If those cute sandals at the mall are tagged $100, that's what you'll pay—no exceptions. With vendors like florists, caterers, and photographers, however, there's often room for negotiation. Do it early in your discussions and well before signing any contract.
Do your homework first Have a set budget and know average prices in your area.
Set priorities Instead of dickering over low-cost items (boutonnieres), concentrate on reducing the price of big-ticket items (centerpieces). Know what you want: Are you hoping for a monetary discount or some freebies? Is quality or pricing your priority?
Stay calm A savvy consumer uses facts, common sense, and good manners—not screams or tears—as bargaining tools.
Disagree nicely Whatever happens, be courteous. Being rude and belligerent will get you nowhere.
Put everything in writing Make sure any verbal agreements are added to the final contract, or your vendor might come down with negotiation amnesia.
Sometimes, as in the case of Saturday-night weddings, the prices are pretty firm. Other times, the discounts are easier to come by, such as when:
A vendor is starting out and needs to build buzz.
You're buying something in bulk, such as multiple cases of wine.
You're getting married in the off-season, on an off day, or at an off time.
The vendor can handle more than one wedding in a day (like florists or photo studios with big crews.)
Your wedding is a month away and a vendor is still available. If you don't book him, chances are, no one else will.
Some tips on talking the talk, according to San Francisco florist Nancy Liu Chin and Phoenix photographer Keith Pitts.
Don't Say: "My budget is $2,000. What can you do for me?"
Say: "I love your style, and I think your photos are incredible. I'd like to see if we can work something out on my budget."
The Bottom Line: Don't bring up an exact dollar amount right away. Vendors are more likely to bend over backward for someone who truly values their work.
Don't Say: "I've got to have peonies at my wedding, but these prices are crazy!"
Say: "I love the look of peonies. Are there any alternatives that cost less?"
The Bottom Line: Be flexible, and the vendor will come up with creative ways to give you the look you want.
Don't Say: "This isn't going well. Maybe I should call my dad, the attorney."
Say: "This isn't what I had in mind, but I appreciate your ideas and your taking the time to discuss them with me."
The Bottom Line: If the vendor really wants your business, he may reconsider.