Caveat EmptorMaybe I’m just naive, or maybe I like to think everyone who provides wedding services is as honest and open as I am.

After reading through more than a few wedding groups on social media this evening and websites dedicated to the subject, it appears that there really are people out there who are prepared to take your hard earned and saved wedding budget and not provide what they’ve promised.

I was genuinely shocked!

Yes I knew of things like the well publicised Bake A Cake fraudsters who were brought to book a couple of years ago. But it appears to be more widespread than that with even suppliers local to me being involved in such things.

So, how do you protect yourself?

That’s a very good question. It used to be that things like customer reviews were a fairly good indication of the reliability and level of service, but these people are now faking those to look like they’re the best service provider in the industry, including going to the trouble of setting up fake Facebook accounts with history to make the “reviewer” appear genuine.

  • Meet up with the supplier before you book.
    Yes, the most hard nosed ones will agree to meet up and spin all sorts of lies to get you to book. However, most of us will be open and honest with you and answer any probing questions you may have. Look for signs like body language to see if you can judge if they’re being honest, throw in some curved-ball questions (for instance with a DJ, mention a song and the wrong artist and see if they pick up on the fact).
  • Try to communicate with others who have used the same supplier
    In these days of social media, news very quickly spreads when somebody’s provided a bad service or even failed to provide the service at all. As any reputable supplier will tell you, word of mouth is the best form of advertising. It can also be our worst nightmare if we’re a little bit less than reliable – bad news travels fast. For instance if the provider has a Facebook page….does it have reviews enabled on it or not? The main reason for not having reviews enabled (and we can’t alter or remove them) is because they’ve more than likely got something to hide!
  • Ask for a written contract
    A contract is a legally binding agreement between you and the service provider which can be enforced in a court of law. It should specify what’s being provided, when and at what price. There should also be things like cancellation clauses and details on what happens in the event of something stopping the supplier from providing the service you’ve booked (such as providing a replacement from another supplier).
  • If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is
    As with all things in life, some people will offer there services at a ridiculously low price whilst others will be a lot more expensive. Whilst price isn’t the only indicator of service and reliability, it’s a fairly good measure. For instance, an £80 DJ is more likely to take an alternative offer of work for the evening for an extra £10 than one who’s charging a fee which enables them to actually run as a business and make a profit. Although it’s a dirty word, a reputable supplier will be charging an amount which is reasonable for the service they’re providing whilst not cutting corners and still making enough money to keep the business running and provide a wage for the job they work so hard at.
  • Does their online presence seem professional and are there contact details?
    A bit of a strange one and you’d think this would be the easiest to forge. But look out for businesses using free email accounts such as Hotmail as their contact address. Having a dedicated email domain costs money and takes time to set up, but again is traceable to a physical address via web registrars. The same applies to telephone numbers…..are they contactable only via mobile (which could be a disposable number), or do they have a landline number you can call as well?
  • A picture paints a thousand words
    But beware….a lot of supplier websites use what are known as stock images, or even worse poach them from other websites. Look for images of the service which appear to be genuine. As a security feature, I watermark most of the images on this website to try to prevent people from stealing them for their own purposes. You’ll find this on many other supplier websites as well.
  • Speak to your wedding venue and other wedding suppliers
    Most of us frequent the same venues on a regular basis. There are certain photographers, wedding dressers, caterers ,florists & photo booth providers for example that I work with on a regular basis. Not because I’ve booked them as part of any “package deal”, but because that’s who the happy couple have chosen to provide their wedding services independently of each other. As a supplier myself, I’m certainly not going to vouch for those that I know will give a poor service, and it works both ways.
  • Are they trying to force you to book?
    Remember the old days of double glazing salesmen where they’d offer you a discount if you signed on the dotted line on the day? A reputable supplier will be used to the fact that you’re making a lot of very big and expensive decisions and will be willing for you to wait to make up your mind on whether to hire them or someone else.
  • Where possible, pay with a traceable method of payment
    “Cash on the day” isn’t accepted by most reputable suppliers these days. Although it’s cheaper to work that way from a banking perspective, it’s also untraceable (and that applies to our accounts as well). Payment via a credit card will give protection should things go wrong, and methods such as bank transfer (is it a business account you’re paying into?) provide a paper trail should it be needed.

There are of course, many other ways of protecting yourself. None of them are entirely foolproof but by using a combination of the methods above you should be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Unfortunately there will always be those that are more than willing to promise the world on your special day, and then fail to deliver. It sends a shudder down my spine because I’d never dream of letting a couple down on their big day.

Stay safe and choose carefully!