2/23 The Broke-Ass Guide To Negotiation

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The Broke-Ass Guide to Negotiations

Being able to negotiate is a sure sign of bridal bad-assery, but its something that scares the jeebus out of most of us. If you’re having a budget wedding though, you need to master the art of negotiation and making your cheap wedding not look cheap almost always requires it. It took me years of fear, trial and error to get as comfortable as I am now. But its an essential life skill that has treated me quite rightly, but not everyone knows where to start for themselves, so I’m spreading the wealth (cuz that’s how I do!). It took baby steps and several years of practice, but starting small, I began to conquer the fear and eventually, came to enjoy the art. I’m now proud to say I take the helm in almost all of our negotiations — wedding or otherwise. I’m hardcore!

In my research, I’ve noticed that many bridal resources encourage negotiation, but few offer solid suggestions on how to best approach the game, and being able to hold your own in negotiation is the gift that keeps on giving. I want you brides to feel empowered to fight for what you want, so I’m sharing some of my best tricks for handling the mighty task of haggling.

Many ladies are intimidated by the thought of negotiating, but a bride in charge of “wearing the pants” (if you’ll pardon the antiquated phrase) has one of three possible effects: 1. It commands respect 2. It serves as a disarming distraction, or 3. It doesn’t faze the vendor at all.

None of those reactions put you at risk, so just suck it up and try.

Now, let’s be straight. I’m not talking about pushy Bridezilla pants. I’m talking about respectful, savvy negotiator pants. Trust me ladies, they’re much more flattering on you.

The key principle I operate upon in many life situations, is one my parents taught me growing up: It never hurts to ask. The worst they could say is no, right? But they might just surprise you with a yes … and wouldn’t you rather be sure than miss an opportunity due to insecurity? This is the hallmark of my approach to negotiation.

If above is the entree to a negotiation, it is crucial to have a good side dish: Ask nicely. It will make or break your deal. People like to help nice people. They may not reciprocate. They might even act like you’ll be lucky if they deign to accept your booking, but don’t be distracted by their style. Always keep cool and positive.

But I’m not talking about acting nice. People can smell that a mile away. Treat them more as a potential friend than a business deal. Get to know them a bit and relate to them on a human level. Be genuine. Its something that rarely happens in business transactions these days, and that’s whack. A good relationship may make them more inclined to have a vested interest in your business. This isn’t about manipulation, its about being open. After all, wouldn’t you rather have a friend at your wedding than just another vendor? I’ve come to learn some really cool things about the people I’m working with — and I loved feeling such camaraderie with my vendors.

Now listen: Don’t be afraid to speak on their level. Show them that you know your stuff. While there’s no guarantee they’ll respect your knowledge, at least they’ll know better than to try pulling the wool over your eyes, which will save you both time and effort. Great expectations yield great results, so be confident and it will inspire confidence in you.

The best way to get comfortable with speaking on their level is to know your product or service inside and out. Research which companies are in your budget range, and evaluate which are most likely to be a good negotiation candidate for your situation. Keep in mind:

  • What’s your wedding date? Are they in high demand during that season/on that day of the week? Or are you in off season/on an off day? Are you flexible on the date?
  • Are they a promising new company, talented small business or an industry star? Do they need to build a portfolio, or can they afford to be picky?
  • What reviews can you find about the customer service and employees? What’s your experience with them (ie: response time, friendliness)?
  • What similar companies are out there, and what are their prices? Try to seek out any specials or discount offers you can find, from all competing vendors in your area.

Know everything possible about what you want and what it’s worth, and then determine your bottom line. Know both your “dream price” and your absolute maximum, be armed with specifics. Sometimes competitive company statistics win the battle. Let them know that they’re your first choice, and ask if they’ll beat competitors’ pricing.

