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Is It Okay to Haggle With Wedding Vendors?

Weddings are expensive, amirite?

Most wedding vendors post package prices on their web sites – and if not, a photographer or caterer or florist will usually have a brochure listing a sort of menu of various packages and options. And it’s easy to balk at those rates when you’re newly-engaged. I’ve been asked a few times by brides-to-be whether it’s okay to haggle with wedding vendors, i.e., say something like “Are you willing to give me Package B for $1500 instead of $2000? How about $1800?” My answer? I don’t think so. As much as I like to talk about the “wedding tax” and how overpriced so many wedding accessories are, I also like to think that most wedding vendors are good, honest people and thus price their services accordingly.

A wedding vendor is not a weekend flea market hobbyist or a homeowner hosting a garage sale, and the payment they receive for the services they provide to brides and grooms are often their sole source of income. Maybe it’s just that I’m a freelancer, but the idea of treating a specialty service like a secondhand stairmaster seems a little weird to me. So no, I would not recommend haggling with wedding vendors.

What you can do is negotiate based on your needs. Let’s say the aforementioned Package B is for wedding flowers and you think $2000 seems a little steep BUT you love the florist’s work. AND you don’t actually need or even really want every last little thing in Package B. There’s nothing at all wrong with approaching the wedding florist you’ve fallen in love with and telling her that Package B makes the most sense for you, but you only need five centerpieces, not eight, and you’re having bridesmen not bridesmaids so you won’t need any bridesmaids’ bouquets. I don’t think I’ve ever personally encountered a wedding vendor who was unwilling to make adjustments to prices when making adjustments to packages.

In other words, negotiating with wedding vendors is usually as easy as asking to order “off the menu” and there’s nothing wrong with simply inquiring as to whether a vendor is willing to lower their package prices when you’re not asking for everything in that particular package. (And you should never feel obligated to take everything in a package when you don’t want it!) That way, you and your wedding vendors can work together to create something that’s exactly what you need at a price that you can both live with.

What do you think of negotiating with wedding vendors? How about haggling – would you do it?

Help Your Wedding Vendors Help You

Wedding planning is sometimes no fun. You don’t have as much money as you’d like to have in your wedding budget. Your first-choice wedding venue is booked on your set-in-stone wedding date. Your FFIL is demanding a barbecue-centric menu at the wedding reception. And your intended has thus far not lifted a finger to help. I get it. Sometimes being a bride-to-be can suck.

Sometimes in the midst of all that suckitude, it can really start to feel like wedding planning is a World vs. Bride affair. And when you’re mad at the world, it’s only natural to adopt an adversarial attitude when dealing with people. But when it comes to dealing with your wedding vendors, my advice is *don’t*. As in don’t assume that your wedding vendors are adding a ‘wedding tax‘ to the bill. Don’t just assume that you’re going to have to fight your wedding vendors to get what you want. And don’t change your mind a hundred times, just to mess with your vendors’ heads.

Of course, some brides-to-be, when faced with the suckiness of planning a wedding, veer too far in the opposite direction. They’re afraid to tell their wedding vendors what they want because they don’t want to be seen as pushy or, worse, labeled a bridezilla. Instead of making choices that please themselves, they make the choices that they think will make their wedding vendors happy. In some cases, the bride-to-be might not disclose her wedding budget, leaving her vendors free to make choices outside of her price range.

In both cases – whether we’re talking about the “difficult” bride or the “easy” bride – the bride-to-be becomes her own worst enemy. Her unwillingness to trust her wedding vendors or her unwillingness to be straight with her vendors can cost her the wedding she really wanted. Why? In the first case, the bride-to-be finds it impossible to work closely with someone who she thinks it out to get her. In the second, she never tells her wedding vendors how much she really has to spend or what she actually wants.

Planning a wedding should be a collaborative task undertaken by a couple and their wedding vendors, and that means that brides and grooms have to do their parts when dealing with wedding professional. When a bride or groom is up front with a wedding vendor about money matters and color preferences and all the things they do and do not want, that vendor has a good chance of putting together something – whether it’s a wedding cake or a bouquet or a table setting – that is just what that bride or groom had in mind. And that wedding vendor? He or she should be someone that the bride or groom deems trustworthy, so there’s never any need to be adversarial at all.

What Do Brides-to-Be Think of Fibbing to Save?

They call it the Wedding Tax – admit your flower, cake, or dress order is for a ceremony and reception, and there’s a chance that the cost will rise. Plus, let it slip that you’re a bride and, uh oh, suddenly everyone you’re dealing with is convinced that you’re going to morph into a witch with a B. Now we know, of course, that not every vendor charges double for “wedding ______” and that nice chicks are nice brides, but that doesn’t stop some brides-to-be from hedging their bets by shopping for their nuptials without ever once mentioning the word wedding.

