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Bridal reality TV shows create some unreal expectations

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Jun 26th, 2013 @ 8:53am

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SALT LAKE CITY — How much should a wedding cost? Your perception of that may be skewed if you watch bridal reality shows on TV.

Those shows feature everything from wedding dresses to wedding cakes and wedding décor. In some of those TV programs, brides critique each other's weddings. A few shows spotlight out-of-control brides.

Just how based in reality are these bridal reality shows? Wedding industry experts say they give some brides and grooms unrealistic expectations about their own weddings.

"I think the biggest issue that comes up because of these shows is price," said wedding planner Mara Harwood.

She watches bridal reality shows too and finds they're never upfront about the actual costs that go into a wedding.

These shows go on and on about how important lighting is and how it transforms your space. But never do they say, 'It's a huge part of your budget.'

–Mara Harwood, wedding planner

"Nobody ever explains to a client that there's a $3 padded chair option, or there's a $9 Chiavari chair option, or a $31 Ghost chair option. So on the show, it looks like the bride is picking from these three chairs and there is no price difference," she said.

Harwood also pointed out some of the shows transform wedding venues into perfectly lit spaces, without touching on costs.

"All these shows go on and on about how important lighting is and how it transforms your space. But never do they say, ‘It's a huge part of your budget,' " she explained.

Wedding costs
A survey of more than 17,000 brides married last year found the average wedding budget was more than $28,400. That's without the honeymoon. Little wonder why reality television has created an entire genre of bridal shows.

Some reality wedding shows

  • "A Wedding Story," airing since 1996, TLC
  • "Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway?" airing since 2003, Style Network
  • "Bridezillas," running since 2004, WE cable television network
  • "Say Yes to the Dress," airing since 2007, TLC
  • "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta," began running in 2010, TLC

When it comes to last-minute changes, the reality is they are not made easily.

"Some of these clients, they see on TV that at the last minute a planner pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Again, nobody talks price. Nobody points out the fact that if you're able to remedy an issue there are extra costs associated," she said.

Whitney Worthen is getting married in less than two weeks. She is a fan of bridal shows, though in shopping for her wedding gown she found that reality is quite different.

"You look at the price tag of a dress. You're like, oh, that's not that bad. Then they're like, ‘When are you getting married? Oh, we're going to have to rush it. We're going to have to super rush it.' Then you need to get your special measurements and that costs extra. Oh, alterations, that costs extra," she said.

Hilary Anderson runs Alta Mode Bridal, a boutique wedding gown shop.

"Sometimes if things are edited creatively the (TV) shows can be misleading," she said.

She found there are usually a few misconceptions about costs, such as the price of a gown. And while the bridal reality shows raise expectations, she said they also deliver positive energy to the wedding industry, especially bridal shops.

"I see brides are enjoying the process now. They have a general expectation," she said, "maybe not on how much a gown costs, but a general idea of what this caliber product may range."

Harwood and Anderson said reality shows rarely reveal the energy, effort and man-hours required by both vendors and couples for planning a wedding. They said brides and grooms should remember the shows are much more entertainment than reality.


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