Being a bride is a once in a lifetime experience. Capitalizing on the notion that brides these days are more financially stable and are willing to pay a little extra to fulfill their wishes for a dream wedding, it is unsurprising that the industry has evolved into a "gold mine" with a vast variety of packages to choose from - some worthy, some otherwise. Often times, these packages can be quite confusing especially if you have just started your research. Since I have done some research, I thought I'd like to share my experiences so that we do not part with our hard-earned money for something undervalued and hopefully, give us brides some CONSUMER POWER over the escalating costs! Let's band together, share ideas and negotiate for the best deal and more importantly, unravel some hidden costs behind some of these packages. So feel free to add in anything I have missed to cover and get more value out of our hard-earned money! Cheers girls!
DIY vs Bridal Studio
There are pros and cons to both, some brides prefer to DIY and look for their own photographer, gowns and make-up artists as they can get their desired outcome since they are sourcing for their own items and can select the best vendors that suit their preferences. These vendors who are not attached to any bridal studios will tend to work harder to please their clients since it is their own business and their photographs are not so generic. However, you will need to spend more time to research for your favorite vendors and liaise with more than one vendor at the same time. Because of this issue, some brides turn to the conventional Bridal Studio for their wedding needs as everything is under one roof and you only need to liaise with one vendor for your photos, gowns, AD flowers and bridal car decoration, hence more time for other wedding concerns.
What does Bridal Studio covers?
This may be very basic information to some of you but generally, the bridal studio will cover your pre-wedding photographs, albums and frames, ji mui photos, softcopies and editing of selected photos, pre-wedding gowns and suit, AD gowns and suit, pre-wedding photoshoot make-up and hairdo, flower bouquet for photoshoot, AD flower bouquet and corsages, AD & PS costume jewellery/accessories according to gown and AD car decoration. Do note that this information may vary according to bridal studio and some packages can be customized.
Dealing with Sales Person and going to Bridal Fairs
Throughout my research, I have walked-in to bridal studios and met various sales persons at bridal fairs. Believe me, research and negotiation is very important as I feel sad for those who did not research and signed up on the spot as the price difference is quite significant. During my visits, I have overheard some exorbitant quotation given by the bridal studios to those who did not do prior homework or negotiate enough.
Some bridal studios engage part-timers who fly in from Taiwan & Hong Kong to sell their packages. They can be really charming so do try to keep a level head and see if the deal is worth it. You don't have to feel pressured to sign anything if you have a fickle of doubt. Undeniably, some bridal fairs provide better deals than customers who walk-in to the bridal studios. However, there are brides who have been unpleasantly surprised after they have signed at the bridal fair as the gowns on display during the fair differs from what they have at the bridal studio. Hence, it is advisable to visit some bridal studios before any upcoming bridal fair or visit the bridal fair on the first day, then pay a visit to the bridal studio on the second day before signing up. Some bridal studios can still hold the offer one or two days after the fair.
When visiting bridal fairs and studios, bring along a pen and a notebook to jot down the packages discussed as the sales person will not give you the offers discussed and written on their piece of paper during your discussion. By writing down the packages discussed, you will have a clearer idea of what to negotiate when you go shopping for your ideal package and it is also easier for future comparisons.
When dealing with the sales person, try to see if they are pleasant, polite and accommodating. This is especially important if you are dealing with the sales person during your visit to your bridal studio as this person will likely be the person to follow up with all your other requests with the bridal studio. If they appear rude, money-minded, dishonest, pushy and unaccommodating, you can expect more of such attitude after you signed up. So go for someone you can deal with because there is bound to be a little rough and tumble along the way.
