How to Save Money on Your Wedding: ASK!

I had breakfast at a local diner the other day. Over my blueberry pancakes, I eavesdropped on the next table over. (It wasn't difficult — these folks were loud.)

Eight people from the wedding industry had gathered to swap hints, tips, and stories. They talked about networking, about wedding expos, and about dealing with problem customers. They also talked about some of the financial aspects of their business.

“I was really worried about how this economy was going to affect us,” said one woman. I think she was a wedding coordinator. “But it only seems to be hurting the venues.”

“Yeah,” said the guy across the table from her. “People are getting married in their parents' back yard or on their grandparents' farm. They're spending less for the location, but not on anything else.”

“Do any of your clients ever try to dicker?” asked one man, a D.J..

“Dicker?” a woman asked.

“You know, try to bargain on the price,” he explained.

Everyone answered at once: “A few.” “Some do.” “Once in a while.” The consensus was that a small number of couples asked for discounts on wedding services.

“What do you do in that situation?” asked the D.J. Most of the people admitted they'd lower their prices to get the job.

“I say I'll give them a discount, but only if they commit right now,” said the wedding co-ordinator. “I won't do it if they're just going to call around trying to play us off each other.”

“What about you?” she asked the D.J.

“Well, I normally charge $995, though I charge up to $1500 if they're getting married someplace fancy,” he said. “I won't come down if I think they have money. Otherwise, I'll drop as low as $850.”

Think about that: If you're spending a lot on other aspects of your wedding, this disc jockey will ask for more than he would normally. But if you ask for a discount, he'll give you one. Basically, he'll charge you as much as he thinks you can pay. And the other folks at the table would grant you discounts too — if you asked for them.

It never hurts to ask for a lower price.


via Indexed, used with permission
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ABCs of Investing
ABCs of Investing
11 years ago

Negotiating is always good – however sometimes in the rush of a wedding it`s hard to remember or bother to do things like this.

anon
anon
11 years ago

it’s interesting that you have two posts in a row – one on making a hobby a career (which many wedding professionals do) and then another on how to pay the least amount possible for your wedding. how do you think these people stay in business?

jim
jim
11 years ago

I think that you should always ask for a better price because that first quote is always higher as vendors anticipate you negotiating. It’s like paying the rack rate for a hotel room (check the back of the door in your room to see the full price rate), no one does it.

If you can’t get a lower price, you can always get more for what you pay in terms of services.

anon
anon
11 years ago

one last thought – the best way for people to save money on their wedding is not by negotiating with lower quality vendors but by getting married off season such as jan-march. most people underestimate how much that saves (25-35%).

when people negotiate with me I think that they can’t afford it (don’t want to take the risk of defaulting on payment) or they don’t value the services enough to pay full price. I don’t negotiate, ever, and have a very successful business.

Mitch
Mitch
11 years ago

The best way I found to save money on my wedding was to go outside the usual vendor channels. I’m not the first person to observe that as soon as you say the word “wedding,” most vendors tend to double their prices. Here are a few ways my wife and I saved for our wedding last month: -We hired a student photographer. She had plenty of experience shooting weddings as an assistant to a much higher-priced photographer, and had even shot a few weddings on her own. Plus, we made a deal in which she would do only minimal post-production… Read more »

Lynn
Lynn
11 years ago

“it’s interesting that you have two posts in a row – one on making a hobby a career (which many wedding professionals do) and then another on how to pay the least amount possible for your wedding. how do you think these people stay in business?” Any savvy professional will know what they can and cannot afford to sell their services at. Suggesting that someone ask for a discount isn’t evil. Asking for a discount isn’t evil either. If the professional can’t afford it, they should say “I’m sorry, but these are my prices.” There is a big difference between… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
11 years ago

I had worked as a corporate event planner for about a year before I got married. I used every trick in the book I learned there! 1. Don’t forget to read the contract!! And before you sign clear up ANY questions you might have or cross out anything you dont agree with (if they dont like it they will send you a new one, they deal with scribbled contracts all the time from regular planners). Don’t be scared that they will be insulted and turn you away. They WANT your money! But more places than you want to know about… Read more »

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
11 years ago

My philosophy in life is to pleasantly ask for what I want (whether it’s a discount or anything else) — while realizing the other person has no obligation to give it to me. I rarely have regrets or hard feelings, either one. An item nobody gets discounts on that I know of is gas. While I notice it just came down another two cents per gallon, what impresses me is how much power of choice we have around our transportation expenses in general. We don’t have to be victims, even in the absence of discounts. For instance, I get such… Read more »

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

My husband and I are wedding photographers, and we would ALWAYS prefer a couple to ask for a discount rather than just disappearing when they decide we’re not in their budget. Sometimes we’re able to comply, and sometimes we’re not, but we welcome the conversation. Here are a few scenarios that almost ALWAYS get a “yes” to the discount question: -You’re getting married in the off-season (NOT April – October). -Your wedding is less than 90 days away (at this point, we’re probably not going to book the date otherwise). -You’re willing to get less for less money (e.g., you’ll… Read more »

Desi
Desi
11 years ago

I’ve always heard to price your reception as a family reunion. Don’t use the word “wedding”.

