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I spent four months living in Ecuador, and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s how to barter, or regatear. No price is fixed in Latin America, and the same goes in most of the wedding world.

Don’t just assume that you have to accept whatever price is quoted to you the first time. My reception venue is a perfect example of how to barter in order to ensure that you get everything you want at a price you can afford, and the vendor gets happy customers.

Dave and I are having our reception at Barren River Lake State Resort, a state park about 25 minutes from my house. It is the place Dave and I used to go when we first started dating, it’s where Dave proposed, and it’s the location of the first stabbing I ever covered for the newspaper. Lots of good memories.

Dave and I at Barren River Lake State Resort Park, right after he popped the question

I knew the park manager through work, so we had a very good relationship to start with. From there, it just took patience and the courage to ask questions.

The park provides the space, food, dance floor, wait staff and linens. The initial contract I received charged us a $300 space rental fee, along with the other costs. I had shopped around other state parks before choosing this one, and I knew one had offered to waive the space rental fee if we spent $2000 on food. I knew we expected to spend $2000 anyway, so it was a simple matter to request that the $300 fee be waived if we spent $2000 on food, and the park agreed easily.

Next, we dealt with room rental fees. The state park has a lodge and cottages, and we had reserved a block for our guests. The first price quotes I got were $135 for the cottages and $70 for the rooms. The park manager had vaguely said in the beginning that she thought rooms would be $60. So when we were told $70, all I had to do was tell group sales that oh, the manager thought we could get $60 rooms… and it was done. I almost stopped there with the room bargaining. I had been nervous to ask for a discount on the lodge rooms, and I thought it was too much of a stretch to ask for cheaper cottages as well. But I did a little research and saw that the December rate for the cottages were posted online in the $95-105 range. So I very politely mentioned that to the group sales person, asked if she was sure the cottage price on our contract was correct, and all of a sudden I got $90 cottages and an apology for overpricing the cottages initially. The cottages sleep 8 people. A good chunk of our guests will have high quality lodging for $12 a person. That’s insane, but awesome for our underemployed friends.

So I got my space fee waived, I got major discounts on my rooms, what more could I ask for, right? Well, I wasn’t quite done. Our buffet price included dessert, but we were bringing our own dessert in the form of wedding cake, so I really didn’t want the park to provide extra desserts for my guests to fill up on and for which I had to pay. My last cost-reducing request was to knock $2 off the buffet price and forget the park-provided desserts.

How’s that for budget savvy? Did you guys try bargaining with any of your vendors? If you haven’t yet hired vendors, do you think you have the regateando skills to bring exorbitant wedding prices down to your budget? Good luck!


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  • Ashley

    I have been desperately trying to find someone who has gotten married at the Lodge, and just happened across this blog due to a simple Google search! Thank you for all of the wonderful information! 🙂 -Ashley

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