An article about bride’s keeping mum has me thinking about it. Are wedding vendors cashing in on the fact that brides and grooms are emotionally invested in this particular type of party? Or do vendors have to routinely go above and beyond when they’re working weddings, so really they’re justified in charging more? Full disclosure: For my mom’s wedding, we said the flowers were just for a party, but at the same time, we weren’t getting anything outlandish and it was a pick-up order, so no delivery or set-up was involved.

What do you think? The article makes it seem like it’s one of those things that everyone is doing or should be doing, at least sometimes. Is it okay to tell vendors you’re shopping for plain old party supplies, or should brides-to-be always be up front about what it is they’re really planning?

P.S. – Don’t forget to enter the current giveaway!

Interview: Megan Leavy of Mpire Events (Intro)

Today I’m going to do something a little different, which I hope will become a regular feature here at Manolo for the Brides. I recently had a chance to interview the absolutely lovely Megan Leavy of Mpire Events, and I think that the insider’s view you can only get by talking to wedding vendors is so important when it comes to learning all you can about planning a wedding. Megan agreed to be my first-ever interview, but with luck there will be many more to come! Without further ado, let me introduce Megan and share what she had to say about her background, what she loves about wedding planning, and how she approaches wedding planning on behalf of a couple.

Tell our readers a little about your company and your background

Mpire Events produces stylish, creative and unforgettable events. I started the company in January of 2010 after working for a number of years helping manage events for professional athletes’ charitable foundations, as well as planning lavish parties for hedge fund managers and financial firms. My experience has allowed me to work on a range of events in areas such as Vegas, Tokyo, Florida, NYC and the Hamptons.

I knew it was time to start my own business in order to create events that would reflect my global experience and bring a fresh and unique style to Boston.

Why you were drawn to wedding planning specifically?

I’ve always loved attending weddings and through the years I’ve noted what makes a great wedding versus an average one. I wanted to help bring a couple’s dream to life by creating something that embodies what they want their special day to be and of course make it unforgettable. There’s no event quite like a wedding!

Would you call yourself a full-service wedding planner? Is there anything you won’t do?

I am definitely a full-service event planner. I can do it all, from the invitations and venue research and selection to planning rehearsal dinner and helping manage the ceremony, gifts, transportation, etc.

I am finding more often these days that there are certain aspects of planning a wedding a couple may want to handle themselves (e.g., hire their favorite photographer or use their family friend to create invitations). I think there is a larger market for wedding consultants who take care of specific elements of a wedding as opposed to every last detail, and I’m happy to take on a limited role or handle everything, start to finish.

Stay tuned for Megan’s tips for brides and grooms!

ATTN. WEDDING VENDORS: Would you like to be interviewed as part of Manolo for the Bride’s profile series? Send me an email at Manolobrides at gmail dot com!

Why It’s Important to Vet Your Wedding Vendors

If you’d asked me a week ago why it’s important to vet your wedding DJ, I don’t think that “So he doesn’t boobie slap someone at the reception” wouldn’t have been on my list of answers. Now it will be, forevermore, even if the chances that your wedding DJ will play the boobongos there on the platform are pretty slim overall. Apparently, the following video – a clip from a Daytona Beach wedding from May of this year – has made the rounds in a big way, but in case you haven’t seen it, no, it’s not some viral marketing ploy. It’s the real deal.

The boobongo virtuoso you see before you is Fast Eddie, owner or perhaps manager of a Florida upholstery shop by day and wedding DJ by night. After watching the video, I had to know more – who is this guy? Luckily, the good folks at urlesque scooped the story. Can you believe that poor Fast Eddie didn’t get paid? I kid, I kid! But I also know some people who would be angry as h-e-doublehockeysticks on the inside when they saw this but would nonetheless pay their less-than-stellar boobie slappin’ wedding vendor the balance owed.

If you’re cringing right now, I feel your pain… videos of wedding vendors like this made me hyperventilate when I was planning my wedding. But never fear! We here at Manolo for the Brides have got you covered with tips for planning a wedding safely, knowing what to expect when hiring wedding vendors, and dealing with tricksy wedding vendors. Heed our advice and you’ll more often than not be in the clear!

That said, here’s a palate cleanser in the form of a grainy video of an iguana eating some poor couple’s wedding cake:

Planning A Wedding… Safely

wedding planning tips

Consumers don’t always have a lot of options when it comes to righting wrongs perpetrated by scammy, shady shopkeeps and service providers, so the best thing a person can do is take steps to protect him or herself from fraud before it happens. That goes double for brides and grooms, who in addition to spending gobs of money, are often dealing with leads times and options unlike any they’ve encountered in the past. I’m not saying that brides and grooms are all widdle biddy babies who need hand holding, but let’s face facts here. It’s easy to get starry-eyed when it’s planning a wedding we’re talking about, and the bad guys typically prey on people who aren’t paying attention.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to protect yourself from the sort of unscrupulous wedding vendors who want to get between you and your wedding budget while doing as little work as possible. Unsurprisingly, the Better Business Bureau has some tips for planning a wedding safely. Here’s a snippet of the BBB-endorsed wedding planning tips that can help brides and grooms keep from losing money before or after the wedding, ending up with a sucky ceremony or reception, and maybe most importantly, choosing the wrong wedding vendors.

