We'd like to offer you a very special opportunity to showcase your work at our upcoming event! We're looking for up and coming vendors interested in exchanging their services for promotion to our hundreds of guests as one of our wedding sponsors. We are talking to several vendors in your category and wanted to give you a chance at this opportunity.
Our wedding will be held on [BUSY DATE] at [FANCY COUNTRY CLUB]. We have many friends that are looking to get married in the near future, as a fabulous network of guests who can share your business with their own friends and family. To promote you business at the wedding we are offering our selected vendors a featured ad in our program and a special table where you can display your materials and leave your business cards. I hope you can see what a great chance this is to grow your business.
This was the first shot fired in a chain of e-mails that should serve as an object lesson to every couple in precisely how not to negotiate with wedding vendors.
I get it, weddings in Boston can be very expensive; couples have to coordinate a dozen vendors, hundreds of guests and a thousand little details that all start to add up to serious money. So it's not surprising that most wedding planning guides emphasize the importance of trying to negotiate with vendors to try and fit everything neatly into your budget.
But those guides and listicles are either awfully light on details or overly obsessed with getting the lowest price come hell or high water**.
So let's take a look back at that e-mail to see what it can teach us about making a deal...
The first thing you'll notice about this e-mail is that it reads like it was generated by a marketing robot. Obviously someone copied and pasted this with a lot of tender, loving care.
Why does that matter? Doesn't it make sense to copy and paste when you're e-mailing a lot of vendors?
It's important because if you're excited about working with us, we're going to get excited about working with you. An excited vendor is someone that's going to be much more willing to go the extra mile for you or be a little extra flexible about packages and pricing. If you start the conversation out in a neutral tone, then you're going to have to work harder later in the process.
So it's worth it to take a couple of extra minutes to craft an e-mail that sounds more authentic and enthusiastic (that's not to say you can't do a bit of copying and pasting, but save that for later paragraphs). If possible be specific about what you like and what about their service drew your interest (well, other than price).
Stilted style isn't the death of a deal if your offer is good. The offer outlined in this e-mail is next level bonkers, demanding free services in exchange for extremely dubious exposure.
For more on the value of exposure, I turn to the esteemed Oatmeal...
Successful negotiation isn't about scoring one over on the other guy, it's about a give and take where everyone can come away with something they want (e.g. I get your money and a promise of future cake and you get amazing Boston wedding photography). What this means practically is that couples often find more success in negotiating down prices if they're willing to take a similar cut in services. For example: with a caterer you might nix passed hors d'oeuvres - sure nothing beats the experience of having someone bring you a tray of coconut shrimp (or various things wrapped in bacon) but needs must.
Alternately you could try to offer something of value to your vendors. This either might be something about your wedding (such as getting the vendor into a niche market or exclusive venue) or an exchange of services. This can be a bit trickier since it's not always clear from the outset what a given vendor might find valuable (or how much they might value something). Destination weddings are often used as incentives to vendors - affording a chance to expand your market and maybe get a cheap trip in the bargain. Though in my experience clients often overestimate the value of a destination wedding because they're framing it as a chance to get away for a vacation rather than as a working weekend.
5 Tips for Getting a Great Wedding Deal:
With that in mind, you're well on your way to making your Boston wedding more affordable. But what good is an article on tips for negotiating with your vendors without a handy set of bullet points to sum up?
5. Enthusiasm is Contagious: If you're excited about working with a vendor, they'll be more excited about working with you and willing to go the extra mile.
4. Don't Hurry to Haggle: Be patient. Asking for a deal right out of the gate turns the conversation about your wedding into a conversation about business, Let the vendors settle into the conversation first.
3. Be Flexible: If you're looking to pay less, then be willing to make deals that strip off some of the bells and whistles.
2. Keep it Reasonable: If you're going into negotiations expecting fire sale prices, you're going to end up disappointed. Most of the time negotiating can get you 5-10% off a bill, which can really add up across several big-ticket items.
1. Added Value: If vendors won't go down on a price, they'll frequently offer to add on options either for free or at a discount to get your business.
With these tips in hand, hopefully you'll be able to have the Boston wedding you want with enough money left over for the honeymoon (or cake, or for your humble photographer).
Ryan Richardson is a wedding photographer based in Boston and serving New England. The Wedding Planning Survival Guide is an occasional series designed to help brides navigate the trials and travails of wedding planning, if you have suggestions for an article or a burning questions, why not drop us a line?