How to go about getting discounts – without leaving suppliers out of pocket

I read an interesting piece in the Huffington Post weddings section recently. It was all about how not to ask for discounts from your wedding vendors. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a great read with some really good points, and they’re well worth taking into account. However, its only shortcoming was that it didn’t offer any real solutions. Being sweet and nice will, of course, ingratiate you to your suppliers, but they have a business to run. They’re not going to just give you money off because you smiled sweetly and didn’t ask for anything aggressively.

The problem with asking for discounts at all is that the overall expense of your wedding has clouded your judgement. The media paints the wedding industry as a whole as overpriced and money-grubbing. And that can be true in some rare cases. What the media doesn’t tell you, though, is what goes on behind the scenes for freelance suppliers.

Let’s take photographers as a random example. These people aren’t on a salary – and they don’t have all their equipment provided for and time paid for by a larger company. When the papers are  huffing and puffing about how a photographer can cost around £2000 for a day’s work, they fail to mention the astronomical equipment costs a photographer faces – particularly if they have the best kit possible to capture your wedding day. They don’t talk about the weeks and weeks of editing that follows a wedding. They don’t talk about how much it costs to buy Photoshop, they don’t talk about travel expenses, they don’t talk about the fact that wedding season is only a few short months a year.

So while I’m not trying to talk you out of asking for a discount, I’m just trying to help brides understand what they’re asking for. And why you have to compromise when it comes to getting some money off. And that’s precisely one of the points I’m about to make with my handy guide on…

How to ask your wedding suppliers for a discount

Be prepared to compromise

Before I start with any of my points, all of them involve a compromise. What I mean by this is that you can’t expect to have a wedding on a Saturday during peak season with months of notice and get discounts left right and centre. It sadly doesn’t work that way – suppliers gotta eat. If you do want to save some cash, your suppliers will usually be more than happy to meet you halfway.

Have your wedding on a Sunday or in the week

Forget the myth that nobody will come – given enough notice, your nearest and dearest will come to your wedding no matter what day it’s on. Having your wedding on a day that isn’t a Saturday will dramatically up your chances of getting a discount from your suppliers as they are less likely to get another booking on that day.

Understand what you’re asking for

The biggest frustration my stationer friends have is that brides will ask them for the impossible. Like doing their invitations for a bulk price of precisely nothing. What you have to understand (and believe me I do, having made my own invites) is that materials cost. Most stationers will not put their name to anything but the best, and that includes using the best paper, ribbon etc. Sometimes the price brides expect is less than the cost price of the materials. Be prepared to compromise. For example, help the environment and, where you can, save paper with a digital design. Yes, it’s lovely to receive a paper invitation but do you have any idea how many of my guests called me up to ask about the wedding details because they lost their invite? A LOT. Paying for a design is still paying for someone’s time and expertise, so don’t expect a freebie, but it will certainly take the astronomical out of the cost. And guess what? It means you may have some cash left over for things like order of service and menu cards!

Book things last minute

I don’t mean the big things – do not leave any of your essentials to the last minute. But what about that luxury you just can’t afford? A photo booth? An ice cream van? Yes, it’s a gamble – you might not get the things you want last minute – but make a list of suppliers in your area that provide the little extras you want and contact them soon enough before your wedding. They might say no but hey, it’s probably too late for another booking and they will have nothing to lose by giving you some money off. Win-win. Just don’t do this with anything you really have your heart set on or you may miss out.

What can you do for them?

Do you have a special and essential skill? Check out it all jazzes with the tax man (you have to declare exchanges) but try your luck. While people can’t live off of services, you can certainly barter down prices if you have something genuinely awesome to offer. Are you an aromatherapist? Offer a course of massages in exchange for a reduction. Are you a hairdresser? Offer some free hair treatments. All they can do is say no and it might be something they’d really like but couldn’t usually afford. Be fair and offer something of equal value to the discount you’re asking.

Be grateful and don’t be difficult

I often hear suppliers say they don’t give discounts because the clients that want discounts are usually the most demanding of all. Prove them wrong and be the best dang customer they’ve ever had!

Have you had some really great discounts? How did you go about negotiating? Suppliers – do you find it difficult when brides want money off? We’d love to hear from you!

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