Save big with these fail-safe tips for negotiating with finesse.
It's no wonder couples often feel uneasy about wheeling and dealing on the details of their big day -- weddings are about romance, not haggling, right? But with a few smart tricks and a little sweet talk, you can knock thousands of dollars off the price of your wedding. Just follow this advice to get the best deal possible -- and save some scratch for your happily ever after.
Having a couple of options provides both a plan B and a little negotiating leverage. Ed Brodow, author of Negotiation Boot Camp, says everyone is sensitive to the power of competition: "You can squeeze them by saying, 'We'd love to have our wedding here, but this other site is willing to do the same thing for us at half the price. Can you match their offer?'"
Focus on the large expenses.
"You'll receive the highest return on investment when you're shopping for big-ticket items," says Michael Sloopka of Negotiatingcoach.com. Instead of trying to knock 20 percent off the $4,000 florist bill, knock 20 percent off the $20,000 catering bill, which will give you enough money to cover the flowers.
Never take the first offer.
Your vendors may act like their prices are set in stone, but they rarely are. "People ask for more than they expect to get, creating some room for compromise," Sloopka says. Negotiators will likely concede some of their range when you respectfully request a revised quote, he says.
Make your opening price lower than what you're willing to pay, but don't go overboard -- no vendor will agree to an 80 percent discount. "Everybody has a right to make a profit as a business owner," says wedding planner Sasha Souza. "We make our living doing what we do professionally."
Tell your story.
In a bit of a jam? Brodow recommends opening up about your (truthful!) personal situation to make the salesperson more sympathetic. "You can say, 'We're dying to marry in your venue, but we have a problem -- my fiancé lost his job and we're tight on cash,'" he says. "Affirm how special the place is, but express that you don't have that much in your budget."
Be willing to walk away.
While you may fall in love with a location or vendor, don't be afraid to move on if you can't get the deal you want. "Always be willing to walk away," Brodow says. "Never negotiate without another option -- if you lock yourselves into a certain date or location, you're limiting your ability to negotiate."
Get pros to sweeten the deal.
"Ask, 'If I pay that price, will you throw in a cocktail reception or the bridal suite?'" Brodow recommends. "They may not drop the price, but they can throw in extras." Look for goods and services that you value but that won't cost them very much to deliver, such as free use of their containers for flowers. "If it's something that costs us a few minutes instead of money out of our pockets, it's an easy concession," Souza says.
Be a good customer.
It may pay to consolidate most of your business with your resort or another key vendor. The more money you spend with them, the more likely they'll be to discount the price or toss in extras. "If you're also reserving 20 guest rooms, your negotiating power is much stronger than if you're just using the reception site," Souza says.
Ask to talk to the boss.
You want to communicate with the person who has the authority to make a deal. "If the salesperson can't give you what you want, ask to speak to their manager," Brodow says. "Sometimes just saying that will do the trick, as they don't really want you to talk to their boss."
Study the local business culture.
Be aware of how people conduct business in your wedding locale -- and keep in mind that in almost every country, bargaining is expected. "In the U.S., people who negotiate are seen as being cheap, but really, they're smart," Souza says. "If you're getting married outside the country, they're likely used to bartering -- it's just part of life."
Don't be too aggressive.
While you want a great deal, it's not worth sacrificing a good working relationship with a potential vendor. "I never recommend being a bully or telling a vendor they're not worth what they're charging," says Beth Helmstetter of Beth Helmstetter Events. "Even if you do get a discount, now you have to work with a vendor who feels undervalued and who's probably only going to give you the bare minimum."
Once you've put your deal on the table, wait for the other person to speak first. "There's an old adage: 'Once you ask for something, be quiet. The next one who talks loses,'" Brodow says. Odds are, they'll fill the uncomfortable silence you've created with some concessions.