It can be heartbreaking to find that dream venue or wedding dress only to realise the price tag is beyond your reach. Your options are to find the extra money, walk away or – our recommended option – negotiate.
If you’ve no idea how to negotiate or feel embarrassed, we spoke to industry insiders to find out the best ways of negotiating your wedding costs.
Image: Lucy Judson Photography
If you want to secure the very best deals on your wedding dress, wedding photographer or negotiate a wedding venue price, these strategies and tips are invaluable.
Here are the secrets to haggling your way to a wedding discount.
How to Negotiate a Wedding Venue Price
Image: Fiona Kelly Photography
Most venues expect couples to negotiate: they will have set packages but they won’t be right for every couple. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you personally need.
Choose Your Wedding Date Wisely
Use your wedding date to your advantage or be prepared to be flexible. Off-season and midweek wedding dates are almost always the cheapest because there’s much less demand for the date. Choosing an October to March or Monday to Thursday date puts you in the strongest position to negotiate.
READ MORE: The Cheapest Days and Months to Book Your Wedding
The hire price will normally be between £1,000 to £5,000 cheaper but there’s normally more wiggle room on top of this as the venue want to secure your business in their low season. A larger venue might be able to do you a further 10 or 20% off the top, but bear in mind a smaller venue might not be able to cut their bottom line too much.
Get a Full Breakdown of What’s Included
Ask for a complete list of what’s included in your hire price so you can work out if there are things you don’t need or can substitute. For example, if you can provide table covers yourself and it means the venue won’t have to launder them, ask the venue if you can save a bit of money by not having them. If a three course meal is included, you might want to enquire about serving your wedding cake as dessert instead. Perhaps you can substitute some drinks for more canapes - or use their caterers and take away the corkage fee?
READ MORE: Hidden Wedding Costs You Need To Know About
It’s not always going to be possible with every venue, but if you can show how it benefits them too and approach it nicely, they’ll be much more open to discussions. Most venues will be willing to let go of something small (like a cake-cutting fee) to save the whole sale.
Image: Maria Assia Photography
Raise the issue of your budget early and be honest about it - venues need a guideline of what you're working with.
“Ask at the initial visit as this will probably ensure a greater reaction from the venue who will most want to impress,” says wedding planner Caroline Hale. If you leave it until just before the contract is signed, it might create ill will.
Do Your Research
Even if you have one dream venue in mind, visit three or four venues and find out their price and what they offer. The more information you have, the better armed you are to negotiate your wedding venue cost.
READ MORE: The Real Etiquette for Parents Paying for Your Wedding
The best thing to do is avoid ultimatums and keep everything positive, so don’t bulldoze in with your demands. State your budget, how much you’ve like to pay and what their competitor offered you. It’s better to ask them for your preferred price than put the ball in their court and see how much discount they can offer you.
Image: Matt Brodie Photography
Hire a Wedding Planner
Spending money on a wedding planner can actually save you in the long-run; think of them a professional negotiator working on your behalf. "nvariably venues and suppliers will give us discounts because for them we're repeat clients," explains Bernadette Chapman, director of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners. "They know that we are on the ball with chasing payments and ensuring the schedule and logistics are completely properly organised.
READ MORE: 17 Budget Wedding Hacks
"We have an understanding of what venues and suppliers should charge so will be able to advise you on the right way to reduce your spend. Quite often we ask for more bespoke services instead of “off the shelf” options.
“Do keep your word. If you say you are willing to confirm at a price and then try to haggle further, venues will lose their patience,” says Chris Marsh from Broadoaks Country House. “Stay nice but firm about things, this will go a long way.”
READ MORE: Is a DIY Wedding Worth It?
Trust goes both ways when you’re making such an important booking as your wedding venue so show them as much respect as you’d like to be treated with – undercutting the offer at the final moment isn’t very sporting.
Bernadette warns what can happen if you mess around your venue or supplier. "If you haggle hard and the supplier agrees, how do you think that supplier will feel? Will they bring the energy and passion you deserve to your wedding?"
Image: Zoet Moments
Play it Cool
If you’ve made it clear that you’ll do pretty much anything to get a certain venue, the venue manager is less likely to budge on price as they know you won’t walk away. Let them know that your interest is serious but play it cool with how much you love the place.
