With the most popular months for weddings just a few months away, many wedding shows or expositions are scheduled early in the year. Better Business Bureau advises couples to look for ideas at shows but to be careful when booking or signing contracts for goods and services.
Some vendors may offer show specials. Before grabbing a deal, make sure you understand the details of what is being offered, and check out the vendor by going to bbb.org and looking for a BBB Business Profile. The profile will show a rating from A+ down to F, the length of time a company has been in business, any complaints about the firm and how they were resolved. Profiles also may include customer reviews showing positive, negative or neutral experiences with the firm.
Be skeptical if vendors ask you to pay most of their fees in advance. Ask about refund policies for deposits or repayments. Ask for references and contact other couples to find out how a vendor performed. When arranging for photography, music or other services, find out who will provide the services on your wedding day and when promised items will be delivered.
BBB receives many inquiries and complaints from disappointed couples. Some things to watch for include:
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 elsewhere. Ask about any fees 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. Remind the shop of your schedule as the wedding day draws near.
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 how long they will play and what you might pay to extend the time the night of the event.
Photographer issues. 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 them.
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 flowers used differs from those in your initial plans.
For more information or a BBB Business Profile on an individual business, go to bbb.org.
Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.