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7 rules for negotiating with wedding vendors - save thousands!

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I have to admit that the timing when we had to negotiate with wedding vendors in the area could not have been better for us. Having just completed a full year of professional-level negotiation training as part of our MBA curriculum, we had a wide range of negotiation tactics fresh in our minds. Hunting for wedding vendors provided the perfect opportunity to practice our newfound skills. We were trained by the best of the best, so perhaps these notes will help you get the most oomph out of your own negotiations. Let us know how these work for you!

Below are the top 5 techniques we employed (that were most successful) together with some specific examples. These are basic principles - if you want more details, check out our advanced negotiating tactics article. We also recommend some reading. We found these negotiations books most valuable:

Think of it this way - if you save, say, 10% on average on most things, on a wedding that costs $28,000 (average total cost of wedding), the savings of almost $3,000 could give you a pretty good boost to your honeymoon budget!

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Price-elasticity jacket

Most people hear the "don't judge the book by its cover" idiom since early childhood, yet very few actually heed the wisdom of those words. This is especially true for wedding vendors who actually often use the appearance of their prospective clients to set the initial price for their services. Yes, different people walking through the door of, say, the same photographer will get a completely different quote for the same services provided. Our finance and micro-economics professor, Ed Rice, in the grad school called this same principle the "price-elasticity jacket" implying that the more modest your jacket looked when you walked through the door of any given salesman, the more flexible, or elastic, the price would become and the lower you could push it.

As you would negotiate when buying a car in two steps, you negotiate with anyone in this world in two steps.

First step is to make sure they want to do business with you. Dress well, be on time, have an expensive leather binder with you. Vendors want to remember you as someone they want to do business with. They will more eagerly answer your questions, explain things and spend time with you. You will make an impression of a "payable" client.

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Lia - Full Circle Eventi  |  Feb 20 '14 at 12:01 PM
Wow, interesting advice, but I would warn brides that many of the techniques on a seasoned or truly professional vendor will BACK FIRE. As a wedding designer, I would not hesitate to refer a client that wants to play "games" to another vendor who might be more suited to her needs.

Prices are not arbitrary numbers, but a reflection of reality that vendors don't just supply services to make you happy, they have to have a sustainable business so that they can continue to do what they love and help more brides like you.

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Nikki  |  Mar 03 '14 at 12:03 PM
Lia.. I definitely agree with you that vendors are in this business to make money. This is their livelyhood... However, I would welcome a referral from a vendor that is not willing to negotiate considering that the price of anything "wedding" is marked up a ridiculous amount because vendors prey on the emotions of a couple who want to create a beautiful memory. Thankfully for us vendors are in abundance and as long as we are willing to do the work I'm sure that the majority of us will have that beautiful day within our alotted budget.

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Nikki - vendors don't prey on clients emotions, most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

I agree with you Lia very well said. The problem with squeezing vendors so hard is that they may end up disillusioned and/or out of business. I happily pass on clients who have unreasonable expectations, often laughing at their temerity and wishing them luck.

Vendors who know their worth are the people you should be wanting to hire.
Simon - Feb 13 '15 at 05:17 AM
Wowzer  |  Jul 29 '15 at 10:12 AM
Interesting comments from vendors. It sounds like the article is saying to work with a vendor for a win-win situation and find what's right for the couple but the vendor comments are very defensive.

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Rev. Jim, Minister  |  Feb 01 '16 at 03:23 PM
"The problem with squeezing vendors so hard is that they may end up disillusioned and/or out of business. I happily pass on clients who have unreasonable expectations, often laughing at their temerity and wishing them luck.
Vendors who know their worth are the people you should be wanting to hire."

This is very accurate and I thank Simon for making a note of it.
The OP writes with the assumption that everyone is out to get or chisel him for as much as they can get away with. That is just not reasonable in most cases.
Take officiants, for example.
Couples will say "oh you are charging X amount when the service only lasts for 15 minutes that is crazy!!
They may fail to take into account meeting with the client, extensive phone conversatioons, texting, providing support, creating ceremonies, and rehearsals, and helping the bride and groom, take care of any unanticipated details - take up lots of time.'
They forget about that time the officiants invest, and discount or try to sweep it away as part of the equation.

With photographers, a similar thought process sometimes occurs- " I am paying her 3k, WOW that is a LOT!! Even if she gives us 500 pics that is still $6 a picture. Those photographers are rip offs!

And yet, they will gladly pay the venue 150 or more a plate for the guests that have been invited, not realizing the venue at times, WITH add ons, CAN make a profit of over 70 on some transactions.

Thus, the people who get hurt with this line of thinking are the little guys, the florists, the officiants, the photogs, the mom and pop cake bakers, who if subject to the OP's negotiation and "MBA executive classroom negotiation strategies" may end up squeezing that vendor to the point where he leans not to deal with that culture or type of "negotiating people" in the future.

The thing that disturbs me most about these types of internet self help articles is the OPs usually have very little real life experience in the subjects they are expounding on.

For example, reasonable business people in life WILL negotiate on certain things if you approach them respectfully, and with the understanding that if you squeeze them too much they won't make a profit.

With the immediacy of the internet, most professionals know what others are charging and try to stay in the same range.
The customers that come along with the belief that someone is going to "take advantage" of them are easy to spot. Generally speaking, it's been my experience that those customers fit into the 90/10 rule, 10% who take up 90% of a pro's time with extreme demands and superior attitutes. In the customer service business, anyone who wants to survive knows how important it is to serve our customers effectively.

However, there are some customers who not many want because of their overbearing or extreme pushy tactics. Smart businesses cannot survive with those types of folks clogging up the pipeline, and learn to avoid them or pass them on to others.

Remember, you get what you pay for in life.
The most expensive isn't always the best.
The cheapest isn't always the best value either,
If a customer wants to beat a Pro up too much on the pricing, it is a wise and mature move to Diplomatically pass them on to someone else.

Thanks for reading.

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Rev. Jim, Minister  |  Feb 01 '16 at 03:29 PM
Sorry for the typos, was sending from my phone.

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Steve Douglas  |  Aug 26 '16 at 11:17 PM
This is an absolute hoot. A bunch of self-serving vendors with outrageous pricing schemes. $41 plates, "gratuity," taxes, table/chair rental, reception hall "booking," uniform/uniformed catering staff, blah, blah, blah......

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Ruth Bryan  |  Feb 21 '17 at 02:55 AM
Thanks for sharing such an informative piece.

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Ruth Bryan  |  Feb 21 '17 at 02:57 AM
Thanks for the informative piece.

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