Kane: Protect yourself amid wedding-season woes
With Valentine's Day is in the rearview mirror, wedding planning season is kicking into high gear, especially for Oregon lovebirds planning 2020 nuptials. Bridal events around the state are cropping up to help you pick vendors. Save the date cards are waiting to be mailed (or emailed; it's 2020, after all). Cake must be tasted.
But with recent headlines about the chain of NOAH's event centers abruptly closing around the nation and costing couples thousands of dollars (and heartache you can't put a price tag on), wedding planning can feel downright scary. Here at the Better Business Bureau, we have taken reports of consumers losing, on average, $4,386 to NOAH's. Not only that, many couples have no backup venue for their wedding.
With so many details to work out and options for choosing just the right vendor for clothes, invitations, flowers, photography, reception hall, catering, music, travel packages, etc., it's easy to get overwhelmed before you get started. And the last thing you want is to end up like the jilted NOAH's couples, crying on the local news because you have nowhere to get married.
Before you let that type of debacle ruin the season of love, we've put together some tips on to help you plan and execute your wedding (with as few tears as possible).
1. Research businesses you are considering working with. Always start at bbb.org when you're researching a vendor. We'll give you the good, bad and otherwise on a company. As a nonprofit organization, we serve as a marketplace watchdog, evaluating businesses so you can shop with confidence.
Make sure you're also getting referrals by talking to other couples about their experiences. Since most services and merchandise must be purchased or ordered months in advance, you want to deal with well-established and financially stable businesses (that will still be around when your wedding day approaches).
Don't just hire the least expensive company. Wedding vendors often know the reputations of other vendors and can offer great referrals. For example, if you find a perfect photographer to work with, they can likely recommend a great baker for your cake or boutique for you dress. Take those recommendations and cross-reference them with reviews and complaints at bbb.org.
2. Review samples of the service provider's work before booking. For example, attend performances of the band or DJ at another event. Check vendors' social media accounts to see recent wedding photos and videos. Sample menu items (if possible) and check out display flower arrangements (or photo portfolios).
Like scouring reviews and asking for referrals, checking vendors' work is one more safeguard to ensure you don't encounter any unwanted surprised on your special day.
3. If a deposit is required, find out in advance whether or not any portion of a deposit is refundable and under what terms. Be sure to get these terms and conditions in writing.
Remember, to put down only as much as you can afford to lose. If the NOAH's victims are any indication, many couples overextend themselves financially to plan a wedding. Instead of blissful butterflies, spending too much can panic and frustration.
4. Obtain a written contract for everything. The various contracts should identify exactly what is included and not included in the price, as well as a clearly stated return policy. For example, will the caterer or reception hall provide dinnerware, linens, chairs, and tables? Does the price of the photos include engagement pictures, an album, or online gallery? Does the contract from the florist include delivery and set up times?
Be particularly clear about the policies and penalties for cancelling or changing your plans.
Spring and summer seasons are extremely popular wedding times. But if you're one of those couples planning a wedding, be sure the season of love lasts all the way to the wedding day. Plan far, far ahead. Get every policy and price in writing. And start with a business you can trust.
Danielle Kane is Portland marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific, covering Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.
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