by: Lauren

{Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldnt Negotiate With Wedding Vendors via TheELD.com

[Editor’s note: Please note that this post was written in direct response to items presented within an article on another wedding website. That article has since been removed from the website, no doubt due to the inaccurate information it presented. I have since written a follow-up to this post, which I strongly suggest you go read after reading this post!] 

Hi friends! So today (yesterday now I suppose), I came across an article that frankly, made me sick. And now I’m FIRED UP about it, because it was oh-so-wrong! This article was found on a VERY popular wedding website, under the category of “Wedding Planning”. True, it was dated from a few years ago- in fact, it’s from back in 2009, which is when I got married. But while things in the wedding world have changed since then, they definitely haven’t changed enough for what this article highlighted to be overlooked!

In a nutshell, this article shared tips for brides on how to negotiate with wedding vendors. While I was reading it, I felt sick. Uncomfortable. Even scared! It was telling me to pit other vendors against each other (which definitely goes against the apples to apples concept of comparison– and has happened to me before… it’s NOT cool!). The article also suggested asking for a discount, pretending like you’re not even interested, and even practicing your negotiating skills! WHAT. THE. HECK?! I would never have done any of those things when I was a bride!

Side note: I myself was a VERY curious bride. I wanted to know all of my options for how to do things, what the right and wrong ways were, and when I needed to do them. But I was also extremely timid. I didn’t know what things were supposed to cost. I didn’t have someone to tell me beforehand what they had spent on their own wedding rentals and services. I didn’t have enough information to be well-informed. And so, I approached this uncertain territory with one fact that I knew for sure: the wedding vendors were the ones who knew best (for the most part) because this was what they did for a living! As it turned out, I still didn’t have all the answers after my wedding, which is why I took a wedding planning class, worked in the wedding industry, and am now here sharing my insight with you all! :)

{Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldnt Negotiate With Wedding Vendors via TheELD.com

Image by Ahava Studios

Well here’s what I think…

When it comes to your wedding, negotiation should be considered a BAD word.

 

So let’s put this bad word, negotiation, into “real world” perspective, shall we? (Because for some reason, we all tend to forget that wedding vendors are real people and real businesses- I was 100% guilty of this!)

Negotiating with a wedding vendor about the services that THEY offer would be like…

… your boss coming to you demanding that you give him or her a portion of your next paycheck.

… ordering a steak at a posh restaurant and then telling the server that you only ate half so you just want to pay for half.

… telling the saleswoman at a Kate Spade store that you really love that yellow handbag that costs $300, and you only have $150, but you really really want it!

Putting things in this kind of “real world” perspective helped me understand wedding vendors a bit more, and it also helped my brides- so I thought maybe it can help some of you! Because like I mentioned before- for some reason, when I was meeting with vendors and planning my wedding, I didn’t quite see wedding vendors as the same as all the other businesses out there. It was weird, but it was true- and I’ve continued to see evidence of this in the time I’ve spent working within the industry.

{Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldnt Negotiate With Wedding Vendors via TheELD.comPhoto by ELV member, Kismis Ink Photography

Now don’t get me wrong… there CAN be a time and place for discounts and deals when working with wedding pros. BUT it should be on the wedding vendor’s own accord, and definitely not solicited. And I’m in no way saying to not to ask questions- questions are AWESOME and in most cases, the only way that you’ll truly get answers! In fact, I don’t know about others, but when I was a wedding pro, I LOVED when brides asked questions!

I know I say this over and over, but when dealing with wedding vendors, remember- this is their livelihood. It’s how they pay bills and feed their family, just like you do with the money you make from your job. Put yourself in their shoes before you ask for a discount or something for free. Heck, they usually even DO give you something if you’re nice to them! ;)

So there you have it… why you SHOULDN’T be negotiating with wedding vendors! I think negotiation only belongs at car dealerships, in peace treaties, and in hostage situations. ;) This post also wasn’t me saying that all of you awesome brides out there do “negotiate”, but I just had to share this insight with you all. And yes, there are indeed times when you do negotiate with vendors… and in those cases, the negotiating is usually invited or initiated by the vendor. :)

I’m sure some of you have negotiated in some way throughout your wedding planning process though. For those of you who have, what was your own experience in negotiating with wedding vendors like?

Since this post has been published, I’ve written a follow-up post for it. Please go read this post about what negotiation doesn’t mean! :)

[Note: This is largely in reference to a SERVICE, not a product. Services and products are priced very differently for various reasons. Please read the above linked follow-up post for more clarification.]

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{Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldnt Negotiate With Wedding Vendors via TheELD.com

Lauren

Founder & Editor at Every Last Detail
Lauren Grove is the editor and owner of Every Last Detail. A clueless bride-turned-wedding planner, Lauren uses her experiences and knowledge to educate and inspire brides all over the world.
{Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldnt Negotiate With Wedding Vendors via TheELD.com

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92 responses to {Thursday Tips} Why You Shouldn’t Negotiate With Wedding Vendors

We love your comments, but please remember to keep them kind and positive, as this is a place for inspiration and sharing information. We have the right to remove or not approve any negative or harmful comments.
  1. Courtney

    My husband wanted to negotiate a lot during our wedding planning. He would say things to me like “Timeline doesn’t really matter, she can just stay an extra hour.” or “We only need three more centerpieces, Ask if they will just throw it in.” It wasn’t until I turned the tables on him with a scenario at his job “Those kids that need extra help? why don’t you just tutor them everyday for no charge. it would only add up to an extra 10 hours a week.” Our vendors made our day possible and I wasn’t about to ask them to do something extra for free.

  2. Darlene

    I believe I read that same article. Seriously. It talked about exactly what you writing about: negotiating. It encourages bride to negotiate with vendors when they meet them and told brides how to go about doing it. as a vendor, it made me mad! I wrote an open letter to brides and addressed this very point – would you work the same hours for less pay at your job because your boss tells you that the company is on a tight budget? I don’t think so – so please don’t ask me to either. thank you for writing about this, lauren!

  3. Abby Grace

    Lauren, I could kiss you right now. I can’t tell you how enraged I was when I received an email in response to a request for my engagement session pricing that said “We only need a few images, can’t you do anything lower?” It was so insulting, so incredibly disrespectful, that I had to wait a full 24 hours before I’d calmed down enough to respond.

  4. Laura

    I’m a wedding photographer, and I can say without hesitation that when a prospective bride practices any of those tactics with me, I not only happily let her move on to the next vendor, but I will most likely decline to work with her even if she does end up wanting to book me. People who don’t treat other people with respect are simply not the clients I am going to work with. Not to sound ungracious, but just as there are many vendors out there for couples to choose from, there is no shortage of couples getting married. Because I’m dealing with many couples and many weddings each year, I NEED to work with couples who appreciate my work and respect that I am running a business — or else I will end up unhappy with my job and unable to pay my bills! Suffice it to say that, while that advice may land some brides a great deal, it could well end up keeping other brides from working with some of the vendors they want. Every bride has her wedding budget — and every wedding professional has a monthly household budget to meet, too.

  5. shipra

    Thank you, Lauren, for being a voice crying out in the wilderness on our behalf. Well said indeed!

  6. Nina

    I really like this blog generally, but these negotiation posts have been ridiculous. As a Current bride to be,, i see nothing wrong with a) asking about any current specials the vendor is running, and B) inquiring about how the pricing is done. How am I supposed to know why a bouquet of a dozen roses costs $45 from the most reasonably priced florist in town but costs $10 at whole foods? People have budgets and you know what there is a huge markup in the wedding industry! Please let’s not pretend this is not a known fact. These same flowers have costed less for a family reunion. Hair and makeup for the bride (as opposed to her bridal party) is always double, and why? Is it because the makeup artists don’t plan on doing a good of a job on the bridal party? I don’t think so.

