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Wedding Planning on a Budget: My First Foray into Military Discounts

Other than being the single event that would mark my official entry into the military family, wedding planning on  a budget was the perfect place to test my hand at hunting down military discounts.

The big-ticket items mean that even small percentages add up to significant savings, and many of the purchases and contracts are negotiable anyway, making asking for a military discount feel easy.  Here are some of the discounts I found:

Location, location, location. For me, the first thing to tackle was the venue, because the venue would help us narrow down the date. This was also the easiest—and most substantial—discount I received.

We were going for something a little off the beaten path.  We found a barn right on the beach, owned by the municipal recreation department.

Even though it was one of the most affordable places we had found, the coordinator was just dying to find a way to give us a discount. She was thrilled when we mentioned that the groom was military. Easiest $500 I ever saved, and now we were off to a great start!

Say “Cheese!” We went for photography second, because I dabble in wedding photography myself, and this was the most important part of the day for me—except the groom, of course.

While we did have to ask for the discount, the photographer delightfully shaved off 10%–what she explained was customary for the industry.

Turn the music up. My Airman loves to dance, so finding a great DJ was critical. I reached out to a pair that I had heard at a friend’s wedding, but found out that they were a bit out of our budgeted price range.For the first time, getting a discount would be make-or-break in terms of hiring, so I inquired very carefully.

The DJ informed me that they did not usually offer discounts to military, but that because I had booked them after hearing them work a wedding and the groom was military they would give us $100 off. If it hadn’t been for my careful request, we certainly wouldn’t have gotten the deal and maybe wouldn’t have gotten the DJ.

Catering. I don’t want to paint the picture that people were falling over themselves to offer up military discounts. The caterer, for example, did not offer any kind of deal. I will admit that I forgot to ask until after the contract was signed, but in any case I took no offense. Such discounts are never to be thought of as things we are entitled to, but are little nuggets to be thankful for.

Coffee shop. Our reception took place over brunch, so instead of an open bar, we hired an espresso cart. That trade was a big money saver right there. In this case, I asked about a military discount in my initial inquiry, and it was included in the original quote.

The amount of the resulting savings ended up being a bit murky, but it could have been as high as 50%, based on the amount of time espresso was served.

Stop and smell the lilies. The prices we found at our chosen florist were right on market value, consistent with others in the area. When I inquired about a military discount, she informed me that they did not offer special discounts, but did decide to make the groom’s boutonniere for free as a personal gesture. Hey, $12 is $12 right? Nothing to sneeze at.

Sweets. Shopping for the cake was by far the most popular part of the planning process. I brought my biggest posse into a tiny French bakery. After tasting four huge sample portions, we moved on to discussing decoration and cost.

When I asked the woman helping us about a discount, she immediately said yes, before hesitating and saying she would have to ask the manager later in the day. No problem. Just checking. As it turned out, we saved another 10%, on the cake and the tasting.

Bachelor pad. By the time we were down to the wire on booking the groom a place to stay, bargaining was old hat. We found an apartment for the groomsmen to share on AirBnB. (An aside, it’s a really neat website to rent apartments or homes from individuals for vacations.)

Since I was in the negotiating mood and it was online—which made it seem like Craigslist to me—I dove right in to my military discount-hunting mode. Apparently that is not the norm on this particular site, but the woman I was renting from gave us $50 off for my persistence. It never hurts to ask.

Thanks to the generosity and respect of our wonderful vendors, we saved nearly 10% overall on our big day. I don’t hold it against those who could not extend an offer to us, but will be forever grateful not only for the financial gift given by those who could, but also for the acknowledgement and respect that they demonstrated for the military family.

The biggest lesson from doing military wedding planning on a budget: always ask, ask, ask. The worst that can happen is someone says no, and then you’re just back where you started. No loss.

Now I am embarking on a mission for 2014 to tally all the money we save as a family through military discounts. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? You can follow my progress, as well as find other money saving tips and finance-related military news, by following me on Twitter @MilWifeSaves.  

For more on military discounts, visit the Military.com Discounts Center.

Sarah Porter is a proud new Air Force wife.  She is a writer, a Massachusetts wedding photographer, and an avid saver.  Follow her quest for the best in military discounts—and keep up with news for the military family—on Twitter @MilWifeSaves.

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