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MARKETPLACE: Hidden wedding markups

 24 HOURS STAFF

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Your big day can mean big bills. But some may be bigger than they should be.

It's a secret many couples may suspect: The word "wedding" can mean a steep markup when it comes to the price.

Those suspicions may be well founded, at least sometimes.

A spot check by CBC's Marketplace found some vendors charge brides and grooms to-be more than they charge people planning a regular party.

The test included a dozen randomly chosen venues, florists and limo services in the Greater Toronto Area.

Marketplace secret shoppers asked for quotes from each business twice: Once for the cost for a wedding, and once for an anniversary party. Both teams asked for the same services, on the same date.

The spot check included a mix of banquet halls and highend venues.

Three out of the four venues charged more for the wedding. At one location, that meant the anniversary party's bill would be $14,000. But the cost for a wedding? $15,400: that's $1,400 more for the same services.

Two out of the four florists also charged a higher price for the wedding. The quote was for 20 centrepieces, each with a dozen red roses in a low glass vase. At one boutique, that cost $1,600 for the party; $2,000 for the wedding: a $400 markup.

All four limo companies charged more for a wedding. The trip was quoted for a oneway ride from the same downtown Toronto hotel to a banquet hall north of the city, a ride of approximately 42 kilometres.

The wedding surcharge ranged on limo quotes. One company charged the wedding group $25 more. But another company charged a whopping $348 more for an identical trip in the same vehicle: a total of $800 instead of $452 for the anniversary party.

Part of the reason? The company has a minimum fivehour booking for weddings. The anniversary group, on the other hand, was offered a two-hour minimum.

Angelique Sobschak, a former wedding planner who worked in the industry for more than 17 years, says upcharging and upselling are quite common.

"The minute you say wedding, the money bells go off. Ding a ling a ling a ling."

Sobschak says couples need to shop around, tell vendors their budget upfront and not be afraid to negotiate.

"To really mitigate that problem where you get what we call 'sticker shock,'you need to be clear. If your vendor cannot fit within your budget, then move on. Be educated. Know what they're charging you for," she says.

"And go in knowing it's OK to say 'no.'"

Watch the CBC Marketplace investigation on wedding costs starting tonight at 8 p.m. ET on TV and online.