Why I’ll never win a Wedding Industry or Expert award – and why it doesn’t matter

I’ve worked with brides and grooms for eight years, and never been nominated or put myself forward for an award for my wedding calligraphy. I adore my job and my clients love their calligraphy – so I promise this isn’t sour grapes (hehe) but I wonder whether having an awards badge on my website would make much difference to people. To be honest I doubt it would. What do you think?

I’ve been involved in a minor way with the Wedding Industry Awards for a couple of years, as a consultant judge. It was good while it lasted, and certainly an eye-opener. When the awards began I was impressed with the very fair system of judging and the extensive use of genuine customer reviews in selecting winners. You can read my (honest and very enthusiastic!) opinions on the first Wedding Industry Awards here.

But ultimately every wedding awards event exists as a business. The organisers are in it for the money. Yes, some have genuine concerns about integrity (TWIA) but others don’t. I’m not mentioning names but some of you know me well enough to guess, I think! And there are so many national and regional awards these days that pretty much any supplier can win something. It’s hard to know which ones actually mean something any more.

I’d rather be judged on the quality of my work than for a badge on my website

Some of the very best wedding suppliers I’ve ever come across have never won a wedding industry award. They choose not to. Everyone has a different business strategy and for some of us it’s not important to win a badge or compare ourselves with other businesses. We simply aim to be amazing at what we do, and to delight every single customer.

This is why I provide free samples for every bride or groom who asks. I want to write a beautiful envelope and send it in the post. This is how I demonstrate the beauty of my work; by creating a moment of true excitement when the sample arrives at its destination. I believe this is far more important to my clients than an ‘award winner’ badge on my website would be.

I’m not one for popularity contests either – I don’t collect hundreds of facebook friends; at school I wasn’t the life and soul of the party or queen of the netball team (shudder). I didn’t hang out with the cool kids but happily followed my own path. And I don’t think you can win a wedding industry award these days without being an online social butterfly or networking like crazy – it’s just not for me.

I mentioned I was writing this blog post to Nathan (from Artemis Stationery) in passing, and he has similar feelings about the value of wedding awards: “When I started in the industry I used to compare my products and designs to those of the award winning suppliers, thinking theirs was the highest quality stationery in the UK. A few years down the line and many awards feel closer to popularity contests than recognition for quality products. I see regular appeals on twitter for votes, and much of the voting appears to be by other suppliers rather than brides. In the end it may all come down to who has the most twitter followers and facebook friends. If this is the case, then where is the value of these awards to brides and grooms choosing suppliers?”

Choosing wedding suppliers is a very personal experience, never one size fits all

Just because a wedding business has won a national or regional award doesn’t mean they’re right for you. A designer of wedding invitations might have hundreds of glowing reviews from happy customers – but their particular brand of vintage might not be up your street. A photographer could have gathered thousands of votes from their friends in the industry, but perhaps it’s not technical ability you’re searching for but a unique creativity or style.

It’s like finding a wedding dress in a way: you’ll make appointments, try a few for size and then find a dress which absolutely blows you away – ‘the one’. When you fall for that dress, would it matter in the slightest if it had an ‘award winner’ badge on it?

Winning awards costs a lot of time and money for suppliers. I have limits!

Following several friends’ experiences with wedding industry competitions this year was an eye-opener to say the least. Winning an award takes a lot of time and effort, from the initial entry to preparation for the ceremony itself.

The easy part is entering the awards – submitting images and writing a description of a business and paying an administration fee (£50 for TWIA last year). Then wedding business owners have to spread the word. Blogs, facebook pages and twitter accounts have to be kept buzzing with excitement about the awards process. This all takes time, as does the process of emailing past customers to ask for reviews and votes.

It’s really quite surreal in the run up to all the awards events in the wedding industry each year. Frazzled suppliers tear their hair out; events organisers tweet constantly about preparations and the industry watches with mild interest. (Until the night in question when even I follow a twitter hashtag with avid anticipation!)

Brides and grooms see little of this (anyone ever been offered a ticket to the awards? No. I wouldn’t recommend it either!) – all you really see is the awards issue of Wedding Ideas magazine and those little badges I’ve mentioned on people’s websites.

So is it all worth it? Not for me I’m afraid

Wedding awards can be an indication of quality products and customer service, but I doubt any of you will be choosing your suppliers based on awards alone. It’s important to see your suppliers’ portfolios and make informed choices. I see awards as a suggestion of quality and reliability, but little more.

What do you think? Would you choose a supplier because they had an award? How much do you know about how the awards work?

Further reading!