During negotiation, it is fine to show some interest but let them know that you are NOT DESPERATE. Let them know that you have made comparisons and will not hesitate to take the business elsewhere if they do not offer you the same or better perks. Since it is a very competitive industry, you should use this to your favor to secure a better deal since there will be alot of other things that cost you $$$. The truth is, the sales person can loosen up and throw you some perks, but ARE YOU THE ONE they are giving it to? The trick with them is Don't Ask, Don't Give. Don't feel pressured to sign the deal on the spot and never sign the deal on the first meeting. You will be surprised at what they can offer you when they call you up to follow-up on your decision or during your round 2, round 3 negotiation.
What to Negotiate & Check
Depending on your repo with the sales person, you may get more perks, freebies and cash discount. Always try to lower the price for your basic package and work your way up from there. If you have reached the maximum price slash, then ask them to throw in the freebies. Finally, remember to ask this all important question, WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED in the package and make them list out all the hidden costs.
Dress - How many dresses can they give for your PS & AD? For PS, how many for indoor, how many for outdoor? Can you choose your own dresses for PS? Are there any charges if you change your mind after deciding on a dress for PS & AD? How often do they stock up the dresses? Are there any range for the dresses, VIP, Super VIP? How soon before your AD can you select your dress? How long can you hold the dress before returning it after your AD? Always take a look at the condition of the dresses in the bridal studio before deciding. Some dresses on display at bridal fair can be very misleading. Check that you like the dresses and that they are not too old. If not, chances of you finding that perfect dress can be pretty slim.
Suit - How many men's suit can they give for your PS & AD? Try to get 2 suits for your AD. Are the pants provided (some charge extra if you didn't nego before this)? Any bow tie provided? Any vest provided? Check that they have your preferred colour suit eg: grey or white.
Veil & Glove - Can you choose? Check to see if there are any holes and tear before taking this for your AD.
Costume Jewellery & Accessories - Usually provided PS & AD. Can you choose? Are they old and worn-out? Are there any extra charges? Any range? Check to see if any stones have dropped off before taking this for your AD.
Car Deco - Are there any extra charges? What colour & material is used? Provided for Heng Dai cars as well & how many? Any car stickers provided?
Flowers - Is it provided in PS & AD? For PS, is it fake or real flowers? For AD, when can you collect it? Any corsages provided? Can you choose your flowers? Any extra charges?
Photograph Samples - Check if the sample photos are real and not from their models. Ask to see real life couple samples to get a realistic expectation. Check to see if the photos shown are samples from existing photographers in the bridal studio. Some photographers are no longer with the BS but their photos are still being shown and displayed. Check for printing quality. Check for the venue and location of the photos. Check if they have sufficient props, studio and setting for indoor shoot if you desire both indoor & outdoor photos since alot of BS focus on outdoor shoots lately.
Photographers - There are usually more than 1 photographer with the BS. Select your photographer according to the photos that you like from the sample shown to you to get your desired photos. Always communicate your wishes to your photographer ie: the type of feel you want, the type of photos, desired angles, upclose photos or photos with more scenery and a miniature you in the background. Run through the forums to see which photographer has a better work etiquette (not lazy, friendly, enthusiastic) and more positive reviews on his work.
Photoshoot - Got indoor & outdoor shooting? How soon can you book your timing? How many images provided & change of clothes? What are the extra charges for your desired location? How much for 2 day photoshoot? It can vary depending on distance. Some BS needs 2 days for photoshoot if you go for indoor & outstation outdoor (like PD/ Melaka) photoshoot. Do you need to drive your MUA & photographer? Will the MUA follow to touch-up for outdoor shooting? Any assistant available? In case of rain, can it be replaced to another day and is there any extra charges? How many photos will be taken during photoshoot? Is there a maximum number of hours for photoshoot (eg: 10 hours)? Any props provided for photoshoot?
Pose & Photographs - How many pose for photoshoot? Usually 30 pose for Big Album & 20 pose for Small Album, with free 5 to 10 MV pose. Are the poses different for the albums? What are the charges for top-up pose in album? Nego the price! What are the touch-ups provided (eg: moles, slimming, body parts or facial only)?
