smart spending

7 ways to save on an off-season wedding

You could also look in travel magazines or ask hotels in the area when their slow season begins, says Andrew Ward, co-author with Shirit Kronzon of " The Bargaining Bride: How to Have the Wedding of Your Dreams without Paying the Bills of Your Nightmares."

Above all, seek seasoned advice before you book. Low prices sound great, but you won't enjoy yourself, for example, if you find everything shut down on the island upon arriving. During off-season you might face bad service, few restaurant choices and fewer tours, says Naylor.

Besides talking to a travel agent, she recommends a visit to travelandleisure.com for destination reviews and advice on determining the "shoulder season" -- that period of time right after the in-season ends, when everything is still well-staffed and open in the area. And of course, talk to people you know who travel a lot. "They can tell you if April is bug season in Bermuda," says Naylor.

If your reception takes place inside of a hotel and you plan on booking rooms there for incoming guests, point this out to the hotel and ask for a reduction on the total price. By booking rooms, you're bringing more business to them, and they'll be more likely to give you a discount, says Becker.

3. Comparison-shop online before shopping in person.

Research, research, research. Think of car shopping: Recognizing a good deal can prove to be difficult if you have no numbers to compare. Check local vendors' Web sites or call their stores, to make sure you're comparing apples with apples, note prices and head to your vendor of choice with a price list in hand.

"Preparation is key," says Ward. "Service providers can manipulate the reference point, so it's good to bring in your own numbers -- that way you can tell them what the store down the street is charging for the same product or service."

4. Service providers want business during off-peak months.
"All vendors are open to negotiation, but you'll find increased opportunities with photographers, videographers and limousine companies," says Naylor. Weddings make up a greater percentage of their overall business, so during off-season they actively seek out wedding couples, unlike hoteliers and florists, who have plenty of business in other areas.

Some vendors might not advertise their discounts, Cambria says, but you'll have more room to negotiate with them because they want to fill those gaps in their schedule.

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When it comes negotiating a discount, it helps to understand the vendor's perspective. People in the hospitality industry make their living on their services, so they're not in a position to just give things away, nor is anyone rightfully due a discount, says Becker. That said, vendors might have months when their time is not so demanding, and if you approach them with respect and knowledge of their work, they might be willing to give you a price cut. "Don't call them saying, 'I'm booking a wedding in the off-season, what's my discount?'" says Becker. Tell them you've heard of their work and admire their talent but that you're stuck with a small budget.

On the other hand, a polite request doesn't necessarily have to have a reason behind it, says Ward. The seven little words "'Can you offer me any additional discount?" can sometimes strike a bargain, he says. If this somehow insults the vendor or ruins the relationship, you've learned something: You don't want to work with that person anyway.

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