How to Avoid 5 Common Wedding Rip-Offs

We tend to get extravagant about weddings -- that's understandable -- but let's not be foolish. Watch out for these expensive pitfalls, rip-offs and risks.

Your wedding day is only going to happen once — at least that is the plan — so the instinct can be to ignore the costs and make everything just perfect. Indeed, the average wedding in the United States last year cost $26,444. While stretching the budget might make sense for a special occasion, you don’t want to get scammed in the process.

There are some general tips. First is the old adage about things that seem too good to be true. You might think you’re going to save a few bucks, but if the item ends up being low quality, or you don’t get it at all, you’ve cost yourself a lot more. The Better Business Bureau advises getting everything in writing. Get signed contracts laying out exactly what you expect from each vendor. Many will have contracts pre-prepared that they use with every client. While these can be a good starting point, be sure to read the contract carefully. Don’t be afraid to talk with the vendor about eliminating details you don’t agree with, or add in things that are important to you — they should be willing to negotiate to meet your needs.

Consider wedding insurance. If your baker flakes out and doesn’t bring the cake, there’s not much you can do to make one appear, but with the insurance in place, at least you’ll get some portion of your money back. This can also help if there’s some kind of accident or act-of-God type event. Also, use a credit card whenever possible, since that will afford you some protection.

Beyond those, here’s five things to watch out for:

1. Counterfeit dresses

Photo (cc) by Jung Yen-KuoPhoto (cc) by Jung-Yen Kuo

The average wedding dress cost ranges between about $900 and $1,500, though that number goes up much higher for brides looking for a designer label. Just be sure the label is real. There are federal requirements about what needs to appear on a label, so that can be worth checking out, but that alone isn’t always enough. One common scam involves a dress (particularly one ordered online) being passed off as a high-quality designer product, but instead you get a knock-off made from inferior materials and construction. To avoid this, buy at a brick-and-mortar shop, and be sure of the return policy before you order.

That may not always be enough. Consumer Reports notes that some bridal shops that might be financially struggling will take your money for the dress (often at a steep discount), then close before you get it. Using a credit card should help you get back some of the money, though it won’t get you a dress.

2. Vanishing vendors

Photo (cc) by FimbPhoto (cc) by Fimb

There are stories out there of people posing as DJ’s, photographers, florists — pretty much any of the outside contractors you might employ — who take your deposit and then vanish. Make sure you check on everyone. Websites like TheKnot or Weddingwire and the Better Business Bureau can help you with reviews for vendors in your area that can steer you toward reputable businesses.

Also don’t forget word of mouth, if you loved the flowers at a friend’s wedding, ask them about who they used and if there were any behind-the-scenes problems they encountered. Your venue may also have a list of vendors it often works with. While you never know who might be giving kickbacks to whom, at least someone is vouching for them, and you know that vendor understands the quirks of your venue.

3. Bridal show shenanigans

Photo (cc) by Susanne NilssonPhoto (cc) by Susanne Nilsson

Bridal shows can be overwhelming with the variety of different products and services available. Be wary of any giveaways you might sign up for, though. That honeymoon hotel stay might not include taxes, let alone the airfare to get you there and back. And as with almost everything else, once you put down your name address and phone number, it’s fair game to be sold and resold to other people and businesses. Always read the fine print, understand the privacy policy and be very careful about which businesses and people you share your information with.

4. Gift theft

Photo (cc) by Contentment SikherPhoto (cc) by Contentment Sikher

It happens. While you (hopefully) don’t have to worry about your friends and family walking off with a gift, there will be lots of other people around. Some venues — hotels for instance — will have plenty of non-wedding related people coming and going throughout the day, to say nothing of a staff person who might not have been vetted thoroughly. Avoid losses by placing the gift table far from the doors, and deputizing a family member to keep an eye on it.

5. Home burglary

Photo (cc) by Aly1963Photo (cc) by Aly1963

Placing a wedding announcement in your local newspaper, assuming you still have one, or on Facebook nowadays is a rite of passage. It’s also a good way to broadcast that you won’t be home that day, and if you include the dates of your honeymoon, you’ve given burglars a nice big window of opportunity. Certainly share the news of your big day, but make sure neighbors know and will keep an eye on your place for any signs of trouble. And for the honeymoon, remember to do all the usual things when taking a long trip, such as stopping the mail, newspaper and other deliveries, since big piles by the door can be a sign that no one is around. And let your credit card companies know when and where you’ll be traveling so your purchases from out-of-the-way places don’t prompt them to shut down your card.

Any wedding day advice or cautionary tales to share? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.


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