I got engaged exactly 2 months ago (April 19th) and being the avid planner that I am, I’ve already booked our venue, our engagement and wedding photographers, our DJ/MC, a photo booth and my wedding day hair stylist and make-up artist.
Booking all these vendors has taught me a lot about patience and negotiating. For those of you reading and not planning a wedding anytime soon, I’m sure these tips can be applied for booking vendors for any occasion (birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events, etc.).
Tip #1 – Get Multiple Estimates
My fiancé and I checked out 7 venues before booking one. Between the cheapest venue and the most expensive venue was over a $10,000 difference. Our first choice venue gave us the most expensive estimate, which was way more than what we were willing to pay. We did a little bit of negotiating within the first few days of meeting their event coordinator and knocked a few hundred dollars off the top right away. But the biggest win came when we told them what our second choice venue was offering us for food & beverage (after negotiating with them a bit, too). Once our first choice venue had that information, they gave us a better counter offer the next day, making them the clear winner. This gave us an instant savings of thousands of dollars.
The same thing happened when we booked all our other vendors. And even when our first choice vendor couldn’t beat our second choice’s offer, they still ended up offering us a better deal than what they started with.
Keep in mind that if you’re going to use estimates from different vendors as leverage, the vendors have to be comparable. For instance, our first and second choice venues were in the same city (literally across the street from one another) and offered the same type of food. You can’t ask for filet mignon at one location and then chicken at another location and expect the first location to match or beat the price.
Tip #2 – Be Patient
Ever hear that quote, “he who speaks first, loses”? This is definitely true when it comes to negotiating with vendors. You’re basically playing a game of “who wants this to work out more?” If you contact them right after they’ve given you an estimate, they’ll think you really want them and be less willing to negotiate. Even if you’re willing to pay their initial asking price, play it cool if you want to save any money. Wait for them to reach out to you a second time or tell them you need more time to think about it. If saving money is not as important as guaranteeing this particular vendor, feel free to book them right away. FYI, we’ve had multiple vendors tell us that they can only give us a discount if we book them right away or that another party is interested in booking them for our date… whether that’s true or just a sales tactic, by delaying our response for an extra few days, almost every one of our vendors lowered their price a little more before we signed the contract.
Tip #3 – Consider Swap Meets and Cheap Retailers for Your Attire
If you look for dresses specifically under the “bridesmaid” category, they’ll always be more expensive (like at here and here). But if you look for maxi dresses at your favorite cheap retailer, you could find a bridesmaid dress for a lot less. Another option is going to a local swap meet. That’s where I plan on getting my bridesmaid dresses this weekend. I’m still deciding between 3 options but all of them are under $100 and look just as nice as the dresses that cost $200-$300.