Why you should care
Because being a fake guest at a fake wedding is way more fun than a bridal show.
The bride walks down the aisle in an exquisite dress. The flowers are stunning. The guests stand as she takes the groom’s hand. This sounds like the moment many dream about — but this wedding isn’t real; the guests are actually strangers, the venue is a convention center, and the bride is already married. Welcome to a unique twist on the wedding planning experience, which lets brides-to-be experience firsthand the services they’re planning to hire.
The average cost of an American wedding is about $32,000, and when you’re paying that much, you want perfection. Problem is, what looks great at an expo or bridal show might not work that well in real life — for your big day — and you can’t easily test out services like flowers and music beforehand. Until now.
Each of the 200 guests at these mock wedding events can taste the cake, sniff the flowers and even hear the music.
The Big Fake Wedding offers an immersive experience, including a vow renewal ceremony with dinner, drinks and dancing, where everything from the table settings to the couture is on offer. For around $25 (varies by location), each of the 200 guests at these mock wedding events can taste the cake, sniff the flowers and even hear the music — which is handy because you can’t crash someone’s private wedding just to see if you like the band, explains marketing director LaBruce Trammell.
Wedding photographer Callie Murray started the Atlanta company after noticing her clients were mostly referrals. She wanted to re-create the intimacy of a wedding — but for many people simultaneously, “like the wedding of a friend, not an expo,” Trammell says. The Big Fake Wedding grew slowly, holding five events between 2008 and 2012. But in the recovery from the recession, there has been increased demand, and this year she has 30 scheduled events in 24 cities.
And planning weddings — even fake ones — is a learning experience. Trammell says they’ve learned that expectations vary according to regions. In New Orleans, for example, bridal parties requested a “second line” brass band. Demographics differ too: Couples are younger in the Southeast and older in metro areas, and there are more second marriage ceremonies. To cater for this, Big Fake Wedding includes vendors with different styles; think photographers who shoot classically, Instagram-esque and retro.
But some are wary of how true-to-life the services at a mock wedding can be. Newly married Gemma Cartwright of London says that while she’d have loved the chance to see vendors working and get “an idea of the big picture,” she’d be concerned that they’d only be displaying their top-end offerings, making it hard to shop on a budget. Also, all of events feature a bride and a groom, potentially alienating non-heterosexual markets. Matt Dalley from Our Big Day NYC says this service is great for “couples that want a tangible experience when selecting vendors,” but also points out that the growing market to look out for this year will be LGBT marriages.
While Trammell says they’re open to all guests, they don’t plan to feature a gay couple, as they don’t want to make a political or a religious statement; and that kinda sucks. On the plus side, a night out with dinner and drinks beats trawling convention halls and arguing about the parking meter, right? We’ll say “I do” to that!