S. Flemming
S. Flemming
11 years ago

The best way to save money on a wedding is to remember that contrary to what the wedding industry would have couples believe… this is Not the most important day of their lives, but is merely one of a series of life events. Many couples spend more time planning their wedding than they do planning their lives together. And if a person truly believes that the wedding day is the most important day of their life, no wonder they overspend in a frenzy to make it perfect and no wonder so many feel let down afterwards. What more is there… Read more »

Kate
Kate
11 years ago

I’ve also heard that if you approach a vendor with a budget in mind and ask them what they can supply for that price, you are more likely not to overspend. Vendors might be more willing to negotiate what’s included versus going lower on the price.

For example, with a caterer – “I really love your recipes and presentation and would love to work with you. My budget is XXX. Is it possible to work with you on that? What do you think you could provide?”

ThatGuy
ThatGuy
11 years ago

This may be out of place, but do people actually enjoy weddings? Seems like a huge expense that feels like a social obligation, rather than a celebration of love.

ThatGuy

Desi
Desi
11 years ago

ThatGuy…I really enjoy planning mine but it’s extremely simple and elgant without tons of extra details (party gifts, attendant gifts, fancy location, grooms cake, etc). You just have to make a wedding your own. Most people try to do the cookie-cutter expensive wedding and it always ends up being expensive and stressful.

elisabeth
elisabeth
11 years ago

I really enjoyed the illustration you chose for this entry. My husband and I lived together for 28 years before we got married (I was waiting to get married until gays and lesbians could get married, too) and along the way I did have the occasional sigh for the party and gifts and honeymoon trip we didn’t have. On the other hand, we weren’t ever in debt for a wedding, we didn’t have any of the emotional frazzles of that event, and we’re still together. When we did get married we had two guests/witnesses and had a lovely 10 minutes… Read more »

Aya
Aya
11 years ago

My significant other and I are waiting to pull the trigger until we are both out of debt. But we definitely do not plan to incur more debt. Ever heard of the phrase, “USe your resources,” I live by it. We have a friend who runs a photography studio, who will do our photography. I have a brother who just happens to be a DJ. My uncle will probably be a judge by the time we are ready and will likely be legally qualified to marry us. And my parents have a huge backyard. The only large cost will be… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Aya, in a way, you’re providing a preview of the follow-up post to this entry, which will go up later today. 🙂

parksandwilson
parksandwilson
11 years ago

It never hurts to ask is my personal motto. Not only does it help when planning a wedding, but it can also help in all aspects of your life. If you are at dinner, if you are nice to your waitress/waiter, ask for a free drink. whats the worst that could happen? they say no and you move on. but about 75% of the time, especially if you eat at the same place regularly and you become familiar with the people who work there, you get a free drink. Remember people, IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK, and the worst thing… Read more »

vilkri
vilkri
11 years ago

When we got married a few years ago, we ended up eloping to our honeymoon destination, Costa Rica. There we hired a photographer who took care of everything – photos, of course, lawyer, flowers, etc. for less than $1500. When we came back home, we had a catered party for about 40 people at our house – another cheap version for a reception. We are very happy with our choices, since we had a meaningful wedding day that was for us and not for our guests, and we had a very nice celebration at our house where we were happy… Read more »

Desi
Desi
11 years ago

Aya…I do not agree with making your friends work for your wedding. You should have to pay for all of it. Services = Payment A reduced cost for those services is one thing, but free is rude. Your friends will be working their butts off before the wedding…that’s not right. You are the host, not them. I had a friend who did the wrong “friends help out” wedding and it was absolutely horrible. We were up all night making last minute crafts for the wedding. I was also the photographer and it was miserable. No drinking, no eating, no dancing,… Read more »

Christine Groth
Christine Groth
11 years ago

A while back there was a show about how wedding companies would actually give there services for free – provided that you would advertise like crazy that you were using them. Perhaps you were having a huge wedding and your invitations would say flowers provided by blah, blah, blah. So this could be a option.

