Best Wedding & Catering Negotiating Guide and Tips

by John Jacob

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

When you’re getting ready to plan an event, whether it’s your wedding, company holiday party, charity event or an anniversary party, there are key things you need to know to prepare and protect yourself when negotiating with your venue, caterer and/or vendors. Here at FantaSea Yachts & Yacht Club we have helped hundreds of brides, event planners, party planners and first time coordinators plan the best, most cost effective events. Here are some useful tips I’ve learned about the negotiating table!

  1. Be Prepared. The three most important things about negotiation are preparation, preparation, preparation.  Learn as much as possible. The internet and magazines are a great resource to see what the competition is doing and what’s popular. I recommend creating a file with photos and articles that you have collected. This will help communicate your vision when working with your florist, caterer and other vendors as well as narrow down your choices.
  2. Know What You Need. Now that you have a sense of style and vision, the next step is to zero in on your needs.
    1. What is your date?
    2. What is the time of your event? Afternoon, Evening, Lunch or dinner?
    3. How many guests? You don’t need an exact count, but a good ‘guestimate’ (example 25-50 or 150-175)
    4. What is your budget?  Many times my clients say, “I don’t have a budget, I’m just investigating right now.” The truth is, everyone has a comfort range. Is it between $3,000 –  $5,000? $8,000 – $10,000? $15,000 – $20,000?
    5. Do you want a buffet, a plated meal or appetizers?
    6. What kind of bar do you want? A cash bar or hosted bar?
    7. Know What’s Most Important To You.  If you have followed steps one through three you have a good idea of what you want.  Now you need to figure out what’s most important. Is it price? Date? Special décor? A combination of everything? You need to narrow down what’s most important in order to negotiate the best deal.
    8. Be Flexible with Your Date & Time. If budget is most important, then your ability to be flexible is key to negotiating the best price.  Just like a hotel or airline, most catering prices are based on supply and demand. If you’re planning your company’s holiday party, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you’re willing to have a week day evening or weekend daytime event than if you try for a prime Saturday night. By choosing off-times & off-season, you can negotiate 30% – 40% off a prime time, allowing you more money to throw a great party!
    9. Utilize The Venues Resources. Here at FantaSea Yachts & Yacht Club we are a full service event company. We will help you plan your event from invitation wording to liaising with vendors. Because we do so many parties and events, we can make money saving recommendations for anything you need. We are your event planners so you don’t have to spend money on outsourcing one. We want you to make use of our expertise!
    10. Understand the difference between bargaining & negotiating. Bargaining is a quid pro quo affair – it’s this for that, tit for tat. Negotiating is about psychology and building trusting relationships – it is really a mutual education.

So, When you are ready to plan your next event I’ll be here waiting for you on the other side of the of the negotiating table. I promise, by following the six steps outlined above, we will both leave the conference room with a smile!


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