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How Bridal Reality Shows Are Affecting the Bridal Industry

Geoff Williams

Ever since the TV series "CSI" debuted on CBS in 2000, there has been talk about the CSI effect: Juries often now expect prosecutors to have unrealistically detailed crime lab reports, which may, it's been theorized, end up helping some criminals get off scot-free.

Nothing quite so weighty hangs in the balance in the bridal industry, but as another wedding season commences, a similar effect will be seen due to not one successful show, but due to many.

As anyone who spends a lot of time with their remote knows, reality television has created an entire genre of bridal shows. TLC's "A Wedding Story" has been airing since 1996. "Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway?" has appeared on the Style Network since 2003. "Bridezillas" has been running since 2004 and airs on the WE cable television network. "Say Yes to the Dress," on TLC, has been airing since 2007 and was so popular that it spun off another series, "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta," which began running in 2010. And that just scratches the surface of what bridal television shows are out there or have aired over the years.

So not surprisingly, these series are giving some brides and grooms unrealistic expectations of how their own weddings should go. If you're a fan of bridal shows, and you plan on getting married one day, here are some differences between reality and entertainment that you may want to consider before you tie the knot.

[Read: 5 Things Your Wedding Probably Doesn't Need.]

What you're seeing on TV costs more than you think. This is probably the No. 1 headache for wedding planners and anyone in the bridal industry. While some series, like "Say Yes to the Dress," are upfront about the costs that go into a wedding, most aren't, says Samantha Dockery, wedding and event planner and owner of Bliss By Sam Weddings and Occasions Planners in Chicago.

"These shows never tell people how much items actually cost, so they see these grand ideas and think they can have it all for $10,000," says Dockery. "So by the time they really come to me for planning expertise, they get sticker shock over and over again."

Dockery says flowers and lighting, in particular, trip up a lot of couples. The reality shows have the wedding venues lit beautifully and perfectly, as befitting a television series watched by a national audience. Actual reality, unless one wants to bring in thousands of dollars of lighting equipment, can't quite match up.

"Even a simple arrangement of flowers will surprise someone," says Dockery. "They'll see a simple arrangement of white flowers and think that it won't be more than $200, but they don't realize that these are orchids, and that one stem could be anywhere from $15 to $20, and if you want a whole arrangement, that's $400, without the cost of labor. There's the cost of labor, the delivery, the cost of the vase. It could be $750."

[Read: 6 Creative Ways to Cut Wedding Costs.]

Barbara Thibault-Simon, director of sales and catering for Trump SoHo New York, agrees that real-life couples can have their vision of the big day skewed by the shows.

"Over the years, we've had to set expectations between what is a product of TV, and what is realistically feasible at each individual venue, as the level of expectations from couples has increased tremendously," says Thibault-Simon. "Many of these TV shows have a planner completely re-do the venue from top to bottom. That is not practical at many places, and certainly not included in the standard pricing, so we need to collaborate with the couple to ensure that their vision fits the space they are interested in."

Last-minute changes cost money, too. Thibault-Simon adds that thanks to reality TV, "the expectation has been set up that last-minute changes to weddings, such as on the day of, are easily executed and complimentary."

She says the hotel does its best to rebound when something goes awry. "Many venues have union agreements or other contractual regulations that do not enable them to simply make last-minute changes free of charge. TV makes these changes seem so simple and often without a cost, so that is what the couples' expect," she says.

[See 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes.]

Being a bride doesn't mean the customer is always right. The series "Bridezillas" showcases over-the-top, controlling brides who want their day to be so perfect that they come off as very imperfect. And while one might think that would teach a bride and groom how not to act during the preparation of a wedding, "it can also be argued that some brides see 'Bridezillas' as validation that a 'diva' moment is allowed on your wedding day," says Anita Malik, who is based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., and is the founder of BrideRush.com, an online wedding booking platform that specializes in matching brides with vendors.

Dockery says "Bridezillas" has some customers "thinking that they are entitled to act like witches." Grooms, too. Dockery says that after dealing with a "Groomzilla" who kept snapping at her all day for no apparent reason, she put a clause in her contract stating that she can fire a client for disrespectful and discourteous behavior.

It's not all bad. Malik says the industry receives great exposure from the reality shows, which can be useful for brides and grooms to spot new trends in weddings. In many ways, she says, "TV isn't much different than other media dedicated to weddings, like magazines. The influence and true impact depends on each individual bride and how easily she is influenced."

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