CBS News covered this story about a poor unsuspecting Arizona couple who decided on a destination wedding in Utah. They hired a local planner and 'thought' they'd done their homework until the day before their wedding, they realized they'd been scammed out of all their money. PLEASE watch this article: CBS NEWS CLIP
My colleague and I were discussing this and when she asked me 'why on earth I would publicize this', my reaction was simple. To protect other unsuspecting couples from going through the same thing. To take it one step further, here's our advice for some simple steps when hiring a wedding planner:
- When we supply references, they are verifiable references of clients AND vendors. How do you tell the difference? Simple. Not only will the client references that are supplied, come with email and telephone numbers, the brides should be happy to provide you with photos of their recent wedding. Most brides would LOVE to share these online. Also, call vendors in the city you are having your wedding. Ask about the planner. A good planner should have great contacts with tried and true vendors. We are all only as good as the professionals we associate ourselves with and vendors are usually pretty honest about referring planners. Hotels, caterers, cake bakers,etc. Ask about the company you are looking to work with.
- Make sure your wedding planner and ALL your wedding vendors are licensed and insured. This simple easy step is important. With the economy, so many people have lost their jobs and wedding planning appears to be a simple job that someone can do from home on their spare time. WRONG. Weddings are big business and warrant experience you can trust. You wouldn't take your car to a part-time mechanic who just works a couple of hours of week from his/her apartment complex, would you? Would you go to a part-time medical student to be treated for an infection or ailment? I think not. So why would you not hire a wedding planner with credentials, experience, business license and insurance to ensure you're protected? Ask to see their business license and insurance certificate. If a company has a problem supplying these, then I'd ask why?
- Get it all in writing! Contracts are made for a reason. Make sure everything is spelled out and do not, I REPEAT, do not take no for an answer. Contracts are meant for the protection of all involved. Not only the clients, but the planner as well. You should look for things like 'cancellation policy', 'in the event that a planner cannot provide the services listed below due to...etc.'. Ensure that a planner is prepared to oversee every contract for every vendor working on your wedding.
- How will billing and payments be handled? Our company has an internal billing structure and our clients get updates on all payments and cash flow accounts for in and outflow. They get confirmation each month on which vendors were paid and they also have the option of paying directly themselves if preferred. Be specific about payment terms. Make payment terms up front and stick to them. Ask for receipts.
- Have a direct line of communication with ALL your vendors. A good planner will copy you on all correspondence and you should be able to contact your caterer, site planner, entertainment company anytime you wish. You've hired a planner to work on your behalf, but never should you feel you cannot contact a vendor directly. A Charleston Event have a policy to include our clients in all correspondence and involve them in line of communication. There are exceptions, but do make sure you completely agree and understand these exceptions up front.
- Arrange your payment terms up front and send amounts that are tracked on a regular basis. Its all fine and dandy to tell you to put the entire amount on credit cards, but lets face it, $30K,$50K, $100K on a credit card can accumulate a very high rate of interest. Paying as you go along and tracking your payments will give you 'peace of mind'.
- A lot of establishments and catering companies will require you to leave a credit card number as a guarantee in case of incidentals or add-ons. I do not know of one facility that will allow our clients to book an event without having a credit card on file for guarantee booking. This applies to hotel accommodations as well.