Before I get into the guts of this blog post, I want to state that I am a recommended supplier at The Ashes in Endon, along with a variety of other fantastic talented people. I would like to put on record that I’m not paying any commission to the venue and no other parties on the recommended suppliers list are paying any commission to the venue. The same is true of Pendrell Hall and I believe, a whole host of other very honest venues.
I am writing this post to give some guidance for couples when booking recommended suppliers from wedding venues. Wedding venues often have a supplier list to help couples with choosing photographers, florists, entertainment etc. at their wedding. I know that brides and grooms really appreciate these lists as it can be a bit of a minefield to try and choose your suppliers. When a couple sees a list of recommended professionals from a venue, it can give them a lot of confidence in selecting that supplier. This hopefully, acts as a rubber stamp of approval from their venue. Generally, the couple has trust and faith in their venue.
Unfortunately, some wedding venues ask for a commission or a “kickback” from their recommended suppliers. I had sometimes heard this was the case but I had never come across it before. However, recently I have been made aware of a very popular venue close to me, that in order to be a recommended supplier for that venue, you are expected to give 10% commission on weddings you book at that venue if the venue sends the couple to you. This is a really bad path to go down for the following reasons:
1. It becomes a 10% tax on the couple, known as Venue Added Tax (V.A.T.)
If I were made to give a 10% commission to a venue, when a couple booked me, I would have to increase my price by 10% in order to cover that fee. What that means is that if you came to book me for a different venue or if you came directly to me first before the venue sent you to me, then your price for your wedding would be 10% cheaper than what you would now have to pay. Now multiply that by every supplier you use from the venue and you could be paying a lot more for your suppliers than you should.
2. It demeans the whole nature of being recommended
The whole idea of being a recommended supplier at a venue is that the venue has worked with you and has decided you are worthy of being put in front of a couple over other professionals who offer the same service. If, as a supplier, you decide you aren’t willing to pay a 10% commission back to the venue then it means they won’t put you on that list. The next person in line then becomes the recommended supplier and so the venue is actually making a mockery of its supplier list because it is now recommending a supplier that was, in fact, less approved than the original supplier.
It also applies to new suppliers. What happens when a videographer comes to a venue for the first time and creates an amazing video of that wedding. The venue sees the video and thinks this is the best videographer they have ever seen. They approach the videographer, to be one of their recommended suppliers, but the videographer isn’t willing to pay the 10% kickback. The venue then does not put them on the recommended supplier list, even though they thought they were better than their current suppliers.
3. It is bad news for suppliers too
It is not just couples that this scheme affects, suppliers will be negatively hit too. They either have to become 10% more expensive than other competing suppliers, which might negate the whole benefit of being recommended in the first place – or they have to lose 10% of their profits. The venues ask for a 10% commission on the entire service not just the profit. So if you charged £2000 for a service but you had £500 worth of costs for that service you would, in fact, be eating even more than 10% of your profits.
The other reason it is bad for the recommended suppliers is that if couples learn that their venue does this, they may then doubt the recommendation. They may assume the supplier is passing the 10% commission to them when they actually aren’t or they may doubt that the supplier really is recommended and not just on the list because they were the one willing to pay the kickback. There are going to be suppliers on that list who suck up the commision and have every right to be on such a list because they genuinely are the best. This system will put that into doubt.
4. Venues not being transparent
If the venue makes it clear to the couple that this practice is happening then, at least, the couple can decide how they want to tackle it and they can find out if their supplier is having to charge them more and make a decision on that. It also means that they can book these suppliers ahead of being pushed their way by the marketing team, of the venue and therefore not result in the 10% recommended supplier tax.
In some cases, the venue actually has it in their contract or “terms” with the supplier that they must not reveal this 10% commission to the client. Now ask yourself why that would be? Why would a venue make their suppliers keep this practice secret? Basically, because it’s just plain wrong and they don’t want people to know they could be paying 10% more for their wedding as a hidden tax. Shocking.
5. The venue can’t be sure you weren’t going to book the supplier anyway
Actually proving that it was the venue who has directed a couple to the supplier, is impossible in most cases. Most couples book a venue first and then book their suppliers much later, even though they have already decided on them. I’ve had many enquiries for dates in which the couple doesn’t actually get around to booking, until months after they enquired. A venue can not know for sure that you were not going to book that supplier regardless of when they put them in front of you.
6. Restricting freedom of choice
If venues following this model deem it to be very successful, then they may introduce rules where you can only use their recommended suppliers. There are venues already doing this in the UK. It might be that the recommended suppliers are not the right suppliers for you and your wedding. As part of the wedding industry, I have strong views that venues should not go down this route as it would reduce the clients freedom of choice.
7. The only people who benefit are the venue
Think about this for a moment. Who actually benefits from this system. If we compare two venues that both have a recommended supplier list, they both advertise those suppliers, both recommend them to the couples and enable them to attend tasting evenings for example. One venue does not charge the suppliers a 10% commission (Venue A) and the other does (Venue B). Have a look at this list and see where the couple, the suppliers and the venue benefit.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that in Venue Bs case the only people who benefit is the venue. The couples and the suppliers suffer. You could argue that Venue A ends up worse off than Venue B because of the extra cost involved in having a recommended supplier list. Some venues have a simple list on a website whereas others have a much more complex suppliers directory which incurs the time and web costs. Why should Venue A suck those costs up? This really comes down to how much the venue wish to aid their couples and provide a useful tool for them to use which is absorbed within the operating costs. Essentially recommended suppliers who have to pay for the honor of being on a list like this aren’t recommended suppliers at all but are in fact, advertisers.
So what can we do about this?
I urge all couples to contact both your suppliers and your venue, if they have a recommended supplier list and directly ask them if they are partaking in this 10% commission behaviour. You need to know that there is a chance you could be paying this ‘Venue Added Tax’ and find out ahead of time so that you options are open. There are many venues like The Ashes that do not partake in this behaviour and I hope that those venues will react by sharing this post to reassure their couples that their recommended suppliers list is genuine.