When it comes to planning a wedding, the options are infinite whether it’s selecting dresses, venues, photographers or centerpieces. After all, it’s a lucrative business that can turn hopeless romantics into helpless victims.
BBB | Greater Maryland has received hundreds of inquires about wedding-related services over the past year with reports of vendors breaking their vows.
One of the biggest priorities for a bride is finding the perfect wedding gown. BBB reminds brides to start shopping early for a gown. It takes approximately 2-4 months for a wedding gown to arrive, but start shopping at least 6-8 months prior to the wedding and allow time for alterations or unplanned circumstances. Be knowledgeable about the shop’s cancellation/return policy before you place your order and pay with a credit card for extra protection.
Bridal shop scams include substituting lower-priced gowns for designer gowns or selling used gowns at full price. If you have a special designer in mind, it’s important to go directly to the designer to find authorized sellers. Bridal magazines can also be a great source of information about designers and gown availability.
A wedding usually has an array of flowers, so you’ll want to choose a reputable florist who understands your vision. Again, it’s important to plan ahead. Ask friends, visit bridal shows, check with BBB and remember your budget. Visit three different florists, ask to see sample arrangements, not just for style, but to check freshness, scale and gather ideas. Speak with floral designers about what you can expect.
While a wedding can put a hole in your pocket, look for places to save money; a little effort can add up to big savings. Table linens, napkins, dishes, glassware etc., are sometimes included in the caterer’s contract, but make sure! Upgrades in linens and silver can be costly, so watch the bottom-line. Ask if the caterer offers a package that includes the wedding cake. Always ask for a food tasting before the wedding and get a clear time table outlining when courses will be served to keep your reception on track.
Bridal season schemes reported by consumers include the “referral for kickback” trick in which brides believe they are getting qualified referrals from wedding vendors for the complimentary services, when the referrals are driven by the “highest bid” for the referral. On the other hand, there is the “nickel and dime” scheme in which the bride receives the “final bill” in which, for example, the chair cover fees from the rental company included an additional $2 fee for ironing the covers and tying them to the chairs!
During this stressful time, soon-to-be husbands and wives are looking for wedding vendors that will enhance their special day, especially when it comes to remembering it. BBB suggests interviewing prospective photographers and/or videographers and requesting to see past work. Obtain a list of their previous clients and contact them personally. Don’t forget to research all costs such as albums and reprints, which could be a part of a package deal or à la carte pricing. Most importantly, be sure to find out how long it takes to develop and deliver proofs. Unethical photographers may try to hold photos hostage in hopes of getting more money from newlyweds.
During the planning process, a couple may find refuge from wedding stress when planning the honeymoon. BBB recommends all reservations be made in the bride’s maiden name to avoid a problem with conflicting forms of personal identification. Many travel advisors recommend expensive jewelry, such as an engagement ring, be left at home or in a safe deposit box. Make plans to take a credit card as debit cards are not generally an acceptable form of payment for car rentals and hotel rooms. Make a copy of credit card, passport and phone numbers and in case of loss or theft of your wallet or passport.
With all the services and products needed for a wedding, parents and couples can help protect their event with wedding insurance. According to a 2010 study conducted by Travelers Insurance, almost half of all wedding claims were a result of vendor or venue problems. Reports included vendors failing to provide contracted services and vendors that went belly-up.
Wedding insurance can also protect consumers against weather-related problems, alteration dilemmas, travel delays and more. According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance will cost $125 to $400 depending on the amount of coverage. Check for claim limits and deductibles when comparing policies. Some vendors have insurance, as do credit card companies, so double check and only protect what’s not covered.
BBB offers these additional tips before you walk down the altar:
- Require a written contract from every vendor and keep your receipts. Contracts should include dates, products, itemized prices, etc., and inform all the parties involved of the terms and agreements.
- Know the policy. In case of a cancellation, you need to know your rights. The contract should include the cancellation policy as well as any refunds and/or returns on deposits made. If they are not included, insist that they are added before signing the contract.
- Make small deposits. Usually deposits are non-refundable, but what if you have a change of heart? Or need to cancel? If you make small deposits or payments, you won’t lose as much and can put your savings towards another must have for the wedding.
- Plan ahead. Whether it means getting an insurance policy on the wedding (before paying deposits on services to cover all expenses), scheduling extra delivery time before the big day or setting a budget that fits your needs, utilize all of your resources to keep the stress to a minimum.
- Check customer satisfaction and find trustworthy photographers, caterers, florists, limousine companies, bridal shops, travel companies and more at www.bbb.org.