7 rules for negotiating with wedding vendors - save thousands! (UPDATED FOR 2018)
If you particularly like one vendor and want to choose them, the time comes to settle on a price. For this meeting, wear what Ed Rice used to call "high price elasticity jacket" in his wardrobe - a simple, old jacket:
- For example, drive an old Toyota Camry to the meeting
- dress modestly (modest does not mean stinky or dirty... think "Wal-Mart" vs. designer brands )
- If you've recently graduated (within, say 5 years), do not fail to mention that you are a recent graduate (and let vendors draw the stereotypical conclusions from that fact)
The above technique never failed us and got us the immediate price cut (compared to the prices that our friends got for comparable services in some cases).
One thing to note is that your price-elasticity jacket has to be real :) (yes, we were both part-time grad school students at the time while we continued to work full-time). Vendors, as someone who has to deal with people a lot, would easily sense any outright lies you told them.
"He, who speaks first, loses"
What we mean by that is that you never want to let the vendors know how much you can afford to pay them. Very often a vendor would start the conversation (or ask very early on) something along the lines of "So, how much are you looking to spend on this?"
Say, you've talked to your friends, and they told you to expect to spend on average a thousand bucks on something. But the vendor is running a promotion on their site right now and is offering their services for, say, eight hundred dollars.
You never want to answer their question with "a thousand bucks" as it will give away your cards right away without giving you any information about what the fair price for the service is (the quote will never be lower than the price you name). Instead, you want to ask the vendor what options they have to offer you (what their basic package would be). When they answer that question, remember that the initial price they give you is the maximum price they are thinking about (so negotiate down from there).
Of course, keep in mind that vendors do tend to read these pages too. Nonetheless, keep the entire price frame of reference low.
Bring comparable offers from competition
Before meeting with the vendor face-to-face, research other vendors in the same category to see the services and prices they offer. Sometimes the prices would be advertised on the website, but more often you would need to email each vendor to get the price of a particular package you want.
To make this process easy, we created the "Let vendors bid on your wedding" feature on this site where you select the vendors you are interested in and have them submit their offers for your review. Print out the bids/offers you receive and take them with you to the meeting with a prospective vendor. If (or should we say when) the vendor you are talking to hands you a proposal that is too high, don't be shy about giving them a surprised look and showing them the supporting documentation you collected from the other vendors. In most cases, the vendor will try to keep you as a customer at least match the other offers you received.
Deal with time pressure
Time pressure is actually a technique that vendors often use against you and is something you need to learn to recognize in order to avoid making rush decisions. Quite often a vendor will give you "a special discount" (of, say, 5%) if you sign the contract with them right now (this is really the same technique that infomercials use when they announce their "limited time offers").
If you don't feel you have done enough research to understand what the fair price for the service would be (maybe this is your first or second vendor you are talking to), don't be afraid to firmly tell the vendor you must first discuss this with your fiancée/parents/etc. before signing anything.
If having done the research, you decide that you really liked the vendor's offer best after all (this is not common), contact the vendor and tell them you will be ready to sign the contract given the services are offered at the earlier discounted price (watch the "limited time offer" be miraculously extended to you again, but only because they "really liked you").