Working With Vendors

How to Negotiate with Your Wedding Vendors

We're pretty sure you've been told to negotiate with your vendors to get a good price. So we thought we might investigate how to do this successfully. We went straight to the source, wedding vendors, to find out what works—and what works against you.

The Approach: Starting the relationship the right way will help you save.

You can't begin to think about negotiating if you're even slightly unsure of how much you want to spend. "Instead of looking around at vendors and then deciding what your budget is, solidify your budget and then look for vendors with rates that fit in," says Chad Michael Peters, a floral designer and wedding planner in Massachusetts.

You'll need to do a bit of research to figure out how much you can afford to spend on each vendor. Call or write those you could really see yourself hiring to find out their package pricing, and use this information to divvy up your budget. "It's good to shop around for vendors," says Jim Skipper of Black Tie Video, in Maryland. "It's not offensive to ask for rates, but that can't be the only thing in your e-mail. Tell me you like my work, but you have budget issues. We would like to be considered for our work, not just our price."

"I once got a call from a bride who gave me some really flowery flattery then told me she had a budget of $1,500, which is way below what we normally work with. But because she was so cool, we were able to make it happen."

And don't be discouraged if a vendor you love is way out of your price range. "If a potential client contacts me, then realizes they can't afford my rate, I am happy to refer them to others in the business," says California photographer Bret Cole. While you're collecting various starting prices, be sure you're comparing apples to apples. For example, one package may include an album, while others may not.

Your approach and personality style have a lot to do with whether or not a vendor will be willing to lower a price."I once got a call from a bride who gave me some really flowery flattery then told me she had a budget of $1,500, which is way below what we normally work with," says Chad Michael Peters. "But because she was so cool, we were able to make it happen."

"Play on vendors' sympathies and emotions," says New Jersey wedding planner Jenny Orsini of Pampered Bride Weddings. "Say 'I really love your work, I would really appreciate this rate, anything you can do for us would make our day that much more special.'"

On the flip side, don't be aggressive or threatening (it happens more often than you'd think). "One girl kept telling me: 'This is all I have, if you can't do it, I'm using an iPod,'" says Jeff Donovan of DJ on Demand, in Colorado. "You have to meet vendors halfway."

It's important to maintain a good relationship with your vendors—you want them to be as excited to work with you as you are with them. So be sure that your negotiations are handled as calmly and politely as possible. If your vendor is already providing you a reasonable deal, don't ask for more. "You may be able to get a small discount, 10 percent for example, but don't expect a huge bargain," says San Francisco wedding planner Amy Nichols. "Be respectful of the vendor—it would be insulting if you asked them for 50 percent off, especially if they're already working with you to fit in your budget."

 

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