Today’s post features guest writer Devon Smiley, a contract negotiation ninja. Devon specializes in helping entrepreneurs, but I thought her tips would be helpful to couples planning a wedding as well.
4 Essentials For Securing Sweet Deals With Vendors
Weddings are about love, commitment and celebration. They’re about decisions on steak versus chicken, lilies versus roses, and sheath versus mermaid. It’s fun, exciting and more than a little stressful. Especially when the budget comes into play and those decisions you’re making are attached to invoices and contracts.
Diving into pricing negotiations and contract reviews is hardly the glamorous side of wedding planning, but it’s essential to making sure that you’re getting best value for your budget, and not setting yourself up for any surprises on the big day.
Here are the four essentials for securing your best, sweetest contracts with wedding vendors.
1. Go for it!
Trust me, you won’t be the first person to ask this vendor for a deal, and you definitely won’t be the last. There’s no need to feel shy, cheap or picky when asking for something. As long as you’re treating the vendor and the work they do with respect, ask away. A great question to get you warmed up to negotiations?
“Is there any flexibility here?”
Asking a low-key, low-pressure question like this opens up a conversation about the terms and prices. The vendor may offer you something lovely right off the bat, or ask you if you have a specific adjustment in mind. Either way, you’ve started negotiating without that icky, nervous, greedy feeling. Brava!
2. Think big. And small.
Wedding expenses add up fast. But the good news is that the savings can as well. Staying within your budget doesn’t have to mean scoring crazy 50% off deals with vendors – even shaving 5% off of an invoice will add up.
Your time and energy (both of which are in short supply) are better spent in discussions with your largest vendors to save smaller percentages, than they are in discussions with your smaller vendors to save larger percentages.
For example: Negotiate a 5% discount on a $30,000 venue bill…and you’ve just kept $1500 in your pocket. Negotiating a 50% discount on a $1000 cake? Not as much impact, but a whole heck of a lot more work to get there. (Lisa’s note: Not to mention some potentially unhappy vendors!)
3. It’s about more than the money, honey.
Lowering your expenses is a wonderful benefit of getting comfortable with negotiation, but there’s more to it than just the dollars and cents. Some vendors won’t be able to lower their prices. And that’s ok. It gives you the opportunity to get creative and find other ways to sweeten the deal. For example, you could negotiate with a vendor to have:
– early access to the venue for set up
– an upgrade from a room to a suite for the bride’s prep
– expedited delivery of the favors you ordered
– free-of-charge mini-meals for children attending
The possibilities are pretty much endless. The key is thinking of other ways to save yourself time, energy and money – besides taking a percentage off of an invoice.
(Lisa’s note: Sometimes a venue may have in-house decor items like easels or centerpieces that they’ll throw in as a bonus if you ask nicely and book quickly*. It’s a small cost to them, but can save you money and time on the wedding day. And on that note, the quicker you’re ready to book a vendor, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate the best deal. Some vendors offer same-day booking incentives, so ask in advance and be sure to bring decision makers with you to the meeting.)
4. Read the contract twice. Then read it again.
I know, I know, it’s no fun. No one likes reading through the fine print, but investing the time before signing saves a lot of headache (and potentially heartbreak) down the line. Here are some contract sections to watch out for.
Payment Terms: Get clear on how much is due, when, and how it needs to be paid. (because being presented with a bill on the wedding day and not having the cash on hand to pay is a stress you do not need.)
Liability and Insurance: If Uncle Joe slips and falls on the dance floor, whose responsibility is that? How much would the venue or caterer cover if something goes wrong with the meal or facilities?
Cancellation Policies: Some vendors will have flexible terms, and even a few weeks away from the wedding you’ll be able to pull out without losing much more than a deposit. But cancelling could come with a hefty bill. This will be especially true – and justified – if you’ve had them do custom work for you. (Lisa’s note: Don’t assume that cancellation only happens for the worst case scenario; sometimes unexpected life situations require changes to your wedding date or venue.)
The Event or Delivery Details: This may seem like a silly one, but a wee little typo in the date or location of your wedding could cause big problems. Double (triple!) check for the month, day and year. The day of the week. The address and zip code. The spelling of names. Having a friend or relative look over contracts or design proofs with you can be a great way to catch any mistakes before it’s too late to make a correction. (Lisa’s note: Your wedding planner may also help with this.)
Keeping these four pieces of advice in mind, negotiating with your wedding vendors can be a rewarding and relatively low-stress endeavor. Combing through your plans to spot opportunities to ‘sweeten the deal’ is a great place to start, and if you’re feeling stumped, a planning pro who has insider knowledge on vendors and all of the nuts and bolts of creating a beautiful event can help get you moving through that list with ease.
Devon Smiley is a Negotiation Consultant for ambitious entrepreneurs who are ready to stop taking what they can get, and start asking for what they deserve.
Devon’s mission is to make sure that you’re maximizing your earnings, signing fair deals, and keeping as much of that hard-earned money in your pocket as possible. To get you off and running, she’s created the More Money Checklist: 15 Surefire Ways To Make More Money Without Chasing New Clients. You can download your copy at devonsmiley.com/moremoney.