July 20, 2021 – Weddings are stressful and the last thing anyone wants on their big day is to be dealing with businesses that can’t—or won’t—deliver or potential scammers after your cash.
As Canada begins the transition back to normal post-pandemic and many resume wedding planning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people of wedding scams and provides valuable information on vendors, including caterers, florists, musicians and photographers.
The BBB said it receives many complaints each year related to wedding vendors, including wedding supplies and services, cakes, venues, caterers, limo service, consultants and photographers and videographers. Many complaints about wedding services involve the timing of the delivery of the products or services. Complainants tell BBB that they ordered products like wedding dresses and wedding favors with the expectation that the products would arrive in time for the wedding but found there were delays in delivery, without an acceptable refund or other recourse.
Similarly, most of the complaints regarding photographers and videographers were about timelines for receiving the final photos or videos. Consumers say that they expected to get photos or videos within a certain amount of time, but the business delayed sending them without providing adequate explanation. Others complained about “no show” limos or DJ’s. Consumers also reported that it was often hard to communicate with the business.
BBB also often sees several wedding vendors close their businesses with little notice to their customers. When the company is out of business, it can be very hard for consumers to get their money back, even though they will not receive purchased products and services.
Tips to avoid wedding scams:
- Research businesses before hiring them: Before you fall in love with a vendor, check its availability for your wedding date. Read reviews. Check business profiles on BBB.org. Ask the business ahead of time what their plan is for delivering their product on time. Do they have guarantees? What is guaranteed? Don’t pay the entire fee up front.
- Check how long a business has been operating: Find out how many people are still using their services, in order to avoid paying a business that might close before they can provide their product or service.
- Double-check prices: If you’ve learned about a vendor at a bridal expo or other special event, make sure you ask if prices are the same after the event. Be careful of high-pressure sales tactics to make you commit to a product or service on the spot.
- 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. Remind the shop of your schedule in advance.
- 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 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. Find a florist near you.
- 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 items that may be overpriced, of poor quality or that add needlessly to the total bill.
- Get it in writing: Get all sales promises in writing, including specific dates, products, prices, name brands, etc. Make sure all oral agreements are included in the written contract. Cancellation policies should also be included.
- Pay with a credit card: Avoid paying in cash up-front for services. If you pay by credit cards you have protection in the event of a problem that is not available with other forms of payment.
- Follow up: Confirm all services one or two weeks prior to the event and verify all of the details agreed upon. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises on your wedding day.
Potential Wedding Scams:
- The knock-off dress: Some shifty private sellers will tell you it’s a one-of-a-kind Vera Wang, but at a ridiculously low price, it could be a fake and definitely not worth the money you save. Always shop at reputable vendors or the designer’s shop.
- The gift grab: Piling up your wedding loot on a table at the venue looks great, but it also exposes gifts to would be thieves who may be lurking, or even working at the venue (not to mention guests you don’t know very well). It’s always best to request that gifts be purchased through your wedding registry.
- Service providers getting scammed: The wedding photographer scam has been making the rounds. A photographer is hired via email, a check for more than is required is sent and the photographer is asked to forward money to a non-existent event planner via money transfer. The payment bounces and the photographer loses out.
For more information, visit bbb.org.