Working With Vendors

How to Negotiate with Your Wedding Vendors

Continued (page 3 of 4)

Saving Small Money (Hey, It's Still Money): Fees, Discounts, and Keeping Your Dignity

Once you're comfortable with a vendor and generally happy with the price quote, you can bring up smaller money-related issues. Already hired vendors are a great source for helping you save with other vendors. "Allow these pros to use their relationships with other, smaller vendors to get the best deal," says Adelee Cabrera of A Joy Wallace Catering, in Florida. "For example, if a bride wants a specialty coffee cart at her reception, we can call the company on her behalf and get a discount because we've given that company repeat business." And if you can help your vendor, he or she might give you a deal. "If you have friends who are getting married and you're willing to refer them to me, that's really worth something," says Jeff Donovan.

Vendors can also be accommodating when it comes to payment plans. "There are certain contractual things that we can be flexible about—deposits, how much money is paid when, when the final payment should be," says Chad Michael Peters. "If quarterly payments suit your financial situation better, that's fine. Ask questions to make it work for you." Some vendors may even provide discounts to couples who pay with cash.

Remember that many vendors are small businesses, and for the most part they're suffering with the economic situation, too.

Sometimes the challenge of negotiating is making sure you know what the final number actually is. "Tell your caterer that you want to know what the bottom line is per guest, which means adding together all the fees," says Laura Bianco, a planner and co-owner of My Bellissima, in New Jersey. "This shows that you're smart and have done your homework." Though particularly important with caterers who charge additional cake-cutting and corkage fees, this is also true of any vendor—ask for the totaled, bottom-line price.

If you're uncomfortable with a certain fee, it's acceptable to ask politely about it, not demand it be removed. "If you are on the fence, and something small, like a cake-cutting fee, is affecting your decision, ask the venue to work with you," says Laura. "Everyone is hurting right now, so they may be willing to drop something insignificant rather than lose the overall sale."

There are certain costs, like delivery fees, that may seem extraneous but are actually fair. You certainly can ask your cake baker or florist to drop the delivery fee and have family or friends do the transporting, but vendors view those fees as an insurance policy. If your cake or floral arrangements get damaged in your best man's pickup truck, you're responsible. Vendors are experts in delivering and setting up their products—let them handle it.

Once you've negotiated a price with a vendor and the terms have been accepted, you should be ready to sign a contract. "You need to be prepared to send in your deposit and move forward," says Adelee. And if you have questions after receiving the contract, schedule a phone call to discuss your concerns; don't write in changes to a contract before clearing it with the vendor first.

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