smart spending

7 ways to save on an off-season wedding

If the price applies to a wedding package from a caterer, you can customize it, says Becker. Let the vendor know what your needs are and what you can do without, and they can usually draw up a proposal for you.

5. Buy local, in-season flowers -- if you can.

Choose flowers that are local and seasonal to your area, says Cambria. "These are always more affordable than selecting flowers which have to be shipped in from other areas or even other countries."

If you have no idea when different blossoms blossom, find out when your petals of preference are in season, and then check with your florist about their availability. Kronzon and Ward delineate which flowers bloom seasonally and which flowers blossom all year round in their book "The Bargaining Bride," but some bridal Web sites also include such information.

One site, Blissweddings.com, offers a wedding floral chart in which you can search for flowers by selecting the season and region from a drop-down menu. WeddingChannel.com lists the top 10 flowers for each season. If your florist tells you your flower will cost you big bucks, check that against a list of expensive flowers on WeddingChannel.com.

"Of course, after consulting such sites, you might decide you still want an out-of-season flower," says Ward. In that case, he recommends negotiating: Say "you'll pay for a more expensive flower if the florist will offer a discount on a bulk order of said flower." He suggests using if-then statements when negotiating with the florist, such as "If I am going to buy X flower, then I'd appreciate a discount on the vases."

Also check your calendar: If your wedding falls close to Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or Christmas, busy florists might charge you more, says Becker.

6. Just say no to inflated prices -- nicely.

After snagging the bargain price, you whip out your checkbook to make the deposit. As you write in the amount, the vendor casually mentions (for the first time) the small booking fee of $50 you must include with the deposit, the little booking fee something everyone must pay up front.

Just say no, say the experts.

Referred to as "nibbling" in "The Bargaining Bride," these little add-ons bite the money out of you right at the end. Vendors will use this pressure technique after the buyer commits to a price and falls in love with the product or service. Even though the vendor fails to mention the "little" charge beforehand, the product sometimes appeals so much that the buyer shrugs off additional fees and agrees to this new overblown total.

"If you are faced with an inflated charge, the first thing to do is just to refuse to pay it. Be positive but firm," say Ward and Kronzon in their book.

Try asking them to take the charge off, and say it's fine if they can't. Or you should ask them to take the charge off, offer them a legitimate reason to take the charge off, or rephrase the request to make it sound like a reason, such as "'Could you take this charge off because I would like it removed?"

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The authors say that sometimes, "you don't need a real reason -- just phrasing your request in a format that seems to suggest a legitimate reason can be sufficient to get a positive response."

The bottom line on getting rock-bottom prices: Giving any reason, even a placebo one, proves more effective than a plain request for a price cut, says Kronzon.

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