Negotiating is expected in the wedding industry, but you can’t treat your wedding venue like a rug merchant to be effective at it. That is not the way.
Your wedding day is probably the most expensive event you’ll ever pay for: the average wedding in 2016 costs more than $35,000 – and that’s without counting the honeymoon.
Between the venue, catering, the dress, and all the extras that make it unique, you’ll probably be spending tens of thousands of dollars, even if you look for savings.
Many couples pay the asking price for these items, missing out on the significant discounts that may be available if they had only reached out and asked.
The bottom line is this: couples who don’t negotiate are leaving money on the table. Money could have been used to improve their big day or even help them start a marriage on the right financial foot. Saying “I do” at Boutique Events Group is an elegant and luxurious affair.
This blog will dissect precisely how to negotiate with your wedding venue in an innovative, fairway.
The Fundamentals of Negotiating
Before you begin negotiating anything with any of your wedding vendors, let alone your venue. You must know the golden rules of dealing, which are:
You Can’t Get Everything for Nothing.
This is number one, folks. Don’t be requesting a reduction in fees with no movement in your requested package.
You’ll need to have flexibility in the inclusions to get a movement in price. Don’t be those people who ask for the world and give nothing back.
Don’t Treat Your Venue Like a Sleazy Salesman.
Your wedding venue most likely isn’t owned by a big conglomerate but a private small business owner who is just doing their job to keep the lights on.
Please don’t treat them as inherently trustworthy or unreasonable, as you won’t get anywhere with your negotiations.
Your wedding venue is significant to the success of your wedding overall, so don’t upset them!
Inclusions Are Easier to Negotiate Than Reductions
Generally speaking, free additions to your package are more accessible to negotiate than predictions in price.
This is the way you get more for your money.
We love this way of negotiating as the achievable reduction in price is probably not that much.
The potential inclusions your venue adds in for free, however, could be worth hundreds!
Going in with the “best value for money” mindset is better than the “cheapest possible” mindset.
How to Negotiate the Flow of Your Day With Your Wedding Venue
Having your wedding ceremony in an unusual place or hosting your evening meal outdoors when the venue is not used to it are both examples of “changing the flow” of your wedding day.
Every change to the status quo is a negotiation in the venue’s eyes.
First, you’ll need to listen to any logistical issues the venue may have with your proposed flow change.
If there are none, convince them that this small change will make your wedding extra special!
Particularly with destination wedding venues, it is common for your package to include some exclusive suppliers, which can include:
- Hair and makeup artists
Maybe you would like to bring in your suppliers for some reason or another. How do you negotiate that with your venue?
Well, firstly, ask them if it is possible to hire outside of their exclusive supplier’s list before you sign your contract. If they say no beforehand, it’ll still be a no afterwards!
If they have agreed in principle to be flexible with exclusive suppliers, then decide what matters most to you.
Catering is the hardest to negotiate away and is rare for venues to budge on. All you can do is ask.
Do Your Research
When you’re negotiating for a discount, the more information you have, the better.
If you’re only talking to one wedding venue, you’re in a poor negotiating position because they know that they’re your only real option.
Instead, talk to several venues in the area and find out their prices – even if you don’t want them.
This allows you to go into a negotiation with leverage and helps reinforce the message that you have other options.
Assemble a list of backup venues with better pricing, and use these numbers to encourage your top choice to reduce their fees.
Ask With Confidence
It’s natural to feel nervous if you aren’t experienced negotiating, but you don’t want to show it.
If you come off as timid, they know they can refuse your request without risking your business.
The ideal attitude is not to attach any emotion to the negotiation outcome, although achieving this when planning your wedding is understandably difficult!
If you want to practice, try visiting a market where negotiating is common. Then, have fun and give it a shot to build your confidence.
In a negotiation, the first offer is rarely accepted; you’re likely to end up at a point somewhere between your first offer and the standard price.
For this reason, you want to start low; if you start too high, you might end up with very little in the way of a discount.
