What is Really Behind WeddingWire's Bride's Choice Award?

What is Really Behind WeddingWire's Bride's Choice Award?

My Facebook news feed is being littered with photographers today announcing from their soap box that they won the 2012 Bride’s Choice Award thereby putting them in the Top 5% of their industry. Some may call it an award, I call it a deceptive marketing scheme.

According to their website, The WeddingWire Bride's Choice Awards™ recognizes the best local wedding vendors from the WeddingWire Network who demonstrate quality and service excellence within the wedding industry. Unlike other awards in which winners are selected by the organization, the WeddingWire Bride's Choice Awards™ are determined by the quality, quantity, recency, and consistency of reviews from over 1.2 million WeddingWire newlyweds. The 2012 award recipients represent the top five percent of WeddingWire's vendor community, which consists of over 200,000 wedding professionals throughout the US and Canada. “Every year, WeddingWire looks forward to celebrating the success of the top-rated Wedding Professionals within the WeddingWire Network,” said Timothy Chi, CEO, WeddingWire. “Now in its fifth installment, the Bride’s Choice Awards™ program continues to recognize the elite Wedding Professionals who exemplify quality service and professionalism. These vendors were chosen by our bridal community for their responsiveness and dedication to clients. We are honored to recognize the 2013 winners for their impressive achievements and unwavering commitment to providing quality service within the wedding industry.”

First, let me start by saying that when I first got started shooting weddings back in 2010 I saw photographers sharing they won the “Bride’s Choice Award” and I really wanted one. I decided I was going to do everything possible to earn one since I thought it would be great for my business. I’d click on the award banners displayed on photographer website and be promptly taken to the WeddingWire.com site. At first I was impressed. Lots of information, articles and links to wedding vendors. I immediately signed up as a vendor and after following the instructions given I became a recipient of the award in 2011. Excitedly I shared my award with my Facebook fans and just hoped they wouldn’t realize that practically every photographer in town was sharing the same thing.

In short, WeddingWire bills itself as the “Yelp of the Wedding Industry.” Their ultimate goal is to drive as much traffic as they can to their website so they can sell advertising. Which takes us right back to the “awards” they are giving out each year. Is this award based on skill? Nope. Is it based on a system of votes from industry peers? Nope. Is it based on the merits of the award winner? Nope. The way a person “wins” this “Bride’s Choice Award” is by getting 5 positive reviews on their vendor listing on the site. While the idea is that the reviews would come from brides, ultimately who would ever know if my mom, my sister, my aunt, my brother and my wife left me positive reviews.

I will admit the company is remarkably innovative in the way they are driving traffic to their site and for this innovation they have grown tremendously since starting up in 2007. Their business model is fantastic and not a week goes by that I don’t see a photographer in one of the many forums or groups that I belong to ask if they should purchase a marketing package from WeddingWire so they can have one of the better listings there. I applaud the company for their growth and service they are offering vendors and brides to connect.

However, to call a spade a spade this award is nothing more than WeddingWire driving traffic to their site and we all are their puppets excitedly posting their banners with links back to them all over our websites, blogs and Facebook. So tomorrow, January 9, 2013 when WeddingWire officially sends out the banners to this year's “award” winners and they get plastered in Facebook news feeds and thousands of blog posts of people patting themselves on the back, the one thing that will be certain is that WeddingWire will be receiving a record number of hits tomorrow on it’s website. Exactly what they planned for!

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Breanna Marie's picture

I think you're on to  something about it being a marketing scheme. Though the criteria doesn't really make sense. I personally have 5, 5star reviews on my weddingwire listing, and yet another photographer I know who had only 4 got the award and I didn't. It seems to be even more arbitrary than this article suggests.

Chad DiBlasio's picture

I have personally seen photographers that have reviews no newer than one year old receive the reward while others who have NUMEROUS positive reviews each year get nothing.. always made me wonder what the "formula" for the award was and how SO MANY people are in the top 5%? thanks for posting trevor and we'll see where it goes from here?