Album - The standard offer is 1 Big Album (18x24, varies with BS) with design, 1 Small Album (8x12, varies with BS) for full page photos. How many albums provided? How many pages for the albums? What is the material for the album cover & album pages? Will it scratch? What is the photopaper used? Will it turn pink at the center and fade over time? Any extra charges for crystal/acrylic cover album? What are the charges to upgrade the album to a bigger size or to add another album? Any album bag/ leather case provided? Depending on BS, you may nego for a bigger sized album from the basic package.
Frame - The standard offer is 1 big frame (24x36, varies with BS) and 2 smaller frames for parents (10x15). Is it waxed? Check the frame samples used. What are the charges to upgrade to a bigger frame or to add another frame? Depending on BS, you may nego for a bigger sized frame from the basic package.
Album & Photo Design - For photo design for Big Album, how long does it take to complete? How many times can changes be made to the design? Are there extra charges for changing design? Are the designers outsourced or in-house? Some outsourced ones are more complicated to deal with as it may take longer to complete and it is difficult to communicate with them for changes to be made.
Softcopy photographs - Usually the BS only return the photos selected for the albums FOC. Others are charged at astronomically crazy rates. Try to negotiate for a bundle price instead of per photo. Slash their prices if you must buy the photos but stay firm. They'll still need to sell you the photos coz if they do not transform it to cash, it'll stay in their PC anyway. Check if you are getting the edited version of the photos and if you can get the album design softcopies. Check if the photos are locked in resolution and size. Ask them again and again if the photos can be printed to the size you want, like 12R, banner size, etc. They usually return the file in JPEG format while the photos are shot in RAW format (more detail). Ensure that the photos are still usable and you're not paying for something unusable. Get the largest resolution possible.
Ji Mui Photos - How many? What size & design? If you don't need it, negotiate to change to other items like a Crystal Photo Frame or reduce your package cost.
CD Montage Slideshow - Provided as a montage for PS to be displayed at your wedding dinner. Can you choose your own song? 1 or 2 songs?
MUA - There are usually more than 1 MUA in the bridal studio. Run through the forums to see which MUA has better skills, better positive feedback and better work etiquette (friendly, communicative, attention to detail). Pick your MUA when you are looking at the sample photos to see which make-up effect & hairdo you prefer. Will the MUA follow for outdoor photoshoot? If yes, any extra charges?
Make-up & hairdo - Usually provided for PS, not AD. Always communicate your preferences on the colour scheme, hairdo and accessories used for your hairdo. How many image is provided? How many change of make-up and hairdo? How about outdoor shooting? Any change of make-up & hairdo?
Ampoules - Used in make-up during PS to make the make-up last longer. Usually chargeable at RM30 per vial and it's very expensive by market rates. Negotiate to buy your own as it costs less than half the price outside. If you have sensitive skin, you should use your own ampoules too.
Fake Eyelashes/ Body Foundation/ Hair Extension/ Hair Spray - Any extra charges? Usually, the fake eyelashes are chargeable at a price way above market rate. Negotiate to bring your own as it costs so much lesser for the same thing. Body foundation and hair spray may be chargeable. Hair extension is usually not chargeable.
Other Freebies - Music box, smaller photo frames, banner, guestbook.
Timing - Work out a schedule with them for photoshoot, photo selection & viewing, album selection & viewing, gown selection, gown collection, etc to avoid any dispute.
Package Transfer - If there is any unforeseen circumstances, is the package transferable or can it be moved to another date? The deposit is usually non-refundable.
Payment terms - Usually a certain % during deposit booking, photoshoot, album collection. Any extra charges if using credit card?
Prepare a checklist on the above, and always make sure everything that is promised to you is stated black and white in the invoice before you hand over your deposit. This is to ensure that they honour their words and if the sales person changes, you will still be entitled to the same privileges as discussed. Don't be surprised that sometimes even the smallest of things can be disputable later on.
Hope this helps all brides-to-be and let us unite and help one another. Cheers to all brides & happy planning!