Planning a wedding? Millions are this time of year making it the peak point for selecting venues and other important vendors for the most expensive day most will ever encounter! Experts say the average wedding day racks up a bills totaling more than $28,000, making this event one of the most important moments for a future bride and groom to carefully map out. Couples and their families can be overwhelmed by the process of choosing wedding vendors and Better Business Bureau can help. BBB has hundreds of Accredited Businesses and thousands of business reviews for companies in the wedding industry that can ease any bride and grooms planning process.
Some common problems that couples encounter and tips for avoiding them include:
Unexpected costs including catering hall fees. The average cost for a venue is close to $13,000 alone! Some caterers, hotels or reception venues charge extra for services that you may think are included such as “cake-cutting” or “corkage” fees, especially if you bring in a cake or liquor purchased from another source. Ask whether any fees apply beyond the cost per person, gratuities or room rental, if applicable. This includes any vendors that are engaged by the catering company. All written contracts should include specific dates, products, prices, name brands, and be signed by all parties involved. The price and type of alcohol to be used should also be included.
Not clear on cancellation policies: Be sure you understand the caterer’s cancellation policies and the terms are completely spelled out in a written contract. This includes any refunds or return of deposits.
Dresses that don’t measure up. Brides have complained to the BBB about bridal shops ordering the wrong sizes and colors of gowns as well as dresses that arrive too late for timely alterations. Make sure your order specifies new merchandise, sized to fit you and your bridesmaids. Call the shop to remind the staff of your schedule if you don’t hear by the promised time.
Wedding transportation problems. Complaints about limousine service include poor customer service and rigid cancellation policies. Get details in writing. Ask how the company handles problems if you aren’t satisfied and what they will charge if you need the vehicle longer on your wedding night. Don’t pay the entire amount in advance.
Musician switch. Couples shouldn’t rely on a web site, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. The music can really set the tone of your reception with DJ’s costing about $1,000 and reception bands costing more than $3,000 it is important to put in the research. Find out where you can hear the musicians play before you hire them. Ask who will actually perform at the reception and get a written commitment from the band or musician, including the amount of time they will play and costs to extend the time the night of the event.
Photographer issues. A common complaint from brides is that the photographer they hired doesn’t show up for the wedding or fails to deliver pictures until months after the wedding. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered, whether you will have the option of getting all the images on a DVD or CD, how much time you will have to choose the pictures and whether other members of your family or wedding party will have access to the pictures.
Floral changes. Fresh flowers are a perishable commodity that can also cost a couple thousand dollars. The final bouquet or arrangements may need to change depending on what’s available on the wedding day. Make sure you spell out a minimum size or number of stems in each bouquet or arrangement. Ask how the florist will handle any last-minute substitutions and charges, especially if the value of the flowers actually used is markedly different from what you had agreed upon.
Bridal gown preservation. Some bridal shops or other businesses sell bridal gown preservation packages, including cleaning and a box, for $250 or more. Many of these packages are no more than regular dry-cleaning and a cardboard box, which may not be acid-free. Check with a reputable cleaner on the cost of cleaning your gown after the wedding. The cleaner or another supplier may be able to sell you an acid-free box and tissue at a more reasonable price.
Wedding memorabilia. Monogrammed napkins, decorations, swizzle sticks, pens or other souvenirs often are marketed as a way to enhance the event or remember the wedding. Unless you have budgeted for these extras and have researched them first, resist the temptation to buy items that may be overpriced, of poor quality or that adds needlessly to the total bill.
BBB advises engaged couples to have a plan, including a budget, and stick to it:
- Beware of one-day specials, high pressure sales tactics, discounts for advance payment and hidden costs that you may encounter as you meet potential vendors, such as florists and limousine services.
- Pay with a credit card. Credit cards offer consumers the added protection of disputing any charge over $50 within 60 days of the purchase. Use them whenever possible, including for payment of deposits.
- Don’t pay in full. While it’s customary to pay a reasonable deposit to hold your day, do not pay more than half of your total cost up front.
- Consider wedding insurance. Wedding insurance can help take the stress out of any possible wedding mishaps. A wedding vendor might go out of business, you may need to cancel due to bad weather or you may not receive the goods you’ve paid for, such as bridal gowns or a wedding cake. But be sure to check with your vendor first – they may already have you covered.
- Get confirmation from everyone. Confirm all services one to two weeks prior to the event and verify all of the details agreed upon. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises on your wedding day.