Florists, photographers, calligraphers, caterers…it takes a lot of people to pull together a wedding. And you'll probably meet some tough ones along the way. So before you start shopping around, here are a few tips on how to get what you want from difficult personalities.
He's the florist with such a gift for the gab, you know the name of his son's first-grade teacher, but you have no idea how much he's going to charge you. Everyone likes to do business with friendly people, but sometimes a busy bride just wants to skip the small talk and move on to the important issues. "Excessive talking is a sign of insecurity," says Gerard Nierenberg, president of the Negotiation Institute in New York City and author of The Art of Negotiation (Random House, 1989) and How to Read a Person Like a Book (Pocket Books, 1982). He suggests telling him you've heard wonderful things about his work—a quick fix to boost his ego and put the focus back on the business at hand.
Buyer beware: This person will tell you anything to get a sale. You know this guy, the baker who claims to whip up award-winning cakes but doesn't offer you a taste. Self-assurance won't spoil the caterer's cooking, but brides and grooms need to know that vendors can back-up their boasts. "Trust your intuition," Nierenberg says. Ask for references, call the Better Business Bureau and, if you're still not satisfied, find someone else to do the job—preferably somebody recommended by a friend.
Ever dealt with a salesperson who seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown? You know, the ditzy young clerk who's completely overwhelmed when you ask her to bring you another size. Or maybe you've run into the lazy guy who rolls his eyes when you ask him to explain the difference between engraved and thermographed invitations. Hey, those invitations aren't cheap and neither is that dress, so make sure you're getting the attention you deserve. "Don't hesitate to ask someone more skilled to work with you," Nierenberg says. "If the person who's helping you isn't meeting your needs, ask to speak to her boss."
She's the oh-so-helpful one who follows you around the store calling you Honey and telling you how beautiful you look in the pink dress with the big bow on the bottom. She's really sweet—in fact, she kind of reminds you of your grandmother. But you need an honest opinion, and you blush every time she calls you Lamb Chop. Why is it so hard to set her straight? "As women, we sometimes have trouble telling someone that they're not being helpful. If they're being nice to us, we want to be nice to them," says Denver psychologist Dr. Shirley Asher. But there's usually a nice way of breaking the news. And in this case, it's pretty simple. "Tell her you'd really like some objective feedback," Dr. Asher says. "Reassure her that you don't expect to look good in every dress, and you won't be offended by her honest opinion."
What to do about those pesky pet names? Dr. Asher has a few ideas: First, make a point of using her first name throughout the conversation. If you think she's forgotten your name, work it into a sentence. If she doesn't catch on, tell her your name. Then say, "I know you work with a lot of people. I thought maybe you forgot my name, because you called me honey."
He's the caterer who charges a dollar a head to serve mixed drinks in glasses rather than plastic cups. Weddings are expensive enough without someone trying to charge you extra for every little thing. So when you come face-to-face with a nickel-and-dimer, heed these words of advice from Dr. Asher: "The best thing to do is kill him with kindness. Avoid the risk of looking like a pushover by being charming, yet assertive." And even if you wouldn't think of giving up that reception site, give him the impression that you're willing to look elsewhere.
Words to Remember
"The key to all negotiation," Nierenberg says, "is everybody wins." So when you run into a vendor with a negative attitude, "pursue a positive attitude." But you say you're not the assertive type? Try the salami method. "If you ask your lunch mate for her whole pack of salami," explains Nierenberg, "she might be offended. Instead, take a slice at a time." In other words, be aware and gracious, and work to find a solution that'll make you both happy in the end.