Planning a wedding has never been easy. There is so much to think about, such as where to get married and who to invite, and so many suppliers you need to book. You’ve also probably never planned a wedding before. Then, as if it wasn’t already complicated enough, along comes coronavirus to make wedding planning even more complicated!
It’s no secret that the knock-on effects of COVID-19 have hit the wedding industry hard, and some suppliers have unfortunately been unable to weather the storm. So how do you know which wedding suppliers to trust with your hard-earned money and how do you make sure you are as protected as you can be?
In this article I will discuss the various ways you can make sure you choose a good wedding supplier and reduce your chances of losing money.
Wedding Insurance – Is it Still Worth It?
Just in case you’ve never heard of it, wedding insurance protects you for any unforeseeable events that may cause you to cancel or postpone your wedding. It’s a one-off payment and is relatively inexpensive, although prices have gone up thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
In pre-COVID-19 days I would have said wedding insurance is absolutely essential. However, unfortunately insurers are not generally covering anything COVID related, even if the problem is an indirect consequence of the pandemic. And let’s face it, this is the biggest risk at the moment for anyone planning to marry in the next year or two.
So does this mean wedding insurance is now worthless? No! Many other things can still go wrong. For example, a close family member could still get sick, or a flood/fire might affect your venue. Those risks have not changed.
In my opinion it is still worth buying wedding insurance if you can. As with all insurance policies though, make sure you are clear what your insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t. A big mistake I see are people who assume wedding insurance covers them for everything, and that is definitely not the case.
Research Potential Suppliers
This has always been important, and most of the times I hear of couple’s having problems with wedding suppliers it is because they skipped this step. If you only take one thing away from reading this article, make it this one – do your research! It is important to pick the right wedding suppliers, not just the cheapest.
In these uncertain times it is more important than ever to find stable companies who can work with you in a constructive way if there are problems. If the coronavirus pandemic has shown me one thing it is which companies truly believe in customer service.
Ask family, friends and even suppliers you trust for their recommendations. If a supplier has reviews online, have a good read, and if they have a lot don’t be afraid of the occasional negative review. However, if there are a lot of negative reviews then you should consider why and if the reviewers have been genuine.
When asking for quotes from suppliers also ask what their policy is for rescheduling weddings. How have they helped other couples move their dates? Are there any extra charges for moving dates? Hopefully by now reputable companies will have a policy that enables them to deal with every customer consistently.
Check Terms and Conditions (T’s and C’s)
You’ve done your research and you’re happy you’ve found someone reliable. What next then?
Never sign a contract or order form without seeing the terms and conditions first. This sounds obvious but you would be amazed how often I hear of couples only getting a contract to sign once they’ve paid a deposit. I feel this is the wrong way around.
What if you dislike the terms or cannot agree to some of them? You’ve already paid! You are simply putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Once you get the T’s and C’s, have a good read through and don’t be afraid to take your time and ask questions if you are not sure.
What to Look Out For
Specific things to look out for would be what the payment and cancellation terms are. Are they reasonable, or could you end up paying a lot of money and getting nothing in return? Terms such as “If you cancel your event, any monies paid will not be refunded” is unlikely to be reasonable. Whilst the contract might not stand up in court, it’s easier if you don’t get yourself in that position in the first place.
Are there any penalty payments? For example if you “…cancel within six months of the date of the wedding then you must pay 100% of the fee to the supplier”. In normal times this would potentially be unreasonable, and in COVID-19 times I personally would not agree to this. That’s assuming it is even legally enforceable.
If there’s a term/condition you’re not happy with then now is the time to discuss this with your supplier. There might be a good reason for it. A good wedding supplier will happily explain and, depending on the issue, may be willing to tweak things to reassure you.
For example, instead of paying the final balance within three months of the date of the wedding, can they wait until one month before? This might not be a problem for a photographer, but may be an issue for a florist who has to place orders with the wholesaler.
A good contract should make sure both sides know exactly where they stand and protect both sides. It should not place all the risk unfairly on one of the parties.
What Payment Method Should You Use?
As I’ve already mentioned, insurers do not generally cover COVID-19 related problems. So with this in mind, what is the best method to use when paying a wedding supplier to reduce the chances you might lose money?
In the UK, credit cards are currently the best form of protection, thanks to section 75 of the consumer credit act. For any purchases above £100 the credit card company is jointly liable for any claim against the supplier. You don’t even have to pay the whole balance!
Let’s say you paid £1,500 to your wedding photographer; £300 deposit via credit card with the rest of the balance paid via bank transfer. In the unfortunate event your photographer goes into administration, the credit card company is liable for the full £1,500 refund, not just the £300 deposit!
This is such a powerful form of protection, and Martin Lewis calls Section 75 a “secret financial superhero”! I encourage you to pay as much as you can via credit card.
Debit cards fall under different rules, and there is a scheme called ‘Chargeback’ that most banks are members of. However, this is entirely voluntary and is not backed by law. For that reason I would suggest credit card payments are safer.
What about PayPal? Unfortunately many people don’t realise that PayPal protection only lasts for 180 days. This makes it unsuitable for paying most wedding suppliers as we often take bookings 12-18 months before the wedding actually happens. For this reason I would not recommend using PayPal to pay for services, unless you are ordering goods which you will receive within six months.
Also, if you do use PayPal, never make a ‘friends and family’ payment. Always make sure you pay for ‘goods and services’ to make sure you receive PayPal Buyer Protection.
It’s also worth pointing out that if you use your credit card as the funding source for PayPal you are NOT covered by section 75 rules, since this is not a direct payment. Under these circumstances your credit card company will refer you to PayPal instead.
Bank Transfer (BACS)
A bank transfer is a bit like paying in cash in that it offers no consumer protection. For this reason I would not recommend using BACS as the only method of payment. However, remember that if you pay some of the amount (as long as it’s over £100) via credit card then it is OK to pay the balance via bank transfer.
I am mindful that when reading posts like this as it can sound all doom and gloom. As they used to say on Crimewatch, please don’t have nightmares!
In reality the vast majority of wedding suppliers have bent over backwards to help couples reschedule their special day, often keeping the same prices despite the new date sometimes being three years or more since they first took the booking!
Sadly the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that life can be unpredictable with few guarantees, so to avoid losing money it is wise to be cautious. I hope the tips above will give you extra confidence when booking your wedding suppliers.
Guest post by Martin Cheung Photography
About the Author
Martin Cheung is an award-winning wedding photographer based in Nottingham, capturing creative and natural documentary images for couples across the East Midlands.