Q: My fiancé and I are getting married this summer. We're still working on getting all the details laid out, but do not want to get scammed. Does the BBB have tips to offer regarding planning a wedding?
A: Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! Every year BBB receives hundreds of complaints about problems with wedding vendors, ranging from breach of contract to bait-and-switch tactics, and even outright scams.
There are many players involved in wedding plans, and there is a potential for problems with any one of them, including photographers, venues, limousine services, bridal salons, florists, musicians, DJs and caterers. Many complaints concern problems with contracts, cancellations and obtaining a refund on a deposit.
Consumers who don't do their homework can be left standing at the altar without a photographer. Unscrupulous bridal salons may sell counterfeit, used or damaged gowns as "new." The limousine may not show up on time - or at all. The list of potential problems is long.
BBB recommends consumers to be very selective when choosing event vendors.
Research and compare. Like anything else, buy with your head - not your heart. Make sure they have a good marketplace record at bbb.org, get references and price quotes from several vendors.
Get it all in writing. The devil is in the details, especially if the details are not in the contract. The contract should contain dates, start and finishing times, any charges for staying longer, penalties for cancellation and specifics about what services are expected. In the case of photographers, make sure you have a firm date for delivery of the final product.
Consider wedding insurance. While nothing can take the place of a vendor who doesn't show up, wedding insurance can mitigate the problems, and also cover cancellations due to weather, sickness, or injury, and any problems with the venue that may interfere with your plans.
Consult a wedding planner. They can do a lot of the heavy lifting, and check contracts to make sure your interests are protected.
Stay on top of vendors. Checkin with vendors in the weeks leading up to the event. Overestimate the time that will be necessary to get your gown, especially at this time of year, when salons are booked solid.
There are innumerable free resources online to help plan your wedding, and vendors can help you out with tips specific to their trades. Don't forget to check references from recently married couples, to ensure that the quality of services matches vendors' advertising and promises.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau of Chattanooga.