The MANual: Reception

Negotiate With Your Vendors Like A Banker

A wedding is the ultimate expression of the truly important things in life: love, family, commitment. Planning a wedding is often the exact opposite: it’s about ruthlessness, strategy and looking out for number 1.

Wedding planning is about negotiating, some of which can be as intense as any deal made on Wall Street.

You’d like to think that various venues and vendors will join in the spirit of the occasion and just give you what you want. After all, you and your fiancée are the most wonderful people on earth, and your coming nuptials are an event that brings joy to the entire universe.

Yeah, no.

Everyone you’re dealing—the venue, the caterer, the baker, the florist, the band, even the officiant sometimes—is running a business. They are not going to be sentimental about the fact that you are getting married (at least not to the extent that they’ll hurt their own bottom line.)

Now, that doesn’t mean they’re out to screw you: they just want to make sure you don’t screw them.

So how do you negotiate with all the various people involved? How do you get the wedding you want without blowing through your entire budget and ending up in debt?

We asked some bigwigs in finance and wedding planning for their negotiating secrets. (We’re keeping them anonymous so they won’t lose their competitive advantage.) Read ahead and learn….

Know The Playing Field

“There are only certain points that are negotiable when supply is low and demand is high,” says The Entrpreneur. “For instance, a June wedding. If it’s a big ticket item like the reception, you may not be able to negotiate the basic cost per person. But you can ask for extra services.”

See Also: Wedding Hacks

For instance, vendors such as the florist and caterer might value an early load in–it makes their lives easier if they can set up early. If you can negotiate that with your venue, you might be able to shave off some of the vendor cost.

Or maybe you can get your guests access to a special area of the venue (or resort, if it’s a destination wedding ). Anything that can help you get a little more for your money. Don’t be afraid to ask “What else can you do for me?”

Make Them Like You

“Ask questions,” says The NYC Broker. ”You’ll be surprised how much info they’ll share with you. Use that info to leverage your position. And don’t be afraid to share your own info… Give a little and you may get more back.”

There’s a school of negotiation which hinges on making the person across from you feel like the two of you are good friends. So launch a charm offensive (or get your fiancée to if you’re bad with people). Don’t over do it: that comes across as smarmy. Just be friendly: it will get you far in life and wedding planning.

Know Your Prey

“Walk in the other guy’s shoes,” says the Senator from New York (ok, it was Chuck Schumer, interviewed in The New Yorker). “Try to figure out not what you think he should want, but what he really wants.”

Let’s say a restaurant wants to charge you extra to throw a rehearsal dinner during peak weekend hours. You know that they’re charging more because they’ll need to bring in extra wait staff to cover both your party and their usual rush. So you see if you can get the price down by making your dinner a little earlier.

Your Venue: Look Before You Book

Your Venue: Look Before You Book

Don’t Negotiate Against Yourself

“Make a fair bid and then wait and see,” says the Investment Banker. “This is the hardest part of negotiating—waiting for a response because you worry you’ll lose the deal. But check-in calls and emails will hurt you.”

There comes a time when you have to just sit it out and wait for a vendor to get back to you. In wedding planning, you often need to lock one thing down before you can progress to the next, so this waiting may drive you—or, more likely, your fiancée—crazy. Be strong. Be patient. Be silent.

Take A Time Out

”Sometimes you need to go to the balcony,” says the World-Renowned Negotiator. “You need to find a place of calm and perspective to remind yourself what is really important.”

When the person on the other side of the table just won’t budge on something, you should take a break, sleep on it, mull it over, etc. You can be an obstinate bastard, after all, and you may be in danger of messing up your relationship with your venue or your vendor.

On the other hand, if you still feel like you need to fight over this particular point…

Be Prepared To Walk Away

“Sometimes you just need to know that you can walk away in order to recommence negotiation,” says the Former Litigator.

At some point, you need to be able to say no. Hopefully that’s not a month before your wedding, but if you’ve reached your budget limit or you’re not getting the essential things you need, be prepared to move along to a new venue or a different vendor.

Bottom Line

Wedding planning negotiations have a bad rep. But if you keep these basic tenets in mind, you’ll be able to handle this like a true captain of industry.

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