Planning a wedding is a lot like walking into a bank, typing your pin number into the ATM and letting the strangers who walk through the doors take money out of your bank account. Everything that happens during a wedding, even things you didn’t know existed before your engagement, is more expensive than it should be. And almost everything purchased for a wedding can be bought for cheaper if it’s for a different event. However! It’s a bit of a catch-22 because there are a few items that are a bit difficult to pass off as anything other than wedding purchases. Like a wedding dress. Or an entire wedding. Because I tried that. And it did not end well.
A recently married friend of mine gave me an excellent piece of wedding planning advice: If you can ever pass off your wedding as a different type of event, do it. Why? Because vendors (that’s wedding speak for people you pay for stuff) know that women planning their weddings are on the losing side of any price negotiations. If you find something that you want for your wedding day and it’s too expensive, you either need to change your expectations or cough up the dough.
But if people don’t know it’s your wedding, they’ll treat you like a normal customer. And chances are, provide you with a normal price for the things you’d like to purchase.
For example, my friend saved a lot of money on her reception by reserving space for a simple “work event,” and suggested I pitch mine that way to potential venue managers.
So I tried that a few times, calling or emailing from my work account about a generic “event” I’d like to schedule this year. Except I wasn’t really prepared with the details.
One day, a location in Larchmont, New York called me back while I was at work. The man on the phone introduced himself and asked straight up:
“So what type of event are you planning?”
“Um…an anniversary party?”
Within ten minutes, I had spun a sob story about how my sisters and I were planning our parents’ 40th anniversary party and we had a very limited budget. Every time I answered a question, this man had another one to ask me. Soon I had created an intricate story of how many people were coming to this fictional party and how we were trying to piece together a budget to pay for it and how much it would mean to my sweet, aged parents.
And apparently, I won some sympathy. Within a few minutes, he literally said to me:
“If this was a wedding, it would cost around $150-$175 per person. But since it’s an anniversary party, we could do it for $50-$75 per person.”
Did that include alcohol? Yes, it did.
What accounted for the difference in price? Apparently, brides often request sushi and raw bars and all sorts of expensive food items. Considering I had requested no such thing at any of the places that had previously quoted me expensive prices, I was confused. Simultaneously, I was elated. I had just tricked this man into quoting me a price about 1/3 the cost I had gotten from every other place I had called about my wedding.
There was only one problem. I’d done so by lying. And now I had woven a tale so intricate I could not figure out how to back out.
What was I going to do? Show up in a white dress and yell “Surprise!” when the dude saw me on my wedding day?
For awhile I thought we could still consider the venue, by using my fiance’s name. But one day a week later we toured the area with my parents and ended up in this exact country club. Again erroneously, I assumed we could walk through the space unnoticed and see if it was even worth figuring out how to backpedal out of my previous debacle. But of course that plan was ill-fated. We wandered through the club for five minutes before some man came up to us to see what we were looking for.
Who else would it be other than the one who had pummeled me with questions earlier in the week? And suddenly we were dragged through his whole schpiel about why this yacht club was the perfect place for a wedding and why he was the perfect person to orchestrate it. He
didn’t quite recognize me, partly because every time he asked my name I asked him a wedding related question.
But when my parents introduced themselves and he said their names sounded awfully familiar, it made me cringe. After about 20 minutes, he quoted us that $150-$175 price per person. And perhaps that was the time when I should have brought up the fact that he quoted me $50 per person over the phone.
But I just didn’t feel like it. I’d already decided that we weren’t going to get married there. It isn’t worth going through the whole explanation of what happened to see if we could get a lower rate because we trapped the manager into divulging what he charges for events that are not weddings.
There are simply too many variables in wedding planning that present opportunities to expand prices. I knew exactly how the conversation would go, and I just didn’t have the energy for it. After spending a few months trying to wiggle lower prices out of people (ahem, vendors), I’ve learned that conversations quickly stop being polite when you try to haggle. And in the end, it’s just easier finding people who have reasonable prices and expectations than waiting until
the end of a canned speech of supposed awesomeness and trying to bring the price down.
Also, I would rather not feel like an asshole at my own wedding. Even if it means saving money. My loss, I guess.