    As this is not my line of work, I don’t Know and I should have every right to ask about pricing. I’m not commenting directly on Abby’s situation, but generally speaking i think it’s okay to ask about some specials. for instance, my caterer was going to charge an upgrade from plastic plates for the cake to china. i asked about throwing that in for free since i was getting married off season, and i had another competitive catering offer, please don’t sit here and say the business will fail now because they did not make their money off of those cake plates.

    As a photographer, you do something that not many people know a lot about. As you mentioned in a recent post, photography prices are so high because there is a lot of labor involved. The average person or bride may not know that. there’s nothing wrong with understanding where your money is going and not just blindly opening up your pocketbook. this is not a luxury that all can afford.

    the only thing i agree with you about is that after understanding the breakdown of price, if the wedding vendor has not been able to make any package modifications or throw in a small upgrade, and the bride is still not willing to pay for the services, the bride should move on rather than than continue to haggle. I think the first question about pricing is totally fair though. If you don’t think this happens in other lines of business, you are totally wrong. It’s hard for any outsider to see why an insider charges the way they do.

    • Lauren Grove

      Thanks for your comment Nina! You certainly are right- there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with asking questions! It’s one of the reasons that I have set out to help educate brides, because I myself was afraid to ask questions and so I just took what I could get- when in reality, I could have gotten so much better for the money that I spent! So I say, ask away! Questions are GOOD things… this post was more about those who instead of ask politely, just demand. :)

      And just a note: a lot of the prices that vendors establish include service. For example, with flowers, it’s the prep of the flowers and the labor involved. And with your example of hair & makeup, I know for a fact that hair & mu artists allot more time to the bride, and often include a trial before the wedding day- which is most likely the reasoning for the additional cost when compared to bridesmaids. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the service. Brides demand a high quality of service, and so vendors have worked that into their prices for things. :)

  7. Nina

    Yes, you all are starving artists indeed.

  8. Christie O. {Hindsight Bride}

    @darlene Love your response. You are clearly looking for the right fit between her and her client. You also values your work as a professional and likely thought long and hard about what’s a fair price. The article on The Knot was inflammatory and overly simplified. I have asked vendors if they could work within my budget. I also prefaced the question with “I understand if the answer is no because I respect you and your work.” And if the answer was no, I’d ask for a recommendation. This goes back to Darlene’s point about mutual respect being the ultimate litmus test. While it never hurts to ask, brides don’t want to start the relationship off with their vendors in an adversarial way. I mean really, you want these people to feel as excited about your wedding as you do, not nickeled and dimed by a cheap-sake. I’m also a big fan of bartering because you’re offering something of equal value. Great post Lauren!!!

  9. Diana

    Kudos for writing this article, Lauren!

  10. Natalie s

    You say it so well!! Preach sister!

  11. Carolyn Scott

    Amen! I think a lot of brides forget, too, that wedding vendors then tend to have a bad taste in their mouths for that particular prospective client. It seems like they devalue our work. Oftentimes, brides try to pull the car-dealership-type-upper-hand with us, like we don’t already have 5 or so other brides that will come along for the date. We typically refuse to book them. :)

  12. Melinda

    Awesometastic post! I was a wedding planner for years and was always irked when someone tried to negotiate. I’d always say, Here are my rates. If this doesn’t fit into your budget, I’ll put something together of what I’ll do for that budget. If they were happy with the compromise, we’d go forward. If not, I’d recommend someone else.

    What brides don’t realize – and this is true with many services and businesses outside of the wedding industry – is that if you’re pitting vendors against each other or if you ask for a discount and the vendor automatically goes for it, most likely this is a timid business owner. If one will so easily discount themselves, they obviously don’t have the confidence in their pricing and in their product or service. The last thing you want on your wedding day is someone who is lacking in confidence. That’s why you hire a professional in the first place!

  13. Tanya Hendricks

    Thank you Lauren for this great article. I am so glad to see someone tell Brides the reality of working with vendors. I for one do not discount my prioces, but I have been known to give them an add on for free if that is what they are needing and are working on a tight budget. Thanks again for your great post

  14. Laura

    I’d like to add to my earlier comment that I absolutely welcome questions from brides regarding my costs or whether I can work with their budgets — that isn’t what I object to. But the original article doesn’t just suggest that brides ask those types of questions; it suggests brides pretend to be completely disinterested in vendors to get vendors to lower prices out of desperation, and that they actually “practice a good cop/bad cop routine” with their fiances so they can work it on vendors when they meet. That is what I object to. I don’t try to work over my potential clients or rush them into booking or coerce them into something more expensive than they can afford. I appreciate it if they don’t do that to me., either!

    Thanks for the post, Lauren!

  15. Liz

    Well I find this article and the comments added interesting. I’m a bride planning a wedding in November and have asked many questions and also if there are any discounts offered in the offseason. I have to agree with some of the point @nina made. Brides are people too and on a budget and there is a big difference between a bridezilla type person trying to haggle and myself.

    I think this article is actually mis-leading. What you mean to say is not that you shouldn’t negotiate but that you shouldn’t approach wedding vendors with an attitude and “expect” things from them. This probably applies to any type of vendor or business. And all this is determined by the kind of person you are NOT in that you negotiate.

    Maybe I am being naive but I had a very pleasant conversation with the woman I hired for DOC. I was honest With her and (as well as the 3 other vendors I spoke with) and let her know what my budget was for services. She didn’t have a plan that fit my budget and wanted to chat with me about it. Because I have already done most of my planning we agreed on a price together and we’ve had an awesome working relationship thus far.

    I also think @Carolyn is missing the mark. I would never take the attitude with one of my customers that their business means nothing to me. because I have someone else lined up. Perhaps that’s not the way you meant to come off but your word choice certainly hit a nerve with me.

  16. Cassandra Seda

    I completely agree. Not just with this blog but with a lot of the comments that followed. There is definitely a difference between asking and demanding. ANd just as Lauren said, often times, vendors will throw in freebies when they’re working with a client who clearly appreciates the product. I’m a wedding photographer and this is most definitely the case. When I know someone appreciates my work and understands why I charge what I charge, I almost always throw in a few extra prints, a wall portrait that didn’t come with their package, a free engagement session, etc. We do want to be excited about your day along with you. But when a bride or couple starts off acting as if we’ve already stiffed them and demands the best price (cheap) for the most product (everything), it leaves a bad teaste in our mouths. And if those clients do end up booking with us, it’s usually a forced and awkward relationship. I’ll definitely work with couples on their budget though. If they say “I have allotted this much to photography and I completely understand if you can’t work with it” we start there, I explain my pricing and why it is as such, and we see if there’s the possibility to move forward. Sometimes, after answering questions and giving further explanation, couples will realize we have already bonded and will even refigure their budget to get what they want for photography. So it’s definitely a give in take and just as with anything else, it’s about the respect.

  17. Luke

    I have no problem discussing pricing. I have no problem entering into negotiations for a wedding I really want to shoot. But negotiations aren’t one sided. I’ll discount if they’re using a certain venue, or a certain planner because those things make my job easier and save me time. If a bride wants to spend less, I’ll happily give her less or do less.

    One thing I won’t do is reduce pricesor rates for no gain in another area. I just don’t have fluff built into my pricing and overheads aren’t going away…

  18. Anita H

    Thanks for writing this Lauren! As a Wedding Vendor (and a current bride to be) I was so angry at the “negotiating” tactic going around teaching brides how to ask for less. Listen peeps, you get what you pay for!!! Just remember that when you’re asking for a discounted rate. Its a slap in the face to vendors that have been successful in the industry for years to Reduce their pricing to a newbie that just is getting started. Sharing this!!!!

  19. Stephanie

    Lauren……You…..Are…..Awesome…. Thank you for posting This.

