Q: I read your Ask Team Practical post about choosing vendors, but it didn’t address my biggest issue, which is how to deal with vendors as a bride on a budget with a sensitive ego. The hardest part of this whole process for me has been trying to find vendors for food, flowers, etc. who will work within my budget without making me feel terrible about how much I can spend. The last thing I want to do is low-ball someone—I truly value their skills and understand their needs—but it seems like every time I ask for clarification about a price or see if they can meet me somewhere in the middle, I’m met with a, “How dare you even ask that,” attitude. I’m trying to be as kind as possible and I don’t think I’m being rude by attempting to negotiate, but it’s becoming so disheartening. I’m starting to feel like I don’t deserve the beautiful flowers and tasty food because I can’t pay top dollar for it. Like, they are doing me a favor by even CONSIDERING working with me at such a low price. To make it worse, I’m getting married on a holiday weekend and have gotten the, “Well, it’s Memorial Day weekend so there are many brides who will be looking for our services,” comment, basically saying that someone will come along right after me with more money to spend so why do they care if they lose my business. Even though I might not be able to spend as much as those other brides, it’s still a lot of money to me!
This is a rambling question, but I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to handle these vendors without offending them and while still maintaining my own dignity. Oh, and maybe while you’re at it you could explain to me why so many wedding vendors are meanies? (Not the APW approved ones, of course! We need more of those in New England!)—Pinchin’ Pennies
A: Dear PP,
Budget weddings are hard, man. So is picking vendors and having professional conversations about your personal finances. Rough. But that whole “professional” part is really important to remember because, hey. Your vendors aren’t emotionally invested in your wedding. It sounds pretty obvious, but I think it might be a hard truth to hear for some of us. I mean, wedding vendors like weddings and couples and love and junk—that’s part of why they’re in this business (hopefully). But at the end of the day, they’re making business decisions, not emotional ones. Though we’re each positive that our wedding days are going to be the awesomest, not many smart business people can give discounts just because, well shucks, you guys make a cute couple.
Maybe I do live in a sheltered little bubble of friendly wedding vendors (love you guys!), but I don’t know too many who would try to make you feel weird and embarrassed about financial constraint. So maybe you should take a good long introspective look. Are you feeling weird and embarrassed about money period, or are people making you feel that way? If you’re anything like me, there’s a pretty good chance that first answer will ring true. “I can’t work within that budget,” doesn’t always mean, “You’re a terrible person for suggesting such a thing!” but if you’re already feeling sort of sensitive about money, you’ll hear the latter no matter what someone really says.
You’re starting to feel like you “don’t deserve the beautiful flowers and tasty food” because you, “can’t pay top dollar for it,” well, sweetie. I’m sure you deserve it. Just like I deserve that entire Pinterest board of fancy clothes I pin to each day. Thing is, my bank account disagrees. And that’s the real test here. It doesn’t change anything if you deserve a good filet mignon; what matters is if you can pay for it. The answer to, “I can’t have steak just because I can’t afford it?” is, well, yeah. That’s not just weddings, that’s adulthood. Sure, it sucks. But you can still have a perfectly nice backyard wedding, dessert reception, or barbecue that you both deserve and can afford. And while it may seem unfair, these vendors are doing you a favor by considering your low budget. There are very, very few times in life when you’ll be able to say, “I don’t have that much money. Will you take this much?” and when those times happen, you bet your butt those folks are doing you a favor. Of course, you know not to choose any vendor who acts like speaking to you is a chore or you’re a bother. Because you’re not! So you can go ahead and cross those guys off the list right now while you read this. But catering to your finances and having time-consuming exchanges about how to fit your budget are those lovely above-and-beyond sorts of things that nice vendors will do to make your life easier (or at least cheaper, hopefully).
Same goes for most of the rest—vendors are business people, so they’re making a bunch of business decisions. So, that holiday weekend that’s making you feel like, “We don’t care if we lose your business!” That’s probably not the case. It’s probably more along the lines of, “Why would I accept a lower paying job on a day when people are lining up to hand me piles of money!?” So, like the food or the flowers, maybe one concession you could consider is changing to a weekend when vendors aren’t in such high demand (not always an option, but sometimes a good one).
That’s the end of my tough love portion, so let’s shake it off and hug it out, k? Now we can really focus on your issue: how to handle vendors, and more importantly, why are they being jerks? To that second part—who the hell knows. Maybe you actually are talking to some irritable jerk vendors who aren’t just being business savvy, but rude. It may help to consider how the “budget wedding” trend suddenly blew up in the past few years, to the point where now it’s mainstream and trendy. Now try to imagine how many dang emails vendors get a day from snippy brides demanding lower prices. It doesn’t excuse some defensiveness on their end, but man, if I wouldn’t be irritable, too.
As far as handling them, Meg has a great post over here on the basics of negotiating, and I wrote up this little diddy with the help of the rest of the staff. Like we talked about in both, the key to compromising is, well, compromising. That means that wonderful “meeting in the middle” you mentioned. If you’re asking for a cut price, you need to be ready for a cut in service. It may help to figure out where you could make cuts before you even talk to vendors (fewer hours? one shooter instead of two?), but it’s also a good idea to ask where they suggest shaving to save some cash.
Before you even start talking that stuff over, make sure you’re finding the right guys. Word of mouth is excellent. If you know anyone who was married recently, find out who they hired and what they paid. If you already know someone they treated well, chances are, this vendor’s not a jerk! And starting with someone who already fits your budget saves the stress of haggling. While you ditch the nightmare vendors, make sure you’re not being a nightmare client.
Team Practical, what concessions did you make with vendors in order to fir your budget? How did you find vendors who offered services in your price range (who also weren’t jerks)?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!