You’ve probably been envisioning your dream wedding since childhood, but you can’t pull it off alone. While vendors are a crucial part of the planning process, you don’t want to go into debt paying them (or worse, having them not come through for you at all). Don’t panic–just use these tips to make sure you don’t ripped off.
Don’t say the word “wedding.” Vendors charge up to 25 percent more for weddings than any other event. So when you initially go into the meeting, just tell the vendor you’re planning a special party and let them quote you prices based on that.
Do your research. Ask recent brides and check online to see what the average prices are in your area for certain wedding-related services. This way, you can call out or simply skip a vendor who is charging unreasonable fees.
Plan ahead. Vendors–especially photographers and entertainers–book up as much as a year in advance. Waiting too long will limit your options and could force you to pay top dollar because you don’t have a choice.
Set a budget–and stick with it. If you go in with an exact number of what you can spend for each service, it will be easier to negotiate with each vendor. They can either work with you within your budget, or they can’t and you need to move on.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate. While you don’t want to offend a vendor by trying to lowball them (after all, they do need to earn a living), there’s no harm in asking if they could throw in a little extra here and there. For example, asking your photographer if he could comp a small photo album for each set of parents.
Pay with a credit card. Put your deposits on plastic (but be sure to pay off the balance at the end of every month) so if a particular vendor goes out of business or doesn’t come through for you, you can dispute the charges through your credit card company. Never pay in cash!
Make sure everything is in writing. An oral agreement or a handshake deal gives you no leverage if the vendor doesn’t come through on any or all of his promises. You need a written contract signed by both parties.
Read the fine print. Before signing on the dotted line, read the entire contract from start to finish. Ask any questions if you don’t understand something or it doesn’t seem right, and don’t sign it unless you agree 100 percent with what it contains.
Get wedding insurance. This is something that can protect you against vendors who fail to deliver. It costs anywhere from $200-$400, but can save you thousands if you need to use it.
For more wedding planning advice, check out how to plan a wedding budget and 8 questions to ask before having kids at your wedding.