Pay With Credit Cards: Credit cards offer consumers added protection in the event of a problem, because you can generally have your card issuer “pull back” the charge and investigate any problems within 60 days of receiving your statement, even if you have already paid the charge. In some cases, they may extend you a longer “dispute” period. Unfortunately, checks or cash offer no such protection.

Get Contracts in Writing: Remember that all written contracts should include specific dates, products, prices, name brands, and be signed by all parties involved. Cancellation policies should also be included in the contracts. This includes any refund policies and returns on deposits. If these are not already included in the contract, insist that they are added before you sign. New York state law allows businesses to set whatever refund or cancellation policy they desire. Do not assume that if you cancel a contract, you will receive a 100% refund. Be sure that you are aware of refund or cancellation policies before you sign a contract and that the terms are completely spelled out in the written contract. Also, try to keep deposits as small as possible as they are often non-refundable. Smaller deposits may mean less money lost if there is a change in plans.

Don’t Be Lured By the Lowest Price: Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event, so you want to do it right. Be careful not to hire unknown companies simply because they advertise the lowest prices. First, research the company’s quality and reliability record.

Research A Company Before Using It: There are three simple ways to find a good company: 1) Ask friends for the names of companies that they have used with good results. 2) Ask for references. Any legitimate company will be pleased to provide previously satisfied clients. However, do not stop there. Follow through and actually call the clients to find out it they were satisfied and if they may have some suggestions about doing business with that particular company. 3) Lastly, check companies with your local Better Business Bureau before doing business with them. In the event you do have a problem, you can also contact the BBB to file a complaint.

Smart stuff! But also stuff that’s easy to forget when you’ve emotionally invested yourself in wedding planning and have a little money to spend. So be careful out there, brides and grooms. Stay starry-eyed, but keep those eyes peeled for scams. The only thing I’d add to the BBB’s advice is beware of the upsell, for wedding vendors have a knack for it and you may not even realized you’re being talked into something you really don’t want until after you’ve signed a contract. The upsell may not technically be a scam, but it is another sleazy way to part a bride and her bucks.

(Photo by Fotographix)

Are Experts Empowering Brides? Or Pushing Unrealistic Expectations?

wedding-vendors

I was alerted to this story by multiple readers – thanks, y’all! – recently, and I thought it could definitely inspire some discussion here. We wedding bloggers often push a that-look-for-less mentality because, hey, why shouldn’t a bride without a huge wedding budget get to look and feel gorgeous on her wedding day? Truthfully, there are plenty of wedding dresses, accessories, floral arrangements, etc. that can indeed be had for less. There are also those that can’t – but I could see how wedding vendors could feel pressured to undercharge because so many more brides, empowered by us wedding bloggers, are insisting upon getting the biggest possible bang for their bucks.

Paul Pannone touched on this topic in a post at E Wed News:

The effects of information being provided to consumers by so-called experts is felt to be impacting business owner’s ability– or inability– to keep up with rising cost of operation. Struggling consumers are being empowered by information that placates them from voiced opinions of perceived authorities, confirming that somehow merchants should not be allowed to make a profit for their hard work and efforts.

Some are said to be up in arms over statements and comparisons made by a representative from The Knot. Anja Winikka, Editor of TheKnot.com, appeared on the popular TODAY show and compared several wedding items including wedding dresses ranging from $5,000 dollars to $600. But it was her statement that a less expensive center piece with the same color pallet could be had for “less than a hundred bucks”.

Is The Knot or are the wedding bloggers empowering brides to a deleterious degree? While wedding vendors don’t have to do what they do at a discount, the consumer can impact the perceived value of goods and services. At the same time, if a bride comes to a wedding vendor with unrealistic expectations, isn’t it up to that vendor to educate that bride? I don’t think it’s that surprising that brides don’t know how much certain flowers or fabrics cost or how much time is worth to a wedding professional.

Jenny Scala of the Society of American Florists did just that, writing to Anja Winikka in the wake of the gaff.

We thought you would want to know we have heard from member florists who are concerned the segment gives brides an unrealistic expectation of the price of flowers. In fact, several florists from various parts of the country priced what they saw in the arrangements and came up with a retail price that was twice what was quoted on the show. Some even speculated whether the costs were possibly at wholesale prices vs. retail, which includes all supplies used in the bouquet, plus labor, delivery and installation.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. I’ve always advised brides to ask for whatever kinds of discounts they think they can get, but I’m also quick to caution that wedding vendors are free to say no. Thoughts?

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