With every year that goes by, I continue to be truly shocked at the way in which many couples attempt to “bargain” with their wedding vendors. I can’t count the times in my career that a client has sat through a consultation, seemed to really have an awesome connection with our work and expressed interest in booking me right away but then turns around and says “So…. is this price the best you can do?” There’s an art when it comes to learning how to negotiate with wedding vendors and being ridiculously blunt isn’t it.
This article is geared towards provided tips to help you understanding how to negotiate with wedding vendors and part of that means understanding price and value.
A Preface on Value
For many vendors, especially those in the arts (such as photographers and videographers), having someone bluntly ask us to lower our prices is particularly jarring as our products are a direct result of our time and talent. Would you say to someone “Hey, I love your work but I don’t think you’re worth that amount of money.” or would that feel rude? Because asking someone if “this is the best they can do” is just a paraphrased version of telling someone you don’t think they’re worth that amount. When you have a vendor that is using their heart and soul to create art for you, telling them that they aren’t worthy of their price tag is the same as telling them they, as artists, are not worthy – and that’s no way to start a relationship with someone.
So before you read these tips, understand that asking for discounts to begin with – even if done with grace and tact – risks the vendor feeling undervalues and unappreciated and that may result in them being unwilling to negotiate. Think twice before risking the possibility of burning a bridge.
10 Tips on How to Negotiate with Wedding Vendors
It should be pretty obvious to you now that bargaining will always come with a risk; but, if you insist on trying to get those lucrative discounts, there are 10 things you need to know about how to negotiate with wedding vendors:
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?”. It’s blunt and rude and appears to be very one-sided; you’re only caring about yourself and what you can save and not what you’re asking that person to give up. Don’t forget the old adage; you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Instead of asking for a discount, try asking “I love your work and this package seems to have what I’m looking for, but I’m trying to stick to a budget of $xxx, is there any way we can customize options to try to help me stay closer to my budget“
2. Cautious comparisons
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. We don’t price match because we all have different workflows and priorities within those workflows. Even if our products look like, one business could be much more hands on and personalized with clients and their prices will reflect that. Price matching in small businesses is not a thing.
3. There are plenty of fish in the sea
A professional and established vendor typically has multiple requests for wedding day services; speaking for our business there are hundreds more inquiries than dates we can fill and other vendors (especially those that can service more than 1 client per day) get even more. What does this mean when it comes to learning how to negotiate with wedding vendors? It’s supply and demand – there are plenty of other couples who will be happy to pay our prices and the next inquiry is likely just a few days away.
Understand that if your wedding is on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and especially if it’s more than 4-6 months away, the likelyhood of a wedding vendor being open to negotiation is slim. Friday, Sunday and “winter weddings” are no longer rare and in fact, are quite normal. The bargaining power that these seasons or days had is long passed. If your wedding is Monday through Thursdays – regardless of season – you may have an increased chance of your vendor being opened to reasonable negotiations.
4. Some vendors simply don’t negotiate – it is what it is
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 if you don’t want to pay their price – there’s no need to waste anyone’s time further.
You absolutely are within your right to want to stick to your budget and a vendor is within their right to stick up for their value and not change their pricing just because they’re asked. If you’re butting heads with a potential vendor over negotiations, save the heartache and look elsewhere.
5. No double dipping
I would have thought that was one was common sense, but I’ve seen it more and more lately – so it’s got to get included in the list of tips and imperative that you learn this before you start negotiating with wedding vendors. Don’t double dip your discounts. If you’re already getting discounted services because you’ve purchased packaged items or lucky enough to have received a promo, don’t ask for additional discounts. Nothing tells the vendor that you don’t see their value like asking them to discount something that’s already discounted. These are people and their livelihood, not the sale rack with styles from 2 years ago hanging from it.
6. Respect that workload is *sometimes* independent of guest count
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?”
Perhaps it might make a difference if you’re shopping for a cake – you won’t need a cake so big if you’re only feeding 20 people. Perhaps it will make a different with makeup and hair; if only 1 or 2 folks need services instead of a wedding party of 7. But when it comes to photography – our job remains largely unchanged regardless of how many guests attend. If we’re going to be there for 5 hours or 8 or even 10, our hourly rate doesn’t change based on guest count.
Instead of asking for a discount because you’re having a microwedding; have a look at your schedule and see if you can arrange the events in a way where you’ll only need 4 or 5 hours of coverage instead of 8. Being efficient with your time is what can save you money.
7. Recognize your priorities and budget accordingly
Before you even learn how to negotiate with wedding vendors, you need to prioritize what it is you want in your wedding day. Areas of priority need flexibility in budget; if something if important to you – you are the one who needs to find the money to make it happen. It’s not your vendors responsibility to lower their prices just because you don’t want to expand your budget.
Instead of asking for discounts from all your vendors, list your top 3 wedding day priorities and re-work your budget to allocate more to those 3 things.
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. Negotiating is about creating a situation that is mutually beneficial for both parties, it’s not a situation where you just want to get your way.
9. Promises are not currency
A lot of folks will try the “…I have lots of engaged friends, I’ll tell them all about you!” as a means to harness a discount. Unfortunately, promises don’t pay the bills and like we said in #3, there are plenty of fish in the sea so most (if not all) professional wedding vendors are confident in knowing that they have an existing source of new leads beyond promises of recommendations.
Instead of asking for a discount by promising ‘referrals’, if you truly do have several other engaged friends who may need that vendors services, talk to all your friends about everybody booking at the same time, for their respective wedding dates. If you’re bringing 2 or 3 other people to your consult who are happy to sign their own contracts, that has the ability to leverage some negotiations.
10. Where does the money come from?
Saving the most important point for last, when you’re learning how to negotiate with wedding vendors you need to learn where the money comes from when you’re asking for a discount. If you’re working with a vendor who is renting product to you, there’s a mark-up on that physical product and because it’s rented over and over again, there may be a slight possibility that a discount can be offered and that money that you save comes from the markup. When you’re working with a vendor who is primarily selling their time to you, though, there is no markup on physical product. It means that any discount they give you is literally the profit coming out of their pockets.
Instead of negotiating with all vendors consider only negotiating with vendors who are providing product since there may be a bit more wiggle room there. Stay away from negotiating with folks who are literally selling their time to you because you’re actively asking them to reduce their profit.
So there you have it, folks, hopefully this guide has helped you understand the secret word of how to negotiate with wedding vendors. 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.