I’d Call That a Bargain — The Best I Ever Had

Despite my dad’s best efforts, I stink at haggling.

90% of the time, I accept the first price given to me at a garage, yard, or estate sale. I despised buying my latest car last year because I cannot play the car price game. So I found a used one I could manage and paid the price given to me. I’m like this guy:

Clip via YouTube

Much of this lack of monetary talent comes from the fact that I am very easily flustered. I hate confrontation. I don’t like presenting my ideas at work. I’m not cool under pressure. I get thrown off track quite easily and expose my weaknesses in a heartbeat.

The rest is just out of laziness. Why bother when I can just pay the given price and move along?

It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve done very little discount-asking so far in our wedding spending.

There’s plenty we kind of can’t drive down the price of – retail items, for example — and other stuff we’re loathe to attack, such as the already rock-bottom prices from DJs and photographers. (I will admit, though, to a potential bargaining tactic when outlining how long our DJ would play for the cost he was giving us: I just repeated everything he said until he ended up giving us six hours for the price of four.)

But there’s a whole school of people who say you never accept the first price you’re given – venue, catering, florist – and always seek more.

Now, you may not get venues and caterers and florists to come down in actual price — I’m no Robbie Hart. There are, however, some things you can do to get a bargain.

BUT FIRST. The best best way to stay within your budget and still book who you want is to tell vendors what your budget is. Don’t say “Can you go any lower on that?” or“Hmm, I don’t know…” If what you want is more expensive than what you got in the bank, there’s a better approach: “We really love (it here/your work/your food/your services) and you’re at the top of our list, but that’s a little above our budget. We’re looking to spend no more than $xxxx on our (photography/food/venue/music) – can you work with that?”

Now, here are some other angles for getting more bang for your buck:

  • Ask for more — or less. Prices are prices and costs are costs, but there may be services and add-ons the vendor is willing to kick in for the pleasure of your business. Is your reception in a hotel? See if they’ll give you a suite the night before the wedding and/or the night of the wedding. Are you booking your wedding in an off season or on Fridays, Sundays, or – believe it – a Tuesday or a Thursday? If the price isn’t already low enough in those cases, ask for an extra. I’ve also heard that waiting until the last minute can get you a deeply discounted venue rate – though this can be a blood curdling risk to take.
  • Book for longer. “But Miss Ladyfingers,” you’re politely interjecting right now, “isn’t the point of this post to recommend ways to save money?” Sort of. The point is really getting more for your money in the absence of options to actually save absolute dollars. That being said, what we did with our DJ was ask him to play the ceremony music, for which he charges an additional $50. Then, since our ceremony and reception are in the same place and he would already be there and set up, he said he’d just play through the cocktail hour and dinner for no additional charge.
  • Chip away. With our caterer, we took out little things: Dropped the cheese and fruit station during cocktail hour. Cut down from five to four appetizers. Went with Irish coffee mugs instead of cups and saucers. You may not be able to drive down the actual dollar amount of what you’re buying, but don’t be afraid to ask them how you can save. They’ll know what corners you can cut – but if you’ve booked somebody you trust, also trust them when they recommend against something. We asked about doing hors d’oeuvres stations instead of passed hors d’oeuvres, and they strongly recommended we have them passed. Standing outside our initial WE MUST SAVE MONEY booking haze, I can see why they made that recommendation. Don’t assume that all your vendors want to bleed you dry – only some of them do, and only most of the time. 😉
  • Shop around. This is kind of like passive bargaining – a last-ditch effort to get a better all-around deal. Venues often have lists of preferred vendors, and they’ll usually be more expensive than what you can find on your own.  Also, when it comes to rentals, sometimes you can buy certain things for a cheaper price, in the long run, than renting them. This is especially true for linens because of their resale value. Bring your own liquor rather than using theirs. Get cupcakes or cheesecakes or pies or cookies or bake your own rather than buying a cake, for which your caterer or venue may charge you a cake-cutting fee. And finally, shopping around has a final benefit that ties in more neatly with the topic of this post: Given a better price by a lesser vendor, you may be able to float that price to your preferred vendor and see if that does anything. Again, this works best when taking the above approach — “I want to work with you but our budget is lower…” — rather than a hard-driving “This person gave us this quote, what can you do for us” spiel.

There are always sacrifices, and often they can be things you didn’t need anyway. We thought we were sacrificing a limo, until we realized we didn’t really need one anyway with the ceremony and reception in one place. But when you just don’t want to sacrifice something, you may be able to make small inroads by applying a little creative bargaining.

Are you a born haggler? Were you successful in getting any prices lowered or getting more services for less? What’s your proudest wedding bargain?

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