As you are probably beginning to realize, planning a wedding is no easy undertaking. There are tons of details to attend to! If you thought you’d dive right into the fun stuff like finding the dress, sampling cake, and putting together flower arrangements, you have another thing coming. More pressing issues like booking a venue, planning the guest list, and sending out invitations will take precedence in the beginning, and with so many facets of your big day to address, you might be a little worn down by the time you get around to shopping for caterers. In addition, your budget might be stretched to the limit at this point, leaving you with little wiggle room when it comes to paying for food and beverages. But there are ways you can negotiate in order to get the edible fare you crave at a price you can afford.
For starters, you definitely need to comparison shop. Just because the venue you’ve chosen has a vendor they prefer, or even offers a full kitchen, bar, and wait staff, doesn’t mean you are at their mercy. You can simply pay the rental fee for the venue and choose your own outside vendors for the rest. Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure this is allowed before you book the venue since some may not permit outside food on the property (for various reasons). With that issue settled you can start setting up appointments to meet with caterers in order to sample their wares and begin the arduous process of finding the perfect vendor.
The main reason for seeing several caterers is not just to get tons of free samples. You need to know what’s out there so that you can choose what you like. But you also need leverage if you want to negotiate better prices from the caterers that interest you. When you’ve got competitive offers that beat out your preferred vendors in terms of pricing you have a solid point for negotiation. Even if a popular caterer isn’t willing to offer you the same low cost as competitors, they may be willing to drop their price slightly (or perhaps significantly) in order to nab your business. The trick here is that you can’t be afraid to haggle and drive a hard bargain. Everything is negotiable, but only if you’re willing to ask. And you also have to be willing to walk away if the discount you need is not forthcoming.
You might also try several other tactics, such as name-dropping, asking family and friends for favors if they have contacts in catering or bartending services, or even teaming up with other couples that are planning a wedding to see if you can’t both get discounts by booking the same vendors (maximizing your bargaining power). And if you’re really stumped, consider sending your questions to money management bigwigs like Suze Orman or the barefootinvestor.com. Getting a little professional advice could just net you the money-saving tips you need to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to food, drinks, and every aspect of the wedding planning process.