Can You Negotiate With Wedding Vendors? Experts Spill the Tea on This Hot Topic

Would you ask your surgeon for a discount?
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Photos: Getty / Design: Tiana Crispino
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Feb 29, 2024

There are some places you're expected to negotiate: with the car dealership, about your salary, and even at a flea market. But can you negotiate with wedding vendors?

We get it, weddings are expensive. However, the amount that vendors charge isn't arbitrary–inflation, supply, labor and other factors all affect how much you'll end up spending. As you start working on your wedding budget, you might be wondering "Can you negotiate with wedding vendors?"

To get to the bottom of this topic we spoke with expert vendors to get their insider take. Below, wedding planner Holly Gray, owner of Anything But Gray Events, Nicole Ettenhofer, VP of Growth and Strategy for George Street Photo, and Treasa Leigh Brown, founder and Creative Director of Treasa Event Group, weigh in with their advice for couples.

In this story:

Can You Negotiate With Wedding Vendors?

Yes and no–If done thoughtfully, you can negotiate with wedding vendors, but only about certain things. There are acceptable ways to negotiate with vendors and there are unacceptable ways to negotiate.

"Negotiating with vendors can be a valuable strategy in certain situations," says Brown. Gray adds that "it is permissible to negotiate with wedding vendors politely and respectfully, but ultimately, be prepared for them to simply say no to your request and for you to respect their final decision. You can always ask and they can always say no."

Should You Negotiate With Wedding Vendors?

While it is permissible to negotiate with vendors while wedding planning, it isn't necessarily a wise decision to do so. Before you approach negotiating wedding vendor or venue pricing, you need to understand what makes up the quote you've been given is important when considering whether you should negotiate and how to negotiate with wedding vendors.

The reality is that wedding vendors and venues are small businesses with certain hard costs that they can't change. Gray explains that these are the costs of doing business. "They are the baseline expenses that are consistent and necessary to simply operate a business legally. These are the unsexy business expenses that clients don't necessarily understand." Some hard costs include business licenses, insurance, office expenses, travel expenses and staffing. "There is a real person behind each small business trying to survive, just as you are, with the hard costs of doing business while being able to support themselves and their teams while making a profit," says Gray. "A small business that doesn't make a profit after hard costs is a hobby, and hiring someone who will practice their hobby on your wedding, is not what you are looking for in a wedding professional." In addition to hard costs, you are paying for a pro's experience. "Someone's time, effort, team, experience, and dedication to a certain number of wedding clients per year is almost always in direct correlation for what they charge," says Gray.

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With these factors in mind, there is a way to respectfully engage with "vendors to tailor solutions within a couple's budget is appropriate," says Ettenhofer. To start, "it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what the vendor is offering and what is included in their service before considering negotiations," says Brown. Once you understand what is included in the price you've been quoted, you can consider ways to work with your vendor to create a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The key with negotiations is that you shouldn't be trying to get vendors to slash their price just because it's your wedding. Rather, understand that "if you can't afford something, change what you expect, not what they are offering," says Gray. For example, "if 12 hours of wedding photography is not in your budget, then reduce the number of hows you are asking for versus asking a vendor to reduce their rate for the same number of hours. Understanding the in negoting with vendors on their pricing, you will need to compromise what you are asking for." For a florist, maybe you ask if they could utilize less expensive flowers, like carnations, instead of pricey stems to lower your quote. Or with a rental vendor, maybe you opt for a simple chair instead of the specialty selection. Ultimately, flexibility from the couple paired with an understanding of prioritization is a recipe for success when negotiating with vendors.

Another thing to keep in mind from the onset is whether a vendor's typical price range is a reasonable possibility for you. "If a vendor is significantly out of your budget range, it may be more beneficial to find a vendor that aligns with your budget rather than asking them to drastically reduce their costs," advises Brown. "In most cases, attempting to negotiate with a vendor who is far outside your budget range will not yield favorable results. Ultimately, the decision to negotiate with vendors depends on various factors such as your specific needs, budget, and the vendor's willingness to negotiate. It is important to approach negotiations with a realistic mindset and a willingness to find a mutually beneficial agreement."

How to Inquiry About Wedding Vendor Pricing

"What is your price?" You shouldn't come out swinging with this question, especially since the answer depends on quite a few factors. Instead, get an understanding of the vendor's range before you dive deeper into conversations to ensure that you're not wasting the pro's time if they won't be a good fit for your budget. You can ask something like: "What is your typical price range? Can you share how much couples typically spend with you?" This will give you a broad picture of whether or not your budget will be compatible with the business in question. "Clearly communicate your needs and budget constraints to ensure both parties are on the same page," says Brown."

If, for example, the vendor comes back with a range that is double what you know you can afford, thank them for their time and continue on with your search. However, if their range will work with your budget this is when you can get into the specifics to create a proposal that fits your wedding budget.

What to Do When Discussing Price With Vendors

Here's how to approach negotiating politely.

  • Consider a wedding planner: "Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced wedding planner will ultimately save you the most money in the long run," says Brown.
  • Lead with respect: "Be respectful, polite, and kind when asking a vendor if their rates are negotiable. Be appreciative and mindful of their time. That also means understanding they have full right to tell you no," says Gray.
  • Be flexible: This process is a give and take, be willing to compromise in other ways if you can't compromise with your budget.
  • Manage expectations: "Being realistic is important and accepting that you can't have everything you want without paying for it," says Gray.
  • Be transparent: "Transparency is key when entering into negotiations with vendors," says Brown.
  • Respect a vendor's time: If you know they are far outside of your budget, don't schedule a consultation that you know won't lead anywhere.
  • Respect a vendor's process: If a vendor asks for inquiries to be submitted a certain way and with certain information, make sure to act accordingly. This isn't their first rodeo, they've put systems into place to make things work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

What NOT to Do When Discussing Price With Vendors

Avoid these missteps when discussing price with vendors.

  • Ghost vendors: "Don't ghost a vendor if you don't get the price you want. Be courteous and close the loop with a simple email explaining their services are outside of your budget aas opposed to disappearing into thin air," says Gray.
  • Price shop: Price shopping is when you email one vendor for a proposal and then share it with another vendor to try and get them to undercut the first quote.
  • Be rude: This should go without saying in all aspects of wedding planning, but just be nice. Wedding pros are small business owners and your wedding doesn't give you a pass to be a jerk.
  • Try to pay with "exposure": Likes on social media doesn't pay the bills. It is not ok to ask for services for free just because you have a lot of followers on social media.

How to Find Wedding Vendors in Your Budget

Prioritization is the name of the game when it comes to finding wedding vendors who will be the best fit for your wedding budget. To start, "consider identifying your top three must-haves and splurge on those aspects," says Brown. Then, you can pare back in other areas to maximize your budget.

Flexibility is also important. If you have a certain wedding vendor or venue you absolutely want to work with, be flexible on when you tie the knot. "Exploring non-prime or off-season wedding dates and days of the week can offer substantial savings. Some vendors offer more affordable prices during the winter and spring seasons," says Ettenhofer.

Once you have a good idea of your general budget, spend time thoroughly researching wedding vendors before you schedule consultations. The Knot Vendor Marketplace is a great place to start your search–you can filter by price, location and other characteristics to form a short list of possibilities. Once you have a general idea of who you might want to work with you can reach out to businesses for more information and go from there.

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