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How to Negotiate Discounts And Freebies For Your Dream Wedding

Weddings are a blast to dream about, but can be terrifying when it’s time to consider the costs. We talked with someone who has great first-hand advice for cutting down the expense of your upcoming wedding without having to sacrifice your big plans.


negotiating wedding costsYou’ve found your dream partner. Now it’s time to plan your dream wedding.

Unfortunately, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare once you start seeing how much weddings cost. In 2013, the average wedding costs just under $30,000, a record high since the Knot, a wedding resources web site, began tracking data.

So as you scour the Internet for ideas on everything from invitations to bouquets, make sure you’re reading about money-saving tricks too.

For instance, last year, freelance writer Jane Bianchi wrote about how she trimmed $21,000 off her wedding budget.

We talked to Jane to find out more about her savvy money-saving secrets. Her take home lesson? Learn how to talk people into giving you discounts or freebies.

When (not if) a vendor makes a mistake, demand compensation

Jane booked a venue for a Friday night reception (Friday weddings always cost less than Saturday night affairs). The day after signing the contract, the vendor called her full of apologies – she had accidentally booked another couple on the same night.

Jane resisted the impulse to tell the vendor it was no big deal. She didn’t turn into a raging Bridezilla either. Instead, she calmly expressed her disappointment and waited for the vendor to come up with a solution.

It was a good one – she offered to rebook Jane on a Saturday night, but gave her the Friday night rate instead. That translated to a Saturday night wedding for $11,450 less than it usually costs.

It’s common for vendors to make mistakes. Seize the moment. “Try saying something like, ‘The contract I signed says X, but you’re telling me Y. There seems to be a discrepancy there,’” Jane suggests. “If the vendor really is in the wrong, say, ‘Hmm, I’m really disappointed to hear that. That’s not what I was expecting and doesn’t seem fair. Is there anything you can do to fix this?’”

At this point, it’s vital  to shut your mouth. “You may hear a long silence while the vendor tries to come up with an answer—keep quiet and let the person squirm and feel embarrassed,” Jane says.

If you’re not given a discount for the mistake, calmly explain the repercussions. “Say, ‘Please know that I will be writing about this incident on Yelp and may need to take my business elsewhere,’” Jane says. “No company wants to lose money or be badmouthed online.”

Any good business owner knows how much Yelp affects revenue. One study found restaurant reservations are strongly impacted by every half star difference on yelp.

Flatter your friends into helping for free

Give your friends some credit. They can probably do a lot more than plan your showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and listen to you stress about the big day.

Take a look at your guest list. Who can sing or play an instrument? Who has a good stage presence and might be willing to officiate the ceremony? Who has some experience taking photos? (After all, some cell phones have professional-quality cameras already).

Jane had a friend who was already an ordained minister (you can become one online for free). Two of her other friends were singers, so she asked them to perform during the ceremony.

Sure, it can be awkward to ask friends to “work” for you, especially when you want them to have fun on your big day.

But it probably won’t feel like work to them if you phrase your request keeping these two factors in mind:

  1. Tell them you’re not just asking to save money, but because you’re truly in awe of their talents.
  2. Make it clear they are free to say no to your request – with no hard feelings.

In the case of the minister, Jane phrased her request this way: “So I have a random question for you. I know you are an ordained minister and have officiated weddings in the past. And I know you are an amazing and hilarious writer, so we were wondering, is there any chance that you might be interested in performing our ceremony? If you’re not interested or if you’d like to think about it, we completely understand—no pressure!”

Who could turn down a request like that?

About Patty Lamberti

Patty Lamberti is a freelance writer and Professional-in-Residence at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches journalism and oversees the graduate program in digital media storytelling. If she doesn't know something about money, you can trust she'll track down the right people to find out. You can learn more about her at www.pattylamberti.com. And if you have any story ideas, or questions about money etiquette that you'd like her or an expert to answer, email her at moneymannersqs@gmail.com.