Get it Down in Writing
Always confirm your negotiated price - whether for a venue or a florist - down in writing once you’ve agreed on it. Agree also on how this is paid: you should only be expected to put a deposit down first (which you have wedding insurance for!).
READ MORE: Your 13 Step Wedding Planning Guide
If they are asking for a full payment upfront for your discount price, make sure this is insured or secured in some way and written down in all your contracts.
How to Negotiate Wedding Photography Prices
Image: YTZ Photography
Wedding photography prices start from £1,000 on average for a full day's worth of shooting. You can cut down on that cost by reducing the hours you have the photographer for, but you can also get more for your budget.
Flatter Your Photographer
Wedding photographer Jane Murray says a few compliments go a very long way with creative suppliers. “Photographers are talented people selling themselves as well as a business. People have said to me ‘I really like you and your work’ and that builds a rapport. Then when they give you their budget you really try and fit in with them.”
Secure Extras Instead
Good negotiation is about securing extras as well as trying to lower the price. If a photographer really can’t drop the price, ask for a free album, presentation canvas or the copyright.
READ MORE: How to Plan a Wedding for £10,000
Jane says, “If those packages already include those items you can say, ‘I really like you as a photographer, but we need to cut down the price, is it okay if we don’t have the album?’ That’s a great way of paying less or getting more for your money.”
Image: Maria Assia Photography
Pay Them Upfront
Jane says to remember the power of early payment. “With any small business, if you offer to pay upfront you will get a good deal. Cash upfront is a big incentive.”
How to Negotiate A Wedding Dress Price
Image: Stephanie Palmer Photography
Discount wedding dresses don’t always need to be the last left on the rail. There’s plenty of ways you can get more for your money and still secure your dream gown, but a discount isn't always the way forward.
Buy Your Dress at the Right Time
Sample sales or end of season sales are the best time to get a cheap wedding dress. This is when you can buy a sample dress – the one which brides will have tried on in the shop – or a discontinued line.
READ MORE: 43 Mistakes Brides Make When Wedding Dress Shopping
Normally these will be cheap anyway, but if you agree to get alterations done at the salon or the dress has a small make-up mark (only if it can be dry cleaned out easily!), you might be able to get the price reduced even further with a little haggling.
See What Add-Ons They Can Offer
It’s not always about whether a dress shop can take 10% off the price, but what accessories they can add on. The best way to negotiate might be to see if a veil, belt, sleeves or tiara can be added in to your deal. Bear in mind that you’re only saving here if you were planning on buying the accessory anyway.
For brides planning on selling your wedding dress after your big day, you may be able to up your asking price if it comes with the veil or belt so think about whether you could recoup money in the long run.
Image: Ivory Fayre Photography
Be Prepared to Buy on the Spot
Especially with independent bridal boutiques. They might be more willing to price match or lower the dress cost if you can pay them the total cost on the day and don’t need to arrange instalments.
READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Dress Alterations
You’ll get so much further with negotiations if you build up a relationship with the salon. Speak to people in person and always be friendly. Bridezillas are much less likely to get what they want!
How to Negotiate With Your Wedding Caterers
Image: Circa Events
Whether you go informal and relaxed or for a gastronomic extravaganza, food is one of the most important parts of your day for the guest experience. With so many different catering packages, you'll need to be knowledeable when going into negotiations.
Go For an Off-Season or Last Minute Date
This isn’t just relevant to wedding venues: hosting your wedding on a less in-demand date is equally as important for your catering. “Winter weddings are the most economical, as this is catering off-season”, says wedding caterer Vicki Hughes.
READ MORE: The Best Wedding Decor for £10 or Less
If you’re having a last minute wedding, this can also save you as you’re giving the caterer a gig they weren’t otherwise expecting to be paid for so there’s space for a discount if you’re willing to ask.
Use Their Connections
This applies to all your suppliers. Say your caterer works closely with a cake maker, they might be able to help you secure a better deal by referring you or working out a deal. Your caterer might be able to deliver and set-up the cake for free alongside your food, for example, meaning you could cut this out your cake maker's cost. Always ask whether your suppliers have any deals with other suppliers.
