Hi friends! So a little while ago (okay, who am I kidding- a year and a half ago), I wrote a post about why you shouldn’t negotiate with wedding vendors. Over a year later, I’m still getting comments on this post, and I realized that I really should go into a bit more explanation about this topic.
I originally wrote about “negotiation” because there was an article on a large wedding website telling brides that they should try to negotiate a lower price for wedding services. You see, wedding services are different than other things. A wedding is a special day, that likely, hopefully, only happens once. As a bride, you put a lot more importance on your wedding day than any other day, and in turn, you expect a lot more- so it kind of makes sense that wedding services are different.
Many wedding vendors are offering a service combined with a product of some kind. Sure, products can be discounted, but often times services are priced in a way that they cannot be discounted. Wedding professionals price themselves based on their expertise, the costs for running their business, and what it takes for them to do their job. They aren’t being paid a salary by a boss or a company- you are paying them. Yes, it’s all part of owning a business, but at the same time, it’s a huge blow to a business owner when you ask for a lower price.
Sure, negotiations have a place in business and in life, but only when what you’re negotiating has room for a change. Negotiating for a product can happen because there is always the absolute lowest price for that product. Sure, you negotiate the price of a car or house, but the person selling those things has a point that they can’t go beyond. But what about when you go to a nail salon? Do you negotiate the $30 price tag on a manicure? Or how about the price of a doctor’s visit?
You see, there is a difference between negotiating for a product and negotiating for a service. When it comes to a service, the price that has been set tends to already be the absolute lowest. The person offering the service has decided on that price for various reasons, not because they’re picking a number out of thin air. There are lots of calculations behind wedding professional pricing.
Now when it comes to a wedding professional who is offering a product with a service, there is also a fine line there. Many times, a wedding professional offering a product is pricing that product almost at cost, and hardly making anything off of it. You can say that it’s their fault for setting their prices low, but at the same time, these wedding professionals *want* to work with you… and no one wants to pay $50 for a single rose (I’m exaggerating of course).
Image by Best Photography
I’ve already said a lot on this topic in the two posts I’ve written previously (Read here and here). However, there were a lot of really great points made in the comments of the first negotiation post, so I thought I would highlight some of them to provide a bit more insight into “negotiating” with wedding vendors:
“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.” – Cathy Olson of Love Inspired
“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.” – Wesley Leytham of Rae Leytham Photography
“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’.” – Sammantha Boyle of Imprint Cinema
[Editor’s note: As I was reading through the comments from the first post I wrote about negotiation, I felt the need to just state something in general. I don’t want to be the “bad guy”- I want to help you all. Sometimes when I write posts that are bit more “controversial”, I feel like I’m the referee between brides and wedding professionals. But the thing is, I write these posts because I myself didn’t know any of this. I couldn’t understand why I was paying thousands of dollars for just a day’s work. I thought that weddings were just something that were pretty and fun and didn’t require that much work. I was SO wrong, and if I had just been more educated about weddings in general, my own wedding would have been SO much better.
So friends, I write things like this so you can be educated and have a better wedding than I did, not because I want to upset you. My mission with all that I do is to educate brides- and the world- about weddings, and cut out the fluff. Because everyone is better off if they just know the truth, and all of you deserve to have amazing weddings! :)]
I encourage you to go read through some of the comments on the first post, and also read the post I wrote about what negotiation DOESN’T mean. And I’m sure there will be some excellent comments on this post too, so read those as well!
So with all of that said… what are your thoughts? I definitely want to hear what you think of “negotiation”!
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