Educational Consumer Tips
Planning Your Wedding
A wedding celebration is probably the most anticipated event in a couple's life. When two people decide to say "I Do," they eagerly look forward to their joyous day; yet at the same time, their hearts can be filled with fear when confronted with the unavoidable task of planning the wedding celebration. Whether it be an extravagant gala for 250 or an informal luncheon for 50, couples must engage in the preparations.
It is a task in itself keeping sane during the months before the wedding, and that becomes even more difficult when couples do not know how or where to start planning. The following tips may be helpful when you get ready to plan the big day.
Pay with credit cards
Whenever possible, pay with a credit card rather than cash or check. This includes payment of deposits. Credit cards offer consumers added protection in the event of a problem, because you can generally have your card issuer "pull back" the charge and investigate any problems within 60 days of receiving your statement, even if you have already paid the charge. In some cases, they may extend you a longer "dispute" period. Unfortunately, checks or cash offer no such protection. Most established businesses accept major credit cards.
Get contracts in writing
Remember that all written contracts should include specific dates, products, prices, name brands, etc., and be signed by all parties involved.
Cancellation policies should also be included in the contracts. This includes any refund policies and returns on deposits. If these are not already included in the contract, insist that they are added before you sign.
Keep deposits as small as possible
Deposits are often non-refundable, so try to keep them as small as possible in case you have to cancel or change plans.
Schedule extra delivery time
Anticipate that you may encounter some problems and allow for delays. Do not have everything delivered the day before the wedding, because if a problem does occur, it will be too late to correct it.
Don't be lured by the lowest price
Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event, so you want to do it right the first time. Do not be enticed by unknown companies advertising the lowest prices. You cannot go back and relive the day, so use a company you know has been in business for a few years and offers quality products and services.
Do not be afraid to ask for references. Any legitimate company will be pleased to provide previously satisfied clients. However, do not stop there. Follow through and actually call the clients to find out if they were satisfied and if they have suggestions about doing business with that particular company.
Don't buy something you don't want
Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics -- if you don't want something, don't buy it. It is your day and you are in control of the decisions.
Set a budget...
Make sure you set a budget early on, and then stick to it!
Research a company before using it
Check companies with your local Better Business Bureau before doing business with them. In the event you do have a problem, you can also contact the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.
Check companies with your local
Better Business Bureau
before doing business with them.
So, where do you actually start? Since money is a major factor, it is important to realize that a wedding can cost as much or as little as you want to spend. It all depends upon your budget and taste. Couples must decide how much they want to spend and proceed with plans accordingly. You can get a good idea of cost from the guest list. Decide how many people will celebrate your special day and decide who these individuals will be. Once the guest list has been made, the following aspects must also receive careful consideration:
Nice invitations need not cost an arm and a leg. Look for a printer who can offer something pleasing to both your eye and wallet. Keep in mind that there will be an additional charge for calligraphy. The contract with the printer should indicate that invitations will be finished by a specific date. If possible, ask to review proofs before the invitation is printed to avoid typing or designing errors. Protect yourself from unforeseen mistakes. Include in the contract the agreement that any mistakes on the part of the printer be redone at the company's expense. However, in the same respect, do not expect the company to pay if you are the source of the mistake.
When checking hotels, find out what exactly is included in their price for guest rooms and then compare prices of hotels you are interested in. Find out if the hotel you like has a return policy regarding deposits. According to the American Hotel & Motel Association, there are no state or federal regulations regarding deposits or contracts in the hotel industry for guest rooms. However, receptions and other catered rooms would fall under caterers as described below. Policies vary depending upon the individual hotel, so it is a good idea to determine whether your choice offers a refund on the deposit in the event the wedding is canceled. Again, BBB recommends you use a credit card on deposit and payment whenever possible for extra protection.
Caterers usually take care of the food, service, linen and liquor. How do you find a caterer willing to work with your taste and within your budget? Your best bet is to get recommendations from friends and relatives who have been satisfied with a certain caterer. To make sure you are getting your money's worth, carefully check your contract to make sure certain issues are included. The contract should include information concerning the preparation and service of meals. BBB has received complaints from couples indicating that tables were not properly decorated and food did not taste right. If this is all agreed upon in the contract, there is less room for problems. The price of liquor should also be included as well as the strength of the drinks served. You may want to include the gratuity payment in the contract as well.
Some caterers offer specials, for example, the bride and groom's meals are free. Also, some allow the band and photographer to eat for free or offer their meals at half price. Find out if your caterer will negotiate special prices like the ones mentioned here.
When signing a contract with a caterer, be sure to have any cancellation policies included as well as any penalties that may be suffered. And, as always, pay with a credit card if possible.
The quality of the entertainment can be the determining factor between a good wedding and a great wedding, so it is very important for couples to decide what kind of music they want played. Once this has been determined, couples should begin interviewing bands. You may also want to view actual tapes of the band's performance. The band's contract should specify who will be playing at the wedding. The contract should also include how many breaks the band will take and when they will be taken. If you are required to leave a deposit, be sure it is included in the contract, as well as any penalties for cancellation. Most bands allow you to choose which songs will be performed during the celebration, so make sure you recheck the music beforehand and your choices are included. Alternatives to bands include DJ's and string ensembles.
