When you look at vendors for your wedding, they can getting pretty overwhelming really quickly. Not to mention pricey. I found the ultimate challenge with vendors and budget was knowing when you were getting a good deal and when you were being nickeled and dimed.
I remember going to one venue which was an almost all inclusive venue. The showed us there “top notch” ballroom which was absolutely beautiful. It had walnut charivari chairs with ivory cushions, pin tuck table clothes, satin and embroidered napkins, dazzling crystal chandeliers, and way more. When we started talking price, we were informed that it would be $14,000 to book the facility for a Friday, $18,000 for a Saturday. We were informed we had to use their contracted music vendor, their contracted florist and their contract caterer. Silly me thought that initial price quoted included these contractors. We started to discuss details. My husband and I selected the pin tuck table cloths and coordinating embroidered napkins (extra cost), walnut charivari chairs with ivory cushions (extra costs), three appetizers, simple main dish of vegetarian and chicken, basic sides of mashed potatoes and side salad, and cake to be provided by Christopher Garren’s (extra cost for outside vendor). Then there were corkage fees, bar fees, beverage fees, cutting fees, clean up fees, and more. By the time these extras were added in our total was starting to soar over $18,000 for a Friday. That’s four thousand in extra fees and that didn’t even account for the floral fees and DJ fees! I don’t think my husband and I could run faster from that venue.
That’s nickel and diming and that type of experience is pretty common when it comes to weddings. And from what I have heard these type of fees can show up on the day of the wedding and to the complete surprise of those paying for the wedding. Going in to meeting with a vendor savvy and prepare with knowing exactly what you want combined with balancing cost by do-it-yourself alternatives can help keep budget in check.
General Things to Keep in Mind When Working with Vendors
There are some general things that are good to be aware of and keep in mind as you start the process of weeding out vendors. First, I think it is extremely important to know what is the average costs per service as you start looking. For example, when I first started looking at photographers I was floored when they started quoting me costs. One was $1,800 for three hours worth of shooting and then extras for developing photos, CDs and albums. That boils down to $600 an hour. Not that I don’t think that their artistic quality and time is not worth being paid for, because I do! BUT $1,800 better include more than just 3 hours of shooting.
Second, know exactly what you want. This becomes important as many vendors have packages and they most likely will try to fit you in to one of them. However, knowing exactly what you want may get you a better deal by doing a la carte services. Plus, knowing what you want will also help you when looking at packages in case there is one that fits perfectly. For example, when I met with my photographer, I knew that I wanted to create a custom handcrafted scrapbook of our wedding day so I really didn’t want an album. Additionally, I had planned to do two 8×8 parents albums and several 4×6 mini albums for family members so I knew I would be needing a whole lot of prints so ideally I wanted either a CD or negatives of all the images. Ideally, I wanted someone who had a stylized type of photography, would be there most if not all of the day and who I would be comfortable enough with to be getting dressed around. I remember being at my friend’s wedding doing her make-up and as we were getting her dressed, the photographer had his telafocus lens all up her dress and I kept thinking, “Are you zooming in on her something blue because trust me that’s for the groom only.” But I digress. So when I met with my photographer, I knew I wanted to see more of her portfolio to see a wider range of shots and as she started sharing packages, I was able to narrow down to what I wanted. A la carte day of photography, CD of photos, one 16×20 canvas wedding photo and well I did throw in an engagement session and an extremely tasteful and classy gift for my hubby. Cost was $800 wedding and canvas, $150 engagement session and $150 hubby present. Much better than $1800 for just 3 hours.
Third, get a contract. I know most of us can get caught up in the details and we can hear someone agree to something but get it in writing. If its not in writing, its not binding. That means on your end too. You might be surprised but the faintest ink is more retentive than the strongest memory. As you talk to vendors write down what they say. If they quote you a general price or say they will include something, write it down. Then make sure if it was something you wanted or they said they would be flexible on, make sure it is in the contract. Most vendors are booked months in advance and have multiple clients, so to expect them to remember is ridiculous. BUT if they have it in writing there is no excuse for them forgetting. Likewise, you would be surprised by the end of your wedding day what you will and will not remember being agreed to.
Fourth, get what you need before you start adding in what you want. For example, at the wedding site I mentioned above, had that been my dream site, I should have started out with, “Okay, tell me the price for what is standard…basic plates, basic napkins, basic chairs, etc.” Once I saw what that price was and assuming that met my budget constraints, then I could say, “What would the add on price be for chiavari chairs with ivory cushion?” and so on. But if you start with pie-in the sky, from an emotional standpoint, its difficult to take things out. Subconsciously you feel like you are missing out. But when you get to add things, your body and mind have a different feeling. Plus it allows you to work based on priorities.
Fifth, ask your venue for a preferred vendors list. Ask the site, if you use these preferred vendors if either site gives a discount or if they know if the vendor does based on the venue’s referral. Make sure you speak with these vendors as they are usually familiar with the site. They most likely would not be on the preferred vendors list if the site had not worked with them before. This is a plus because they are familiar with what the site does and does not allow, what they will need and its constraints. As you meet with them ask if there is a discount since the venue recommended them. It won’t happen all the time but sometimes it does. The worse that can happen is they say no.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask if this is really the best they can do. Most will try to work within your budget, if they can. I am not advocating going to a photographer that charges $5000 or even $3000 for their sessions and ask them drop their price to $1000. That’s a pretty big hit. However, I worked with my caterer to figure out a menu that worked into both our visions and my budget (almost). So I said, I was really hoping to stick around $5000 and really not wanting to go higher than $6000, could she do a little better, and she did. My friend did the same with her venue. She was a repeat customer as her sister had her reception there. Both the venue and my friend were really trying to make things work but it wasn’t coming together. So finally she said, “I’m really sorry but unless you can do a little better, we just can’t. Our max is $4,000.” So they did make it work. However, if you can’t come to a deal, it is okay to walk away.
Next post I will look at specific vendors and some tips to know to save and things you can do to keep the budget in check while still getting the feel you want.