Bridal Bargaining

By Cindy Cafferty

July 17, 2009 5 min read


Haggling for the best deals no longer needs to be a hassle

Cindy Cafferty

Creators News Service

Think buying into bridal bargaining means selling out on wedding day bliss? Not anymore. When it comes to weddings, cheap is the new chic. Long gone are the extravaganzas of yesteryear, making room for more affordable nuptial trends: simplifying, trimming and, yes, even haggling.

As with any important occasion, caveats apply, but with a little expert guidance, some simple strategizing and a little creativity, you'll soon be cashing in on the savings without cashing out on your dream day.

The first step to planning a wedding on a budget is, well, planning. Strategy is key to unlocking the door to bridal day bliss, and your first steps are likely to be the most important ones. Knowing your budget, communicating your limitations and sticking to your price range go a long way to averting potential pitfalls and avoiding future monetary disasters.

"Before any decisions are made, it's essential to first figure out who is contributing to the cost of the wedding," said Carley Roney, editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Knot, Inc. "The couple needs to sit down with family and have an honest conversation about who is contributing and what they can contribute."

By getting a grasp on how much you have to spend and where that spending is coming from, you can set realistic expectations for your dream day and start delving into the all-important strategy of where to drop that dough.

"The [national] average wedding costs run about $25,000," said Alan Fields, long-time wedding insider and co-author of "Bridal Bargains: Secrets to throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget" ($15, Windsor Peak Press), which is in its ninth edition. "Are you going to shoot for the 'Jaguar' wedding, or go for some 'Ford Focus' elements? ... By cutting costs in key areas, you can cut the cost of a wedding by about 30 percent."

Roney suggested picking out three items that you are willing to spend a bit more money on. After those top three, she recommended that brides start incorporating ideas for saving money on the rest of the day's events.

Roney and Fields offered the following tricks to cutting back on big wedding spending and negotiating bargain basement deals:

* Trim your guest list. The number one way to save money, according to Roney, is to cut back. The fewer the heads, the more money you'll save -- from the reception to the invitations and party favors.

* Avoid peak season. According to Fields, the least busy bridal months are November, January and February. By planning your event during the down season, you give yourself more negotiating power with venues as well as with wedding vendors.

* Skip the Saturday night wedding. Roney suggested choosing a Friday evening, Saturday day or Sunday wedding to save around 20 percent per head.

* Be flexible. Both Roney and Fields agreed that flexibility could mean huge savings. Becoming too emotionally attached to having a specific vendor is a sure way to go over budget. Instead, you can get creative with finding vendors to save big bridal bucks.

For flowers, Fields suggested heading to the local Farmer's Market for seasonal blooms indigenous to your area to avoid the high costs of flower shops. When it comes to choosing a venue, Roney suggested looking for spaces that already have "built-in" d?cor, like a garden or vineyard.

* Do your homework. Research, go to several different vendors, compare prices and start negotiating with merchants and service providers by letting them know what the competition is willing to offer. If you can't negotiate a lower price with a specific merchant, you'll be able to save by opting for a less expensive competitor.

Scrimping on items is a sure way to stretch your budget, but keep in mind the following areas where you'll want to spend more:

* Professional help. Even the best of brides need help with catering, dress alterations and capturing the big day on camera. Feel free to make your own invitations, set up a bridal website to save on invitation inserts or make your own party favors -- but avoid scrimping on the biggies.

* Food and service. Roney and Fields both suggested scaling down the menu, but eliminating it all together, or expecting guests to wait in line at a buffet or pay for their own drinks, is a no-no.

* Entertainment. A reception isn't a reception without some form of entertainment -- small talk among guests won't cut it. Entertain the idea of spending some on a DJ or band.

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