Another tactic: simply make an offer. Even if a company advertises a specific price, they may respond to fair and respectfully made offers. Even my high-end wedding photographer has a name-your-own-price option for some couples! This is especially common among smaller and newer companies with a need to build a portfolio or word-of-mouth, or made more likely depending on the specs of your event. But, remember to be fair. Be aware and be respectful of the value of their expertise, talent, time, goods and overhead. A good approach: “This is what I need for my event, and this is my budget for this item. I’d love to work with your company because of (insert flattering but authentic reason here), and I hope we can work something out.” You’re really just opening a dialogue!

Now this one is the battleship of my bargain army: Barter. Whenever possible, offer something in exchange for a discount. Play to your strengths. What can you do well for people? What service can you provide? Anything from cleaning their office/studio to a trade of service like marketing or graphic design could be appropriate, depending on the company. Try and identify any needs they have, and politely offer your assistance in exchange for a discount or full trade. I  did work-trade for my dream wedding dress, by doing invoicing and fabric cutting for the designer in my spare time … major win!

So, c’mon y’all — start small … but be brave. After all, the worst they can say is no, right? Trust me, if you approach with preparation, openness and confidence on your side — you can be one bad-ass negotiator — and experience the empowerment of getting what you want at a price you can afford.

Have you tried any of these tactics? What was the result?

The Broke-Ass Bride
Dana is the head woman in charge here, the original Broke-Ass Bride. Learn more about her here. And, follow her on Twitter (@brokeassbride), Pinterest (@brokeassbride), Facebook (/thebrokeassbride) and Instagram (@brokeassbride). Affiliate links, which might be included in the post above, help make her a few dollars here and there to keep her off the streets and in the business of blogging for your ass. So thanks for coming! :)
  • Angela

    this just made my day. i just woke up in the middle of the night early this morning because i felt overwhelmed at the potential costs one of my vendor's is going to email me with because she is ridiculously talented and i want her services, but am terrified at what the final cost will be. hopefully it won't be as much as i think it will be and i'll be fine, but if she is, i will definitely be using some of your advice! thanks, dana!

  • Great advice! I'm still trying to learn how to speak up for what I want and it's been especially difficult with vendors. It's so easy to just let the Mr. handle that stuff because he's better at it, but I'm slowly working on it, so this will definitely help. Awesome post.

  • I loooooove your dress. Whatever you did to get it, it was worth it!

  • Jen

    Was this posted once before? I feel like i read it somewhere already but I am not sure if I am remembering wrong.

    • very good! its upcycled from forever ago, with some edits because back then I was a whack writer 🙂 The part 2 will be all new goodness though!

  • Kiley

    Great advice. Seriously, one of the most gorgeous dresses I've EVER seen. Lovely.

  • Dana, I negotiate for a living and this is good advice. You do have to ask – you'd be surprised what people will do to help.
    Bartering can be tough for the faint of heart, but a compromise is ALWAYS doable. I hate salmon and it was the fish option on our dinner plan. I wanted to switch it out for the sea bass (more expensive for the vendor, better tasting for me). We agreed upon a tilapia with an fancier sauce that was to DIE for! Everyone raved about it and how they were glad it wasn't salmon at a wedding AGAIN. 🙂

  • Amy

    I'm going to chime in here for my mom, who is a wedding florist. Lately she has been getting a lot of brides asking for price cuts – which she can't really do if she wants to stay in business – her profit margin is not very big. Something she WILL do, however, is work with their budget and help them choose flowers and designs that are less expensive but still within their vision and style. She has also done barters before, but that has been more for family friends or friends of friends – people she knows she can trust to hold up their end of the bargain. One barter early on in her business did not work out- that person still hasn't held up their end of the bargain. So, if you do plan on offering a barter, that's something to remember – how can you show that they should trust you?

  • Amy has a great point. I am a wedding planner who was burned by a bartering bride and my moto since then has been NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!
    Dana's points are spot on for making your dollars stretch further. I cannot tell reiterate how important it is to be respectful and kind when approaching vendors. Keep in mind that we vendors do love what we do and have passion, but this is also our livelihood. Good deals have to be a win/win situation.

  • Jen

    great tips — I've always been a little wary of bargaining, but one has to in this day and age!

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