BBB proposes the following advice:
Get acquainted. Find out about businesses' ownership, tenure and locations. Ask to view: references; portfolios; brochures; and showrooms or product samples.
Don't settle. Shop around. Compare quality, costs and availability. Aim to interview multiple prospects and don't give in to high-pressure tactics.
Devote time to verify details. Get explanations on special promotions, sweepstakes, drawings, prize packages and other offers in writing. If participating, collect and save documentation.
Only give consent if comfortable. Before filling out forms at shows and expos, find out how contact information will be used; view privacy policies. Consider creating separate email accounts specifically for wedding-related communications.
Do research before saying "I do." Look for signs of reliability. Check for proper licensing, consumer reviews on the Internet and BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org.
Don't agree to disagree. Get all agreements in writing. Make sure delivery dates and service locations are included. Look for an itemized breakdown of costs on products, services and labor; see if fees are flat or hourly.
Love or leave. Take a close look at satisfaction guarantees. Carefully review policies on cancellations and refunds; make sure details and dates are clearly outlined.
Split up payments. Avoid purchasing services or reservations in full upfront. Opt to pay minimum deposits.
Ditch cash. Pay by credit card. Most cards offer buyer protections if services are not performed or merchandise is not delivered.
Hold on. After booking services, confirm reservations and event specifics - preferably by email. For product and merchandise orders, request confirmation numbers and delivery tracking. Reserve all receipts and paperwork.
Be prepared to alter plans. Find out if there are any protections in place if businesses close unexpectedly or can't keep promises. If stores blame designers, manufacturers or shipping companies for delays or defects, go directly to those sources to confirm and get answers. If needed, take steps to cancel transactions or dispute payments through credit card providers. Report issues at bbb.org.