The Broke-Ass Bride's Wedding Guide empowers couples with the simple philosophy that it's not about how much you spend but how you spend it. As author Dana LaRue says, "You're only planning a party, so have fun with it." You don't need to give up your savings, the possibility of a downpayment on a house, or your sanity to plan a celebration that is meaningful and inspired. Here, Dana shares her advice on what to consider before hiring vendors.
Be careful not to let your desire for camaraderie overshadow your confidence in showing potential vendors that you know your stuff. There may be no guarantee they’ll respect your knowledge, but at least they’ll know better than to try pulling the wool over your eyes. Great expectations yield great results, so be confident and it will inspire them to have confidence in you.
Clearly, to show them that you know your stuff, you’ve got to know your stuff. The best way to get comfortable speaking on their level is to understand their product or service, inside and out.
Your goal is to get a great sense of their personality and style, which should be your first qualifiers in terms of finding a good fit. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a top three candidates for each service, query each for a price quote, indicating your preferred dates and needs, and be sure to let them know if you’re flexible on those details in exchange for lower fees. Keep an eye on how long it takes each to respond, how thorough their response is, and how receptive they might seem to working within your budget.
Before you contact anyone, go in armed with the following questions answered.
1. What's your wedding date?
Will the vendor be in high demand during that season, or on that day of the week? Or are you planning an off-season and/or off-day wedding? Are you flexible on the date, or is your mind made up? The more flexible your date, the likelier you are to strike a deal. There’s nothing wrong with a Friday night wedding, or a Sunday brunch affair. Some venues may even discount Sundays on a holiday weekend, which is essentially a Saturday, so don’t be afraid to ask.
2. How flexible are they likely to be?
Are they a promising new company, a talented small business, or an industry star? Do they need to build a portfolio, or can they afford to be picky? Many of the top, highly sought-after vendors are completely firm in their pricing, so know your audience before approaching, much less haggling, them.
3. Are you being realistic?
If you can’t afford their service, don’t abuse the right to haggle. Young, fresh talent abounds in the industry — and you’re likely to have greater success in striking a good deal with them. But there is one caveat: make sure their work is consistent and professional. Get a contract. There is more risk involved with less experienced talent, but that risk can easily translate into reward if you do your research ahead of time.
4. What reviews can you find online about their customer service and employees?
Do they offer past client testimonials? What’s your experience with them — that is, response time, friendliness, professionalism? Sometimes you get what you pay for, and they need the business for a reason. Make sure you “click” with and trust whomever you book. It will make your life soooo much easier.
5. What similar companies are out there, and what are their pricing structures?
Check the services included against one another to see how the best value shakes down. Ask potential vendors if they offer à la carte services or build-your-own packages. Get to know the competition, and try to seek out any specials or discounts. Blogs often have relationships with vendors who offer exclusive discounts to their readers (like mine!), so comb every corner of the Web that you can find. You never know what treasure you’ll uncover!
6. Can you get specific?
Research everything possible about your desires and what they’re worth, and then determine your bottom line. Know both your "dream price" and your absolute maximum, and be armed with specifics. Some of my easiest negotiations have been a result of a friendly reference to competitive company statistics. Let them know that they’re your first choice, but go ahead and ask if they’ll beat competitors’ pricing or toss in an add-on.
If you can’t find lower pricing to use as leverage and need a Hail Mary pass, make an offer. Even if a company advertises a specific price, they may respond to fair and respectfully made offers. Respectfully, people. This is more likely to be commonly accepted among smaller or newer companies with a need to build a portfolio or word of mouth. But the key is to be fair.
—Dana LaRue, as seen in The Broke-Ass Bride's Wedding Guide. Published with permission from Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. ©2013 Broke-Ass Media, Inc.
The Broke-Ass Bride's Wedding Guide approaches wedding budgeting challenges as opportunities to be creative, and teaches engaged couples how to get more for less. In her signature sassy, chatty voice, author Dana LaRue gives hardworking and helpful tips, such as how to negotiate with vendors like a pro, and ideas for inventive (and affordable) engagement parties, DIY recipes, decorations, and more.