You’re getting married! YAY! Soak it in. Enjoy the out-pouring of love. Get excited… Now get smart.
The wedding industry is a business – a multi-billion dollar industry. You’re about to spend a small fortune (to you at least), and every dollar spent needs to be spent carefully. When I planned my wedding and as I have watched friends and families plan their wedding, I am shook when I see a vendor who expects to be paid hundred if not thousands of dollars for a service operating without a sound, legally binding contract.
You’re going to get a lot of advice and recommendations (welcome or unwelcome) from friends, family and strangers. You’re going to hear names of businesses that you probably have never dealt with before. While a sound recommendation from a trusted friend is important, vendors who either don’t want to or don’t know how to openly discuss the legalities of the deal should be avoided. It’s ultimately up to you to ask the right questions, and secure your wedding dreams by securing vendors that won’t ruin your wedding.
OFFER, ACCEPTANCE, CONSIDERATION:
Let me hit you with some legal knowledge: Every legally binding contract is made up of an offer, acceptance, and consideration whether it’s said or written. Is doesn’t have to be in writing. BUT you should have it in writing, kept in a neat file with your other contracts.
When planning a wedding, you enter into a lot of contracts whether you plan to or not. Throughout the process, it is important to use the buddy system during these negotiations. Make sure you bring a witness to your meetings with vendors, and get all of the offers in writing so you can back up any claims of agreements later if things turn ugly.
You should be signing 5-10 written contracts when you plan your wedding because there is a lot of money on the line whether your budget is $10,000 or $100,000. If you’re not signing a contract, you may want to reconsider working with that vendor. But – use your judgment. I didn’t need a contract for my hairstylist because I know where she lives. But you better believe there was a contract for my dress!
READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
I booked my photographer before I had nailed down a venue. I was so excited about my photographers, so I didn’t want to lose them. One of the terms clearly said that I would lose my deposit if I change my date, even if I still use them. I booked them anyway. It was in the contract, and I agreed to it. Fortunately, it all worked out. If you don’t understand a term or you don’t understand how it would apply to you, ASK!
ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS:
When I first started the process of wedding planning, I almost died when my mother asked the owner of the bridal salon, “What is your backup plan if you go out of business?” I was mortified because I thought that was such a rude question. Turns out, it’s a completely practical and necessary question.
The Wall Street Journal Market Watch issued an amazing article that EVERY bride and whoever is paying for the wedding needs to read with the top 10 things vendors will not tell you.
Here are a few things that vendors may not tell you and the questions you should ask to get the best out of your vendors:
- “I could go out of business before the wedding..or die, or cancel because I’m overbooked or have a personal emergency.”
I know someone whose photographer unexpectedly passed between the engagement photos and the wedding. She had no backup plan. What’s your recourse for a wedding vendor? You could sue their company or estate. Or your contact could include a backup plan even if that backup plan may not be as good as the original.
Remember, vendors are human and not above tragedy or family emergencies. God forbid you’re 5 tier masterpiece cake is ruined in an accident on the way to the church through no fault of the baker, but a plain white cake with flowers on it is better than no cake should something happen. Please don’t turn into Bridezilla. Accidents happen.
- What is your backup plan?
- Are you able to guarantee that you will be in business on my wedding date barring any death or illness?
- Do you have more than one vehicle and driver to delivery [insert item]?
- Who should I contact if something happens to you?
- Does your backup person have the same qualification or experience as you?
- Will that person have another event or will they leave the date open for me?
- Can we put this in writing?
- “We’ll punish you for those heightened expectations.”
Every bride is overwhelmed with all of the wedding websites, magazines, and Pinterest boards out there. It makes for wild dreams and heightened expectations. If you want every little detail to be perfect, you’re going to pay for perfection. If you’re less laid back, just make sure the overall look is what you want.
- What does this cost, [show pin from your wedding board] in addition to what you’re already doing?
- “Tax and tip not included.”
In Florida, you need to take any number you are given and multiply it by .07 for tax or .27 if it’s service that requires gratuity. Don’t forget you’re going to get hit again with delivery fees by your florist or any rental companies, and possibly another fee for after-hour or weekend delivery.
Example: You’re planning a 100 person wedding. Your menu is $20 per person, and you budget $2,000. Your total is actually $2,540…not including extra fees for servers to man the bar or the beef tenderloin.
Example: You budget $2000 for flowers. Add $140 for tax. Add $200-$500 (maybe more) for delivery. That’s $2,640.
You may want to reduce your budget to take those “plus plus plus” numbers into consideration.
- What is the sales tax?
- Do you include gratuity or is that at my discretion?
- How much is the added gratuity?
- How much can I expect to pay for each server/bar/bartender/station?
- Please review all of the pluses with me before I sign the contract?
- How many servers do you expect for me to have?
- Is there wait captain? How much?
- How much can I expect for delivery?
- “Hope you’re running on schedule. We’ve overbooked.”
You may have heard that “weddings never start on time.” Don’t be that bride. Not only may your vendors be overbooked and have to leave, but your wedding is on a timeline. Your band may play less time than you bargained for, or your food will sit in the hotbox longer than planned and taste dry, your guests will leave before you cut the cake at 11PM. 5 minutes here or there will throw the entire day off. So be early!
- How many other weddings are you doing that weekend?
- Will I be your only client?
- What time to do have to get to your next appointment?
- Is there a chance you could be late to my appointment?
- What happens if you’re late?
- Do you have a backup plan?
- Will I be reimbursed if you don’t make it?
7. “We’re eyeing your bling.”
I know you’re excited, but maybe keep the ring at home, and try not to look so eager. Maybe don’t mention that your wedding is at the Ritz until after they have thrown a few numbers out. If you’re really clever, you might even be able to avoid the word “wedding” before your vendor gives you some numbers.
Vendors are checking you out for dollar signs: your car, your clothes, your ring, even your other vendors will give you away. They want to hear all about the ring because they want to know how much you’re worth.
Rather than ask any questions, don’t give anything away! Be careful, be clever, and always low-ball your budget.
READ THE REVIEWS:
Luckily, there are several sites out there that have honest reviews from other brides. The Knot.com and Weddingwire.com have good forums for praise and/or criticism. That way you can sift through the vendors who truly want to make your wedding special and the ones who just want to exploit you.
MAKE A DECISION:
The second biggest bummer of wedding planning is picking between two really talented, similarly priced vendors who you like equally. It sucks. But you have to at least politely turn down every vendor who took the time to give you an estimate. If you’re not sure what to say, keep it short and sweet….
Thank you so much for taking the time to [speak to me/create a proposal for me/sit down with me to discuss my wedding]. I appreciate the time and effort you put into the proposal. I loved all of your [ideas/work], but we have decided to use another vendor.
Thank you again,
[Your name here]”
It is not easy to decide, and it’s even worse letting a vendor know that you’re taking your business elsewhere for something as simple as “I just like the look better.” But do everyone a favor, and sit down, make your decision, and let the un-chosen vendor know as soon as possible so you and your vendor of choice and get to work on your big day!
XOXO, Mrs. Make It Rainka