The first time I wrote about wedding awards I got in trouble. Oops. Having said that, many of you agreed with me!

Then when The Wedding Industry Awards introduced a £50 fee for suppliers to enter, it kicked off for a week (and then went quiet). So are the wedding industry awards worth every penny?

Just for the record, I should say that my opinions on the awards have changed since I wrote the above article in April last year. Winners in some regional categories were chosen because there were no other entries. They could then go on and win a national award (in theory). Also, the awards organisers visited some but not all suppliers in person to view portfolios and do a little ‘meet and greet’ which didn’t seem a fair process to me. I also heard stories from some suppliers who had prepared samples of their work especially for the judges’ visits and later found out their work had been ‘disposed of’.

Of course I’m not known for sucking up to the big guys in the wedding industry and I do like to raise awareness of the darker side of the business of weddings in the UK! Missed that one? Read What’s wrong with the wedding industry and how you can fix it

Whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to hear your comments. Have you chosen a supplier because they won an award? Are all awards equal? Do you love ’em or hate ’em?!

Claire x

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Great article Claire .. I have to say I’m with you .. I’m totally over the whole awards thing. I really don’t say this to do any diservice to anyone who has won a wedding award, or like you said out of sour grapes because I’ve never won one! I know for a fact that if I was to be nominated for any of them then I would be thrilled and probably jump up and down with excitement! However I am not going to pay to enter one, I’m not going to go out of my way to win one and I’m certainly not going to bombard my twitter and facebook feed with essentially ‘begging letters’ for votes. Like you said if my customers like what I do then that is ultimately my reward. When I first started Knots & Kisses I would get incredibly down every time award nominations would come out but now I just go ‘oh well’ and get on with the business of running my business and providing my customers with the best service possible 🙂

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Thanks Nikki,
      I like your very sensible attitude towards all the wedding awards. I think things have changed so much since both our businesses began as well: a few years ago social media was a smallish part of promoting a wedding business but now it’s huge and very time-consuming. And the investment in social media (time) needed to compete for an award is consequently quite daunting.
      This does mean we hear a LOT about awards when they come around though, but I’m with you saying ‘oh well’ while I carry on working for the lovely customers I have.
      Thanks for commenting and have a lovely weekend!
      Claire x

  • Belinda Mccarthy
    7 years ago

    Very well timed post Claire, I was musing over the whole thing not so long ago!

    There are undoubtedly some awards which are based upon quality alone (or, ahem, quality and political reasons). I’m thinking, photographically speaking, of where the awards are judged by experts upon submissions of specific images, which are painstakingly investigated for technical ability and artistic interpretation. On a wider scale, across the wedding industry as a whole, I was, a fair few years ago, a judge for an annual awards ceremony for a well known magazine. I can’t speak for anyone else judging that day, but I judged on what I saw in front of me, not on who I liked best or who I happened to be mates with. Seeing the results that day, I’m pretty certain that quality won.

    However – yes, there are far too many ‘awards’ programmes which frankly have no point at all apart from to earn the organisers money. Yes, it’s a ‘vote for meeeeeeeee’ bunfight on social media. Seriously, what’s the point? I just can’t see the value in an award that is earnt by getting your mates to vote for you. And, having seen some of the recent results in a certain wedding awards, I can say with absolute certainty that there are ‘winners’ there whose work is NOT at the forefront of the wedding industry – far from it.

    It’s not sour grapes on my behalf. I don’t enter awards, because I think that for the most part they are so fundamentally flawed that they hold no worth. Years ago, without my knowledge (as this was an awards process you didn’t have to enter yourself in), I found myself voted runner-up best in UK. I was absolutely stunned. Yes, pleased of course, because this was back in the days before social media took off, so clients of mine had patently spent time writing emails or letters to vote for me; but also, I absolutely DID NOT DESERVE IT. I was just starting out and nowhere near the top of my game.

    So, don’t take awards at face value. They may not be what you think.

    • Claire
      7 years ago

      Wow – Belinda, that’s honesty at its best. Very refreshing to hear. I see your point about winning an award when you (in hindsight) weren’t as skilled and experienced as you are now. I thought how I’d feel if I’d won something a few years ago for my calligraphy… haha… I guess we all improve over time.

      But are we our own harshest critics? And should awards be based solely on technical expertise? I’d say no, but it does have to come into it. So in a nutshell that’s me agreeing with you. (Where was that nutshell when I started typing?!)

      Great advice and a refreshing perspective. Thanks for sharing!

