The Wal-Mart-Ization of Weddings

If Walmart were a country, it's economy would be larger than Czech Republic. And Ireland. And New Zealand. And Hungary. Combined. So what has Wal-Mart contributed to our cultural proponsities beyond omnipresent smiley-face stickers and Well, for one thing, the coined term of "walmart-ization". This means the standardizing and homogenizing of an industry to lower prices for the consumer and increase profits for a multinational corporation. What's wrong with this? Well, it's not all bad. We live in a capitalist country and that is the nature of consumer demand. Where we as the consumers need to be cautious is when it affects areas of life beyond cheap sandals and 4-packs of Ocean Spray.

Cheap Vendors vendors

I'll be the first to admit that I am not the most "fiscally minimal" videographer around. Nor are the photographers that I often work with, the DJs, or the venues I film in. There's a reason for this, and the fact that you're reading this tells me you already know what it is. A vendor who is worth his price will charge higher so that he can ensure a better quality service for his clients. This vendor will have an extensive history of happy clients and the price he charges will ensure direct communication, explicit explanations of editing decisions and style of filming, and the probability of only dealing directly with one person. So how do these companies get away with charging $250 for a wedding video?

Sign the contract. You'll be making someone in Cambodia very happy.

That's right, if you sign up with one of these international videography firms, your footage may be on the same flight to Hawaii that you are...and then on to Asia for quick, sloppy editing and shipped back here to be sent to you two months after the wedding. Here's how it works: You sign up online based on the price and the moderate reviews they've got on weddingwire. The website manager in New York gets the information and e-mails this to the vendor management in Chicago. They get the work order and e-mail it to a videographer they've never met who lives within 100 miles of you. This videographer was hired based on a series of clips he sent in to the company. He may lease the equipment from the company, which arrives a few days before your wedding. There's no one ensuring that he's got any modicum of experience with this equipment. So he's got this work order with your names, the locations and the times. That's all. No mention of your great aunt Sally who can't make it and wants to see the dance with your dad and the expression on your mom's face during it. No mention of how you and your fiance love the Red Sox and having "Sweet Caroline" playing during at least a portion of your video would be apprecaited. No information about how you hate the idea of someone talking to your guests with a camera and microphone during cocktail hour. The work order might as well list items that appear in aisle 14 of every Wal-Mart in North America.

You are not every Wal-Mart. This is your wedding and that should mean something to your vendor.
They should be interested in you as a person and care genuinely about how the video will reflect the most meaningful relationship of your life. How can someone who hasn't spoken to you and gets a sheet of paper passed down by four different faceless names in different states possibly have your best interest at heart? And the Monday after the wedding, when he overnights your footage through UPS for shipping to southeast Asia, that will be the last time he thinks about your day.

Lest I be misinterpreted as being acrimonious towards companies that do this, I want to state unequivocally that I am not. I've met some of the people who work for these companies and they are usually very responsible people. This is a viable option for some people. These companies are generally honest, forthright with what they offer and will attentively respond to customer concerns. They have thousands of videographers all across the country who makes thousands of couples very happy. They're happy because they saved money and because they've got 6 hours of unedited footage to watch on a rainy day. Perhaps this is the same type of person who adores Wal-Mart. (I'll grant Wal-Mart this: they do have excellent salads and their brand of seltzers are delicious. And who doesn't love being greeted at the doors with a smile-face sticker?) The person who loves Wal-Mart is thrilled with their $12 sneakers. But after 8 months, when their plastic shoes have worn out and the polyester soles have been whittled away, they will toss those sneakers out and buy another pair and their life will go on just as content as it was before. But unlike the person who buys their Wal-Mart sneakers, the person who invests in a Wal-Mart-ized wedding video can't just get another one.

The bottom line.

Be judicious about how you spend your wedding video budget. Have you allocated $2000? Make sure it's the best $2000 you could possibly spend. Is it $500? Why not try talking to a few local videographers who have your date avaialble and see what you can negotiate. Talking directly with the person who will be hearing about you and your fiance, filming the wedding and editing it themselves far outweighs the frustration of dealing with a monolith company where it can take a long time to figure out why something went wrong and how to fix it. Talk to us, your local vendors. And remember that there's no such thing as a free lunch-a higher price for a video by a well-established professional is an investment that will pay off year after year.