Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wedding Insight from a Former Real Bride

Over at 504 Main a few weeks ago I had Kristen from Whose Watching the Baby link up a very interesting post about weddings and negotiating. I liked Kristen's frank attitude and insight and asked her If I could share it here.
I definitely have my ideas of do's and don'ts but there are so many different situations and circumstances out there, listening to others is extremely helpful. I also feel in wedding planning brides can learn so much from other and former brides, so with no further adieu, here is Kristen's scoop!
(You can read the post on her blog right HERE)
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Unfortunately for my mom and dad, I didn't really get good at this until well after I was already married, and getting married again just to take advantage of the bargain didn't go over very well with my husband. The current recession isn't hurting buyers' negotiating power, either, so this could be a unique opportunity for those currently affianced to marry above their station - or maybe just wed above their station, like at the Four Seasons instead of the VFW. I have lots of friends and family who are planning weddings, and below is my standard advice.  But first:


{Wait! Important Caveat!}

{If you have a place and a date with which you have absolutely fallen in love, I can't really help you. This is also true if you have a very specific vision, down to the last eensy weensy detail. It's like anything else you buy - if you're not willing to walk away from it, you have no negotiating power. Just do me a favor: at the very least, don't tell the salesperson how much you just love it and that you'd pay anything to have your wedding at their hotel/country club/livestock show and rodeo. Pretend to be a hardass. Play hard to get. There are too many deals out there right now to just hand them the sale!}

First things first: If you really want to save a pretty penny on your reception, you have to be flexible. The more flexibility, the better. Below are the options that you can toggle to make the most of the money you have budgeted for your reception. After you've chosen where you're willing to make some sacrifices, you must put together a Request for Proposal, and let the venues that you are willing to consider come to you with their best offers. We'll get to that later this week, but first the hard part: deciding what's important to you.

Day of Week, Time of Day

Saturday evening weddings are the most expensive, and Saturday brides will find their venue of choice least likely to work a deal on price. They're the most desirable, there are only about 48 good ones in a year,* and these receptions almost always include lots of expensive alcohol. Willing to get married on a Sunday morning? A Friday night? Even Saturday during the day can be a bargain if you negotiate it right. This leads us to our asterisk... There are only 48 good Saturdays in a year because some of them will fall on days that are not popular with the wedding crowd. Willing to get married on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Bank! How about the Saturday before Easter? Perfect, if it works for you and your guests. These days have very little demand, and your wedding venue will likely leap at the chance to fill these empty days on their calendar.

Menu

As a general rule, buffet meals are more expensive for the caterer than plated meals served at the table. This is because the venue has to prepare extra food, and replenish the food eaten for whatever amount of time is agreed upon in the event contract. If you are willing to go completely 'chef's choice' on your menu, you can save big bucks. You're letting your caterer take advantage of economies of scale in his purchasing and in preparation of your food. He may choose to match your menu to one being served concurrently in a different ballroom, or order the same protein for your event as the one he's serving the night before. You can still specify the type of protein and number of choices available to guests, and agree to settle on a menu about two weeks before the date of the reception.

Booze

There is no reason to ever pay for an open, or 'hourly', bar. It will never work out in your favor. Caterers know this, and that's why many offer only this option in their wedding packages. The type of bar you want is called 'consumption'. You set a limit that you're willing to spend, and the caterer discretely lets you (or your designee) know during your reception when the tab is getting close to the predetermined limit. At this point you can decide whether you want to up the limit and keep serving, or make it last call.

There are lots of ways to limit alcohol costs, such as sticking to wine on the table or one signature cocktail. Many brides and grooms toy with the idea of bringing in their own alcohol, but beware: although laws vary from state to state, many venues with their own liquor licenses, such as hotels and country clubs, will not let you bring in your own alcohol unless you have some unusual preference that they can't get through their distributor. Even this is usually subject to a corkage fee - watch for hidden costs!

Lead Time

If you reserve your date a year in advance, you're generally not going to get a 'deal'. They may tell you that you are - free champagne toast, anyone? - but you aren't. They still have plenty of time to fill the date, and if it's not you, there's a good chance someone else will come along. Wait until 4 months out? It's getting dicey. Three months out? Name your price.

Room Setup

This is not the richest source of potential savings, but it's up there: Are you willing to be flexible with how your guests sit in the venue, or do you insist on rearranging the furniture to suit your own personal chi? The caterer has to pay someone to come in and schlep all of those tables and chairs around. If you're willing to go with the room arrangement of the wedding before you, it might give your caterer or reception location a little more flexibility in their pricing. This may mean that your guests sit at long tables when you expected them to be at round ones, but we're about saving dollars here, right?

Hotel Rooms

If your ideal list of reception locations includes any hotels, make sure you let the salesperson know at first contact how many out of town guests you expect will be staying the night, and when they will likely arrive and depart. If your guests stay on site, this increases the profitability of the event for your vendor, and they may be more flexible in your out of pocket costs.
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Thanks Kristen for letting me share you insight. Go say hi to her!
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4 comments:

Shanae Branham said...

Great advice! I really love your blog.

KDC Events said...

I got married on a Sunday to save money. I too think that I could do it all over again MUCH more inexpensive than I did =) Oh well!!

Jenny said...

Good ideas! Sent your blog to a friend who is planning a wedding now.

miley swan said...

The choice of wedding locations involves knowing what you want and knowing what your budget is and it also involves planning your guest list.
los angeles wedding venue

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