The Art Of Haggling

My first experience of haggling was on holiday in Turkey. The markets can be very busy, loud, and claustrophobic. Ignoring this however, they are also hugely entertaining, as market stall workers hold up a pair of shoes and say “Buy One (raising the left shoe), Get One Free (raising the right shoe)”, or shouting “Asda Price”. It’s a great place to practice your haggling skills because at these markets you have to haggle. If you don’t haggle you’ll just end up paying way over the odds, as the custom is to haggle, so the stall workers start the price high knowing you’ll haggle them down.

Haggling does not come naturally to the British, but for the bride and groom on a budget haggling can really help you to save big money.

To master the art of negotiating you have to overcome the usual factors that hold people back:

  • Not thinking you can
  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Embarrassment.

Tips on How to Master the Art of Haggling

Getting the Most out of Haggling
The times when you will experience the highest rate of success when haggling for your wedding is if you are planning 8 months or less prior to the intended date or if you are planning for an off peak date. Venues and suppliers are less likely to have other people wishing to book that date, and in a bid to have a booking over no booking they are often prepared to compromise on price or add extras. When buying a product, such as a wedding dress or wedding rings, buying “off the shelf” will also increase your power to negotiate on the price. Unless you have your heart set on a particular date, being flexible with the venue on the date date and time will prove advantageous to your budget.

Decide on what you want to ask for and then prepare how you are going to ask for it.


Do Remember haggling isn’t all about asking for a discount off of the cost, it can be about getting added extras for no extra charge, or can be removing something from the package to reduce the cost.

Do keep your request within the realms of possibility! Think about asking for 10% off the overall cost or requesting a substitution that will make the package cheaper or better for your needs such as removing canapés from the package to have more wine on the table during the wedding breakfast.

The venue my fiancé and I have booked provide a pedestal of flowers and an arrangement for the register table in the ceremony room, a seating plan, table numbers, place name cards and flower centrepieces for the wedding breakfast as part of the package cost. I asked the events co-ordinator how much she could take off the package if we removed these items. Removing these items saved us £250, which is great as I was going to do my own place cards, table plan and table names anyway.

Do find out where the venue makes their money – is it on the food? Or is their main earning from the venue hire? Once you’ve established this, research if taking off the food or alcohol and bringing in external caterers would work out cheaper overall. If you are contemplating bringing in your own alcohol make sure you know if they charge corkage and if they do how much.

The venue my fiancé and I have chosen does not rely on weddings for their income. They host business conferences and make good money from business Christmas functions. As the venue does not make their money from weddings in general we were able to negotiate a cheap package that met all of our needs. To reduce the cost of room hire (we have exclusive use of a room within the hotel) we are having the whole wedding within the one room. There was the option of having the ceremony in a different room to the wedding breakfast, but by choosing to have the ceremony, wedding breakfast and reception in one room we are only paying one room hire charge rather than two. The wedding package usually includes canapés, but after discussing our budget with the events co-ordinator we were able to take the canapés out of the package to reduce the cost.

Do research other venues/suppliers. Even if you think you know what venue/supplier you want you will be in a much stronger position when negotiating if you know what other venues/suppliers in the area charge and what packages they provide. For example, if you have found your dream wedding dress, find out who stocks it locally as well as online then gain information on price, delivery time and any additional costs such as if alternations are included or not.

Preparing How to Negotiate
There are a couple of different ways you can negotiate pricing which I will briefly outline:

  • Putting the ball in their court – say how much you have in your budget, how much you are happy to pay and how much their competitor down the road has offered then ask what they can do. Usually their first offer will not be their best offer.
  • Power in your corner – state how much you would like to pay and see if they accept. This method gives you more room to haggle up and down from your starting point. If you are going to employ this method make sure your starting figure is not unreasonable.

Don’t be afraid of long pauses. When they have given you a price, if it is too high, make a noise indicating it is too much and then just stay quiet. No one likes silence but you must avoid the temptation to fill the silence. This silence is one of the best things you have in your haggling arsenal, as they will want to fill the silence – hopefully with a better offer. If it is you who is telling them how much you would like to pay, state the amount you are happy to pay then stay quiet. Resist the temptation to say anything. Remember that if they are staying quiet they are contemplating accepting the amount you have offered to pay. If they weren’t going to accept the amount they would quickly say so.

When we were half way through deciding on our wedding package details with the venue, we stumbled across the cost of the drinks package. The arrival drinks in the package was Bucks Fizz and the toasting drink was champagne. I’ve never been too fussed on champagne so I was not going to pay a lot of money for it! My H2B said we thought the drinks package was out of budget. We asked the wedding coordinator what drinks we could have instead to reduce the cost of the drinks package. The wedding coordinator showed us some alternatives drinks that were cheaper and gave us the total cost of the new package which instead included a winter Pimms and sparkling wine. I bit my lip and made a “ummhh” noise and just look back at the lady, and quite quickly she knocked off an extra £50 off the overall drinks package cost.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If after all the research you’re still feeling unsure practice what you are going to say with your partner, a parent or a bridesmaid. Practicing asking them for the discount/substitution will give you confidence as the more you ask them, the more normal the request will feel.

When you are practicing try out different ways of asking until you find a way that feels most natural for you. Give some of the these questions a try:
What’s the best price you can give me?
What is the best price you will take for this?
I’m ready to buy now, if I pay in cash now, what can you do for me?
Can you provide your own food for the day?
If you are getting more than one thing from the same supplier ask if they can do a bulk deal “As I am getting the dance floor through you what can you do on the chair covers?” or “as my whole order comes to over £x can you knock off 10%?”

Play it cool – even if you have your heart set on a particular venue, photographer or dress do not show this during the stages of agreeing costs. The more you show how much you want what they have to offer the less likely they are to reduce their charge. Practicing how to keep calm in an exciting situation will help with this. Therefore if you have found your dream dress in three different places, but you have a preferred place to buy it from, practice haggling in the other two places first, so that you have got over the excitement and will be better able to play it cool when negotiating with your preferred supplier.

Towards the end of the negotiations try not to ask open ended questions that will give them room to manoeuvre. Instead of asking “If I buy the dress will you throw in the hair piece and shoes?” state “I’ll buy the dress if you throw in the hairpiece and shoes”. This is much stronger and gives them less room to manoeuvre. They will either accept or reject the offer or provide their own counter offer.


Once you have agreed a figure make sure you get it in writing, detailing the charges for each area such as room hire, catering, drinks, entertainment, decorations, bridal suite (if the venue has rooms) etc. When you have agreed a price with a service provider such as a photographer ensure that you have from them in writing, what time they will be attending the wedding from and to, the type of photographs they are going to take, if you are providing them with a meal or not, how and when payments will be made, and the time frame you will have the completed photography by.

Regardless of what you are negotiating for, whether it be for a discount off of your venue, a reduced photography package, or a bulk deal on your wedding rings, you must be prepared to walk away. Remember that the shop does not have to haggle, price match or throw in extras for free.

Have a haggling success story? Please share it in the comments below.

One thought on “The Art Of Haggling

  1. Pingback: 1st Things 1st | idoonabudget

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