Weddings and scams are two very different things that you probably wouldn’t associate. Unfortunately, in the last few years, newlyweds-to-be have been heavily targeted by con artists at all stages of the wedding planning process—and no one is immune from it.
The stress involved with wedding planning makes anyone an easy target. Between organizing your special day you likely have other obligations, such as work and family responsibilities, that keep you distracted. Since preparing for a wedding is not an easy task on its own, you’re more vulnerable to fall for a trap when you least expect it. And with the effects of COVID shifting half of businesses to virtual platforms, it’s even more likely that you could end up in a bad situation.
To avoid being a victim of these nasty schemes, it helps to know some of the most common ones out there and, better yet, how to avoid them.
Wedding Scams to Watch out For
There are far more scams than we can list in this article, but these will help you get a good idea of how you can get caught up in bad situations. Of course, new cons come out every day but if you want to get an idea of how you could get tricked, here are a few popular scenarios that con artists use on engaged couples.
The No-Show Vendor
The number-one scam in the wedding industry is the fake vendor. This can apply to any category: the florist, cake designer, photographer, or even the wedding planner. Long story short, the vendor basically takes your deposit and doesn’t deliver the product they promised. They either don’t show up to the event at all, or they’ll send a substitute that is sub-par to what you expected. In less common cases, the business will simply disappear or go bankrupt just before your wedding day, leaving you with no back-up plan.
An Overly Eager Wedding Planner
If you’re truly overwhelmed with organizing your big day, you’re likely to enlist in a wedding planner. As sad as it is to say, there are plenty of people eager to take advantage of stressed brides and grooms and offer to take care of everything for a price—except that they don’t. Either they disappear shortly before your wedding, or they don’t maintain the promised standards.
A major red flag is if they take a large (or full) sum upfront, or if they claim to work with only certain vendors. In addition, you should always pay all vendors directly, even if they were recommended by a trusted wedding planner. Should the planner insist on acting as your personal wedding accountant, it may be because they’re skimming a bit off the top.
While there are a few reputable dressmakers that sell wedding gowns online, the rest can be hard to navigate. There are far too many websites that sell counterfeit designer gowns or just very poor-quality products that either don’t fit or look nothing like the picture. We’re not talking about brands that make legit replicas of popular styles—we’re talking about cheap knockoffs that could even be sold off as the real thing.
To avoid this, it’s obviously better to never buy anything online. Alas, sometimes you might find a secondhand dress online that is exactly what you’ve been looking for. In which case, always check reviews from private sellers, and double-check any website you’re unfamiliar with through the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) or Site Jabber (www.sitejabber.com). And if you’re buying a brand new dress, you can often double-check via the designer’s official site to see if the store you’re shopping at is an authorized retailer.
Even if you request your wedding registry gifts to be delivered to your home, some guests are likely to show up with them to the reception. And there will always be a bandit that will take advantage of the situation to snag a few under their jacket, especially if you’re holding your wedding at a public venue. Hence, it’s recommended that you either store all gifts in a secure area that is not out in the open or designate one of the venue staff to keep an eye on things.
You should be wary of buying diamonds or any precious stone, especially when you’re dropping a load of cash. Whether you’re buying a wedding ring online or in-store, it is highly recommended to either triple-check the reputation of the vendor or hire a professional appraiser to go with you to assess the rocks at a real value. In addition, look out for a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certification, which is one of the most legit ways to know your diamond is the real deal.
There are quite a few sketchy photographers out there who will literally hold your wedding photos for ransom. They will agree to be hired at a certain rate, but will only send you a few samples after the event. If you want the rest, you will have to pay extra.
How to Avoid Common Wedding Scams
We’ve given you a few bits of advice above on what to look out for and how to avoid getting conned, but there are several more tips that you should keep in the back of your head.
Get it in Writing
The best form of security is a written and signed contract. Make sure it covers every aspect of what you’re paying for including the details of the service, the date on which it’s to be completed by (or performed on), the total cost, the down payment (if any), and any additional fees that might be charged to you. As an example, additional fees may be incurred if a vendor has to work extra hours during your reception, or if the florist has to substitute your flowers due to unavailability. In addition, make sure there is a clause about cancelation—should the vendor be unable to deliver—and how they address such mishaps.
Check Reviews and References
From Google to Facebook to Yelp, there are plenty of places where one can assess a business. However, these may be hard to find for new start-ups, and many such reviews can be fake. If you’re unsure, you can ask for personal references from the vendor, or even contact someone who’s (supposedly) worked with them. Most vendors will happily provide these if asked.
Charge it to the Card
Most credit cards offer purchase protection, as does PayPal. If possible, use either one of these methods to pay vendors. That way, should you end up paying for nothing, you can easily dispute the charge and get your money back. Alternatively, if you can only pay through bank deposit, create a separate wedding checking account. Not only will it help you keep track of expenses, but you can also easily keep an eye on any charges out of the ordinary.
Buy Wedding Insurance
Getting wedding insurance is one of the easiest ways to protect your special day from becoming a disaster. Most policies will cover any costs associated with no-shows or scam vendors. It’s not expensive, and will definitely give you peace of mind.