Christine Groth
http://www.101WaystoMagnetizeMoney.com

Amy @ My Daily Dollars
Amy @ My Daily Dollars
11 years ago

Ah weddings. . . it seems like nothing will stir up more emotion or controversy. I got married over the summer and couldn’t have done it without the help of friends and family. I was paying off my debt and certainly didn’t want to add MORE debt with a wedding. So, everyone understood where I was coming from and was more than willing to help. Desi, it sounds like you had some bad experiences helping out at weddings! I’d say it’s like anything else in life. Try to be considerate of other people’s feelings and show gratitude for the help… Read more »

MJ Saucier
MJ Saucier
11 years ago

My husband and I got married this past June on the day we moved into the our first house. We invited all of our friends to help us move in and then stick around at the new place to see us get married on the front lawn. Instead of presents, we asked that everybody provide something to drink. We provided cupcakes and pie for everyone that one dear friend picked up while I hauled boxes into the new house. No favors. No DJ. No official photographer – though we have a couple of friends who took beautiful pictures. No wedding… Read more »

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

“Desi Says: October 7th, 2008 at 6:49 am I’ve always heard to price your reception as a family reunion. Don’t use the word “wedding”.” I’m sure this applies in some cases, but not all. If you begin your relationship with a potential vendor by lying about the true purpose of your event, you don’t start off on a very good foot. Instead, find people who you feel you can trust to provide you with exactly what you want for a price that’s in your budget. “ThatGuy Says: October 7th, 2008 at 7:04 am This may be out of place, but… Read more »

Rachel211
Rachel211
11 years ago

I’m with Desi on the not asking your friends to basically foot the bill for your wedding. If you are willing to pay them and they are willing to give you a discount, that’s fine. But as someone who occasionally gives my wedding photography in lieu of an actual gift, you HAVE to remember that you are not just asking for that persons time. With a lot of these suggestions you are asking for THEIR MONEY. For three of my dear friends I did their photos for free – that was 12 rolls of film at about $3 each ($36),… Read more »

Aya
Aya
11 years ago

@Desi I’d kick in a little something. I wouldn’t ask them to pay for necessary materials, now thats just not fair. Not to mention I would do the same for any of my family/friends. We are really a low-stress kind of people, my family/friends, and I don’t think anyone would be stressing out about not being able to drink and not getting paid. We have these kinds of events all the time. My mother, who often caters her friends’ events, giving away her time for free, calls it a labor of love and enjoys it. (I would not ask her… Read more »

Kathryn
Kathryn
11 years ago

I just got married earlier this year, and I definately went thru sticker shock. I didn’t necessarily ask for discounts but I did make sure the vendors stuck to the price they quoted me and made sure contracts were signed. I first called around and got price quotes and found out what their quotes included. Just b/c someone is cheaper, you might spend more money in the long run because their price didn’t include all the bells and whistles that someone else did. The vendors that I felt the most comfortable with were the ones that I choose. If a… Read more »

Desi
Desi
11 years ago

Well…for tent rental and food (if not using waiters) the vendor should not care. I’m getting married in my in-law’s “backyard” so I don’t have a location vendor to worry about. It’s a huge house on the lakefront in which they bought the adjoining lots to we are definitely having a tent wedding. The tent people set it up the day before and rip it down the Monday after. I don’t feel I need to tell them if I am having a wedding. I call it a family gather, which it is. A vendor you trust is not always an… Read more »

Rachel211
Rachel211
11 years ago

@ Aya: “You know I might, when the time comes, feel guilty for making everybody I love do all the work, but in the end it’s just a big party where everybody’s required to contribute something.” Wow, I just wanted to make sure you re-read what you wrote. Your friends are ‘required to contribute’ to your wedding? And it’s not a big, multiple host party – it’s your party. Thankfully you paid all the people you listed but a LOT of brides take the whole “my day” thing just a little too far. The last time I was invited to… Read more »

Desi
Desi
11 years ago

I don’t think Aya meant it that way.

