PREFACE: I create custom packages for clients and I don’t want readers to confuse the creation of a custom package with bargaining. The idea behind bargaining is to receive the product you want at a lower price than is listed while the idea behind creating a custom package is to alter the contents of said package to match the clients budget.
With every year that goes by, I continue to be truly shocked at the way in which many brides and grooms attempt to “bargain” with me during a consultation. I can’t count the times that a client has sat through a consultation, seemed intrigued by what I had to say, praised my work and expressed interest in booking me right away but then turns around and says “So…. is this price the best you can do?”
It’s the conversation that follows after that bomb is dropped that determines whether or not I choose to walk away from the conversation. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, part of the process of you interviewing your vendors is that they are also interviewing you. Very few vendors will let themselves be insulted in such a way; many may walk away from interviews because they don’t feel the connection with the potential client and have no interest in developing a professional relationship with them.
For many vendors, especially those in the arts (such as photographers and videographers), this type of statement is particularly offensive as our products are a direct result of our time and talent. When a client asks a photographer, videographer or any other type of artist for a discount, it further implies that although they love our talent, they don’t deem our time worthy of the rate we charge. Although they may not be stating that directly; asking for discounts, bargaining or negotiating implies these types of statements which is why many vendors and etiquette experts consider bargaining and negotiating a faux-pas.
It should be pretty obvious to you now that bargaining will always come with a risk; but, if you insist on bargaining with your wedding vendors, there are several very important things you need to remember.
1. Don’t be rude!
It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, I’m still truly shocked when I hear a potential client ask “So, is that the best you can do?”. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out what their logic is when it comes to asking such a bold question; do they think my prices are only a mere suggestion? Do they think that I’ll simply lower a price because they asked? Do they believe that they’re doing me a favour by hiring me and that, as a result, I should simply give them a discount (not realizing that there’s often several other inquiries about every available date)? Maybe someone can help shed some light on this for me. Don’t forget the old adage; you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Even if your vendor was willing to bargain ever so slightly, being rude about it will shut the doors to that opportunity immediately!
2. Don’t compare apples to oranges!
Professional wedding vendors are, for the most part, small businesses. We are not big chain stores that make billions a year; therefore, we don’t operate like big chain stores. Asking a vendor to price match or service match to another vendor is a bad idea; we are all independetly run small businesses and our behind-the-scenes operations can vary tremendously which is why we all have different services and pricing structures.
3. Understand that you’re not doing the vendor a favour by hiring them!
A professional and established vendor typically has multiple requests for wedding day services. Some vendors such as cake designers, can deliver multiple products to multiple clients on the same day; while other vendors, such as photographers, as limited to 1 client per day. At a consultation, don’t act like you’re doing the vendor a favour by wanting to hire them and don’t use that as leverage for asking for a discount; chances are the vendor has already received other requests about that same day and you’re simply one of the potential clients they will be interviewing.
4. Understand that not all vendors are willing to negotiate and you need to accept that.
Yes, there may be some vendors who are willing to negotiate. Perhaps you’ve stumble upon a vendor who has had a difficult time getting bookings recently and is willing to provide their services for less as they’d rather work for less than not work at all – if that’s the case, consider yourself lucky if they’re still in business by the time your wedding rolls around. When and if you find a vendor who will negotiate, you must ask yourself why they are willing to negotiate. If their desperation for business drives their willingness to bargain, then you’ll have to seriously consider of they are a wise return on your investment. If a vendor makes it clear that they are not willing to negotiate or bargain and you consider this unacceptable, simply walk away – there’s no need to waste anyone’s time further.
5. Do your research; are you already receiving a discount? If so, don’t ask for more!
Many vendors offer both A la Carte services as well as complete wedding packages. Vendors will offer both types of services because their clients needs will vary; however, packages services are often built on a “buy more/save more” foundation which means they may already be discounted compared to the A la Carte pricing. When looking at your vendors prices, always check to see if you’re already receiving a discount by buying a package verses A la Carte services. If you’re already receiving a discount by buying a particular package; don’t ask for a further discount (your vendor will not discount a discount!)
6. Understand that your ‘small wedding’ does not entitle you to discounts from every vendor!
Just because you’re having a small and intimate wedding does not mean that you’re privy to discounts. I often get emails from clients who say “I’m having a small wedding with only x guests … but I want your full-day package. Because I’m having a small wedding, can we discount that price?” Once again, I shake my head at the logic (or lack thereof) of the bride and groom in question. I’ve written a complete article on small weddings and vendor discounts; but the long and the short of it is: if the vendors job remains unchanged regardless of the amount of guests (like a photographer) you can’t expect them to provide their services at a discount.
7. Understand your budget and shop for your vendors accordingly
Okay, maybe this is more of a wedding planning tip rather than a vendor negotiations tip but it’s important to add it in since the majority of brides and grooms try to bargain with vendors because they have chosen to shop outside of their price range. If you know you only have $2,000 to spend on photography, don’t go interviewing vendors who prices start at $3,000! (You’re just wasting everyone’s time.)
8. Don’t be unreasonable!
If you’re lucky enough to find a vendor who is willing to give you a little something, say a free print, accept it and stop bargaining! If a vendor is willing to negotiate, it’s often by giving discounts on additional products or providing some small product for free; vendors rarely simply lower the price when asked to negotiate. If your vendor has offered you something during a bargaining process, consider it a win.
9. Don’t use the ‘I’ll tell all my friends about you’ line to try to get a discount. It actually makes you look quite silly.
Whether you like your vendor, love your vendor or hate your vendor – you will always tell everyone about them anyways. The opposite holds true, too, never ever threaten slander on a vendor if they don’t want to give you a discount. The only time that the ‘I’ll tell my friends about’ may have a slight advantage is if you and several of your recently-engaged friends choose to book with the same vendor at the same time; perhaps a multi-client booking may be lucrative enough for a vendor to offer a little something extra.
10. Don’t just ask for a discount simply because you want one.
We get it. It’s your wedding day and you’re a prince/princess. Since you were a little girl you’ve always been told that you’ll have the wedding day of your dreams and that’s great; your friends and family may be treating you like a princess but you can’t expect your vendors to! To a vendor, you are a client – not a prince or princess – and you are treated with the same respect and care that all the clients with which all the clients are treated. You will not receive a discount simply because you ‘want one’.
So there you have it, folks, hopefully this guide has helped you understand the secret word of wedding vendor negotiations. Only you can decide whether or not you want to take the risk and ask for a discount, but if you do opt for negotiations, please be kind, considerate and respectful to the talented individuals to whom you’re speaking.