As with all negotiations, the process begins with you first knowing what you want. The point to remember is that you only hold the upper hand before you sign on the dotted line. Therefore, you must be clear on exactly what you will want to be included in your package.
Although the process may seem intimidating, given that you will be negotiating with seasoned sales-personnel, this is only the case if you are not prepared. For that reason, you must think through the sequence of your wedding carefully, and workout your exact requirements. The extra effort now, will minimize the chance of any unexpected costs you might incur and allows you to budget more accurately.
Except for the month of the “Hungry Ghosts”, wedding fairs are held almost weekly throughout the year. It is not uncommon to have two, or even three, fairs held over the same weekend.
Publicized primarily through newspaper advertisements, wedding fairs are usually three-day held over weekends or public holidays. These fairs will usually have about 10 boutiques participating and will include a fashion show or two. Occasionally, these fairs may also host talks on wedding related topics. Although stressful, these fairs are the best places to begin as they provide the opportunity to conveniently preview the market. In addition, if it is time to book your package, normally nine months before your wedding, wedding fairs are the place to get the best deal.
It is however important to note that participation in wedding fairs are costly and extremely competitive. You are therefore unlikely to see any designer boutiques at these fairs as they lack the manpower, skill and resources to challenge the one-stop boutiques in the wedding fair environment.
Booking the correct wedding package takes time. You will need to find a time when you can afford to spend a minimum of two full-days to choose and negotiate your package. Once you have found the time, visit the fair on the first day. The objective for Day One is to gather information on what you like and establish the market price of the packages available. So walk through entire fair to get ideas on what you like, and a feel of the market.
Caution! You will be immediately tempted, with what may seem like irresistible offers, to book your package. Politely refuse them … for now.
On display will be portraits, photo albums and wedding gowns show-casing the boutiques individual styles. Stop and checkout the boutiques that interest you. Many couples fear being approached as they are afraid that they will be pressured into booking a package. You should not fear, as you cannot be forced to do something you do not want. As long as you are firm and stick to your game plan, you will have nothing to fear. In addition, if you do not look, you will not know what you like.
Remember the objective is to gather information on what you like and the market price.
In step two, armed with the information you have gathered, spend the next day or so discussing and deciding on your choice of boutique with your spouse-to-be. Occasionally, you may find that you like the gowns at one boutique but the photography style of another. It is not advisable to take it ala-carte from both boutiques, as this will defeat the purpose of a package. As gowns can be designed to your suit your preference, in such cases it is more advisable to choose the photography style of your choice, as this cannot easily be replicated.
It is also important that you workout your budget, if you have not already done so, at this stage. This will minimize any unexpected budget problems. In addition, no matter how detailed you are in your planning and budgeting, it is advisable to factor a contingency fund of 20% of your package price to meet unexpected expenses. This is usually to meet contingencies like the bridal car your friend promised to lend you now cannot be used, or your photographer friend cannot help you on the actual day.
Once you have decided on your choice of boutique, return to the fair on the evening of the last day. As mentioned earlier, participation at these fairs are costly and boutiques are hard pressed to cover their overheads. With your exact requirements in hand, return to your boutique of choice and inform them that “you have done all your research and that you are now prepared to book a package with them tonight, provided the offer is attractive.” Then present them with your requirements and negotiate the deal you want.
Once the deal is agreed upon, you will be required to pay a deposit. As a norm, the boutique will ask for a deposit of 30% of the package price or a minimum of $500. Remember, the higher the deposit paid, the harder it will be for you to change your mind. You should therefore pay a deposit of no more than $300, with the promise to “top-up the difference at your first appointment with the boutique.” The excuse you can use is your discomfort in paying so much upfront without having actually seeing the company.
An important point to note at this stage is to get everything agreed upon in writing. The extra effort now, will save you a great deal of headaches in future.