Jeremy & Kristin Schmucker's picture

We received this award and it appears every other photographer we know locally did as well. I don't mind that everyone gets it, but the top 5% is misleading. It is not the top 5% of wedding wire vendors, it's and "industry" top 5%. Realistically, those who are active in the industry probably have a wedding wire account and therefore everyone gets the award! I think it would be better if it were the top 5-10% of current users on wedding wire. Either way, interesting article.

I have identical reviews in two markets. I won in one market, didn't in the other. I take these types of "award" with a grain of salt. I use WeddingWire because I have had success with advertising on them and I do like that I have a spot brides can easily view reviews, however, their award is a bit ridiculous. It does not at all reflect a photographer's skill or talent, nor does it really do anything except give people a chance to simply say "hey people like us so take a look".

Spot on Trevor. I suspected this. Although accolades are wonderful to receive, A genuine accolade is preferable to a marketing driven accolade. 

Albert Zablit's picture

Wait, how exactly are they innovative? All I see is manipulative scheming.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I hate crap like this. Deceptive marketing tactics are responsible for people saying the general statement "marketing is bad" or "marketing is a lie." Marketing isn't bad or a lie, but things like this really don't help my argument. We, as marketers, should be using our powers for good, never evil. GAH!!

Stephen Reasonover's picture

Spot on and so well explained.

NickKessler's picture

I think it's very important NOT to single out Wedding Wire on this one. While I agree to taking to the award with a grain of salt you do do have to get X number of positive reviews per year to earn it. 

My issue with this article is that The Knot is actually worse about this in my opinion. By singling out Wedding Wire you are almost slandering one company and indirectly praising another. 

What if a wedding photographer decides to advertise with Wedding Wire and not The Knot?


Jasen Arias's picture

YES! Glad someone said it. Raised an eyebrow for me last year, but when so many of your peers and friends are touting it on their page, it's hard to say anything about it. Good call Trevor!

Brian Bannister's picture

Glad to see you calling it for what it is. The business has sure taken a downturn as far as ethics go in the past 10 years.

Cody Fountain's picture

One positive note should be added that they do list your company under the local area if you're a winner. I don't pay for Wedding Wire, I think it's way over priced, but I love to get my customers to go and review so I can get the little awards to fill my website / facebook with as customers view this as a huge achievement and it actually helps promote better business for us! I won the 2013 award, whether I really did deserve it or not... ill sure as hell proudly be happy to be listed http://www.weddingwire.com/brides-choice-awards <---------- there and still post it all over for people to say, "Wow we for sure made the right choice for them as our florist / photographer " More of comfort food rather than anything else... 

Vince's picture

We have a slight twist on this ploy in Wales at the Welsh Wedding Awards. You get chosen by the votes of past or current clients (who can only put forward suppliers they had, not those they wished they'd had) and then an anonymous committee choose a winner. You are then invited to pay £50 ($80) a head to attend the awards to see if you've won. This year it seems that many of last year's winners were the same as last year, even though several of them have weaker portfolios of competitors (although some are very competent). 


Hunter Harrison's picture

Doesn't this kind of fall into the "well, duh" category? Yes it's a marketing ploy and it doesn't take a genius to spot it. Many other wedding services sites do the same exact thing (i.e. TheKnot.com). I guess what surprises me is that this is even a topic. The headline might as well have been "Google's massive patent portfolio is just a ploy to earn money".

Hunter I would agree that the photography industry understands what it "really" is but sadly many of our clients don't. They see John Doe Photography winning the "BRIDE'S CHOICE AWARD" and being in the TOP 5% and can't wait to talk with John Doe. Sadly it doesn't take much to earn it. 

Ryan McNulty's picture

From a business stand point, I don't see anything wrong with Wedding Wire's plan.. It is simply a marketing tactic employed by Wedding Wire to drive viewers and potential income... How is fstoppers posting "win a free camera by liking these pages on facebook" any different??

Wedding Wire provides any and all professionals FREE or paid listings to get qualified leads from prospective brides; what more can you ask for as a business owner?  Wedding Wire has to make an income, from paying employees, overhead, and marketing just like every other company (just like Fstoppers and any other company out there!). 

