion on someone’s face when vows are spoken, how to candidly capture a fleeting smooch between newlyweds and how to make every person feel at ease in front of a lens (a true art).

In the case of a wedding venue, you're almost certain to visit the venue in person at least once — if not a couple of times — over the lead-up to the day. And every time, that venue manager will need to ensure the property is looking schmick and that they or someone else is onsite to take you around. More time. 


Image credit: Kirsten Cunningham Photography - The Pavilion at Lowe.

For the actual event, particular insurances are required to make sure that they’re protected if Uncle Derek decides to take sloppy skinny dip in the dam and breaks the pump (there’s often a Derek).

All of this sits in direct contrast to say, a corporate event or even a birthday where the process usually runs a little something like this:


Enquiry. Quote. Payment (without seeing the space or meeting in person — the suitability is gauged from photos online). Event delivery. Dust hands.

‘Tax’ isn’t the right word. ‘Proportionate fee’ is more accurate (but admittedly it’s a lot more clunky and less salacious). 

The vast majority of people in the wedding industry are amazing, humble folk that have great pride in what they do and what they offer, and they exchange those skills (or their space) at a fair price for the amount of time and work involved.

How can you get around 'wedding tax' and save lots of money?

So. How do we get around the ‘wedding tax’? Because let’s be real: most of us don’t have endlessly deep pockets. We’re looking to get married without spiralling into crippling debt. And plenty of couples don’t want to use all of their savings on a single day.

The best way to avoid feeling like you’re bleeding money while planning a wedding is to get crystal clear on what’s important to you. Because you don’t need — and shouldn’t have — everything.

There are eleventy thousand things you could spend your hard-earned cash on. And once you start planning a wedding, you’ll probably be served another 50 ideas every time you scroll through your social feed.

Stop. Grab a pen and paper. Pour a tall or steaming drink. And then sit down with your partner and individually write down the five things that are most important to you for this wedding. It could be a shit-hot photographer. It could be making sure the venue you choose is accessible for Gran, or pet-friendly. It could be live music and a round of espresso martinis after dinner to jack up a dancefloor.


Once you’ve both done this, share with each other and discuss and identify the elements you both wrote down. These are the things you should spend your budget on. The rest of the stuff? Put it in a maybe pile, or don’t invest as much there. We promise you won’t miss that stuff on the day.

The only thing that’s legally required for a wedding is an authorised celebrant to marry you guys and an outfit to wear so you don’t get arrested. The rest is up to you. Remember that a wedding can be whatever you want it to be.

So engage professionals (if you want to) at a fair price to nail the stuff that’s important to you, and save money by questioning all the nice-to-haves. You’ll end up with a wedding that suits you financially and is also a personal reflection of the stuff you care about — win-win.

Amy Parfett is the co-founder of wedding planning platform Wedshed and digital gifting site Gravy. Wedshed’s ultimate handbook for getting hitched with full hearts and zero regrets ‘Get Wed’ is available for pre-order now here.

Feature image: Getty.

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