It starts off slow.
You scan for friendly faces, those who can be perfect partners.
You make a mental note of their names. What you like about them. What you think they can bring to the floor.
You take a deep breath. You approach and you ask.
A positive response! How exciting! You smile. It’s all falling into place.
You ask for more. Details. Details. Details.
Then it begins. One step forward, two steps back.
Now one to the side. And back the other way.
A spin, a twirl, and the sting of disappointment.
Then the burst of happiness when you’re perfectly in step.
Dancing through the wedding planning process sounds easy, right? What they didn’t tell you growing up or what you haven’t seen on Pinterest boards of all of your friends is the daunting task of choosing vendors. Above all, the negotiation. OH MY THE NEGOTIATION.
It’s overwhelming enough to be planning a wedding with so many choices, but when you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of vendors that you think you want to work with, it becomes a part-time job to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
From my own experience, I’m an exhaustive researcher. I look at everything from a hundred different angles before I make the decision. I have spreadsheets on my Google Drive that list all of the vendors I’ve looked at, those I’d consider working with, and those who I’m on the fence about. I read reviews. I dig for dirt. I check Facebook pages and Yelp pages and everything in between. I’m the bride who fixates on knowing every possible outcome, every possibility, before I make a decision.
It can be crippling.
Then there’s the sense of going back and forth between:
Yes, let’s be practical. Let’s just pick something and focus on what’s really important.
Wait – do I really want this? Is this going to be right? What if it’s not right? TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE RIGHT.
Sweet Jesus. I’ve never had trouble selecting flavors of ice cream, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, suddenly I’m pouring over countless cells of data in a frenzy. It’s like I’m a female-version, less moody, and cutting-cheekbone-less Sherlock.
I got engaged in May. It’s now November and I’ve finally picked a venue and a date (after much poking and prodding).
The date was the easy part – Brent and I went back and forth between May and October, but something about October felt right. Serendipity and subconscious sentimentality led me to October 10. I didn’t consciously select the date ahead of time – I looked at a calendar, saw 10 and said, “Yes, this is perfect.” My cousin’s 21st birthday and my recently passed on grandparents’ anniversary. Being the scatterbrain that I can sometimes be (I’m horrible with dates and birthdays), I forgot about both, so it was a happy and heartwarming surprise to find those out. It’s going to be a great day.
The venue journey I’ll save for another post. I promise it’s a good thing, but I did have my share of anxiety.
Ah, yes, anxiety. Which leads me into vendor negotiation. The dance that I started this post with. I’ve gotten my first few tastes and I can say that it’s definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning so far. The waiting, the back and forth, the lack of follow up or response that causes you to throw your hands in the air and say, “F*ck it. I’m eloping.”
Here are some things that have helped:
- Studying up on some articles for helpful advice.
- Having a firm idea of your budget and a rough idea of your guest list.
- Asking for recommendations for vendors who have a reputation for being good to work with
- Thinking rationally. Seriously – you have to keep yourself in check and remember to approach it from a logical point of view. Yes, it’s emotional – but you can’t make your decisions solely based on that.
- Taking a breather before responding to emails.
- Being patient.
- Remembering that the peak of wedding season isn’t going to yield the fastest response times
- Recognizing that you have time and this is not a fire drill
- Being gracious and direct.
- Knowing what you want before you start talking.
It gets better. No, really, it does. Once you get past the initial communication hurdles (I can write books on this, I swear), it gets easier. But if you want to be successful in the negotiation, you have to be prepared to negotiate. Don’t accept everything at face value. Come in with a plan. Compare and contrast. Be firm and decisive. It’s okay to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to. If you’re not happy with something or aren’t satisfied, voice that concern – it’s not going to help you to stay quiet. Be polite, but also don’t be a pushover. Remember – you and your vendor stand to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You can be emotional – but don’t let your emotions steer you toward a decision you’re not happy with.
What I’m trying to say with this one is that I need to remember to not fixate and obsess (and if any of you readers are brides, this one is for you too!). I’m in flux between sweating small stuff and throwing tradition to the wind in favor of practicality. It’s a dizzying mix, but it’s one that I know will get easier with time. I just have to remember my footing and keep repeating my mantras. It’s going to be okay.
And hey, spazzing happens. It does. If you’re by nature a worrier, it’s going to happen. And if not, congrats! You probably have a much longer lifespan than the rest of us!
Just stay cool, don’t obsess over details, and don’t feel the need to throw hours upon hours into vendor research. Having done it, I can say that I did waste time because I knew going in what I didn’t want in a wedding. I didn’t want a hotel reception. I didn’t want something ornate. I didn’t want something rigid and overly traditional. I also knew my budget. But, I still looked at those venues and vendors anyway because there was a sense that I had to – how could I not know ALL the options?
Knowing all the options doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easier.
Forgive yourself for not knowing all the options – and go with your instincts from the start.
Stand your ground when you negotiate. Go in with a budget, a rough guest list, and an idea of what you want. Stick to it.
No matter what happens, the outcome is the same: you’re ending up married to someone wonderful and that’s what matters.