One of the questions I am frequently asked by potential clients is, “Will you negotiate better pricing from vendors?” At first you may think that these are all budget conscious clients, but I’ve received this question from couples with budgets from $30K up to $150K.
At one time I thought, “Well it doesn’t hurt to ask vendors for a deal”, but sometimes I think, it does hurt – both me and the couple.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that negotiation should never be done. But I think that I see my role less as negotiating lower prices for you and more as 1) recommending vendors that I know are in your price range; and 2) helping you make the most use out of your budget. There are things I’m not comfortable doing. For example, if you’re looking for two albums, 10 hours of photography with two shooters, two enlargements and thank you cards and your budget is $3,000, I will not approach a photographer who I already know would charge $6K for this and ask them to do it for you at $3K, just because I asked. I will not ask him/her to ‘throw in’ the thank you cards for free.
I will however, recommend to you a photographer much closer to your range, and I’ll try to talk through all of your options to best use your budget. How important are the albums to you? Maybe we can cut down on the number of pages or photos in the albums, or the material of the covers, to reduce the cost. Or, put off the album selection until after the wedding when you may have some wedding gifts to put towards the ones you really want. Do you genuinely need 10 hours of coverage, or would 8 work just as well for you?
I’ll also try to educate the client on why the pricing is what it is. If they question why videography is so much, I explain to them that so much more goes into the service than the 8 hours of onsite coverage. There are pre wedding consultations, and post wedding hours and hours and hours and hours of editing. The finished product doesn’t come right off the camera the day after the wedding. There is much time and talent involved in producing your wedding video, most of which the couple will never see at work.
Another pet peeve is when I’ll have talked to a vendor, cleared the event date, worked through pricing, explained the client’s needs, and then present them as a recommendation to a couple. Only for the couple to love them, but to ask me to go back and see if I can get an even better price. Again, I’m not comfortable with that as I’ve already had that conversation with the vendor, and to continue going back to them is IMHO, disrespectful. I see it as if your boss pulled you in his/her office and said “I think you’re doing an amazing job. I love your work! But I’m going to reduce your salary by $10K this year, and I expect you to continue doing the exact same job.” How many of you would still want to put 100% into your job, to keep a really positive attitude, and to stay committed to the company?
I work with almost 100% small business owners as my preferred vendors. They are priced according to their level of experience, years working at their craft, and the market. By constantly “haggling” it is as though I do not value them, their talent, and their service. That doesn’t make for a good client-vendor relationship, and especially doesn’t make for a good planner-vendor relationship. Every dollar we try to get them to cut off their pricing, is another dollar that they can’t put towards new equipment, or towards rent and utilities, or towards groceries for their family. That sounds a little “eye rolling worthy” but it’s every bit true, and I respect that.
Therefore, I try to treat the vendors with whom I work with utmost respect and admiration. I ask for their input in the day’s timeline. I make sure they have food and water, and if they haven’t stopped to eat or drink in hours I’ll bring the food to them. I’ll make sure they get paid on time, correctly, and receive gratuities that reflect their dedication to the job at hand. Basically, I treat vendors as I would like to be treated. I don't agree with what I see many couples believing: the "us and them" thinking that every vendor is out to bleed the couple dry. That is really not the case, and I'm saddened that there's something, anything, in the industry today perpetuating this mentality.
And so to answer the question: No. I won’t haggle. I don’t discount my services, and I don’t expect my fellow vendors to do so. But I’ll help you every way I know how to manage your budget smartly and creatively, and we will produce the event you’ve dreamed about with a ‘dream team’ of vendors who will keep you smiling every step of the way.