From Kate’s Desk: An Open Letter to The Today Show’s Jeff Rossen

August 25, 2016  |  published by Kate Turner

Dear Jeff,

Thank you so much for what is, no doubt, the significant amount of time and effort you put forth on your recent story regarding the “Wedding Tax”. As an avid viewer of The Today Show, I have always enjoyed waking up with Savannah and Matt; the equal parts news and entertainment highlighted, and, of course, your investigative reports are the perfect way to start my morning. I’m a creature of habit, and my habit has always been coffee, emails, and The Today Show.

That being said, I must communicate to you that I am absolutely appalled by this most recent report. First, let me provide you with my credentials. I am a professional wedding and special event planner located in Saint Louis, Missouri, however, I plan weddings across the country. My work has allowed me to research and experience the wedding industry in many areas including New York, Napa Valley, Charleston, Milwaukee, Chicago and many other wonderful places. My company, fifteen wonderful women strong, prides itself on its service. This is not our hobby, this is our livelihood. This is our heart. This is our passion.

In my second year of planning weddings, I took the plunge into event spaces, and in my third year I took the plunge into catering. My three companies employ over 50 event professionals in the wonderful city of Saint Louis. I’m not sharing this to toot my horn or even to highlight my success, I am sharing this with you because I believe myself to be an educated event professional.

As a wedding and special event planner, I must share that I am disheartened by the lack of research given in your report. Seemingly, you met with three separate vendors of which two quoted a higher cost for a wedding than a birthday party.

First, let’s note, that a $50 difference in price could easily have stemmed from the confusion between details given in your meeting and details given in the meeting had by your producer, Lindsey. However, let’s assume that the difference in price does not stem from a misunderstanding, simply put, this gentleman charges more as a photographer for a wedding than a birthday party. That’s certainly his right.

You have done your viewers a disservice here by not investigating why someone may charge more for one event over another. Perhaps there’s more editing time involved in a wedding, perhaps he needs additional equipment to ensure he can properly capture the first dance in the dimly-lit ballroom, perhaps he uses a different camera, shoots weddings in film and digitally, or even has a different pre-event checklist that involves more time for a wedding than for a birthday party, dinner party, or other event. These behind-the-scenes services, which you failed to mention in your report, are all things that a professional photographer may not list in a package, but may cause a completely different rate for birthday party versus a wedding. I’m not a photographer, so I cannot even begin to imagine what they go through before a wedding, but Jeff, neither are you. I just wish you had researched this a bit more before airing your segment to the world.

In regards to providing entertainment, such as a D.J., for a wedding versus a birthday party, again, perhaps there are details you are unaware of. A wedding often has a very specific timeline that an M.C. and D.J. must follow – trust me, I know, I write them.

It’s our expectation as wedding planners, and that of most anyone getting married, that a D.J. follow a very specific timeline and flow of events. From properly announcing the wedding party, guests of honor, the cake cutting, the blessing(s), toasts, first dances, garter tosses, bouquet tosses and even ensuring proper transitions through each of these events while managing multiple pieces of equipment, multiple wireless microphones, and timing each item perfectly all while, potentially, the venue serves a meal – this isn’t easy, Jeff!

It’s completely within the realm of possibility that the D.J. you spoke with assumed all of these events would be happening at the wedding and not at the birthday party. Lastly, perhaps, as you note at the end, the production company simply requires a significant more amount of training and experience for providing entertainment at a wedding than a birthday party. These items cost the company, and therefore have to be built into determining the price.

Jeff, I understand that you cannot make everyone happy with your reports. But you have hurt this wedding planner. It’s imperative that our clients trust us and they trust the vendors that they are working with to provide a superb service for a competitive price. It’s within their rights, and even encouraged(!!) that they ask questions, understand the pricing that goes into, and yes, even understand how the pricing for their entertainment, their florals, their linens, their decor, and even their wedding planner might differ from that of a birthday party.

I wish you had interviewed more wedding experts, had really thoroughly thought about this from all angles, or even given the event professionals you met with ample time to explain and educate the world on why they build their pricing a certain way for one event over another. Instead, and I will only speak for myself here, you’ve put out into the world that wedding professionals are somehow trying to be dishonest to their clients all to make a buck. This is simply not the case.

Most wedding professionals are skipping time with their families, missing wine dates with their friends, and giving up their weekends all to provide a service to an honored guest on their most beloved day. Most wedding professionals are small business owners who often struggle to make ends meet, yet keep going year after year simply because they love being part of someones incredible day. These are not deceptive people tacking on a “wedding tax”, these are honest, hardworking, wedding professionals. And being a wedding professional may be different than being a birthday party professional, and yes that difference may be more expensive. Let me be clear, planning a birthday party is incredibly important, and a person who excels at that is no less than someone who excels at weddings. It’s pretty simple, Jeff, weddings can take more effort than birthday parties, and more work requires more capital.

How dare you make anyone think otherwise.

To the brides, grooms, potential brides, and potential grooms – rather than price shopping your vendors, educate yourself. Ask questions. And speak up for yourself. Be open and be honest with what you are requesting and what your expectations are. Then trust your vendors to provide those services to you. If you’re meeting with a vendor and your gut tells you something is off, something doesn’t feel right, well then it probably is. Don’t ask your friend to call and double check the details, just be friendly, and be honest about your concerns up front. In the end, you’ll find, you are a much happier, less stressed bridegroom.

And remember, you always get more flys with honey. Go ahead, ask your vendor a few questions. Trust me, we’re okay with it.

xo. Kate

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