Guest post by Emily Renee

A friend of mine came to me, troubled about booking wedding vendors and looking for reassurance and advice. I had a few tips after our conversation that I wanted to share.

“I was looking to get some vendor estimates from people and companies we were considering contracting for our wedding. We are somewhat flexible in our budget – more money is available, but we’d rather not spend it. I went into the conversation with three vendors we like asking to get the prices of their services, so that we could then price compare. However, I’m noticing a lot of vendors turn it around, asking me how much I would like to spend rather than giving me an estimate. This is a really difficult question to answer because obviously I have not planned a wedding before. I have no idea what is reasonable. I took a stab in the dark and threw out at a number to one photographer, and he said there was no way he could do it for so little. Well now that I know that, we are willing to pay more since it’s an important part of the wedding. Awkwardly, I left the conversation feeling like I’d insulted him. I almost feel nervous that he may not give us his best work.”

First of all, I replied, I hate the ‘well, what’s your budget?’ question. What do they mean by that? Do they mean ‘total budget’ or ‘portion of budget set aside for this particular thing’? For instance I went into all of my vendor negotiations knowing I could spend up to $5,000 on my wedding. But when they threw that question at me I replied with ‘oh, our total budget is only $3,500’. Set your budget at whatever your anticipated desired total cost is. If they’re not able to budge from their price and it’s within your range, stop and consider if it’s worth the extra to get the person you really want.

On the other hand, a lot of vendors don’t post set prices because they work for themselves and are able to give discounts when and as they see fit. I went through my entire wedding plan and didn’t ask about the venue I really liked. Their website had no prices posted, so I assumed it was out of my range. I finally caved when I just couldn’t find what I wanted. I bit the bullet and called them up.  They ended up giving me the biggest deal of all when I emailed and said ‘I’m a bride on a small budget with a short timeline. I really love your space and have searched high and low to find a replacement I liked half as much in this city with no luck. Can we work anything out?’

So I would say when it comes to vendor estimates that turn into your budget estimate – kinda low ball, but have wiggle room on the items that mean the most. In hindsight, I really wish I had spent more on the music and a dj because it was too quiet and my father-daughter dance song ended weirdly. I didn’t check the downloaded song all the way through, and sure enough it was the only warped song on my playlist.

My cousin got married and she told me afterward “One thing I also didn’t account for was tipping. Tipping was a huge expense I didn’t even realize I had until just a few months before my wedding. You have to tip the bartender, the caterer, the officiant…then there are different rules such as if the photographer is part of a company you tip him, if he is not you don’t, etc. Certain percentages for certain people, or maybe a gift, gah! Then when you start suddenly hemorrhaging hundreds of dollars that you didn’t plan for, it really sucks.”  I feel like I could write an entire article on just tipping people at weddings. I probably should, come to think of it.

Don’t count on any money until it is in your pocket. For example, my friend’s future mother in law said she would give her$300 every month to total a certain amount by the wedding day. Well, things happen, and a few months before the wedding her other son lost his job and her extra money ended up going to him. Had she counted on the money that she didn’t end up getting, she would’ve had to scramble in the last few months to figure out where it would come from. Nobody wants to do that two months before the wedding when all the contracts are signed.

When you’ve found the vendors you’re looking for at the price you can work with in your budget, consider having your photos printed by Photobucket.
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