Image: Ross & Ross Food
Know What You Want
If you know what menu you’d like at your wedding, you’re already one step ahead of many couples. This also means you can target caterers who offer exactly what you want and use like-for-like offers to negotiate.
READ MORE: How to Plan A Wedding for £25,000
“Decide on your menu, put it in an email with your budget and fire it off to as many caterers as you can. Decide on a short list and then use the cheapest of the quotes to try to get the price down with your preferred caterer," says Vicki. If you want a three-course sit down dinner, don’t expect to get anywhere by throwing the cost of an informal BBQ at them!
Ask about Payment Plans
If you think a caterer (or venue or any supplier!) is out of your price range, you might be able to negotiate a price plan with them so you don’t have to pay all at once.
READ MORE: 50 Cheap Wedding Favours for £1 or Less
Many are small businesses so a payment plan might not work, but for some they’ll be happy to work out a system where you pay the deposit and the rest in instalments as the wedding date approaches. It doesn’t save you money but it may get you a caterer or supplier you couldn’t otherwise afford.
How to Negotiate With Your Wedding Florists
Image: YTZ Photography
Never be embarrassed to say a quote is more than you expected, but always be honest with your florist about what you can afford. As flowers are such an important part of the look of your day, you don’t want to go stingy here, but you can negotiate the cost of wedding flowers.
Be Flexible with Your Flowers
You’ve got to be willing to compromise on your chosen flowers if they simply don’t work with your budget. Ask your florist to substitute a flower with a cheaper variety to either reduce your cost or get you more for your money.
READ MORE: Wedding Flower Prices Revealed
A few pounds saved here could get you a couple more centrepieces. Ask the florist for their advice: they have the knowledge and will be able to work with your budget.
Ask If Any Decor Can Be Included
Florist often have a lot of décor that you can rent from them – or get included with your flower costs. Since they’re already delivering the flowers, you could ask if they’re willing to include some draping, candles or even a cake stand for free or discounted. You might not associate your supplier directly with something, but they might surprise you by having it.
Image: Poppy Carter Portraits
Keep Track of Your Negotiations
Keep a negotiating diary. Use it to note down all the florists and their proposals, and weigh up who is offering you the best value for money.
READ MORE: How to Choose Your Wedding Flowers
Always cross reference what is being offered to you so you can immediately weed out the crazy high prices and then use your quotes to help negotiate.
Three Key Rules To Negotiating Your Wedding Costs
Image: Tiffany Hopwood Photography
1. Be confident – Show no fear or embarrassment. It’s perfectly reasonable to see if there’s a deal that can be done. The worst anyone can say is no.
2. Decide what you want – If it’s a 10% discount or an added extra thrown in, know what you’d like from the negotiations before you start. You can adjust once you get a bearing for what’s possible.
3. Be prepared to walk away – The venue/supplier might give in when they see you’re serious about letting the sale go, or they might decide what you want isn’t worth their time. Either way, be prepared to walk away and actually do it if you aren’t getting what you want.
Three Ways To Ruin Your Wedding Negotiations
Image: Alex Tenters Photography
1. Don’t insult people – Consider what someone’s time is worth and don’t ask them to give you 50% off when you know that would mean a loss for them. This is their livelihood and they are charging what they believe their service is worth.
"The fee they are charging is not their profit / take home pay," explains Bernadette. "Out of the fee is their costs to supply the service or product, insurance, taxi, staff, premises, marketing, equipment. As a guide, at least 25% of the fee is allocated on the running of a business."
2. Don’t make threats – Threatening to write bad reviews about a company unless they give you a discount is completely wrong. Again, this is someone’s job and how they feed their family; threatening to ruin their business is unacceptable.
3. Don’t lie – the wedding industry is not that big and suppliers know each other and their general rates. If you lie and say someone offered you something for £100 when everyone knows it’s worth £1,000, no supplier will want to work with you. Be honest about the quotes you’ve been given.
For more tips on advice on how to get your perfect wedding on a budget, check out our guide to getting your dream wedding for £3,000 and our step-by-step breakdown to a £5,000 wedding.