Weddings can be costly and fraught with emotion, but brides and grooms can reduce unwanted surprises by consulting Better Business Bureau reviews and tips.
BBB Business Reviews provide background on the business practices of more than 4 million firms nationwide. BBB Accredited Businesses promise to meet BBB standards for fair and honest practices. They must respond to any complaints filed through BBB and make a good-faith effort to resolve them.
“Couples want their wedding day to go off without a hitch,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “While there’s no way to guarantee that mistakes won’t happen, dealing with reputable companies reduces the chance of a wedding disaster.”
Problems with wedding vendors led to more than 1,800 complaints filed with BBB last year. And that’s just for vendors who specialize in weddings, not those who sell flowers, transportation or catering service for all types of events, for example.
Beware of one-day specials, discounts for advance payment and hidden costs that you may encounter as you meet potential vendors, especially at bridal expos. Read contracts and ask questions before you sign anything. Be wary of vendors that ask you to pay most of the fees in advance. Ask about refund policies for deposits or prepayments.
Some common problems that couples encounter and tips for avoiding them include:
Strange, senseless or unexpected fees. Some caterers, hotels or reception venues try to charge extra for “plate splitting,” “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.
Dresses that don’t measure up. Brides have complained to 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 website, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. 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 is that the photographer a couple 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, and 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. Resist the temptation to buy stuff that may be overpriced, of poor quality or that adds needlessly to the total bill.
For more information or a BBB Business Review on an individual business, go to www.bbb.org or call (314) 645-3300.