  20. Darlene

    I agree with Laura. The article in discussion is encouraging brides to have a negative view towards wedding vendors – as if we’re the bad guys and we’re out to get you and rip you off! No, no, no! We aren’t the enemy, ladies! We are here to help. If you have questions, please ask us. No question is a silly question. Asking if we are running specials or if we offer a military discount is fine. Asking why our prices are they way they are is fine too. We do our best to educate as to why prices are the way they are. this is a service-based industry and you are paying for someone’s time – not just a product. Yes, flowers can be purchased at a lower cost at a wholesale store. but there, you’re just buying flowers. It may seem that there is a “mark-up” at the florist, but no. What you’re paying for at the florist are the flowers as well as the time, talent, delivery and assurance that your flowers will look beautiful all day long. this article does nothing but create the good cop/bad cop that Laura suggested and creating a negative view of the industry as a whole. I trust that all of us wedding vendors are listening to our clients, treating them with respect, providing the best service for the best price, delivering on our promises, and doing an honest business. Brides, call your prospective vendor’s references (Past clients) to verify if they’re charging a fair price. Did you know you can do that? We recommend it to our brides. Read up on their testimonials and reviews, too. Is this really about money?

  21. erica

    the knot article made me upset and sick to my stomach, too! thanks for this post, lauren!

  22. Lou Kulynych

    I loved your article and as a Wedding Videographer, I experience people haggling and negotiating and I think alot of it depends on the culture of the couple. I come from a family of hagglers and at times if I have a great connection with the couple and see that they are in a Tough circumstance financially I will give a discount and I think they will really appreciate it and it makes me feel great,

  23. SUzette

    I found this and thought it might help paint the picture (no Pun intended)
    Picasso is sketching at a park. A woman walks by, recognizes him, and begs for her portrait. Somehow, he agrees. A few minutes later, he hands her the sketch. She is elated, excited about how wonderfully it captures the very essence of her character, what beautiful work it is, and asks how much she owes him. “5000 francs, madam,” says Picasso. The woman is incredulous, outraged, and asks how that’s even possible given it only took him 5 minutes. Picasso looks up and, without missing a beat, says: “No, madam, it took me my whole life.”

  24. Nina

    Lauren, Laura and all others who commented: First off, I apologize for my poor grammer and spelling skills, for some reason I have a hard time writing in all caps. Secondly, thanks for explaining that you do welcome questions and elaborating on where you draw the line. I guess the blog post came off judgmental to me at first against brides who inquire about pricing. Like I said, I am not in the wedding industry and I just don’t have a good grasp on where the money is going or what it is paying for, and thus I ask questions. For instance, with the floral example I used — I did ask, and was told it was because of the labor (and the florist actually described in detail what she did). This was totally satisfactory to me (I ended up booking her). So when I first read the blog past as being against brides even inquiring about pricing, I was upset. But now that I have read your follow-ups, I see where you all are coming from, and I think there is a big middle ground where the bride is not haggling/being disrespectful and just asking questions to understand the business better.

  25. Brynn - D'Avello Photography

    This is obviously a touchy subject for both brides and vendors. I think more than anything it is an opportunity to educate potential clients. Weddings planning is nothing like what you think it will be… I for one had no idea what I was doing, what etiquette was involved, or what things cost. We don’t wait for our clients to ask questions, we go over all of the frequently asked things in our consultation, and we clearly outline what they are getting for their money, and we go over the contract point by point. We are willing to work with budgets, but usually not by offering the same package at the same price. There is always give on both sides. We do give our clients special gifts and treats both before and after the wedding, but I think if someone was honest and open with us we would do our best to make something work. Even if it meant referring another photographer. There is something to be said for paying for real experience and skill.

  26. Kerrie Hileman

    It’s about time someone said it! AMEN!

  27. Laura Burlton

    I think it comes down to personal style. I have personally never been comfortable with negotiating price with people and I can tend to find it offensive when people relentlessly try to negotiate with me. I don’t mind them asking questions, and occasionally I will give a discount, but generally it is something I offer if I feel like I want to book the client. I also send my pricing to my prospective clients before we ever meet. I can only hope they read it and this prequalifies them before they come in and ask for half off or something.

  28. jen

    Thank you for writing this!

    The perceived value is all anything is worth to anyone…that said, if a client and I don’t perceive the value of my work the same, I simply don’t care to work with them! :) I mean that in the nicest way possible, and I totally don’t mind educating on the subject of pricing. I’m not charging an exorbitant amount for anything, and I understand everyone has a different budget. Not everyone can buy the same car…
    I feel like so much of it is educating the buyer of your service or product on what creates its value. My husband gets interesting comments in his profession as well, as though the tool does the work, not the person weilding it…he recently handed his tools to someone who was heckling, and told them to try since it looked so easy. They ended up with a good appreciation for his trade.
    Can we force brides to become educated on our trades? No. Can we be open to a dialogue, yes. I understand the frustration with advice that encourages the devaluing of our lifes work. I will commiserate and co educate with you. And in the mean time, I’m going to start haggling prices at target, and my doctor’s, and with my waitress over her tips, and record the data on how people react ;)

  29. Mellissa {deLovely Affair}

    HI Lauren, Thanks for this thought provoking article. Truthfully, I haven’t looked at that other article since I was planning my own wedding a few years ago.

    While I mostly agree with the overall gist of what you are trying to say, I’m not in total agreement with the idea that negotiation shouldn’t be part of planning a wedding with vendors. Here’s why:

    Brides are on a budget and want the best for their wedding. Vendors come at a price and want the best for your wedding. But what a bride wants and heaps upon heaps of options, say a caterer offers as part of a package, may not be compatible. I don’t need an extra 15 cheese and Cracker plates. I don’t need a wine server, I am not having wine. I don’t need an extra event person tacked on, I am bringing my own. What would be your price without the things I don’t want or need? Seems to me to be reasonable negotiation. Selling unnecessary items is bad form.

    So yes, vendors know how to do their job best but don’t always know WHAT is best when it comes to any particular bride’s wants. There should be nothing cookie cutter about weddings.

    Brides need to feel empowered to ask questions about what their vendors are charging and why, AND know that they don’t have to have/accept every single thing a vendor is selling them. Move on OR talk it out, discuss a couple’s wants and needs and what vendors can realistically do.

    As a bride, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted for my florals. I had 4 florists give me a price on what they thought I needed despite telling them what I wanted and my budget. Ultimately, I settled with one who was willing to work with me on my vision and at a price that still worked for her. That type of discussion is the very definition of negotiation.

    No vendor will ever or should ever work at a loss to their business and I will never advocate that they should. However, one size does not fit all weddings.

    My photographer had a standard price for a certain # of hours, more than my wedding. We needed less, 5 not 8. I wanted to work with this photographer!! as it turned out, he had other options, well within his comfort range, that were not part of the original package but worked for us and him, in the end it was a perfect solution. That is Negotiation.

    If we are truthful, there is a perception, and sort of rightly so, that the wedding industry marks up prices. Brides are already skeptical and on tighter and tighter budgets. Wedding Vendors are still business owners and need to be successful. The best course: HONESTY. Brides should be honest about what they want and not feel pressured for all the things they don’t. Vendors should be honest about their costs, labor and materials not pressure brides to buy what they don’t want.

    I don’t agree with or enjoy the idea of playing games in the wedding business; good cop/bad cop, playacting around your interest or pitting one against the other for business all bad taste and should be left for the cutthroats. If a vendor wants to give a discount or a free item, that is their choice. However, negotiation has and should always play a part in the wedding planning business. It keeps the playing field even, so no one is at the mercy of the other and it keeps people and vendors honest. If brides don’t like it, move on; if it doesn’t work for vendors, say no thank you.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking article; it offers up lots of questions about semantics, defining words for business, i.e. negotiation and ethics. I am going to share my original with my readers, mostly brides, and see what they think.

  30. Laura

    Nina, I got married before I worked in the wedding industry, too, and I certainly know what it was like to plan on a budget! Being a photographer now has given me such a different perspective. Here’s a breakdown of the way small business owner’s expenses go: nearly thirty percent of my gross profit goes directly into taxes; at least twenty percent goes back into running my business; ten percent goes into the gifts I give my clients. So that leaves me with around forty percent of the money my clients gave me. I definitely didn’t know that when I was planning my own wedding and reeling from sticker shock. If I could eliminate all the overhead costs of keeping my business running and giving the government its share, I would happily charge couples much less! As it stands, I really don’t have any wiggle room to cut brides a deal. But I also know that they don’t know that. :-)

  31. heidi | white loft studio

    I agree…it’s not a great way to start off a creative relationship with any of your vendors.

