Let's be clear upfront – yes, you are on a budget with your wedding. Everyone is. Even those people who say 'I have no budget' are on a budget. All your vendors know you're on a budget too so trust me that no one thinks your pocketbook is endless nor are they out to 'get you' just because the word 'wedding' pops into the conversation.
Yes, weddings are definitely more expensive than that backyard bbq you threw for July 4th. No doubt about it. And some reasons for the sticker shock you're experiencing include
a) how many large parties have you thrown recently?
b) how many floral orders have you made in the last year with a florist and
c) how many photographers/venues/planners/limos/etc. have you hired this quarter?
Weddings are treading into a very different world than most people live in on a daily basis.
Wonder why that bouquet of flowers costs $250? Check out florist Nancy Liu Chin's very astute and sobering post about why wedding flowers cost what they do and how much the owner of that fancy-shmancy flower shop is really making. You'll be thanking yourself that you choose a career in HR rather than flowers.
The reality is, the vast majority of wedding vendors are not paying for a summer home in Nantucket or sending their kids to Harvard. For many, they are making a lot less in salary than you might be comfortable living on. There are a limited number of 'wedding weekends' in a year and only XX number of possible wedding dates they can work. Less work days = less business = less profit. Think if you only worked 20 days a year – how much would you have to charge to make your present salary? And if you add in overhead (rent, phones, insurance, advertising, lights, water, transport, professional association fees)? Yikes!
People in the wedding biz are largely there because they are passionate about weddings. Yes, it's a business but they aren't out to be Donald Trump or Warren Buffet. They really want your wedding to be amazing and everything you want. Truly. If it was just about the money, they'd be doing something else, like playing pro-baseball or studying plastic surgery.
So please, dear bride, keep that in mind when those magazines tell you to 'negotiate negotiate negotiate'. You and every other bride tries the same tactics and guess what – vendors find it annoying. Asking for a deep discount is belittling as it shows a lack of respect and understanding of the work/experience/art they bring to the table. Be realistic about what your budget can afford. If you want oodles of orchids, don't play hardball and try to pay for carnations. Weddings aren't used cars, where dickering about price is part of the game.
That's not to say you cannot try to get a little something extra. If the venue is charging for cake cutting or plating, see if they can do better on that fee or waive it altogether. Maybe the photographer is willing to include an extra hour or some additional prints. There is no harm in asking, as long as you aren't demanding about it. Put yourself in the vendors' shoes and think about how you'd like to be approached and how you would best respond. My mother always said you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar so be sweet, be nice and be reasonable.
And if your budget is coming in over? Rather than try to slice 10% off of everything, pick two or three 'big ticket' items where you can cut and make a difference. Maybe it's using ranaculus rather than peonies or cutting out the champagne toast or having a 3-tiered cake instead of six. Be creative. Talk to your vendors. This is what they do full time and they have wonderful ideas on how to make your vision fit your budget. Your vendors are part of your 'big day' team so work with them.