Engagement season is over; a plethora of gals have a shiny new ring on their finger and are now starting to search for the perfect wedding vendor. Certain vendors are important to book early: reception site and photographer are typically the first two vendors booked because they each can only take 1 client per day. Other vendors such as cake artists, calligraphers and officiants can be booked slightly later in the process as they are capable of handling multiple contracts per day. So now that you know which vendors to book first, how do you go about finding affordable wedding vendors?
When planning a wedding, a lot of couples start by visiting wedding shows, buying wedding magazines and registering with many DIY planning websites. After suffering a serious case of sticker shock, many end up in vendor limbo: a state in which they know they should be booking vendors, but feel like there are no affordable vendors to book!
So here the stone cold truth: advertising is expensive. The more money a company spends on advertising, the more expensive their services are – someone has to pay for the advertising and the business owner isn’t going to be sacrificing the profit out of their own pocket. Does that mean that advertising is bad? Absolutely not! Advertising is a normal part of running a business, but like with any shopping experience, the customer (or in this case bride and groom) must learn how to be savvy shoppers if they want to find great services at reasonable prices.
Wedding vendors typically advertise in the following locations:
- Wedding shows (such as the Total Wedding Show, The National Bridal Show and Canada’s Bridal Show just to name a few of the most popular ones)
- Wedding magazines (such WedLuxe, Brides and WeddingBells, again to name the popular ones)
- Wedding websites (like WeddingWire and TheKnot.com)
- Online via Google Adwords (have you ever googled something and seen those preferred ads show up at the top? They’ve paid for that primo spot!)
While these are all common and effective means of advertising, it’s important for brides on a budget to understand that the vendors that are easily found in these locations generally have services that are priced at the high end of “average”, if not more. Why is that, you ask? This is why:
- Booth rental at popular wedding shows can range from $1,500 to $12,000+ for just one weekend!
- Vendors at wedding shows pay a premium in order to be closer to the door (so you see them both on the way in AND on the way out)
- Vendors at wedding shows who can only take 1-client per day (such as photographers) are often more expensive than vendors at wedding shows who can make on multiple clients per day
- Wedding magazine advertising, if not based on invite-only luxury status, ranges in monthly fees equal to a high-end dinner for two plus drinks
- Wedding websites, such as WeddingWire, charge upwards of $400 a month for spotlight advertising… guaranteeing that vendor is to be one of the first to be seen not only on their site but also all the affiliates sites (like Martha Stewart Weddings, etc.) too!
- Adwords can cost over a dollar per click…. you may not think that seems like a lot of money but if you consider that even my website gets over 4,000 unique visitors each month… you can imagine how much it would cost if I were paying for some of those clicks!
This may be off-beat, but I want you to think of wedding vendor shopping the same way you think about shopping for socks. When you shop for socks, the vast majority of people are perfectly happy with a 6-pack of their favourite fruit-inspired brand or maybe something a little cute and quirky from a trendy apparel store – but you would rarely, if ever, go directly to the Alexander McQueen store and purchase a pair of $100 socks (even if they are really cute!) We’ve learned to associate certain world-famous brand names as ‘high end’ and ‘expensive’ and steer clear from those stores when we know they are far beyond our price range… yet for some reason we haven’t learned that there are ‘high end’ and ‘expensive’ locations in which to find wedding vendors. (Come to think of it, we need a Target for wedding vendors… okay, maybe I’ve gone a little too far with that one…)
So what are these mysterious and magical places that I keep talking about? Where do you find affordable wedding vendors? Well, it may take a little elbow grease and some sleuthing on your part, but if you use these tips you’ll be sure to increase your chances of finding great vendors at average and reasonable prices:
- Stay away from the large wedding shows and focus on smaller wedding shows such as those hosted by reception halls or golf courses. These smaller, more intimate shows, often rent their booth spaces for considerably less than the big convention-center shows, which means the vendors are more than likely in an average price range as opposed to boutique-range pricing.
- When you’re at wedding shows, don’t forget about the smaller booths located at the back and along the perimeter of the room! These are often the smallest booths with the cheapest rent; these vendors may be more affordable than those who are front and center.
- After attending a wedding show, go through your bag of goodies, business cards and flyers! Many wedding shows offer the option for vendors who don’t rent a booth to still rent space in the goody bags: this means that there may be business cards in that bag for vendors who weren’t at the show (and who may be just as talented and even more affordable!)
- When using wedding websites such as WeddingWire or TheKnot.com, skip over the vendors who are listed as “spotlight” or “featured”. Yes, they’re probably very talented, but given the high price they pay to be listed first, they may be well beyond your price range. Look for vendors who are listed further down the list or, better yet, in the free section.
- When searching online, don’t just click on the first couple of links – they are sponsored to be there which means they’ve paid for that spot. Don’t be afraid to click on links that are lower down on the page or even on page 2, 3 or 4! There’s no reason to stop at page 1 if you’re hunting for the perfect vendor!
- Consider a wedding planner! Yes, I know, you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy – but hear me out on this one. Professional wedding planners, especially those who have been in the industry for more than a decade, have established relationships with countless vendors and can help steer you in the right direction not only for price and style but may also help to negotiate special pricing for you. (Although most professional vendors won’t “bargain” with clients, they may make an exception when dealing with certain wedding planners if that planner provides them with consistent and reliable business. It’s a symbiotic relationship.)
- Ask your recently married friends and co-workers if they would recommend any of their vendors! Just because we are constantly connected to the internet via our phones, tablets and computers doesn’t mean that we can’t do things the old fashioned way sometimes and simply ask for a recommendation.
So to the brides and grooms out there who are stuck in vendor-limbo, I certainly hope the information provided will help guide you towards finding not only vendors that you love, but vendors who fit your budget!