  32. Jasmine - This Moment Events

    Thank you Lauren for posting this. That article on The Knot is way outdated and really covers a lot of the ways that people should NOT be dealing with each other. It is all about respect- asking questions kindly and out of curiosity is greatly appreciated. You should certainly know, in great detail, what is included for a given price. But thinking that we’ll give a discount because you seem uninterested? Um… no. And- there’s a huge misconception that the word wedding = higher prices. That’s just not true. For me, there is no markup on my planning services. What I charge is what I charge. For florals, I can honestly say I’ve never seen wedding style centerpieces at a family reunion. Whole Foods roses are $10 because they’re just the flowers- they’re not designed, they’re not shaped. there’s no labor involved in grabbing them out of the bucket there. Florists charge what they do because they have skill, experience, employees, costs, overhead- all that stuff that goes into running a business. The items involved in a wedding may cost more because there is simply more involved in putting together a wedding. More time, More people. and often times higher touch service.
    Like others have said if it seems to good to be true as far as price, it probably is. My best advice, pick a budget that works for you, and find pros that work within that budget.

  33. Bride

    I don’t know if i agree with this blog post. of course there is a difference in asking and demanding, but negotiating isn’t really demanding, it’s negotiating, and i think it is perfectly acceptable. as a wedding vendor, of course i would love every client to be willing to pay full price and book my most expensive package. but that’s not always the case. i think vendors need to be a bit more sensitive to the needs of today’s brides. if you can come to terms on a price and package, then you are all set. if not, they walk away and you are left with the opportunity to book someone else– or the possibility that you will not work on that date. the choice is the vendors.

    Also, looking at your examples, this is why contracts are important.

  34. Wendy Wade

    I LOVE when clients want to chat about pricing and how it’s structured. It’s a great conversation that I will have any day of the week. However, my pricing structure ensures that I’m able to buy groceries, put gas in my car, tend to my family and continue to do the best work that I possibly can, and it’s not over-inflated simply because I “work with Brides.” Bringing up questions about why things are priced the way they are is fine, just don’t start to expect vendors to throwing accommodations at you.

  35. kristin

    thank you baby jesus. I was SOOOOO outraged all day yesterday. i made sure to scream from the rooftops how wrong that article was and made every attempt to make it known to the company, the vendors, and the world.

    what many couples don’t understand is that they do NOT hold all the cards. They are NOT interviewing US, or doing US a favor by giving us work. In fact, i say this often, we have just as much control, if not more, to say NO to a couple than they have. If they are not a good fit for us, we have the power to decline working with them.

    i can appreciate couples working with budgets. but this is why my pricing is clear. i do not need to spend time on couples who clearly have no intention of paying X amount and intend to haggle. they need to move on to other vendors, NOT negotiate. You wouldn’t tell Picasso what HIS work is worth. You wouldn’t negotiate with the COUPLE to only work half of their ceremony, eat during their first dance, and only edit a portion of the images.

    clearly, there is much to be said about this!!! :) love u!

  36. Kristin

    i need to add — my last comment comes off like I’m rude and yelling which i did not intend, so i apologize!!! plain and simple ; everyone is equal. vendors appreciate and understand where couples are coming from. we are sensitive to their needs and situations. couples need to have the same feelings towards us as well. There is nothing wrong with asking prices, of if there are specials. in fact that should go without saying. the main thing is like i said, consumers do not put a price tag on an artist’s work or tell them what they think they’re worth. and if they say, i only have x amount to work with and i need x amount taken off, instead it should be what can i get with you for x amount. there won’t be a single vendor that’ll turn down the question, they will tell you what you honestly can afford with them.

    yes we are sensitive to couples situations, and they have lots of things they need to spend on. we also have mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, etc etc.

    we are all equals

  37. Megan [Glamour and Grace]

    I think this post is great. Lauren isn’t saying you shouldn’t ask questions. The original article she is referring to was telling bride’s to use more deceptive tactics to get what you want. This is utterly wrong. Honesty and trust is key for your wedding vendors, you loose that and you won’t be happy at the end of the day. Also, in terms of haggling, think of it this way: What if you found out that another bride payed $300 less for her photography because the photographer cut her a deal? You would be hurt and upset. Fair and firm pricing makes the most sense for both parties.

  38. Sara

    Unless you’ve got the lady balls to walk into Kate Spade and negotiate with the sales lady for the handbag you want, don’t negotiate with anyone else. And that includes wedding vendors. xx

  39. Misty

    Kuddos to you! Thanks so much for taking this stand for all of us wedding vendors. I wish everyone could understand your point that this is my paycheck and my sole source of income. I put just as much work into my wedding photography if its for 10 people or 200 people on a saturday or a tuesday. i hope that this encourages other wedding vendors to take a stand and hold firm.

  40. Anna

    “When it comes to your wedding, negotiation should be considered a BAD word.

    I completely disagree with this statement. Negotiation is NOT a bad word. If done correctly and respectuflly, everyone has the right and freedom to be able to obtain the services that they want for the price that they can pay. On the same token, the servide provideer has the right and freedom to decline a bride/groom should their price be lower than what they can afford to take.

    You asked what people’s negotiation experiences were Like. Here’s mine:
    Venue: I calculated ahead of time what my fiance and I could afford. I also had a list of must haves. I emailed multiple venues if they were able to meet our hard budget with our list of must haves. I asked nicely and respectuflly and mentioned that I would understand if they couldn’t. Several venues returned back with Nos. Others said they can come close but not completely. We ended up with a venue that came very close but not completey…but they won us over with excellent customer service/people skills, AND humility even though they already had raving reviews. They didn’t come at us like “oh we don’t need your business because we’re so good and everyone wants us” attitude.

    Photography: We basically had the same strategy. We had our hard budget and didn’t want alot of extras like albums, etc. For the type of pictures I wanted, I knew I could only afford someone who was good but still starting to make a name in the industry. So, I went with someone new. I emailed a few people who sent us their rates and I respectfully said I’m sorry but I can’t meet that….Is there any way we can take away some of your package offerings like an album or reduce the number of shooting hours? Some got annoyed and some said ok we can definitely work with you. I believe this type of negotiation is NOT done in a bad way.

    All of our other negotiations were basically done this way. We had our budget…now who can meet that? I can already hear some vendors reading this thinking that oh, you mustve have gotten the bottom dwellers who will take what they can get. And I would say that it’s completely untrue. our wedding was better than I could have expected and our vendors were wonderful. Because of the excellent service that we recieved, we tipped VERY generously.

    Lastly, I don’t want or need to ask questions about why your rate is the way it is. I don’t care to know that you have to pay for healthcare or your overhead costs. That is your business and you figure out for yourself what you should charge based on your skills, reputation, and overall service offering. I as a Bride care about what I can afford. I’m not just going to sit back and Pay for anything at face value. If you’re offering something that I don’t need, I’m going to ask if it can be removed for less money.

    yes, there are rude brides out there…and there are as many rude vendors as there are rude brides. But just because there are a few bad apples in the mix does not make the word “negotiation” a bad word.