      Claire xxx

  • Well said Claire.
    Everyone wants to be recognised for their work and awards are perhaps a way to confirm this. But the popularity ‘click’ awards are horrible. I now know that they are not the way to do it. I regrettably re-entered the Wedding Industry Experts Awards recently which confirmed what I suspected when I entered it last year – the ‘winnners’ were all socialites or people who had tweeted literally hundreds of times to ‘swap’ votes. The system in place for voting was RIDICULOUS. It’s funny because I placed fairly well in the results with just the support of clients and friends. But having seen what had been happening I lost all faith in the system and didn’t feel like it was worth much anymore. Did I share my result on Facebook? Yes. But with it I mentioned my desire to enter a real awards like the TWIA which gives a much fairer voting system. Even that isn’t perfect.

    I do wonder what clients think of these awards, especially with such prestigious names… in fact, if I think back to when I was looking for a photographer for my own wedding I actually did a search for ‘top 10 wedding photographers’ and arrived at someone who I thought was pretty cool. This was an award given by a Pro Photo magazine so it had some clout in my eyes, I’m not sure I would have taken other ones as seriously.

    Awards are found in every type of business field. It is up to people to be made aware of the reputation and validity of the awards before they get dazzled by them. But is there something that could replace them? A tripadvisor for wedding suppliers perhaps?! I know there are dozens of different ratings sites but that is the problem, think if there was just ONE where genuine wedding clients could review all their suppliers…

    Who knows. I just know that I get fed up with self-promotion and would much rather be out taking photographs ‘cos that’s what I love! 🙂

    • Claire
      7 years ago

      Another thought-provoking response!

      I wonder if any other wedding suppliers are reading this and shuddering at the thought of a tripadvisor for our industry. Actually I did hear of a wedding reviews site being launched a year or so ago. I’m not sure what happened to it but at the time the legal implications of the whole thing were a bit mind boggling for me.

      I agree with your points though. Every awards event / process has its faults. Some are pretty horrific; others try hard but in my eyes miss their mark. Maybe something is better than nothing… I don’t know.

      Claire x

  • York Place Studios
    7 years ago

    Hear hear! I applaude your bravery to write this article and I wholeheartedly agree 🙂 I certainly didn’t pick my suppliers on awards, I saw the beautiful product they produced and their enthusiasm for the job and I fell in love. Awards didn’t even come into my mind.

    • Claire
      7 years ago

      Thanks YPS for your comment 🙂 I don’t know about bravery really – I think it’s important to say these things publicly and as a blogger I guess I can. I’d be boring with no opinions!

      I’m smiling to hear you chose your own wedding suppliers for their beautiful products. Lovely to hear!

      C x

  • Wendy Bell
    7 years ago

    Claire, I love how honest you are. I think it’s important that couples are aware that awards don’t always mean “the best” because of the way that they’re run. I do love Simon Biffen’s idea (see above comment) about the idea of a wedding industry equivalent to Tripadvisor. It’s odd that he mentioned that as I was just thinking this earlier today! It would be fantastic as it could be a go-to gospel for brides and grooms when trying to decide between suppliers. However, even Tripadvisor has its flaws, and sometimes it takes just one unnecessary, horrible comment from someone and suddenly it looks as if your company is not worth the time, effort and money. Ultimately I agree with you Claire, that sending out samples for free and letting customers fall in love with your products and your personality is the way forward. This way they can get a true sense for who you are and what your business does and they will either love it or go somewhere else, but at least you haven’t sacrificed what you believe in along the way.

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Hi Wendy,
      Another great comment. That’s exactly the problem with Tripadvisor – one bad review could ruin a small business like ours. It’s different I think for hotels because of the number of customers and reviews they get – there’ll always be balance. A bad review on a craftperson’s website could be fatal. I’ve heard of this happening with rival companies leaving awful reviews on competitors’ sites. I believe in honest reviews, but with a right to reply and never reviews from an anonymous source.
      Claire xxx

  • Bernadette
    7 years ago

    Hello my lovely, I know you and I have had a few discussion on this 🙂 My feelings are mixed, I do think its fantastic to have award ceremonies, I truly believe in TWIA as I feel the voting is fair and I know the judging process is intense and honest.

    Many moons ago I entered the Wrapit Awards, remember them anyone?! I was thrilled to be shortlisted 2 years in a row, I shouted from the rooftops and proudly displayed my certificates. I do remember thinking at the time I was surprised that some well known suppliers did not enter – of course, I now know that many successful suppliers simply do not feel the need to enter. Have I entered any awards since Wrapit? No. And will I? Unlikely.