Rachel211
Rachel211
11 years ago

@Desi – I know that she didn’t – but that’s kinda the point. Some brides get so wrapped up in saving some money that they forget exactly what they are asking for. I’m just hoping to remind some brides out there to stop and think for a second and ask themselves, if they would in turn do what they are asking that other person to do, and if it still sounds like a reasonable request. If you are asking your Aunt Sue that you only send a christmas card to every year to bake you a 4 layer wedding cake… Read more »

Lissa
Lissa
11 years ago

My husband and I were married this past January and we took advantage of off-season discounts. I was also very active on the Knot forums so I knew who was good and affordable. I emailed all of my vendors asking about availability, off-season discounts, and stating that I had heard of them via a recommendation on the Knot. Most vendors did have an off-season discount and a few added another discount for being a “knottie.” While we did go over budget in the end (we blame our mothers – long story, lol), we were able to get a good number… Read more »

Cathy
Cathy
11 years ago

I’ve always been the off-beat one. I’ve never dreamed of a big, white wedding. I plan on the most minimalist wedding, and splurge on the honeymoon. I’d rather have a really small wedding ceremony, and have everyone join me at the honeymoon destination where we can party. A lot more fun for everyone rather than sitting in a stuffy room in a rented suit.

Rachel211
Rachel211
11 years ago

The off season tip is a great one! But be aware that at least for hotel ballrooms that doesn’t just mean wedding off season. Sure, most people get married in early summer and fall – but at Christmas time there are lots and lots and lots of corporate holiday parties that are sometimes booked a year in advance. When the holidays rolled around the cost of these venues went up so much that we usually cancelled half our weekly events and for those we did have, we budgeted up to 30 to 50% more for room rental cost. Keep that… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

Thanks for this post!!! I just proposed to my boyfriend this weekend and, lucky girl I am, he agreed! We’re planning to get married in summer of 2010 — plenty of time to design a budget, see what we can request from the folks, what we need out of pocket, etc. No way I’m going in debt for this magic day! Luckily, I’m beginning a career in event planning, my boyfriend has a lot of ties to the gourmet/wine industry, my housemate is the best meat expert in town, my best friend is getting her MFA in photography, and we… Read more »

Ken Luallen
Ken Luallen
11 years ago

I’m a wedding photographer. Brides should understand that there are different tiers of quality among wedding professionals. Just like hotel rooms, cars, and restaurants, you generally get what you pay for. The best always charge full price. If you’re getting a big discount from anyone — that should be a significant red flag. Many of the brides who saved money by using less skilled vendors don’t publicly admit that they made a serious mistake. Having lackluster photographs to keep for the rest of your life is not fun. Sometimes it’s better to pay a little too much for certain things… Read more »

paranoidasteroid
paranoidasteroid
11 years ago

Thanks for this article, JD! It would never have occurred to me to haggle over prices, or introduce a budget & see what I can get. So often, people who spend a small amount have a grandfather with a farm where they can get married and have friends who play 12 instruments and cousins who are professional photographers. It’s not a realistic suggestion for most people! My extended family is full of engineers who live in the suburbs (in New Jersey!), so if I want someone to design a machine that dispenses alcohol or someone to construct an antenna that… Read more »

Meg
Meg
11 years ago

I tried to negotiate with every vendor for my wedding. It really never hurts to ask, and when you win, you can win big. Some were quite willing to bend on prices, often for little or even no concessions. We did make strategic choices, like picking a Friday night instead of Saturday for our venue. We wound up saving almost $50 per person on catering costs between the Friday night choice and giving up one of four courses, all without sacrificing any of the good things the venue was known for. For a 100 person wedding, that’s an awful lot… Read more »

Jamie
Jamie
11 years ago

My wife and I were married a few years ago and we did a real budget wedding. We didn’t have a lot of money to work with, having just finished our bachelor’s degrees, bought a house and gotten engaged all within a year and a half. It’s easy enough to save money on a wedding if you really want to, but you have to accept that you won’t have a celebrity style wedding!! While we didn’t have a huge budget, we did pay for the things that were important to us. We hired student musician’s ($225 for a string trio)… Read more »

K
K
11 years ago

I think the thing that surprises me the most about weddings is the expectations that get set. People are consistently worried about not offending others and I’m curious how people managed the expectations of others. It’s difficult enough to deal with differences in opinion with the couple. My girlfriend and I are both pretty frugal, but it is already quite clear to me that she is the one who will drive up the cost of our wedding. Some of it is her and the “this is the most important day of my life” line of thinking (which I see as… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

Here is what we did. Wedding Dress. Found one for $350 bucks that we could alter to have it the way I wanted. And I had a friends mother alter it (we did pay her) but much cheaper than a tailor. Wedding flowers: Again I had a friend do it, I did pay her to do them, but we got them cheaper that way. My mother did all the table decorations. It was a spring wedding, so we used live flowers and “planted them” in baskets. We got married at our local church, and it was free. We had our… Read more »