    • Lauren Grove

      Anna, your examples and experiences in negotiating for your wedding are great! THAT is the way to do it- polite and up front. Unfortunately, the article that I was basing this post off of was supporting methods that were anything but that. But you are an excellent example of how brides can successfully negotiate in a way that works for all parties! Thank you for your insightful comment! :)

  41. Sammantha {ImprintCinema}

    So after reading this post, the article to which it refers, and all the comments so far, i would like to share a little. I am a Wedding Cinematographer and a recent bride and I think most people here have a point. Yes the article that prompted this post is dated but from my own experience as a wedding pro- there are brides who do negotiate this way and treat their vendors like they are doing us a favor-which isn’t cool. And I think that Lauren has a fabulous point that negotiating shouldn’t be initiated from the couple-there is a difference between asking if a “package” can be changed and negotiating a price down. Negotiating for a lower price gives the connotation that their work does not have as much value to you as what they are asking. Asking questions like “do you charge less for off season or off days” or “are you running any specials” is not negotiating. Negotiating is telling a wedding professional- I know you ask this much for this BUT, I would like to pay you this much for it instead.
    On another note, we do not negotiate our prices- they are what they are for a reason. But occasionally we will work with a couple to find what we can do (sometimes that means changing a collection to fit the couples needs better, and sometimes it means recommending them to a different cinematographer) for a couple.
    And lastly, I so appreciated the mention in a comment that there should be no “cookie cutter” when it comes to weddings… Amen! No two are alike and we have incorporated a la carte pricing for our couples because I believe this. And, I say this because I think it keeps our couples from having to ask questions about lots of things. Our price list explains how everything is priced and we go through it with each couple to explain why everything is that way.
    Love Lauren’s post and I think some of the comments are a miscommunication about the difference of “negotiating” and “asking questions”.

  42. Wesley Leytham

    If I could add one point to all this that I think needs to be made…. Wedding vendors are not huge corporations. They are not “making bank” every weekend. These are small business owners who work extremely hard to do a very difficult job. Weddings are extremely stressful on everyone behind the scenes. I do not know one wedding vendor/owner I would consider wealthy. They do what they can to make a modest living. While I realize weddings can be expensive, please honor the people who make that day happen for you by paying them what they are worth and do not haggle them like a used car salesman. Every dollar you haggle off is one less dollar they can put back into their business. for a photographer, that could mean a new camera they need to shoot your wedding or for the florist, a couple of extra hired hands to make sure everything is perfectly put in place on your wedding day. Most vendors charge what they need to survive as a business. Anything less means they may not be there for the next bride.

  43. Peggy

    I am a home baker in Texas, where our laws were recently changed to allow us to bake from home and sell for profit, with limitations. Although i do not have the same overhead as a commercial baker, i do try to keep my pricing in line with theirs. My skills are as good as theirs and in some cases better than. While I am completely self-taught, i will say that I do not put any less work or care into my finished product than the commercial or trained baker does. I go out of my way to accommodate my client, within reason. But I do not cut my prices to make a sell. While it is frustrating to be told that my price is too expensive,, my feeling is that my work and talent are worth the price. People don’t often walk into a commercial bakery and tell them that their prices are too high for a product. If the work is something that a client is happy with, and they feel like they are getting the best cake for their event, one that is their dream cake, they should be comfortable with the price quoted. It may be necessary for the client to lower their expectations or compromise on a less “dreamy” cake if they really want the baker to be their cake decorator. With the outbreak of cake decorating competitions on Television, there is an expectation that a person can have the same thing and that it wont cost much. While those competitors do win a hefty prize, they paytheir own way to the show, including equipment they want to use at the show, hotel costs, etc. before they win, they’ve spent the money. If they have a shop, while they are on the show, someone has to run the shop and they are paying for that person to continue to be there too. it’s not hard to see why cakes cost so much when you realize the amount of time that goes into each aspect. Personally, i make sugar flowers for my cakes. this takes many many hours of creating and drying time to make the flowers, each one individually. My cakes are baked fresh, never frozen. I spend many hours in my kitchen just making the cakes. There is so much time involved in creating a wonderful product.. The last place you would want to “negotiate” a price, would be with your cake decorator. they are creating the first thing you will eat as a married couple, the thing you share with your family and friends. Dont skimp on the cake to cut corners….. ask the florist for a better deal – just kidding on that.

  44. Daniel Cruz

    Thank you Lauren for sharing your thoughts, and for protecting our craft.

  45. Teryl

    @Lauren, Thank you for mentioning that hair & makeup artists usually do trial runs! I have been in the industry for many years and always do a trial with my bride in the weeks prior to the wedding. So if you think about it, I am doing their hair & makeup twice! That’s how we make sure we achieve the look they desire for their special day. I also make myself open via email to any bridesmaid who has any questions about their styling. I welcome their thoughts, love to see their “inspiration” photos and if possible a photo of them. That way I come prepared to do my best job possible for the day of the event and not be surprised by anything. Ultimately my goal is to make everyone feel as beautiful as possible. I have been fortunate to have worked with many wonderful brides/bridesmaids and have luckily not had to deal with this topic often, but it’s nice to see the thoughts written down & know I’m not the only vendor who feels this way occasionally. Thanks for posting! Happy Spring everyone!

    • Erica

      Every wedding make-up and hair artists have said they CHARGE for a trial run, at least in my area. Do you do a trial for no charge? If so, that’s impressive!

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  47. Deb Esling

    I am not in the wedding business (we do web design), and I got married about 100 years ago … but I find that most vendors — in all areas — go above and beyond the call of duty. the are ALREADY undervalued, and I would think it’s offensive to ask for discounts. Find someone to work with that fits your budget in the first place.

  48. Jesse Caya

    You are more likely to get exactly what you ordered when you pay for it with cash, rather than with promises, favors, and concessions.

  49. elijah Paul

    The difference is motive.

    It is smart for a customer to inquire about any available “incentives and packages” as to take each option into consideration in order to make the best decision.

    A customer becomes very difficult to serve when the inquiry becomes an insatiable and ignorant demand.

    From a broader perspective, it is in the best interest of BOTH parties to build a lasting relationship with each other, founded on mutual respect so that expectations from both parties are met.

    “Frustration occurs when expectation lacks communication”

  50. A cake to remember

    I don’t mind if a bride wants to ask for a discount, there’s nothing wrong with asking. I don’t usually give discounts, though, because my pricing is where it is for a reason, and I will explain that to the bride if she does ask. I think that taking these kinds of articles personally is pretty pointless, it’s just more bad advice from the wedding industry. Brides who ask for discounts might really love your work but just can’t afford it, so having someone ask for a discount doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t value your work. I drive a Volvo and I love it, but I can’t afford to buy a new one…so I negotiate when I buy a used one.. Doesn’t mean that I don’t place a high value on it, I just have to figure out how to afford one. Dont take this kind of article personally, there are better things to stress out about!

  51. Anna

    I still disagree with the title of this post and you saying that when it comes to weddings, negotiations should be considered a bad word. I think you have the definition of negotiations wrong here. What you and most of the vendor comments described here are brides being straight up cheap and not valuing your work. I don’t know what that’s called but thats not negotiating. I guess on the same token, that outdated article wasn’t talking about either.

  52. Shelly

    I totally agree with your comment that asking someone if you can pay them less is like someone telling you that you should be making less money. However, I do think it’s okay to be honest with a vendor and say “I really love your services, but My budget for photography/catering/florals are X. I totally respect your business, but I’d love to work with you. If you think we can make this work by customizing a package that meets my budget and needs, that would be great. If not, I thank you for the time you took to talk to me”. through this, I’ve gotten am AMAZING photographer (who has been featured on major wedding blogs and gotten stellar client reviews) to offer me a great package without any travel costs. She also threw in some extras that i wasn’t even asking for, all because i was honest and asked nicely. I’m using the same approach with caterers now, and there have been many people who are willing to work with me to bring down the costs to meet my budget. i don’t think negotiation is necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re not doing it in a self-entitled way and just are up front about what your constraints and and then it’ll be up to them whether they’d like to work with you or not.

  53. Damien

    As business people, vendors should know how to negotiate. This article seems to stem from a fear, or lack of skills at the negotiation table. Everything is negotiable. I negotiate with my tailor, I negotiate with my mechanic, I even negotiate at the grocery store! Writing articles like this is why people don’t look at wedding vendors as real businesses. You don’t like your clients trying to get the best value? I’m sure every business on earth would like to set prices and just have people pay them but that’s not how the real world works. Why do you think your brides want to negotiate with you in the first place? It’s because the venue negotiated to give them a good rate on their tuesday afternoon wedding! is the venue any less of a real business? When you buy your marketing do you not try to negotiate? When you are printing your business cards do you see if you can get a cheaper price for ordering in a higher quantity? I hope you do.

