Here's what happened, first, I went dress shopping and pulled several things, including one which I thought was in my price range, but wasn't. After I tried on the dress and loved it, I realized that it was $100 over my budget. So, I walked away from it to think on it and see what other options I may have. After all, it was just a dress. Just because I loved it, didn't mean that I couldn't find another one if the pricing didn't work out in my favor. Perspective, pragmatism and reason firmly in place… I still wanted the dress, y'all.
SO! For those who don't like anecdotes, here's a handy dandy list on what to do to try and negotiate your price for your gown.
1. If possible, try and shop only within your price range. This was my first mistake, however unwitting, but it could have led to heartbreak, had I not triumphed.
2. Be okay with defeat and make sure you have a back-up plan you're happy with. If you can't find the dress for your price, that doesn't mean you should just settle either. Take a few days to really think it over and then look for something else. No matter what, DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. These things will work out. You will marry the love of your life and you will find a nice dress/suit/outfit/whatever to do so in, and you will be supremely happy.
3. Research like you're writing a thesis. This just means be diligent. I am a Googling fiend and I Googled every iteration I could think of to try and find my dress and different places I could find it. Know what price you're looking for and make sure to verify your sellers. This can be done with a simple check to your manufacturer's website.
4. Be reasonable. I knew I would not find a $1600 dress for $300 dollars. Even knowing that many smaller shops have a higher mark-up and things like that I knew the mark-up couldn't be that much higher. I hoped that I could find it for $300 less, but would have been happy with $200 less and would have been ecstatic with $500 less. I was pleased as punch to get about $400 knocked off. It's important to be reasonable and pragmatic in your price hunting because it will help you make a rational decision. If you find a $2500 dollar dress for $25 dollars, it's probably too good to be true.
5. Pick up the phone or meet with people in person. Emailing is great, but be confident in calling around and checking with the manufacturer. You'd be surprised how nice and pleasant people are. I called the manufacturer expecting an automated nothingness void and got a really sweet girl named Kelly to help me out. Make sure to call or speak to your salon in person. Let them know what you've found and be prepared to back up your statements if they need you to. You don't need to come in with guns blazing, but make sure you have something holstered.
6. Remember Rule 2. This may seem like redundancy, but it's important. This may be tough to hear, but nobody owes you anything. A shop does not have to price match, they don't have to haggle, they don't have to throw in a tiara or alterations with their price. How they wish to do business is entirely up to them and that does not necessarily make them bad people, it just means they have a business policy they're trying to follow.
7. Haggling is ok, but don't go overboard. If they're not willing to budge on a price or go lower than a price match, screaming and hollering about may not convince them that they wanna do business with you anyway. And if you do want to haggle, be prepared to justify why you want to spend that much. You may also ask to purchase the sample if you're trying to go really low with the price.
8. Be prepared to buy on the spot. Many salons will price match, but only if you pay in full at time of purchase. Check with the bridal salons policies before you go to the register.
9. DO NOT STRESS OUT OVER IT. If trying to make the dress work in your budget is giving you stress-induced hives, take a break from it. No dress is so pretty that it deserves to give you a heart attack. Again, it's just a dress, and there will be a perfect one for you.
10. Be as pragmatic as possible. Your wedding day may be filled with romance and whimsy and love and fluffy unicorns, but your negotiations are a business transaction. Even if the end result is gorgeous bridal goodness, act like the Godfather and go to the mattresses. It's not business, it's personal.