If you’re unsure where to start, ask for a 20 per cent discount - it’s low, without being insulting.
Be Prepared to Haggle
Once you’ve made your first offer, you’ll get one of three responses: an acceptance (unlikely), a flat refusal to negotiate, or (most likely) a counter offer below the original asking price but above your request.
Because negotiations are uncomfortable, it’s natural to take the first half-decent counter-offer that comes along.
Swallow this feeling and make another offer; you’ll get a better deal if you are willing to haggle.
Wedding Venue Won’t Budge? Try Asking for More
Some wedding venues will refuse any request for a discount, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t savings to be found.
Instead of asking for a reduced price, ask them to throw in some free upgrades. For example, you could request better champagne, decorations, or even food.
Effectively, you are receiving a discount – just on a more expensive product. For some venues, this is preferable to offering a valid value.
There are many ways to budget your wedding effectively and cut costs — with a bit of preparation, you can save a lot!
Off-Peak Times Will Increase Your Negotiating Power
To get the best deals, you might need to be flexible about the date of your booking.
Weekday or winter bookings significantly increase your negotiating power because there is less competition for a venue’s services.
During the summer, wedding venues are more likely to refuse to negotiate because they know they can find another client on that date if you walk away.
During off-peak times, you might be their only opportunity to make money. This means they’ll be more willing to provide a nice discount to ensure your business.
According to a 2016 Study, the most popular months are September and October, attracting 16% of real weddings (June is just behind them at 13%).
Only 4% of weddings took place between Monday and Thursday — with Saturday making up 70%.
If you’re willing to get married on a weekday or an off-month, you’ll be in a much better position to save some money.
Consider Asking for Reduced Service
Many wedding venues include services such as catering in their price tag.
It might not always be possible, but often these venues are willing to reduce their bottom-line if you handle the catering needs yourself.
At this point, you can find a cheaper caterer who is easier on your pocketbook (and provides better food, too!).
The same goes for alcohol — if you’re allowed to provide your spirits and adult beverages, you can save big.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
Achieving the best result requires leverage, and you don’t have that if you have your heart set on one choice.
If you aren’t ready to walk away from a venue or vendor who refuses to budge, you’re not going to save much (or any) money.
If your negotiation wasn’t successful, you could try again in a week or two.
It’s unlikely that a venue will refuse to deal with you just for trying to negotiate (although you should be careful not to lowball them too much).
After a couple of weeks, they may be more willing to move the price tag lower. If not, you always have the option of accepting their original price.
You have very little to lose by asking for a better deal but plenty to gain.
Not negotiating and accepting everything at face value are both common wedding planning mistakes — avoid them, and your wallet will be happier!
How to Negotiate Price With Your Wedding Venue
There are two main ways to negotiate with your wedding venue on price effectively:
Give Them Your Budget and See If They Can Create a Custom Package for Your Budget
Nine times out of 10, this will be your best course of action if you are not super knowledgeable about wedding and event space.
It also shows the venue that you are willing to be flexible and work with them on what your package looks like.
Now, please don’t choose a venue that is way over budget; book them, and then try to negotiate them down.
That’s not going to work out well for you.
Choose a venue that has an affordable menu to you in any case, should your negotiations not end the way you want them to.
The budget price you give them should be close to their original menu prices by at least 10-15%.
Then allow the venue to work with your budget on a custom package that enables the best of both worlds.
Present Some Ideas of Omissions or Changes You Would Be Comfortable With to Bring the Price Down
We tend to combine this second approach with the first to make my negotiations effective for my couples.
This means you need to precisely know what makes sense as a potential negotiating point for that venue. Examples could be:
- Hosting your wedding on a weekday
- Hosting your wedding during low season
- Having non-exclusive use of the space
- Reducing certain menu items
- Reducing services such as decoration and DJs
Dress for Success
In this case, dressing for success does DOESN’T means looking at you’re very best. Instead, it often means dressing down.