  54. Kip Wilson

    I try to keep my prices fair and competitive, but I still have to make a profit and a living. I am a mobile DJ and a Videographer.
    With my DJ service, I have a regular price for the basic service and other prices for packages with more added. My prices for DJ service are for up to 4 hours of service and additional charges for each extra hour after that. I get people calling wanting me for only an hour or 2 hours and wanting to pay very little, but the biggest part of the base price is setting up the equipment. A lot of work goes into loading and unloading speakers, lights, etc. and setting them up and taking them down. If I am doing less time, I may give a slight discount, but I am not going to give someone half off or more and still have to do all of the loading and unloading. The DJing easy part.
    As a videographer, so many people think your prices are far too high, but they do not understand so much about videography. The cost of equipment, having a good videographer that understands the equipment and has the skill and talent to give you the best quality work. (And believe me, I have seen so many videographers who had top of the line equipment and no idea how to use it) and you often have to pay a whole crew, and they only see you there when you are shooting. They do not understand how many hours preparing and how many hours after the event that you spend in post productions editing. An hour long video that most people see often involved 3 or more people on a crew and sometimes can involve days or weeks worth of editing.
    I try to keep my prices in a range that makes it worth my time and effort, covers my expenses and gives me a good profit. Otherwise I would not be in business. When people think I am too expensive, I tell them to shop around. They quickly learn that I am very reasonable. I sometimes may be able to offer a discount or maybe throw in a little something extra. But you have to think about if you got a job and they wanted you to travel and provide your own tools and do all of the work and deliver the finished product but they didn’t want to pay enough for you to have any money in your pocket after you pay for your gas, etc. You have to expect to pay good money for a good DJ or Videographer. And people who try to go the cheap route (Uncle with a video camera or nephew with an ipod) ALWAYS regret it!

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  56. Lacy

    obviously…there is a right and a wrong way to do everything… damien… i have to disagree with you… I don’t think this article stems from fear… I think it stems from.. “Please for the love of God lets educate our brides on what it takes to run this business” as a photographer… why would i give my brides a discounted price for a week day wedding? i A. cap my weddings off at a certain number and B. It is the SAME amount of work on the back end… I understand the reasoning is… “they aren’t taking a prime wedding day” but it doesn’t matter…it is the same amount of work… why would you charge less for that? And negotiating business cards is different… That is why we offer PACKAGES …the higher the dollar amount the more value you get… printers give you more quantity for lower price because that is THEIR way of negotiating to get more money… They don’t give you 250 for $100 or 500 for $100…they say 250 business cards for $100 or 500 business cards for $150. I know that at the end of the year when taxes are due…if I made $150,000 I am walking away with less than a third of that… If I’m lucky… and a lot of that goes back into the business… so no… negotiating is not usually something that is always welcome…

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  58. Justice

    I’m not in any way involved in the wedding industry. However, all of the points you make are a little silly. The examples given of what negotiating with a wedding vendor are not similar in any way.

    Here’s the deal, negotiations is a part of life around the world. Everything you have bought, in some way, has had to be negotiated. Any clothing, electronics, ANYTHING, and I mean anything, from your house to clothes to food, has been negotiated to be bought before it is sold to you.

    Again, I’m not apart of the industry but telling people to not negotiate is absurd when it is a normal part of life, and the worst that could happen is that someone says no

    • Lauren Grove

      Hi Justice! Yes you are so very right. This post was written in direct response to a post about “negotiation” on another website, and I’m afraid it ended up being taken the wrong way. The thing was, these “negotiation” tactics that I wrote this post in response to weren’t even really negotiation anyways. I did write a follow-up post to this one, and I would love if you read that to perhaps clear some things up. :) http://theeverylastdetail.com/2012/05/24/thursday-tips-what-negotiation-doesnt-mean/

    • what brides need to know

      So you negotiate your meal at the restaurant you ate at? Or you negotiate the cost of the item you bought at the store, or your spa treatment or the personal trainer or better yet your lawyer?

      • Flex

        This is a ridiculous argument.
        Do you negotiate on a car? A house? I assume so because that is STANDARD PRACTICE for large ticket items, and I’m sorry but a wedding is a HUGE expense (as much as a car), so there is NOTHING wrong with asking vendors to work within your budget. Don’t take the contract if you can find a better market rate elsewhere.

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  60. What brides need to know

    I am a wedding planner. We do mostly destination weddings. If you contact vendors and try to negotiate or ask for discounts and try to price shop vendors in our area it is not beneficial. Do to our small community and close network word travels fast. I know of a couple that tried to play vendors against each other and the results were not what they expected. No one would take their wedding. They ended up with a group of vendors not even willing to take their business. Wedding professionals are in a very difficult line of business. And unfortunately brides have lost the true meaning of their wedding and have allowed themselves to get wrapped up in all the wants and are willing to use, abuse and step on anyone in there way. I have watched many brides do this and the results were nothing but beneficial. There are many wonderful professionals. Some are willing to work with a sweet couple. I put an enfaces on the word SWEET…. Bridezilla and groomzilla’s don’t get very far. You get more with sugar than spice. I love the couple we work with and will do anything and everything I can to make their wedding dreams a reality but with that being said I will not allow them to mistreat the vendors I recommend. Allow your planner to work the pricing out. They have your best interest at heart. And remember if they do your wedding for a low price this could be a bad sign. Either they are desperate for the business, new in business, or they are going out of business….. Just a thought.

    • Erica

      On the other hand, I think wedding professionals have lost the true meaning of a wedding. I think it’s disgraceful that you can have a party for a certain amount of money, but as soon as you said the “w” word they add on 2 zeros. While I understand some things are more expensive than weddings, a lot of vendors try to gouge brides because they think they will spend as much as necessary for a “perfect” day. Maybe that’s not you, but it is a lot of vendors.

  61. Angela

    I recently found a wedding photographer that I loved, that was also available on my wedding day – so I politely asked whether they offered Friday wedding discounts. I also asked whether opting out of an engagement session would reduce the price of the package we were interested in. These did not seem like unreasonable questions to me, given that many vendors do offer reduced prices on Fridays and are often willing to craft personal packages. Then, in their reply (roughly 5 hours later), they were suddenly unavailable on our wedding day.

    Because our wedding is over a year away I had a hard time believing this was possible, so I searched online to understand whether what I did was considered “rude” in the industry. That’s when I came across this article. I truly think that all of the people posting above (all apparently vendors themselves) DO forget what it was like to plan a wedding and know nothing about what is acceptable regarding negotiating price. Most brides do not understand where these extremely high prices are coming from, especially since, as Erica pointed out – it’s just the word WEDDING that triples the price tag. And please don’t say things like “this would never happen in your own job or in any other context” because that just isn’t true. I have clients negotiate with me in my line of work on a daily basis, as does my fiance. Price negotiation is NOT exclusive to the wedding industry.

    I even came across a wedding photographer today that had “people who ask for discounts” in the dislikes section of their website. That to me is just tactless. I empathize that these money issues can be frustrating, especially when deadling with clients that don’t understand the love and labor that go into your work, but please don’t turn away a client that doesn’t understand or know any better, and certainly don’t act like you are the only ones that ever have had to deal with these issues. Now, after reading this article, I know that this is a frustrating topic for wedding vendors, but many brides don’t. So please show some class and politely decline to offer a discount or explain your reasoning, don’t just assume that people are cheap and couldn’t possibly understand your financial needs as an independent contractor and turn them away. End rant.

  62. Shea (a Bride)

    Wow, am I glad I didn’t read that article! I’m guessing I would’ve felt just as uncomfortable. From the sounds of it, I’m a bit like you were, a curious, timid bride as I plan my wedding. I will admit I absolutely love shopping around and looking for deals, but it never crossed my mind to ask a vendor to change their price.. I’ve asked some for their prices, they gave them to me, and a few were too high so I smiled and thanked them for their help. I’ve asked bakers if there was a cheaper alternative to wedding cake, but I couldn’t even fathom insulting them like that. Ugh. Thanks for posting this!