When ordering your flowers, inform the florist of your budget and make sure he or she sticks to it. Indicate your desired arrangement, request a sample and make as few changes as possible. This will insure that you will keep the cost at or close to what you want to spend. Get recommendations from friends and relatives who have been satisfied with a given florist. Contracts with the florist should include specific delivery times and locations. Very often, consumers complain to BBB that they ordered flowers to be delivered at a certain time and they were late. Another problem occurs when couples order a specific arrangement, and the actual flowers delivered are different. These situations can be disappointing but avoided on the day of the wedding.
When choosing a photographer, keep in mind that you only get to do this once and you want to have memories that will last a lifetime. Thus, the more professional the job the better. Do not skimp on quality, but be sure that you are not being cheated. Again, ask friends and relatives for references. The contract with the photographer should specify how many photos will be taken as well as the nature of the pictures. For example, you may want a formal picture of each table taken, etc. Also, find out the photographer's policy on proofs. You should be able to buy the proofs to your pictures if you so choose. If at all possible, do not pay the photographer the total amount up front. A frequent complaint with photographers at BBB is that the consumers pay for pictures (some actually even pick out the proofs), but the pictures are never received. If you are having your wedding videotaped, request to see some of the videographer's past work. Again, do not skimp on quality, but do not be taken to the bank. Consumers have indicated that they were not satisfied with the videotape, because it did not look professional. It helps to have a contract with the person or company who will be doing the videotaping. Contracts should specify who will be doing the taping, how much of the wedding will be taped and any additional charges for special effects, if desired.
Limosine and car services
Every couple wants to get to the wedding ceremony on time, and if you are hiring transportation, it is their responsibility to make sure you do. Beware of some common problems with limousine service: limousines may arrive late or not at all, they may not pick up all parties, you may not receive the exact car or cars you ordered, and you may get charged unfairly for overtime. Again, couples can cut down on the chances of this happening by signing a contract. Contracts should specify hourly rates as well as rates for overtime. It should be absolutely clear in the contract: who will be picked up (wedding party, bride and groom, parents, etc.), where they will be picked up and what time they will be picked up.
Gowns range from simple and elegant to extravagant. Prices vary from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the dress, the designer and where the dress is purchased. Gowns are sold in boutique shops, department stores and sometimes directly through dress manufacturers. Generally, the price of the dress is based upon the fabric used and the amount of labor involved. However, brides should be aware that higher prices do not always guarantee a better dress. Pricing can be affected by the prestige or reputation of the boutique or designer. Most stores usually have a sample of each dress which is then custom-ordered and fitted for the bride. Bridal party gowns are also custom-ordered after selection. Both bride and her party should expect several scheduled fittings before the wedding and should allow enough time to shop for and choose the perfect dress. Also, make sure you get measured by the shop that will be tailoring your gown and order the correct size. Gown sizes run differently than regular dress sizes, so don't automatically order the size you usually wear.
Brides must be very careful when ordering and paying for dresses. When leaving a deposit, try not to leave cash and be sure to get a receipt. Consumers have complained that they leave a deposit on their dress and are not given a receipt. When they go to pay the balance, they are told there is no record of the deposit payment and they must pay the deposit amount again in order to pick up the dress. Some other complaints involve receipt of damaged dresses, receipt of dresses made of entirely different fabric than what was ordered and improper fittings and alterations.
The groom and his ushers should not worry that the bride and her maids will be having all the fun. Unless each gent owns his own tuxedo, they should expect to be fitted by the tailor at the rental shop. It will be necessary to leave a deposit on the tuxedo rental as well as shoes and any other accessories included. Again, make sure you know what you are ordering.
Complaints to BBB have alleged that a tuxedo was ordered at one price, but when picked up, it actually cost more. Or one tux was ordered, and a completely different one was received. Find out whether you will be entitled to receive a refund on your deposit if the mistake is the fault of the rental company.
Both parties should have the boutique/shop guarantee in writing the dates by which the gowns and tuxes will be ready. And hold steady to that date. Give yourself plenty of extra time before the wedding to allow for garments to be redone in case something goes wrong. Also, arrangements should be made between tailors and dress shops in the event that members of the bridal party are from out of state or out of town during the scheduled fittings to insure that everyone will be fitted properly and on time.
Wedding consultants/Party planners
For the couples who do not have the time and/or desire to spend countless hours interviewing, sampling and choosing, there is an alternative. Hire a professional wedding consultant who knows the business and will do the leg work for you. Wedding consultants and party planners have connections that will insure a great celebration without unnecessary aggravation. They can recommend new individuals or companies that do not charge for reputation and will suit the client's taste and budget. Ask around for recommendations if you know someone who has had a wedding done by a professional.
Make sure the method of billing is agreed upon and included in any contract you sign with a wedding consultant. Contracts should specify exactly what the planner will do for you as well as what you do not want them to do for you. For example, indicate whether or not you want the consultant to sign documents on your behalf. Also, you may want to include strict directions regarding your specified budget, to insure the planner is not overly extravagant at your expense.
BBB advises couples to start planning very early and to expect to invest a great deal of time and research into each and every aspect of the ceremony. Couples can contact their local Better Business Bureau to get valuable information and Reliability Reports on prospective companies. Likewise, should an unforeseen or unanticipated problem occur, couples can always file a complaint with BBB. Make sure the vendor or company you choose is working for you and not the other way around. While they may be able to offer many helpful suggestions, the fact remains that it is your wedding and you should have the celebration you desire. Be prepared and arm yourself with enough information regarding what should and should not be included in contracts so that you may spend less time scrutinizing over legalities and spend more time perfecting details.
And most importantly, enjoy your special day.
After all this, you deserve it.
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