    I have a HUGE problem with some awards whereby it seems to be a popularity contest as opposed to “are they good at the job?” During the time of some of the dubious awards (Claire you know who I mean!) I get bombarded through linked in, facebook, email and twitter by suppliers wanting me to vote for them and 95% of the time, I’ve never even used them before, in some cases I know they are new and haven’t actually worked on any weddings yet! I will only ever vote for a company I have used for a clients event. I’m sometimes shocked at the winners of the planners category and even more shocked by who they choose to judge this category as again I think “but you have no experience, you’re just popular on twitter etc”!

    At the end of the day, I do think some awards are fantastic and beneficial for highlighting the talents of the wedding industry. Oh and I can appreciate how hard it is to organise and to fund, sometimes I think people are too quick to judge about the cost of entering and forget about the cost of running an awards company. Unless they get serious sponsorship there are a lot of costs involved. Anyhow as usual I’m rambling too long….!

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Hi Bernadette,
      Oh yes we’ve definitely mentioned this one a time or two! It’s nice to read your opinions here though, and I’m glad you don’t agree with everything I’ve written either 🙂
      I did wonder towards the end of my article whether I should mention my specific problems with TWIA. In the end I was lazy and didn’t; but in a nutshell they are:
      1. Some companies won in their region because they were the only ones on the list.
      2. I’m not convinced the visits to (some) of the regional winners were worthwhile / fair, as this part of the judging process is so very subjective.
      3. There is still immense pressure on business owners to chase feedback from past customers. It’s time consuming and there’s also the social media ‘hype’ around being nominated, shortlisted etc. which seems to take sooooo much of people’s time.

      But as you mention, TWIA are the best (by miles and miles) of a bad bunch… they do try to make their awards fair, and yes there are overheads involved. I’d love to know how much profit they’ve made in the last 12 months!

      Wrapit I remember, only just though. And I remember them for the latter days of their reputation… now how much did all the negative press affect winners?! I can only imagine. As for the other awards, yep twitter plays a huge part. The louder you shout, the more votes you get. Hmm.

      I like your comments, opinions, rants and rambles Bernadette! Thank you!

      Claire x

  • Nathan
    7 years ago

    Well said. Are there any awards for all the awards, there’s so many there could be one?

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Oh Nathan, maybe I should set that up 🙂 Marvellous idea! Haha

  • Claire Gould
    7 years ago

    Hi Sheena,
    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on wedding awards with us. I guess it’s never impossible for wedding suppliers to bend the rules like the planner you mention. (Although TWIA makes that very difficult as all the comments and feedback are scrutinised.)
    It’s 5 months since I wrote this blog article and I still feel the same – awards aren’t worth the time or energy spent by wedding suppliers. There’s a lot to be said for focusing on quality, great customer service and personal recommendations instead – and I’m glad you agree!
    Claire xx

  • Sarah Smith
    7 years ago

    Hi Claire, Well done and I wish I had seen this BEFORE I entered the Wedding Industry Awards, what a complete waste of time! I’ve had 6 couples vote for me to be told today by them that because the ‘link’ didn’t work, none of them count! What a complete and pointless exercise! I REALLY wish I hadn’t bothered. Especially as you are correct, people will see our products and photos of our work and know whether we can provide the look they are after……….I also HATE asking people to vote – its just as Nikki says, begging! I shall put this behind me, carry on as usual and ignore the fact I’ve even entered. I definitely don’t need a badge.
    Thank you for your honesty and making me feel better this morning. 🙂

    • Claire Gould
      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah – glad I made you feel better! I hope everyone’s comments on this post are helping lots of other couples and suppliers as well.

      Wedding awards are most definitely optional, and there are alternative ways to impress potential customers. My favourite is to have a beautiful product and fantastic customer service. Simple 🙂

      Claire xx

  • Claire Gould
    7 years ago

    Aww no I don’t think it’s sour grapes at all – there’s pressure associated with entering awards, and it’s easy to feel left out of things. I’ve been there, despite my feelings about entering awards it’s a bit strange when the winners are announced to not be a part of it. (I won’t mention the Wedding Bloggers’ Awards of last week, but I feel similarly about those… and haven’t mentioned it because it would sound like sour grapes! But it’s not hehe)

    Yes, TWIA must be too vast to police, especially as it grows.

    Another thought: over the last five years or so there’s been a huge shift from wedding businesses being competitive and staying apart from one another, to collaborating and sharing ideas, shoots and events in a wonderfully friendly way. I hope the awards, and the pressure that goes with them, don’t have a negative effect on our new, sharing caring community!

    I admire your integrity and I hope the awards work out for you this year.

    Big hugs xx

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