$20,000. That’s the average cost of a wedding in America—but it doesn’t have to be the cost of your wedding. There are plenty of ways to scrimp and save without sacrificing the look and style you’ve been dreaming about since Princess Di walked the aisle of St. Paul’s.

Instead of going to the experts (because really, all they want is for you to spend money), we asked couples who saved a bundle, and still had the wedding of their dreams to give us their top tips for how to negotiate with wedding vendors like a pro.

how-to-negotiate-like-a-pro_tag1 Choose your location wisely. Hawaii, Florida and California, though beautiful, are all infinitely more expensive to get married in than say, Idaho. “Plus, they all have voter-approved anti-gay statutes prohibiting marriage, so why give them your money?” says Sam Brucker-Toles, who married his now-husband Matthew last summer in a legal ceremony in Canada, and then had a wedding and reception in the Buffalo Botanical Gardens in Buffalo, NY. “If you have a home town that one or both of you are from that is mid-market, start your search there,” he says. “It will be sentimental to be back home and most cities have some wonderful venues.”

Photos: Michelle M. Peters Photography

how-to-negotiate-like-a-pro_tag2 Shop around. Jennifer Post, who says she and her bride saved about $5,000 by negotiating price with vendors suggests not going with the first vendor you like. “Educate yourself about what the market price is and get at least three quotes before you make a final decision,” she says. “And let vendors know you are shopping around.” Especially in this economy, people will want your business. If you let them know you’re looking elsewhere, they may be more apt to come down on their price a little.

Photos: Cheriefoto

how-to-negotiate-like-a-pro_tag3 Don’t get caught up in the hype. Weddings are exciting and often your imagination can get carried away, which is when your bank account starts to dwindle. “Stick firmly to your budget,” says Dr. Loren Olson, who recently married his husband in Iowa. “The fact is, a lot of things vendors told us we ‘should have’ were unnecessary—like chair covers.”


how-to-negotiate-like-a-pro_tag4 Think outside the “wedding” box. Vendors notoriously charge more for weddings than they do for non-wedding events, just because they can. Brucker-Toles couldn’t believe that wedding photographers started at $1,200 and up when he was shopping around. He got the great idea to post on Craigslist an ad that said: “Photographer Wanted: Just Because It’s A Wedding Doesn’t Mean We Want To Be Overcharged.” He got more than 50 responses and each photographer submitted a portfolio. “In the end, we selected a very talented photographer who not only came up from mid-central Pennsylvania [to New York], but brought a second person and equipment,” he says. “She supplied us over 790 beautiful shots and all for $600.”

Photos: Michelle M. Peters Photography

how-to-negotiate-like-a-pro_tag5 Call on your friends. Does your boss’ son work for a bakery? Or does your sister-in-law own a flower boutique? Now is the time to make the most of your connections. “My friend works at a country club and knows the distributor for liquor, so he negotiated a great deal on what is normally one of the most expensive items in a wedding,” says Brucker-Toles. Don’t be afraid to ask around. People understand the need to save money, especially in today’s climate—and real friends want your wedding to be a special as you do.