Milwaukee, Wis. February 25, 2011 – Brides who spend months and thousands of dollars planning for a perfect wedding can avoid disappointment by reading contracts carefully and checking vendors out with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
“Nearly everyone has a story about wedding misadventures, and brides often have nightmares about their dress coming apart or being left at the church without a ride,” said Randall Hoth, BBB president/CEO. “But with careful planning and screening of vendors, many mishaps can be avoided.”
Unfortunately, complaints about bridal vendors are all too common. Last year, more than 300 complaints were filed with the BBB about bridal shops, wedding photographers, wedding planners and other suppliers. That doesn’t count the 108 complaints about disc jockeys, banquet facilities and transportation companies.
Beware of one-day specials, discounts for advance payment and hidden costs as you meet potential vendors. 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 on deposits or prepayments.
Some common problems that brides encounter include:
Extra 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. Find out whether there are extra charges for champagne toasts, special linens, chair covers, a raised head table or display stand for the cake.
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. Others complain that stores cut designers’ labels out of sample gowns to make it difficult for brides to comparison shop, an unfair and deceptive practice. 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. Don’t rely on brochures when you hire a limo company. Ask whether the company actually owns the vehicle you want. 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. Brides shouldn’t rely on a web site, 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 what it will cost 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. Rather, he or she sends someone you’ve never met before, and the substitute doesn’t take the shots you had expected. 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.
Many brides complain of long waits for delivery of pictures or albums. Customers of one photography company in Wisconsin had to wait a year or more for pictures. Some received no pictures at all after they paid several thousand dollars for a photography package.
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. Check with a reputable cleaner on the cost of cleaning your gown after the wedding. The cleaner or another supplier may offer 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 report on an individual business, go to www.bbb.org or call 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).