How to Negotiate with Vendors

Discussing fees and figures doesn't have to be daunting. Here's how to speak up—and save.

Most brides don’t look forward to negotiating prices with their vendors. If you’re like them, you may be thinking that haggling over money seems so…crass. After all, this is your wedding we’re talking about—the most romantic day of your life.

But think of it this way: Your goal is to develop a good working relationship with all your vendors—whether it’s your venue representative, your florist, your caterer or your photographer—so that you can get what you really want at the best possible price. Now that’s how to guarantee bliss!

1. Do your homework
Let’s say you and your fiancé are scouting around for a reception venue. You’ve found several, and there’s one you especially like. Don’t start negotiating until you’re well armed with quotes from the venue’s competitors. And well armed means knowing exactly what the competitors are offering for the same price. If a competitor offers a better deal, you can point that out to your first choice and ask if he can either whittle down his prices or throw in some extras to make up the difference.

Photo Credit: Kim Graham Photograpy

2. Spell It Out
Be sure that you understand exactly what is included in a quoted price. The venue should itemize it for you; at that point you may find that you’re being charged for things you don’t really need—expensive seafood appetizers, perhaps?—and you can negotiate them out.

3. Be Nice
Using the right words and tone of voice is priceless when it comes to getting what you want. One way not to get a good deal is to say something like, “You gave my cousin a deal last year, and I think you should do the same for me”—this won’t win you a popularity contest and it won’t win you any special considerations either. Remember: You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

4. Don’t Be Too Nice
No, we’re not really contradicting ourselves. Sharon Naylor, wedding expert and Bridal Guide contributor, speaks to all you nice, well-brought-up girls out there. Why not ask if you can get free coffee thrown in during dessert? Or an extra hour for the reception? Why not find out if your venue will provide a simple signature cocktail—free? One couple booked a private room in a restaurant for their party of 30—when politely asked, the restaurant happily dispensed with the room rental fee and even printed up a menu card for guests, free of charge. There’s loads of wiggle room when it comes to these types of fees.

5. Be Flexible
Is it fine with you to schedule your wedding on a Friday or even Thursday night? In autumn instead of spring or vice versa? What can your venue do for you if you’re willing to compromise? Many couples have gotten deals simply by avoiding Saturday night or picking a date at a resort during the off season.

6. Consider Your Advantage
You can feel free to walk away from a vendor if you don’t care for his attitude. Or at least pretend to walk away—that might make your chosen hotel venue suddenly remember that nice set of candlesticks that they can let you use, gratis, instead of leaving you to rent them yourselves. Naylor points out that the wedding industry depends so heavily on word-of-mouth referrals that any vendor is far likelier to treat you like a princess than give you a hard time. They know that if they do something nice for you, you’ll spread the word to your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your coworkers, and then there’s your blog and your Facebook page…need we say more?

7. Watch out for “nibbling.”
Shirit Kronzon, author of The Bargaining Bride (Career Press) warns brides to beware of extra charges that a vendor tacks on—usually just when you’re about to sign a contract. A charge for cake cutting? Cake plating, for goodness’ sake? You might be inclined to agree to it because you’re so close to wrapping this thing up and you’ve got a million other things to do—but don’t. Nicely say something like, “In light of the overall fee, I was hoping to avoid extra charges.” It’s worth a try.