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  64. Katt (a Bride)

    This article, a little old albeit, made me a little angry. Write a comment angry.

    You say not to negotiate with wedding vendors, and yet, you say negotiations belong with car salesmen. Being engaged to one, I can tell you, that asking a car salesmen for a discount is the nor, but also, as to the example you used, taking money out of their pockets that they use to feed their families.

    The same could to said that if you can’t afford the car at MRSP, don’t buy it, and yet, I bet you asked for a better price on the vehicle you bought.

    I would have to agree that when certain vendors hear the Wedding word, they do add to the prices. Food and Beverage minimums are a lovely example. How do you expect a venue for 60 people to spend $8000 on F&B minimums realistically? Now, saying that, stick to your budget, I agree, but being ‘insulted’ when someone tries to negotiate is ridiculous.

  65. Sarah (a Bride)

    Just started planning a wedding and I came across this old article. I was a little surprised to see the phrase, “Negotiation should be considered a bad word.” Really? This is a business. Certainly each party – the bride-groom team and the vendor – should be respectful of one another as they discuss price and neither party should enter into the discussion with a sense of entitlement. But, at the end of the day, this is a business agreement with a contract and payment for services and products. Vendors should not be personally insulted when a customer attempts to negotiate a price.

    Mom is insulted when you return the birthday gift she gave you back to the store for cash. Business women and men are not insulted when you ask for a better price. They can either give you a better price or not.

    Someone made an analogy with other professions and said that negotiating in this way would be very odd in other professions. Not at all. My boss and I negotiated my salary. I did not feel insulted when she didn’t pay me my asking salary. We talked about it until we decided on a salary that she was willing to pay and that seemed reasonable to her based on the services I would provide and one where I felt I was getting a fair “price” for my effort. Had she not offered me a reasonable salary I would have declined the job offer and looked elsewhere. Isn’t that how these things are supposed to work?

    Also, the wedding industry is one that people interact with very few times in their lives as consumers. For that reason, the pricing system of almost everything wedding related is incredibly opaque to consumers.

    Most brides and grooms certainly do not want to make a vendor feel insulted. But please understand that most of us genuinely need information about how much and what quality wedding our particular budgets can buy. If you can’t offer a lower price, you can’t offer a lower price. Don’t take it personally.

  66. Caroline Lima (a Bride)

    Amazing post Lauren!!!!!! I really enjoy reading al the awesome info you share on your blog!

  67. Cathy Olson (just curious)

    Interesting debate on both sides.

    I see that quite a few people likened hiring wedding vendors to buying a car or a house. This is like comparing apples to oranges. There is a huge difference in comparing property-based business and service-based – or more appropriately – professional service-based business.

    In a property-based business the price is determined by market value, and it’s perceived worth. It’s not about how much it cost to build the house, it’s about what someone is willing to pay for it. There also is no cut and dry way to know the value of something in a property-based business, so that is where negotiation comes in. Since there isn’t really a set price, it has to be determined by negotiation.

    A service-based business runs in a completely different way. The cost is determined by materials, overhead and expertise. The first two items are cut and dry. It cost what it costs and it’s all in the number crunching. The last part is where the perceived rudeness can come in if you try to negotiate.

    Asking to negotiate a rate based on what their expertise is worth is unfair. People are not property. These are human beings and it is hurtful to tell them they are worth less. Go ahead and negotiate on deliverables all day, add or subtract items, or time, based on your budget and needs, but never ask a vendor to lower on the price of their expertise for any reason. It is more than fair to let them determine their own worth as an artist or service provider. As a prospective client, you have no right to tell them how much they are worth, and when you’re trying to negotiate their expertise rate, that’s exactly what you are inadvertently doing.

    Your budget does not determine how much THEY are worth. This is an important distinction to make, that I don’t know that anyone has touched on here.

  68. Bride (a Bride)

    Cathy, it is not for brides to coddle wedding vendors. Sometimes what they decide they are worth is not at all in line with reality. I realize some brides don’t understand how long photographers take in post-production, or how much bakers spend on high-quality ingredients, but you cannot deny that some vendors list a price that’s approximately equal to an arm and a leg, just because you’re a bride.
    I’m on a wedding forum with several musicians, and easily a half-dozen of them admitted to issuing the “bridal markup”. Same services, same exact package, same everything. Now, you can say that brides, by negotiating, are saying vendors are worth less than they themselves think they are. But by giving a bridal markup for no reason, vendors are telling brides that they’re bigger suckers than we think we are. You cannot tell me this doesn’t happen.
    As for people saying that you wouldn’t negotiate for a Kate Spade or a steak–that’s because you’re quoted uniform prices for uniform goods. There’s no way to customize the Kate Spade once it rolls off the assembly line. Besides, many people DO negotiate for Kate Spade. It’s called “waiting for it to go on sale.” But with vendors, packages can be altered, offerings can be switched, etc. If a vendor tells me that the prices are firm, and aren’t willing to work with me at all, I am going to question not only whether they are a good businessman/woman, but also whether they are a good person. If someone shows such an arrogant lack of compassion as to turn their nose up at anyone who isn’t willing to automatically open their wallets upon hearing the sticker price, chances are I dodged a bullet by not working with them.

  69. Jolene (a Bride)

    Amen to Angela, Katt, Sarah, Bride and everyone that echoed those same sentiments.

    This article and many of these comments really frustrated me. It’s obvious that many people found this article trying to educate themselves on what exactly the etiquette is in this situation–which just demonstrates that many brides actually don’t have a clue that this could be seen as offensive to a vendor.

    Business people (independent contractor or not) and clients of all industries negotiate for the price of SERVICES rendered on a daily basis. Just like someone above mentioned, negotiating salary is just that. People negotiate the cost of services ranging from cleaners and mechanics to legal services and even wedding vendors (GASP!). Taking offense to someone asking whether discounts are available in the wedding industry is absurd. I’m sorry, but you are a business person offering a service just like many other workers and service providers in the business world… just because it’s an art and you put love into it doesn’t make negotiation a bad word, and certainly should not mean that you have the automatic right to be offended or turn a potential client away when someone takes the negotiation tactics that they use in all other service industries and (whether mistakenly or not) believes that they are socially acceptable in your industry.

    As long as someone is respectful in the approach they use to inquire about a discount and equally respectful if and when this request is declined, I don’t see any reason other than sheer arrogance that a wedding vendor should be offended or refuse service on that basis.

  70. Staci Nichols (a Vendor)

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not a vendor at a swap meet. Deciding what you are worth as a self-employed person is probably the hardest thing about running a business (especially as a DJ….we have 70% of the reception’s responsibilities on our shoulders and brides budget 5-10% for us.)

  71. Spencer (a Vendor)

    Response to Nina – enjoy carrying your ‘bouquet’ of poor quality roses down the aisle from the fruit vendor or the like if you so choose. Come on. What a joke, of course a real florist charges more for the quality AND craftsmanship…oh, and the 100 plus emails they have to respond to for each bride during the course of their wedding planning. Get real. We are professionals and deserve to be paid for our time. You can’t compare roses arranged in a bridal bouquet to a ‘grab and go bunch’ from a whole food store, supermarket or the like. Further, the roses you see in a real florist are first grade and the ones in other stores are the ones that REAL florists will not buy. So they’re like the fish that John West reject.

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  73. Trish (a Vendor)

    While I can appreciate brides trying to stay within their budget and saving as much as possible, I don’t appreciate being undervalued as a DJ. Brides will spend $50-$100 per head for meals, but when it comes to a DJ, they want cheap, but quality. Let’s say your reception has 100 guests. It seems to be no problem to spend $50 a head for food that might not even get eaten. But when it come to a DJ, they want bargain basement prices. Even at $1000, that DJ is only $10 a head and I’m pretty sure your DJ carries much more weight over food whether your reception rocks or not. I’m not saying all brides are like that, but if brides would think what it costs per head when talking to a DJ, they could appreciate our worth. And just like other vendors, we don’t charge for the biziliion emails and phone calls we field and (at least I) do not charge for our set up or break down time. Thank you for your article!!!!

