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Should You Accept Kickbacks in the Wedding Industry

Kickbacks in the wedding industry has always been the topic of much debate. The main question is whether or not it’s acceptable to receive kickbacks as part of your fee.
There are many schools of thought on this and at the Wedding Academy we don’t favour one way of pricing over another. However we don’t advocate accepting kickbacks either. In my mind there are four different ways in which to receive payment for the service you offer:

  • Commissions
  • Percentage of overall budget
  • Hourly Rate
  • Set fee

Notice that ‘kickbacks’ are not featured in this list but commissions are.
So let me clear this up straight away. Kickbacks in the wedding industry are essentially a discount offered by a supplier to a planner for giving them business.
A commission on the other hand is an agreed percentage paid to the planner for sending them business and is more commonly offered by venues.

What is the difference you may ask?

Well simply put if you’re accepting commissions this is your form of payment for your services and you’re not accepting a fee on top of this.
A kickback however could be looked at more as a bribe, or a perk on top of the fee you’re charging your clients. The question you should really be asking is whether or not it is ethical to accept the kickback and be charging your client a fee at the same time?
Our view is that accepting kickbacks is fine as long as you pass it onto your client. In other words you look at the kickback as a discount on the quoted price you have given your client.

Why is important?

This shows your client you are honest, being transparent and you have integrity. Your vendors and suppliers are chosen for their service and not how much the planner is going to make out of them.
After all, many planners promote the fact that they can negotiate better rates for their clients and if that is the case then the kickback is part of that service and should definitely be passed onto the client.
As luxury wedding designer, and someone I admire hugely, Preston Bailey said, “for me it’s very simple, if you (a planner, venue or supplier) accepts commission without the client’s knowledge, it is thieving.”

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