As a wedding planner, one of the biggest questions I get is “So, how can you save us money?” Wedding planners can be instrumental in helping you plan your budget and stick to it. However, YOU still have to make smart decisions and work with your planner to make it happen! We often have clients who tell us they’re on a budget, but then decide to “spring for just this one thing” too frequently. Ignoring your planner’s advice and splurging every time will certainly lead you down the wrong path.
How do you get good value from your vendors, then? Listen to your planner’s advice! Perhaps they have a DJ who offers a 5% discount for couples working with the planner. Perhaps they know the ‘hot dates’ at local venues and can negotiate the price on your behalf. Perhaps they can tell you where to cut corners and save on your catering contract. Finding a good wedding planner and taking their advice is usually well worth the cost of hiring them.
Not hiring a planner? Here are some points to help determine if negotiating with vendors will get you anywhere:
- Is your wedding coming up quickly? Vendors will check their calendars and accept lower price offers to fill the date. If you’re booking far in advance, there’s no reason they should offer an incentive. This works best for vendors you’re not particularly concerned about. If you’re picky about who you hire, this is risky!
- Is your date flexible? Venues and caterers are more likely to offer better rates if they can dictate when your wedding is. Fridays and Sundays are especially attractive as are mornings (think Saturday lunch or Sunday brunch). Depending where you are, having a wedding in off-peak season is also advantageous.
- What are you able to compromise on? The best thing you can tell a vendor is “I have $xx.00. I need ______ and want ______ if I can afford it. What’s the best way we can work together?” Giving vendors your constraints will help them determine if you’re a realistic client or simply someone who is price shopping. They will appreciate your honesty and use their expertise to design services that fit your needs. This way you’re not paying for services or products you don’t need.
Of course there are also some “do nots”:
- Don’t hide the fact that you’re planning a wedding. Some wedding books will tell you that vendors mark up their price simply because the word “wedding” is associated with the job. While it’s true that prices for weddings are higher than other types of parties, think of the extra time and effort that goes into a wedding. You don’t want a DJ showing up in the same outfit he’d wear to a kid’s birthday party. You don’t want the limo to arrive looking like it had a bachelorette party the previous night. You don’t want the florist delivering centerpieces that look like they came from a grocery store’s cooler. You don’t want the photographer to miss out on important shots because he’s not prepared with the right equipment. Wedding vendors go the extra mile because they understand that this is one of the major milestones in someone’s life. It costs a little extra to make things perfect for you.
- Don’t call and email your vendors every time you change your mind. Wedding planners like to stay in the loop on your ideas and progress. All your other vendors do not. Your florist doesn’t want to write eight different proposals for you because you changed your color scheme every month. Your cake baker doesn’t want to sketch out six different designs. Your DJ doesn’t want to re-arrange your play-list because you can’t decide on which song you want for your first dance. Of course every bride does these things regularly (ask any vendor!) but it costs these vendors valuable time every time they respond to you. You can negotiate with your vendors on this basis if you’re willing to only contact them a few times before the wedding. Decide on what you want then stick to it!
- Don’t limit services just to save a few dollars. Think the limo driver can zoom through the city in eight minutes so you don’t go into overtime? Think your bridesmaid can pick up the flowers instead of having them delivered? Think an iPod is the same as using a DJ? While I’m a proponent of cutting corners, please don’t cut out anything important! Consider who you pick up the pieces (literally!) when things go wrong because you decided that saving $75 was better than having the wedding cake delivered by a professional.
What are some ways you’re saving on the wedding without compromising quality?