  74. Kimberly C (a Vendor)

    I was reading some of these comments and would like to address something said by Nina about hair and make-up. Many of us do charge a bit more for the bride. Sometimes double, sometimes not. I charge people based on how much work I need to do to achieve the look they want. Brides tend to want more elaborate hair than their bridesmaids. Additionally, I have one chance to get this right and make sure it stays ALL DAY. This might mean layers of my time just to assure that this hair makes it through all the pictures and this is somewhat dependent on the weather. Bridal parties also tend to book in during what would be the busiest time of your week. Any independent salon would be losing money if we didn’t charge a little more for groups.
    My brides know how much they’re paying before they show up and why. To insinuate, like some on this post have, that the price goes up because the word “wedding” was uttered simply have no interest in knowing why and would prefer to get angry at providers for charging what their time is worth.

  75. RL (just curious)

    I think negotiating is acceptable as both parties need to be happy with a product/service. To me, bargaining or haggling is less acceptable as these are more solely price driven and devaluing a vendor.

  76. R.J. Mitchell (a Vendor)

    I enjoyed reading this article and all the comments. I worked weddings as a bandleader and DJ for 30 years and when my daughter got married, I was “father of the bride.” I was one of the “first call” wedding entertainers in my region for many years. As a single operator, I took every wedding very personally. My rates were at the upper end for my region because I delivered a quality presentation every time. I was only asked to negotiate one time in my career. Frankly, I was really insulted and now looking back am sorry I accepted the job. The father of the bride came to the initial meeting with the bride and groom. He must have been some sort of a salesman or enjoyed the game of “what can I get for free.” I gave him a discount. I also dreaded doing this wedding. I felt cheated even if it was my own fault for accepting his terms. Of course, being the professional that I am, I gave 100% effort at the wedding but my frame of mind was negative.

    As the father of the bride who paid for my daughter’s wedding, I didn’t try to nickel and dime vendors. They had their rates set for a reason. The last thing I wanted was to have the band, photographer etc. feel like they were getting paid less than they are worth and taking it out on my guests.

    Vendors in the wedding industry provide a service in order to make a profit. I’ve had many people over the years say to me that it must be fun entertaining at weddings. I supposed it was more fun than working in a cubicle but it was still work. I always enjoyed working weddings and made it look like fun but my mind was on organizing and creating an atmosphere where the clients and guests had fun. Why should I throw in an extra hour for free? I had a set fee for extra hours.

    Live within your means and buy what you can afford.

    I don’t work weddings anymore but compose music for weddings and promote my two original wedding CDs.

  77. Paul (just curious)

    I am surprised why all wedding vendors feels like negotiating is such a negative activity. As a business owner, we have many clients that are interested in negotiating a new purchase. It is up to us as the vendor to determine whether to offer a discount or not. I struggle with understanding why people take it so personal. You are in business and there are times where a customer wants to ask if there are any incentives or price reductions you can offer. If they ask in a professional way, I am never insulted by the request. I am interested to see people’s reaction regarding the margin a caterer makes at an event?

    I found online that the “The catering segment of the food service market is showing record profit margins of 40 percent to 55 percent, according to Karl Titz, associate professor at the Catering Research Institute. Catering operates as both an independent business and additional income for existing branded restaurants. This is largely due to the predictability of event seasons with high traffic, such as summer wedding season and winter holiday parties. At times when the restaurants may be slow, catering fills the gap in a successful business model.”

  78. Kasey Colucci (just curious)

    I am both a bride and a vendor (I design invitations and event stationery). I am totally guilty of haggling and shameless about it. If the vendor didn’t have play in their price for negotiation, they would not come down. When I quote a job, I tell them exactly what they’re getting and why it costs what it does. I charge my design hourly, and estimate exactly how much time it will take to design their job. My wedding vendors are in NY which everyone knows is one of the most expensive places to have a wedding. If I can get the service elsewhere for 500, 1000 dollars less, why would I not bring that up? If they can defend their pricing, fine, but I’m not sure how a photo booth from new jersey is inferior to one from NYC.

  79. Charlotte (a Bride)

    Wow I entirely disagree with Lauren and I read this article at first shocked, and then laughed a lot! There is absolutely nothing wrong with negotiating, at the end of the day, if the vendor is not happy, they will just say no! Same as when buying a house or car. I have many friends in the wedding industry who will say the same thing. Here is nothing wrong with the question. Brides are people too, and weddings are incredibly expensive in many cases. Vendors – if you don’t like it, just say no! Simple! :)

  80. Shawn Swander (a Vendor)

    I’m so glad you wrote this. It makes you feel so unappreciated when you work so hard to have a personal approach to weddings and then you are told that you are a line on some spreadsheet. Imagine if someone tried that with a first date!

  81. zane (a Bride)

    This really piques my curiosity. It says I’m a bride there, but I’m a groom (no option for me). My fiancee and I are planning our wedding and just beginning to get to the stage of contacting vendors. I can’t understand why negotiation is such a cardinal sin here. There are very few things I buy, particularly services, that I don’t negotiate or at least try to find a discount on. Of course you shouldn’t be rude, but what is wrong with asking if the pricing is flexible? You even pay less money at gas stations buy using hard cash instead of a credit card. Non-negotiating vendors, please enlighten me.

  82. Rayne (a Bride)

    There is no reason why you should not negotiate with vendors. I’ve seen from 35%-300% markups on products and services for no other reason then it is for a wedding. For example, there is a website offering private event DJ services $250/4 hours. The wedding price is $600/4 hrs with no additional personnel or equipment included. Why? Well, because they have found out that people will pay for it no questions asked.

    Asking vendors for the best deal possible and then comparing bids is the american way. This is Capitalism, companies can charge anything they want for a service (especially weddings) and consumers have the right to go with whomever offers them the best deal. This is how it works, there is nothing offensive about it. Don’t go into even more debt for a one day event because you were too afraid to ask for a better deal.

  83. Christina (a Bride)

    Well… I know not everyone has the luxury of not having to worry much about a budget but the number one reason why I have opted NOT to work with certain vendors has been because of angry anti-negotiation sentiments; posted either on their own sites and/or in the comments section of blogs like these. I don’t even bother to contact them, even if their product looks amazing. A business that openly trash talks its customers for trying to negotiate services or fees (whether they’re a skilled negotiator or not) is one that I have no interest in doing business with. I will gladly pay more for the seasoned professional who can act like one too.

    On a side note. I doubt that any of you would ever agree to pay full MSRP for a new car or that you’d consider doing business with a dealership whose owner actively engages in bad mouthing prospective customers for trying to negotiate with them in public forums,their website and/or blog. It’d be just as easy to take your business to the next dealership and wiser too. After all, if a business doesn’t care about earning your business to begin with; they’re probably not going to care for your business either once you’ve parted with your cash.

  84. Molly (a Bride)

    This post assumes that negotiating means you’re trying to screw the vendors which is not at all true. The markup on weddings is insane. Asking me to pay $4000 for an open bar when I can pay $1000 for the alcohol, bartenders, and liquor license is bonkers. Also, negotiating doesn’t necessarily mean just getting a lower cost. Say you want to work with a caterer who charges $100 per person for a three course meal and hors d’houvres but you have only $6500 budget for 100 people. You want your friends and family to be there and you can’t afford to go into debt for your wedding so you ask what they can do. Maybe the caterer can offer a options like serving gourmet burgers and fries instead of steak and salmon or cutting the number of hors d’houvres options. If they don’t want your business they don’t have to take it, but they also shouldn’t be rude or suggest that the bride is trying to screw them over because she can’t afford a $10k food bill for one night event. Negotiating involves compromise on both sides. This post is obnoxious for suggesting otherwise.

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