In the last three weeks I have had several enquiries from couples planning a wedding in Essex, UK who have had their own wedding suppliers cancel orders weeks before an event date. It used to be unheard of, at least to me, but just lately it is becoming all too common. There may be many reasons for this; some wedding suppliers may not have survived the Coronavirus pandemic; others may have accidentally or intentionally double booked wedding services or found themselves unable to provide the products they had originally promised. Some may have had to isolate or look after family members needing to isolate and others may have decided to close their doors for business or personal reasons.
Imagine how worrying this must be - to suddenly be back at the start, without a key supplier and with days or weeks to your wedding. Wedding insurance protection is difficult to buy since March 2020, so how can you avoid this stressful situation? Here's some tips which should help you to chose bonafide businesses who respect their clients and operate in a professional and legal manner.
1) Do your research
Look for a business that is well established, organised and professional in their approach. Speak to your venue and other suppliers you trust such as your photographer or planner for recommendations. Read reviews and testimonials (pinch of salt here) on multiple platforms, google, Facebook and on the business webpage - do they tell the same story? Look at the business website, is the content current and regularly updated, is information helpful and informative not just all about sales or social media.
2) Go with your gut instinct
Try and speak with the business by phone, Zoom video call or in person. Do you get a sense of trust from the business? Do they seem genuine and confident in what they are doing? What are they offering you, what product or services will you get, how much for and on what terms?
"If a deal seems too good to be true, it is."
3) Read the terms and conditions
It is very important to do this. Each business is different and is run differently. Please read the terms and conditions and consider how you would feel if some of the clauses had to be implemented. Does the contract seem fair to both sides? If there aren't any terms neither you nor the business is protected from a breach of any verbal agreement you may have.
4) Ask questions
It is always best to ask for clarification if something isn't clear. We are all individuals and what is clear to one person may not be clear to another. If a contract clause is too difficult to understand or could be misunderstood, ask for it to be explained or reworded. If something doesn't sound right or seems to favour the business, should you book?
"Again, ask for clarification or an amendment to the contract before you sign."
5) Don't book too early and take your time to make a decision
Please don't rush your decision - yes, you have a cooling off period with any order, but ideally you shouldn't need it, if you have chosen carefully and in your own time. Don't be forced into booking too early as a deal is about to expire or as other people may or may not be booking in.
6) Understand what is needed to have a booking confirmed
Most businesses will expect payment when a booking is made, alongside terms and conditions being formally agreed. If the services are being delivered immediately then full payment will be expected either just before the job or once it is completed, depending on the type of job it is. When the services are booked for a future date, a non-refundable part payment, usually called a booking fee is required to reserve a product or service for a named date. This is usually 20% - 50% depending on what is involved. Most event work is paid for in advance, anything from 1-4 weeks before the event date. When payment is requested this will be done via an invoice or a pro-forma invoice for services to be delivered in the future.
"If the business you are employing doesn't provide you with an invoice or pro-forma invoice for goods or services, this could be a red flag."
7) Keep the paperwork
Keep contracts, email threads and payment receipts in a file on your computer or phone. Refer to them before you ask for amendments to your order to make sure you are sticking to what was agreed.
8) Pay by card
Paying by card gives another level of protection. Businesses have to pay a fee for each payment taken and you may be able to seek help from the bank if a supplier were to go out of business before your event - again this is something I hadn't heard of happening until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
So that's it, 8 ways to avoid booking suppliers who will cancel on you - I hope this helps you with tips for booking the right suppliers. Some of these are obvious I know, but in all the wedding planning excitement it is easy to get carried away with booking suppliers very early or very quickly on impulse.
I try to practice what I preach. I include reviews and testimonials on my website as well as asking clients to review on google or Facebook. I offer discovery calls to all clients if they want them and will book face to face appointments for a small fee. I try to keep things simple so you understand what you are getting, when, how and for how much. I have detailed terms and conditions which set out what will happen in the event of a cancellation by either party and any additional charges or refunds that may relate to cancelled orders. I always offer to answer any questions and give 1-2 weeks or more for clients to make a decision - there is no pressure to book and I don't take bookings years ahead. If you haven't agreed a quotation and I haven't heard from you, I may get back in touch, but only to ask if there is any further assistance you need. If you don't want to proceed, I archive the enquiry; if you need more time, I extend the quotation expiry date by a week. An order is not confirmed until we have both signed the terms and until a booking fee or instalment payment has been made so we are both clear when an order is made. You can view your contract at any time by clicking the link you've been sent and I offer online card payments which can be made directly from the invoice, processed by Stripe.
I'm always trying to improve customer experience in my own business, so if there is something else that will help or something that will make you more confident in making a booking please talk to me about it.
Creative Director of Party Squared