You don’t want to look like a bum, but you don’t want to look too flashy either.
Arrive in a modest vehicle, wearing simple clothing (no name brands). Carry a leather binder, which shows you mean business.
Ask lots of questions to prove that you are a client they WANT to have, but make sure to emphasise things about you that indicate you cannot pay the total price.
- “We’re recent graduates.”
- “Only 1 of us has a job.”
- “We’ve just been hit with serious medical bills.”
Even if you have lots of money to spend on the wedding, using this trick will help your venue provider be much more flexible with their prices. Check out our list of Wedding Dress Shops to help you choose your perfect gown.
When dealing with vendors, keep this in mind: The first is to talk about money losses.
You want them to talk about their prices before you let them know about your budget. For example, let’s say you have $2,000 to spend on a fantastic venue.
When you sit down with the event planner, they’ll ask you what your budget is like. Of course, you don’t want to come out and say it, but you want to turn the tables around and ask them, “Well, what packages can you offer?”
Once you know their regular prices, you can start the negotiations and get the package you want at a lower price.
Keep your cards close to your vest when negotiating, and don’t blink!
Bring Competing Quotes
Have you gotten a fantastic offer from another venue? Bring it with you to the negotiation, and you may find that your platform of choice is more than willing to lower their prices a bit.
You may not get them to match the competition’s offer, but they’ll often be happy to negotiate down a few of their services.
Use the Time to Pressure
Is the wedding venue offering you a special deal if you sign the contract “right now”?
Don’t let that time pressure get to you, but make sure that the venue is what you’re looking for BEFORE you sign anything. Shop around first.
If, however, you instantly know that it’s the venue for you, take advantage of that particular “limited time offer.”
See if you can’t get them to raise the discount if you sign now and book that venue.
Look for the Latest Trends
The traditional sit-down style dinner most commonly associated with weddings has become a thing of the past.
How Much Are Couples Able to Negotiate Pricing With Venues and Vendors
Venues tend not to be very flexible with their pricing, but there are a few factors that will influence their willingness to negotiate:
Pick off-season months and be flexible with your date. For example, selecting a Sunday in August gives you much more leverage than a Saturday in October.
Your engagement length is essential as well. For example, if you are trying to book 18 months out, pricing will likely be firm.
However, you have a great deal of leverage if you are looking at dates six months out, which is shorter than the typical booking cycle (for dates that probably wouldn’t book otherwise).
Your guest count: If the venue is also handling the catering, a larger guest count will also influence you.
Your ability to connect with the salesperson is critical; let them know that their venue is your first choice, and you’re working with a limited budget.
Striking the right balance of being persistent, persuasive and respectful is key. If you can “engage” with them, they are more likely to make concessions and be flexible.
Vendors tend to be a bit more flexible than venues when it comes to pricing:
Suppose you are getting married in an unusual location or a destination wedding. In that case, this can work in your favour since vendors like to create a portfolio of events at various venues.
For example, if you are getting married in New Orleans, you may want to reach out to a West Coast photographer.
You will have the cost of travel, but sometimes they will honestly negotiate their pricing if it expands their portfolio.
As with your venue, let each vendor know they are your number one choice. Then, try to connect to them and explain what you believe will make your wedding special.
Let your vendors know that you are happy to publish your wedding in media outlets since this is a critical engine for vendors to promote themselves.
Time of year, date of the week and the booking window of your wedding will also impact your negotiating ability.
If you call a top vendor and are booking a Friday wedding in December, six months out — you will inevitably get the best possible pricing!
Lastly — if you can afford a planner — hire a planner who has an excellent reputation. Planners don’t necessarily get you discounts, but they will get you more bang for your buck!
Vendors who work consistently with the same planners are always more comfortable giving more to their preferred planners as they are a continued source of work for them.”
If you know what will make that particular venue tick, then, by all means, combine this with the first point to maximise your negotiating opportunities! We hope this article has been helpful to you and remember, be reasonable above all else! Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help you organise a stress free wedding.