Not every wedding venue will be able to offer a discount, but there are some who are only too happy to negotiate as they’d simply rather have the booking than an empty venue, especially during times when there are fewer weddings on the horizon.
Some people like to haggle and won’t give up till they get what they want while many of us are prepared to pay the full price and won’t even think to ask for a discount, whether out of pride, embarrassment or just plain fear. If you do want to pay less though, it is always worth asking; here’s how:
Confidence is Everything
The first rule of negotiating is to show no fear. If you are confident, you can ask for almost anything. Don’t, however, ask for the impossible or you may not be taken seriously – you are never going to get a million pound mansion for a fiver. If you are shy and find asking for anything very stressful, then it will help you to prepare.
First, you need to know exactly what to ask for. You may want to ask for a 10% discount, removal of one or two items from your package to lower the price, or for a substitution in the package that will give you a better deal (for example, fewer drinks for more food).
How Low Can You Go?
From the venue’s advertised price list, work out how much you could ask them to reasonably lower the costs. Asking for ten or even up to twenty percent off is acceptable and larger venues may be able to take off more – if they are willing. A word of warning on the ‘feel no fear’ however- don’t start off with a price that’s too low and say you’re not moving because you may end up having to walk away. Similarly, if you start off too high and they instantly agree, you might kick yourself for not asking for more off! There always needs to be room for negotiation, up and down.
Understanding why and when a venue will come down in price should help you to get the best discount. A Saturday during peak season will never be hard to fill, and in previous years they might have had several couples asking after the same date. The best times to negotiate a lower price are for days when the venue has considerably less interest – that’s usually weekdays and weekends out of peak season.
Peak season for most UK venues tends to be from June to September, around Christmas, and of course, Valentine’s Day on February 14th is also likely to get booked up fast.
Frances West, the in-house wedding coordinator at The Roof Gardens in London’s Kensington, said: “It’s definitely key to book out of season to get great deals on your wedding.”
We all dream of bright, sunshiny summer weddings where our photographer will make the most of our stunning surroundings and we can mingle with our guests in the late evening light, but it is worth bearing in mind that we will pay extra for it! The weather is never guaranteed in this country though and you could book your dream venue in July or August and still have heavy rain. So, if you want to save hundreds, consider planning your wedding on a Friday in March rather than a Saturday in June. Getting married on a Friday also means there’s the potential for a three day celebration, not just two!
Venues Offering Late Availability Deals
Many venues now offer deals for couples looking to book at short notice. Late availability deals can be had if you are planning your wedding in a matter of weeks rather than months, and it can pay dividends to marry out of season. An early spring or late autumn wedding can cost half as much as a mid-summer or Valentine’s Day wedding. Summer is, of course, more popular for the good weather and for more outdoor photography opportunities in gorgeous settings.
How to Ask for a Discount
Do your research first. Ask around to see if anyone you know has managed to negotiate a discount locally. Visit three or four venues and discuss exactly what they offer and for what price. Ask if they could substitute any parts of the package such as offering room hire without in-house catering for less. That way you could save on fixed-price catering charges and bring in cheaper outside caterers. Ask about corkage fees – could you use their caterers but bring in your own wine for less?
A recent groom told me:
“When we were looking for venues we would find out where the venue made its money and investigate if they were open to letting us arrange the other aspects ourselves, saving on their prices for extras. The venue we booked was run by a catering company who made their money from the food and corkage and were very happy for us to do our own decor. Another venue we spoke with subbed out the catering so would have been happy for us to save money by bringing in outside caterers. I found it essential to keep the negotiation open and avoid ultimatums as when it’s kept positive, and both parties are actively engaged, the result is better for everyone.”
Once you’ve done your research on other venues in the area, you’ll be in a stronger position to know what is possible. You could start your negotiation by saying how much you have in your budget, how much you’re hoping to pay and then how much their competitor down the road has quoted you. You could put the ball in their court and ask what kind of a discount they could offer you but in taking this approach, you are giving them the control and once they’ve given their offer they might not budge on it. Better to ask them for your preferred price and see what they say even if you end up haggling up and down a little.
Once you have agreed a price, ask to have it confirmed in writing from the venue. Only pay the deposit up front, never the full amount and always take out wedding insurance to secure your deposit.
And finally, if you’ve fallen head over in heels in love with one venue and will do anything to get it, but know you can’t really afford it, be careful how much emotion you show. If the venue manager can see you have your heart set on it, they know you’ll be less likely to walk to away even if the price stays high. Play it cool, and you could get your dream wedding venue for less than the usual asking price. And the good news is your venue may be only too pleased to make a booking on a day they might otherwise have been empty, making it win-win when you negotiate a discount with your venue.
Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.