Susy
Susy
11 years ago

Being wedding professionals ourselves, we get people that ask us for deals. We usually don’t give them for several reasons: First, we feel it’s unfair to all of our clients who don’t get one. Second, we don’t need to, we’re usually booked up and turning people away. Third, it seems like when we used to give deals those were the clients that were most difficult to work with and expected you to go above and beyond your contractual duties even though they weren’t willing to pay your price (they’re usually the biggest pains and tried to take advantage of us… Read more »

Anon
Anon
11 years ago

The people saying that you get what you pay for all seem to be wedding professionals. How odd. Here’s a counterexample. My cousin paid around $5,000 for a professional photographer for her wedding. That price included the photography and two wedding albums — it didn’t include the digital negatives, and anyone who wanted copies of any of the pictures got to order them from the photographer at $10+ per print plus $20 s/h. My cousin certainly paid enough to get some damn good pictures. Unfortunately, she didn’t. While the pictures of the bride and groom turned out well, the family… Read more »

Gunnar Tveiten
Gunnar Tveiten
11 years ago

The completely ridicolously over-the-top weddings seems to be a US-thing. Speding $2000 on *photos* from the wedding ? That gets pretty close to what we spent on our wedding in *total*.

A wedding is about uniting two people in love. Not about tons and tons of tons of material crap. It’s not as if you’ll have a happier marriage with a $25K wedding than with a $5K one.

Use the money you save for something that DOES matter; securing your financial future. Financial difficulties, in contrast to $5K weddings, *ARE* among the most frequent reasons a couple break up.

Rose Fox
Rose Fox
11 years ago

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the cost of a big sit-down reception. We did the whole thing as a series of fancy hors d’oeuvre; like dim sum, those little plates add up and everyone got plenty to eat. (It also meant that while I was running around trying to spend time with everyone, I managed to get enough calories to keep from passing out.) We had chairs for those who wanted to sit and floor space for those who wanted to circulate or dance, and it was so much nicer than being stuck at a table with seven people you’ve… Read more »

Ken Luallen
Ken Luallen
11 years ago

Gunnar,
In the US many extended families only get together for weddings and funerals. “Photos” are a way of remembering all the people who came together to celebrate the previous stage of your life and the next stage in your life.

Photos are also a reminder of how you felt when you chose to marry someone. When half of couples get divorced, this can be an extraordinarily valuable asset to a relationship when times get tough.

Photos are not about material crap.

Ken

PDXgirl
PDXgirl
11 years ago

My plan for my wedding (that is at least 3 years out once BF finishes law school) is to make my dress, go to the court room and have a giant BBQ for family/friends at our family farm.

Even that will probably run us a couple thousand dollar between cost of food, beer/wine and renting tables/chairs for everyone. But it will be exactly what I want. I would die from stress if I tried to host an “event” instead of a fun party (I can do parties, I’m good at them! events stress me out)

George Katsinis
George Katsinis
11 years ago

The best way to save $$ on a wedding (from a father’s perspective) is to offer up X dollars to your kids and say that’s it! Then, tell them… 1. You can spend it all – and more out of your pocket. (though I strongly discourage debt for anyone – especially newlyweds!!!) 2. You can spend less than X and I’ll give you the balance in cash 🙂 When it’s “their” money to spend – or not spend – I’ve found that they get a little more frugal/practical/efficient with the money. My wife & I got married on less than… Read more »

Charlotte
Charlotte
11 years ago

My advice is spend money on what means a lot to you and less on things that you don’t care about. Things that meant a lot to us: Photographer: We paid $2000 for the best photographer in that price range. Location: We had a scenic outdoor ceremony on the mountains. Food: We like quality food. Music: Hired a string quartet for ceremony only. CD music at the reception. Dress: Custom-made but only $450. Drinks: The caterer offered a bartender for $150 and we bought the all the drinks ourselves, no corkage fee or anything. So the guests were very happy.… Read more »

Willaim Bay
Willaim Bay
11 years ago

I am a wedding photographer. http://www.williambayphotography.com I will share with you my costs so you can see where the money goes for those of you that think that a 3,000 to 5,000 dollar wedding is over the top: Sales commission (15%): $450 Second Photographer: $300 Equipment rental: $300 Online Proofing: $50 Proof Album: $100 Subtotal: $1,200 This is just a basic offering. If you want an album then you would be looking at an additional $1,200. (the cost of the album and binding is $500, plus my time designing it). I also use a super 8mm camera to capture some… Read more »

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