Not all ‘recommended wedding suppliers’ lists are recommending people for the right reasons.

For most couples, the first thing they book is the venue, or a wedding planner. Some venues or wedding planners will then give you a list of ‘recommended suppliers’, ostensibly to help you find the rest of your suppliers more easily, with the benefit that they’ve all worked at that venue or with that planner. And that’s very helpful of them!

However, couples relying on these lists to choose suppliers should be aware that an increasing number of venues and planners select who they ‘recommend’ by their ability to then charge those suppliers a hefty commission. It’s often at least 10% of the supplier’s fee, which the supplier may then pass on to the couple.

That means the venue could net themselves thousands of pounds in ‘free money’ from your booking, for simply handing you a piece of paper or emailing you a PDF. And that in turn means that you could potentially be indirectly paying them a LOT more than their agreed fee without you realising.

So if you’ve received such a list, it may be worth asking: “do you charge these suppliers a fee if we book them after your recommendation?”

And if the answer is yes, consider asking them “Why? Are you recommending them because they’ve agreed to pay you, or because they’re good at what they do?”

This has been a longstanding issue, well known in the wedding supplier industry, and is even more problematic right now with budgets pushed to their limit by the cost of living crisis. You can read more about it here:, and you can read another account of what goes on here:

Don’t worry – not every venue does this!

As a wedding photographer based in London I’ve built up a great relationship with loads of venues and planners and am very grateful to have been included on a few of their ‘Recommended Wedding Suppliers’ lists, which is always a huge honour.

For example, I’m a Recommended Supplier for a bunch of great venues, including The Andaz Liverpool Street, Oaks Farm, Gaynes Park, and many more. I’ve got a great relationship with all these venues, but I’ve never paid them a penny in commission for being recommended.

That’s not to say I’m not grateful and don’t want to nurture a good working relationship with them. But instead of a fee out of my pocket, what I always do without ever being asked is send all the suppliers I met on the day some photos featuring their work, and I do that for free.

So I’ll send the florist great pictures of their bouquets, I’ll send the band or DJ great shots of them filling the dance floor, and I’ll send the venue a TON of photos of their ceremony room and dining room all set up, both empty and filled with happy guests, plus shots of the food, the waiters doing their thing, and so on. Sometimes I’ll even do a free venue shoot in the quiet seasons, to freshen up their website imagery or whatever, and to thank them for recommending me.

And I throw in completely free marketing use for them too, so they can use them on social media or their website. It’s a great deal for everyone – I got some extra enquiries from them, and they get tons of free marketing material they can use forever.

That’s the sort of commercial and marketing use which would normally cost a company hundreds of pounds in shoot and licensing fees, and they get it FOR FREE from me, every time.

Some venues charge the suppliers to work there even if you found them yourselves!

In the last five years I’ve noticed an uptick in some venues charging the suppliers on their list not just for having recommended them, but every time one of those “recommended” suppliers works at their venue, whether you were introduced to them by that venue or not.

For example I was once told by a venue to share with them the final invoice I sent the couple, so that the venue could calculate the fee I owed them for being on their list, even though the couple had met me at a previous wedding they attended. I had to send the venue dated emails with the couple before they dropped the demand.

I think ‘Recommended Suppliers’ lists that charge suppliers a commission are a scam.

If a venue recommended a supplier to you it should be because they like that supplier, love their work, want to be associated with them, and because everyone wins if you book them too. Not because it makes the venue more money behind your back – almost certainly taking money out of your pocket by causing the supplier to raise their prices.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a huge amount of choice. Even though I rank number one for wedding photography at a lot of London venues on Google, the venues know that if they give a couple a nicely presented list of suppliers, that’s likely to be who the couple contacts first, before wading through Google search results.

Thankfully, there’s now only a couple of venues actively recommending me who also charge commissions from their ‘recommended’ suppliers.

But, I’ve never paid their commission.

I made the argument that if they want a fee from me they won’t get any photos from me, and that they’d be in breach of my copyright to use any of my images the couple might have sent them.

(Couples don’t always understand that they aren’t licensed to share my work with businesses so I don’t blame them; the businesses should know better though.)

Isn’t this just a cost of doing business, like paying for advertising?

You could argue that but I don’t think the comparison holds up.

Firstly, assuming at least £2000 for photography, and a 10% commission, then spending £200 to get just one booking is a pretty bad return on investment.

But my biggest objection is that when you click on an ad, you KNOW you’re clicking on an ad. When a venue or planner you trust recommends a bunch of other suppliers to you, they don’t disclose to you that they’re charging the suppliers a fee if they get the job.

And why don’t they tell you that? Because then you’d question why they’re recommending anyone. Because it’s so OBVIOUSLY a shitty thing to do, and they know it.

So what does this mean for you, the couple browsing a venue’s Recommended Wedding Suppliers list?

Most venues and planners with a Recommended Suppliers list wouldn’t even dream of doing this. But if your venue or planner does have a list then it’s worth politely asking: “Do you charge these suppliers a fee to be ‘recommended’ by you?”

And if the answer is yes, ask them “Why?”

But if the answer IS yes, don’t feel guilty, it’s not your fault! Book who you love, and if they’re any good they’ll love you right back, regardless of the venue or planner charging them a shady commission.

It’s impossible to say how many suppliers pass that commission directly by increasing their fees to work at that venue. Having been squeezed hard during the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, some suppliers may feel forced to quote a higher price at venues that secretly charge a commission. That’s one reason some suppliers won’t tell you their prices until they know where you’re getting married and how you found them.

Others may prefer to have more open pricing on their website, and charge everyone the same price. But that means they’ll have needed to put ALL their prices up to cover any referral fees, so everyone ends up paying more to cover the referral fees that only some venues charge.

I’m in the latter camp. I don’t like to punish my couples by charging them a higher fee than others just because their venue has some shady business practices. Instead, I put all my prices up every couple of years to stay ahead of inflation and to cover the referral fees I was charged over the previous couple of years.

Who are the venues and planners that charge this fee?

Unfortunately they hold such power that it’s not in my interest to name them, and that sucks. I’ve also heard that some the venues and planners that charge this commission also contractually require the suppliers to not disclose the existence of this fee.

What I will say is that none of the venues I’ve named in this post charge a recommendation commission.

What about my own ‘recommended wedding suppliers’ list?

I do not charge anyone I recommend a referral fee. There are some photographers I’ve passed a LOT of work to over the years that keep joking they’ll owe me commission one day – nope.

I’m a good person, and I don’t work like that.

So I have a list myself, of florists, makeup artists, bands, DJs, magicians, videographers, and photo booth companies, that I’ve worked with at tons of weddings over the years and can highly recommend. I send that list out to any couple that asks, after booking me.

I don’t make any referral fees from recommending people, and I never will, because that’s not a recommendation, it’s a scam.

I recommend them because they’re excellent, reliable, and I love working with them.

And that’s the only reason any wedding venue or wedding planner should be recommending any other wedding supplier, in my personal opinion!