Upset CouplePlanning a wedding involves lots of details, but it also involves your emotions. After all, you’re designing one of the biggest events of your lives. Emotional people are vulnerable people, and unfortunately, they’re perfect targets for scam artists. Phony wedding planners are just the latest form of scam, but they can cause plenty of chaos and damage in their wake. By paying attention and following some sound advice, you can avoid losing your hard-earned cash.

The Anatomy of a Wedding Scam

Writing for USA Today, Credit.com’s Adam Levin describes how wedding planner fraud can affect your big day. Some fake planners appear at wedding expos and pitch their services. Others ask couples to write checks for specific amounts but leave the payee line blank, claiming they’ll fill it in later once they’ve hired vendors. Medium blogger Mai Cadiz-Valencia describes another type of rip-off: the deal that’s too good to be true. It usually takes the form of an all-inclusive package, stuffed with a lot of freebies and offered at a rock-bottom price. Regardless of the method, the outcomes are always the same: no wedding and a much lighter wallet.

Wedding Scammers can also advertise online or on social media sites, and Huffington Post contributor Danielle Rothweiler explains how these fraudsters work. They create websites showing beautiful reception décor, happy guests, delectable food, and lavish cakes. Many even boast large collections of glowing reviews from their previous clients. Except they’re all fake. Those images are either carefully chosen stock photos or thieved from legitimate planners’ sites. As for the customer reviews, anyone with a clever mind and a keyboard can write convincing copy.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Besides the emotions that bubble to the surface when planning a wedding, a lack of knowledge can render you vulnerable to con artists. Levin comments that couples may not understand how much logistical work takes place behind the scenes. Or perhaps they do, but the process of handling contracts, rentals, hiring, and shopping can feel overwhelming. Wedding Wire reveals that average planner costs fall between $1,000 and $2,500, with typical hourly rates ranging from $75 to $275. It also lists the services that are usually included with a planner’s fee:

  • Correspondence with vendors
  • Vendor and venue selection
  • Organizing contracts, budgets, and timelines
  • Prep tasks, such as seating charts and envelope stuffing
  • Coordinating day-of activities
  • Event cleanup and breakdown

Doing Your Homework

Steering clear of rip-offs takes a little effort, but such wise practices are vital before you hire any vendor. In her Medium piece, Cadiz-Valencia lists key characteristics that legitimate planners share:

  • Websites that aren’t just social media pages
  • Physical offices or business locations
  • Contact details of previous clients
  • Meeting clients by appointment only
  • Detailed and notarized contracts
  • Providing timelines and payment schedules
  • Upfront explanations of their fees
  • Providing receipts from their suppliers

Finding many of the details means you must do your research first. Sure, glowing reviews are nice, but it’s a good idea to check directories like Wedding Wire, The Knot, or even Yelp!. Many reputable planners will have listings on these sites. You should also evaluate each professional before making your final choice. The Knot’s Maddy Sims suggests meeting in person with vendors and calling their references. Here Comes the Guide offers a list of questions you can ask prospective planners.

Ensuring Your Happy Ending

Scammers know that weddings are expensive. They also know that cash-strapped couples look for amazing deals or vendors willing to cut them a break. Scam artists, including fake wedding planners, do everything they can to attract these worried couples and abscond with their money. By researching planners, trusting your instincts, and knowing how to spot a wedding scam, you can ensure that you don’t fall for the con.

Category: Wedding Planning

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