Wedding planning is supposed to be exciting, but the process can quickly become stressful as budgets grow tight. According to the 2017 Real Weddings Study from The Knot, an online resource for wedding news and inspiration, the national average wedding cost $33,391. So, it probably comes as no surprise that 74 percent of engaged couples say they will go into debt to cover wedding bills this year, with 11 percent planning to borrow over $50,000, according to a new survey on wedding costs by Student Loan Hero, a site that helps consumers manage and repay student loans.
"Money is one of the biggest factors in fights between couples and has been cited as a common cause of divorce," says Jessica Bishop, editor and founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com. "It's more important than ever for couples to plan a wedding that fits within their personal means."
Fortunately, couples who put in the time and effort can plan a celebration that reflects their style and fits within their budget. Learn how to master negotiating with wedding vendors to reduce your wedding bills with these pro tips.
Establish your budget. Before you begin planning your big day, determine how much you can afford to spend. This will allow you to find vendors that fall within your price range and gives you the chance to see what they can offer based on your budget.
Lynne Goldberg, wedding and event specialist and founder of Ms Wedding Planner, a full-service wedding planning company with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and New York, advises asking vendors to make tweaks to a proposal to meet your budget. For example, a florist can make a table arrangement a bit smaller or a photographer can let his second shooter leave earlier in the evening to reduce the overall cost. And when it comes to hiring a wedding planner, Goldberg suggests that brides on a budget assemble hotel bags and book room blocks to reduce the number of hours and overall expense of the planning service. If you want some guidance on prices for different services and items, research the general costs associated with events in your area at CostofWedding.com to begin mapping out your budget.
Review offers from multiple vendors. In addition to conducting pricing research, collect bids from several vendors for each wedding service to find the best-priced option. "Some photographers offer package deals that include bridal portraits, engagement photos and wedding albums after the big day, while others offer a la carte photography coverage by the hour. You want to make sure you are comparing the same level of service among each vendor so you can see the actual price difference for services rendered," Bishop adds.
Be realistic. While negotiating with service professionals is acceptable, you need to respect their offerings and be reasonable about what you can afford. A vendor's pricing often reflects their experience, skill level and the hard and soft costs of doing business.
"You'll be wasting your time and the vendor's time if you seek out luxury wedding professionals when you're on a DIY wedding budget," Bishop says. "In most cases, negotiations will be more successful if you're willing to make certain sacrifices to your vision to get the pricing down." Instead of requesting a discount, ask if there's anything that can be removed from the quote to reduce the price, she says.
Time is the most important element that goes into pricing for these services, so if you want to make it work, figure out a way to subtract a vendor's time from the equation, suggests Jess Keys, founder of The Golden Girl, a lifestyle blog. Keys also suggests using a wedding planner only for day-of coordination or using an expensive photographer for fewer hours to cut costs.
Know who to negotiate with. Don't expect to bargain with an in-demand wedding professional during peak wedding season. Talented vendors who are just starting their business may be more likely to negotiate in order to fill their calendars and build their portfolios. Meanwhile, inventory businesses, like rental companies, often have much more flexibility on price than a florist, because they already have likely paid off the cost of those items, says Lisa Ganderson, CEO and founder of TheWedClique.com, a wedding vendor platform. Also keep in mind, a florist has to order new flowers for each event, making it hard to reduce service expenses, she adds.
Ask for extras. Instead of requesting a lower price, find out if the venue or vendor can add value through additional services. For instance, you may be able to negotiate a free Champagne toast for meeting a food and beverage minimum or ask your DJ to play an extra hour of music.
"Venues often have a base price to cover, so while they sometimes can't reduce their pricing, they might be able to throw in add-ons at low or no cost," Ganderson says. "Negotiating to add extras may be much more realistic than asking a venue to charge less for their standard package."
Hire a vendor you've worked with before. Greg Jenkins, event planner and partner of Bravo Productions, a full-service event planning, design and production company, suggests using a vendor that you may have already conducted business with previously as they may be more willing to cut you a deal.
"If you frequent a particular florist, they may be more inclined to offer a discount, especially if you have that florist provide more than just the wedding party corsages and boutonnieres," he says.
Compare food options. You can reduce food costs by making tweaks to the menu without compromising the event. Jenkins suggests asking the venue coordinator for a price breakdown of food options, so you can customize the menu with your budget. For example, he suggests asking the venue or your caterer to provide seasonal vegetables instead of pricier out-of-season produce.
Seek out off-season deals. You may have a better chance at negotiating lower rates on various services by hosting your wedding when venues and vendors experience low demand. Many couples tie the knot between June and August, which is often considered peak wedding season, meaning you will have more luck finding deals from fall through early spring.
"Ask your vendors if they have a slower season or day of the week and consider getting married on that date for the better deal," says Lauren Randolph, founder of My Hotel Wedding, a company that helps newly engaged couples find the right hotel wedding venue based on their preferences and needs. "The same applies for wedding venues in regards to high versus low season. Saturday is the most popular night of the week for events, but if you'll consider a Friday, Sunday or weekday, you can definitely negotiate more."
Beware of hidden fees. Make sure you read the fine print of every quote and contract you receive for potential hidden fees, so you aren't blindsided when it's time to pay the bill.
Hidden venue fees are common and can include high audio and visual costs, restroom facilities fees and additional administrative costs. Additionally, rental companies are another key area where labor costs can significantly increase the base price, says Amy Grace Collins, certified event planner and designer at teachmetowed.com, a multimedia wedding-planning platform. If you notice additional charges, politely ask if they could be waived, Bishop says.
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