Bursting bubbles doesn’t always feel good. But today’s article is meant for the bigwigs who exploit us all: brides and grooms, and the hardworking, passionate wedding suppliers who help turn your dreams into reality.
That sort of passion isn’t something I like to see stomped all over.
SOME of the wedding awards bodies here in the UK are a joke. One in particular – which I won’t name – has some shocking business practices which shouldn’t be kept secret. But do remember that others are as fairly run as they can be – so plenty of wedding awards are worth paying attention to.
Don’t blame the suppliers: it’s not their fault. Wedding business owners enter awards competitions on the understanding that they’ll be fairly judged and voted for by real customers: they take pride in their awards as they rightly should.
I’m not going to name any names. I do know which awards I’m talking about; but I’m not putting myself up to get sued for telling you! This article is based on stories I’ve heard, and on one in particular. It also comes from my experience in the wedding industry: I’ve been told enough about awards from so many people to know they’re not what they seem.
The inside story: where “everyone is shortlisted”
My friend (whose name I will keep secret) has been involved in many wedding awards over the years. He’s entered all the competitions, and won a few times as well. He’s also poured his heart and soul into telling the world about the awards, into asking his past clients if they’d be kind enough to vote and see if he can get through to the finalist stages.
Awards mean a lot to suppliers! They’re really important to us – so don’t underestimate the time your wedding suppliers are investing in these awards – and the money: most awards charge a fee to enter.
Yes: they make wedding suppliers pay to be in the running for an award.
But getting through to finalist stages usually comes down to hours of emailing, and also to time put in by brides and grooms who want to support their amazing suppliers. And so the suppliers spend weeks and months thinking quite anxiously and excitedly about the possibility they might win. My friend told me it meant a lot to him; he was nervous, and really excited about the possibility of getting through to the last stages and maybe winning the award for his category. It’s a pretty big thing!
This year though, my friend was initially reluctant to enter one of the awards: he’d made a decision to focus on his customers rather than getting involved in the whole awards merry-go-round. Until the last minute, that is: the organisers were so keen for him to get involved, they kept calling and asking, and pushing him to be a part of it because they needed good quality businesses like his! So at the very last minute, spurred on by their praise and kind words, he paid his fee and was entered into the awards once again.
The very next day, he received the amazing news he’d been shortlisted for an award.
That was quick! But brilliant – he’d made it! Yay!!! Shortlisted for an industry award – cue cartwheels and celebrations for my friend!
Delighted at first, but then more than a little confused about this (because surely, he couldn’t have had that many votes in just a day, could he?) he spoke to the organisers.
And he was shocked by what he was told.
While other shortlisted suppliers were thrilled to have come through to this stage, telling the world and putting the awards ‘shortlisted’ badges on their social media, my last-minute-friend decided to ask how he’d been shortlisted.
And they told him, “oh, EVERYBODY gets shortlisted”.
The shortlist, it seems, wasn’t any such thing. As lists go, it wasn’t any shorter than the list of EVERYONE who’d entered. In reality, there was no shortlist.
There had been no votes, no selection process, no looking at the businesses alongside him and choosing the best, in fact the organisers hadn’t done anything except mislead all of the suppliers who’d entered their competition.
This isn’t fair. Putting every single nominated business onto a shortlist misleads suppliers. Being shortlisted should be an achievement: hearing the news makes them feel on top of the world. As a supplier I know I’d be so happy to have made it onto a shortlist. It would be a little boost, some proof I was doing the right thing, my business was doing well, people loved what I was making for their weddings. If I found out the shortlist was fake, I’d be gutted!
It’s also misleading brides and grooms when a supplier can tell the world they’ve been shortlisted for an award: it implies they’ve beat some of their competition and are one of the best at what they do. When really – in the case of this particular awards organisation – they’ve only paid an entry fee.
So why shortlist every single wedding business? It comes down to money: it must do. The awards organisation recruits salespeople to call every wedding supplier, and makes money for every single one. Once through to the shortlist, suppliers feel pressure to attend the awards event – and that’s where it costs big money for tickets. When everyone who has been “shortlisted” feels they’re a step closer to winning, they’re more likely to splash out on tickets!
It’s also about power and influence. Every supplier entered into a wedding awards competition will be talking about it on social media. The awards brand will be big news, and with thousands of visitors to their website and Facebook page, they’ll be earning money by attracting some very big sponsors for their events. It’s a huge branding exercise, and all built on the back of the small independent businesses whose aspirations and hopes they’re exploiting.
It makes me sad that this one awards organisation could make the whole industry look bad. If our awards are fake – and we don’t know, so we believe in them – do we all look like fakers?
It’s quite possible the next stage of the awards, when “shortlisted” businesses are put to a vote and the eventual winners chosen, could be fairly managed. I don’t know for sure.
But the first phase makes me wonder if the organisers care about running a fair competition at all.
The good guys: TWIA
I can’t imagine how this must make the other awards organisers feel. It reminds me of the year The Wedding Industry Awards was founded. I was involved as a judge and saw how the process worked: fairly. It came down to a sophisticated formula to ensure small businesses had as much chance of winning as big companies, and both shortlists and regional winners were chosen by their customers. And why did TWIA even begin? Because even then, the wedding industry was crying out for awards which were fair and honest.
The Wedding Industry Awards isn’t perfect, but compared with some, they’re angels!
I hope you feel this is a story worth telling. If everyone gets shortlisted, then processes need to change. The people at the top of the wedding awards organisations need to go.
Because being nominated, shortlisted and having the chance to win awards for our businesses means the world to some of us – hearts are broken; futures are made.
An award should be something to be proud of. So make it mean something.