From an industry stand point - someone who receives a brides choice award simply means they are doing a good job in their target market and with satisfying their brides; and are getting 5, 5-star reviews. Yes, it may be easy to receive this award.  It's also easy for another photographer to see their portfolio and think, "damn, this photographer has a horrible style; he doesn't deserve this award"!  Point is, as long as the clients are happy with their service, its fine... Most likely these photographers are in a different target market niche (than you or I) anyways. 

Sal Sincotta's first advertisment was on craigslist, as was my company.  I'm willing to bet most readers on Fstoppers started there as well.  There, the target market was different... so, you then step it up and sign up for a Wedding Wire account.  Brides dig you so you receive the Bride's Choice Award; meaning, you're satisfying our brides.  Satisfying your brides, no matter what price point or niche you market to, is super important. It's a Bride's Choice Award.  Pretty basic. A demonstrative award that says your brides love you and the service you provided. So if you or someone you know receives this award, do give yourself (or them) a pat on the back, because whatever their market or niche, their brides are loving them and their work; applaud.

Ryan well spoken and I appreciate your comment. I do think their press release though is quite misleading when it says the winners are being honored for their "impressive achievements" and "unwavering commitment." I would also love to see how they come up with the calculation for them to say these are the Top 5%. 

Jaron Schneider's picture

Also, giving away a prize like a camera is wholly different than giving away meaningless awards. Ridiculous comparison. 

Ryan McNulty's picture

I understand its different, I am not comparing the tangible object, merely the intent the company (in this case fstoppers) has for giving away the lens.  More likes = more page views, in turn a higher profit from online advertising. All in all the point is to get more page views.

Rebecca Britt's picture

I don't think the article is bashing them for trying to get more page views. If they get more traffic I say, 'Great! Good for them!' We're not that cynical here. We are happy to see anyone in our industry do well. I don't think that the award strategy is a bad idea. It's just the criteria that you need to win that is poorly executed. 

Marketing can be a tricky thing, but as long as you are honest to your audience, it can work. 

Ryan McNulty's picture

I agree, the press release gives no justification on how these merits are defined and there is NO calculation basis on how their top 5% is awarded.

When I see the likes of Amy Karp, Jonathan Ivy
Photography, and Table4 winning the same
award as “Love Pic Love - 20% off all wedding packages!” and “Hair &
Make-up,Custom Hairpieces,Photography by Carolina” something is wrong.

I am not putting the others down, but some are a little more advanced and have more skill in their pinky than others.

Ray King's picture

its marketing!

Keep in mind that those photographers are marketing to potential clients.  Not other photographers.  To a bride an accomplished photographer is a good thing.

I just joined Weddingwire in December and didn't know anything about the awards, but its that one extra thing that makes you stand out above others.  (just from a marketing point of view)

Marketing yes. Deceptive marketing is what it is. "Stand out above others" - I wouldn't say so as much since everyone is claiming to receive it. Sadly our clients don't know any different but I hope this article clued a few of them in about how silly the "award" really is and got photographers conversing about it.

Ray King's picture

lol, I didnt touch on the quality of work.  That was from marketing perspective only.  In terms of quality of work, I see pictures on weddingwire with pop up flash images as their profile picture.  I spend alot of time on my images but Im sure a good percentage of brides dont look at that.  They just consider cost alone.  And I just have to understand.  thats not my client.  That client will end up with pictures on facebook and not appreciate the work that their photographer did.

...and sadly 'that photographer' will be displaying their "Bride's Choice Award" on their website and blog. Thanks for your input Ray.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Point I was trying to make in my first comment is exemplified by Ray's first statement here. What is happening here has more in common with lying than marketing. You don't have to lie to sell product if the product is good.

Marc Pagani's picture

I received the award in 2012.  I've also gotten the "Best of Weddings" award from theknot.com for 2011, 2012, and 2013. I it's the same thing as wedding wire.  There always seems to be a follow up call after I'm told I won it by a knot advertising rep trying to get me to be featured on the first page for quite a bit of cash.

great article, glad so many people notice.

glad so many people noticed this.

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