How to Negotiate Cost with Wedding Vendors

A wedding photographer taking a photo of a bride and groom on a beach.

When a couple begins planning their wedding, they often have a pretty clear picture of how they’d like everything to look. They’ve thought about the décor, the food, the cake—the whole kit and caboodle. But if these lovebirds want to see their dreams come to life, they’ll need to have some excellent vendors at their side.

Unfortunately, your dream vendor may not always come cheap. The wedding industry is an expensive market (how else would the average wedding cost $30k!?), which means florists, caterers, DJs, and wedding planners can charge a premium for their time and services. However, if you know how to properly negotiate, you just might get a few of your favorite vendors at a discount rate! Here are a few key tips to help you knock down those prices.

Set Your Boundaries

It can be so easy for a couple to bend a little on their wedding budget. This is a very special day, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, so why wouldn’t you want to splurge a little on the party? If you have the extra cash handy, by all means, spend to your heart’s content! But if you’re trying to save a few cents (maybe for your first home, or a honeymoon, or whatever other reason), it’s important that you are very firm about your budget limits.

Start your wedding planning by looking for vendors that fall into your price range. If you find someone who’s over your budget, but whose work you really love, consider asking them for a quote that fits within a given price. Many vendors will be happy to give you an amended proposal that suits your budget—after all, the more weddings they work, the more word of mouth their business generates.

Set Your Expectations

A caterer at a wedding reception holding a platter of appetizers.

This is an important aspect of vendor negotiation, but it doesn’t actually involve your vendors at all. If you and your partner are working on a limited budget (or any budget), it’s critical that you set clear, realistic expectations about the kind of wedding you’re going to have. If you’re expecting a Meghan-and-Harry-style fantasy at a bargain basement price, you’ll just end up incredibly disappointed.

If you aren’t sure what kind of wedding your budget will yield, ask the folks around you. While you might not know what an average wedding photographer or DJ rental costs, your family and friends who’ve been down the aisle may have some helpful insights (but if they don’t want to share the details of their wedding bill, don’t push it. Talking about money isn’t always easy). You can also ask the vendors you meet; they’re very familiar with the standard prices in their industry, and they may help you understand how much glamour your budget will yield.

Shop Around

Finding a wedding vendor for a reasonable price is hard—and it’s hard for one major reason: most couples have no clue what a “reasonable” price is! Weddings are vastly different from the things we buy more often in our lives. It’s easy to assess the price of common purchases like groceries or clothes because we buy them all the time, and even big ticket items like cars or houses have their prices front and center so we can make comparisons. For wedding vendors, however, things are a bit more shrouded in secrecy.

If you find yourself facing a bunch of websites with “contact me for a quote” instead of a listed price, you may feel like it’s impossible to get a fair price. But there is one simple solution: contact them for a quote! Talking to multiple vendors gives you much more purchasing power, as you have concrete proof of what a vendor’s competitors are charging. Sure, you may have to take a little extra time to meet with multiple caterers or florists, but the money you save will be worth it.

Ask for Extras

A group of wedding guests toasting with champagne.

Vendors put a lot of time, effort, and resources into providing you with the perfect wedding. They have a staff to pay, items to buy, and hours and hours of planning to do! So it’s not unusual for a vendor’s “standard package” to be their lowest possible price, as it covers all their overhead and not much else. If you find that the standard package is still outside your budget, but you really, really want to work with this vendor, consider asking them for an extra service to make up for the cost.

For example, let’s say you and your sweetheart are madly in love with a cute bed and breakfast. It’s the perfect space for your venue, and they’ll even provide food and beverages, but they’re just a little too pricey for you. Do you have to walk away empty-handed? Not necessarily. Consider asking for extra services like a free champagne toast or an extra hour in the space. These extras can help you justify moving some costs around within your budget.

If you’re a savvy shopper, negotiating with your wedding vendors can be an easy (and even fun) process. Just set realistic expectations, know your budgetary limits, don’t be afraid to ask for extras, and be willing to consider going somewhere else! With these tips, you’ll be able to get the wedding of your dreams at a price that won’t haunt your nightmares.

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