Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Checking Your Sources

People who have been there and done that will warn you that things will go wrong on your wedding day. It's probably true, and you're wise to accept it. But that doesn't mean you can't do something to prevent some disasters from ever taking place by doing just a little bit of research early on. I signed contracts with and gave deposits to at least three vendors that I would never do business with or recommend again, and I did it because I did not do my homework!


Let's say you are budget-hunting and found a potential wedding vendor through a Facebook ad or on Craigslist. You don't have any local bride-friends who have used the vendor, and a Google search doesn't yield much that is helpful. Neither does a check of Yelp or the usual wedding review sites. This isn't a red flag in and of itself, because the person you've found may be new to the industry and without much of a portfolio. Maybe this is why he or she is willing to offer you such a tempting deal! But before you commit, there is one site you should search if you are in Canada or the United States: the Better Business Bureau.

There are two reasons that I think the BBB is a great place to stop before booking a vendor. One is that you may find reviews that you were unable to find elsewhere. I've already written about one vendor, The Pros, that everyone in the world knew was disreputable except for me. As an even stronger example, if I'd checked the BBB before booking my videographer (not associated with The Pros; PM me if you are worried you're about to book the same guy and I'll tell you who he is), I'd have known that he had an F rating. This F rating has nothing to do with the quality of his artistry (in fact, that was never mentioned at all), but rather the timeliness of his delivery. Had I known, I would not have found myself a teary mess five weeks after the wedding, because I wouldn't have thought that his failure to respond to a single message for over a month meant that we were never going to get our wedding video—I would know instead that it might just take a long, long time. (He did eventually get back to us, though we are back in limbo. I had truly hoped to show you all our highlight video before I finished my recaps, but that is not to be... and he is back to not responding to me! Trust me, you do not want to be in this situation almost eight months after your wedding!)

The second reason is that checking with BBB can help you to know whether your vendor is actually running a legitimate business. In Los Angeles County, businesses are required to obtain operating licenses. The licenses aren't very expensive, but if you have a fictitious business name (i.e., a company name), even for a sole proprietorship (i.e., a one-person business), you need a license and there is a fine for not having one. Companies operating without licenses, at least in L.A., are operating outside of the law. Maybe you are one of those small government types with an anarchist bent that is thinking EFF THE MAN, but this can cause a problem when your vendor flakes on you and you have very little recourse. The chain of logic runs thusly:

Vendor operates without a license required by law »
Your vendor probably doesn't have much respect for the law »
Your vendor is a shady person »
Shady vendors often don't have much respect for YOU.

Not enough? Well!

Your vendor runs away with your deposit and doesn't deliver the promised service »
You try to take your vendor to Small Claims Court »
Your vendor, who doesn't have much respect for the law, doesn't show up to court »
You win! Default judgment! BUT! »
Your vendor isn't claiming income because your vendor doesn't have much respect for the law »
There is no way for you to collect »
You lose after all.

Okay, this might be fanciful. Let's try again.

Your vendor does what you've contracted »
But your vendor is stiffing the county, and might still be under-reporting income to avoid taxes »
All honest people paying for your vendor's shadiness.

I am kind of a proponent of following the law and I don't take kindly to tax cheaters. If I checked up on my no-show MUA before she no-showed me, I would have realized that she was not listed with the BBB and wasn't operating with a business license. I wouldn't have trusted her, nor would I have paid her a (cash) deposit (another red flag of a tax cheat). I either would have found someone else earlier, or I would have been more prepared to take care of my own make-up, saving myself some unnecessary day-of stress either way.

In any event, I highly recommend using Craigslist to find budget vendors when traditional avenues fail. But before you write anyone a check, check the BBB first!

Miss anything?
The Spaniels Are Married!
Watching Paint Dry
Vendor FAIL
Putting Our Faces On
Something New
Boutonnieres and Tuxedos
Sneaky Spaniel: The First Look
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Hey Laaadies! (The Wedding Party)
Signing Our Lives Away
Marriage Is a Process...ion
We've Only Just Begun (The Ceremony)
Organized Chaos
All Kinds of Pretty and One Big Fat Ugly
(This Will Be Our) Budget Recap Post
Wedding Rituals
This Is Not Good-Bye
Los Angeles/Malibu Vendor Review

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