If Santa brought you an engagement ring this past holiday season, you're probably thinking about your special day. You want to avoid starting married life in a financial pit, so take some advice from the Better Business Bureau.
1. You've decided to get married, you've told all your friends and updated your Facebook page. What's next?
-- Decide on a budget. There are all kinds of weddings, from the Kardashians to eloping at the justice of the peace's office. You can have whatever kind of wedding you want, as long as you can afford it.
-- Not to sound jaded, but you're going to be just as married the day after whether you have roses or daisies on the altar. Be realistic about what you "need" versus what you "want."
-- Weddings are a billion-dollar industry. As much as we want to celebrate a relationship and everything that goes along with it, be careful about how you're spending your money.
2. A lot of wedding services are governed by contracts. What's the BBB's advice for dealing with those?
-- If you're not using a contract, get one. The days of doing business with a smile and a handshake are over, and that extends itself to weddings. If it's important to you, get it in writing.
-- Pay by credit card whenever possible. If there's a problem or dispute, you get protection from a credit card that you don't see through other ways of payment.
-- Practically any contract is open to negotiation, but once it's signed, you're obligated to live by the terms of the deal.
3. Too often, we hear about the horror stories that go along with weddings. What can couples do to avoid a bad photographer or what happens if a limo doesn't show up?
-- Check out any company you're considering with the BBB. That goes for anything from jewelers to honeymoon resorts.
-- Have alternatives in mind. The photographer doesn't show up? Pass out disposable cameras to your guests. The limo breaks down? Someone would be flattered if you asked to borrow their Caddy for the day.
-- Enjoy the day. Your guests don't necessarily know how things were supposed to work and might not know the difference. You can sort out the problems later.
The BBB has a Guide to Planning Your Wedding on its website now: