I’m very active on Facebook for Business and personal.  A few months ago, I woke up to find reports that another Wedding Supplier has closed and many couples are left with a number of massive problems in the lead up to their day.

This saddens me for a number of reasons:

  1. The couples need to get a refund.  It’s not clear how long this will take or even if it’s possible.  Short term, this may limit their ability to secure replacement services as their money will be tied up with the supplier.
  2. A Business was under quoting to gain work (quoting too cheap) and this was not sustainable and lowers price expectations for other couples.
    “XYZ Supplier (now no longer trading) were doing chair covers for £1.10 each, can anyone beat that?”
  3. Confidence is suppliers will be low. “How do I know you won’t let us down?”

How can couples protect themselves?

Now, I’m certainly not a legal professional.  My basic advice would to always err on the side of caution.  There are very few suppliers that have zero competition so just walk away if you feel uneasy.  You’ll soon learn which suppliers you like and trust so take your time.

A respectable supplier will have a booking procedure.  This is intended to ensure they understand what is expected and they have the resources to provide the service/product as required.

  • If you’re ordering a standard product (something they do not customise and it’s probably in stock) then it can be very simple.
  • If it’s a totally bespoke service or product, then you should expect questions and a final confirmation.

It will also give a paper/email trail to provide protection (to the Supplier and Customer) in the event of problems.
Hopefully there will be no confusion about size/colour/times when they confirm the details.

Good Signs..

The supplier asks a lot of questions specific to your Wedding.  They’ll show prior work (videos/photos).

They’ll be INTERESTED!

They will provide a written quotation that meets your needs and includes dates/times/locations and all costs (postage/travel etc).  The total fee should be what they require unless you need to amend details.

Hello Becky, thank-you for your enquiry and chat just now.  I have all the details I need to for your Wedding on Saturday, 4th July 2019 at Fanhams Hall, Hertfordshire.
You require 50 off xyz items to be with you by the 20th of June and I will ship these via recorded delivery and provide a tracking number.

The total cost of these will be £60 which includes tracked shipment to your Address (20 Citrus Avenue, Hertfordshire)
Here are some photos of previous items and your order will be identical.

My full contact details are included below and please call or email me if you need any more information.
To order these, …..  (you get the idea!)

How long have they been trading?  If you Google their buisness name, you should expect to find their website and probably links from other websites/directories.  Here is mine (there is another similar named business in Sheffield that is unrelated but worth a call if you’re in that area!)
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=dancesoundsdisco&oq=dancesoundsdisco&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l3j0j69i65.4255j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

I lost track after 4 pages, but there are a lot of other websites linking to mine or mentioning my buisness.  Expect similar from other established suppliers.

Bad Signs

The supplier will respond in a very casual manner (FB Messenger/Text Messages).  They’ll offer a price very early in the correspondence.
They won’t list any specifics and will be keen to get your money.

Hi Hun, I can do this.  £30.  Paypal me as a friend/family to avoid fees and I’ll post asap.

I see this as a very common problem.  A Wedding won’t be completely ruined if some Table Decorations are missing but it will add stress to your day when you want the room to look very pretty.
When this is scaled up to suppliers involved with major parts of the day, it is very risky.  Your Venue/Church/Registrar won’t be communicating in this manner so expect more.

A DJ/Band/Photographer letting you down becomes a serious problem.  Luckily I don’t hear about this too much, but it can happen.

If you Google the company name and don’t find much-  are they trading only on Facebook?  This requires very little investment (time or money – a Facebook Profile or Business Page is free to set-up).

If they are showing photos of the product, is it actually the product they provide or just a stock image or even worse, copied from someone elses website?
You can right-click on most images and “Search Google for Image” which will usually tell you if the photo is also on other websites.
Some unscrupulous Cake Makers, Photographers or Venue Decorators will “borrow” photos from other websites.

Most Wedding Suppliers will have a Website as many clients are not on Facebook (at least in my experience).  Some of my most prestigious clients found me on the Web and do not use Facebook.

Questions to ask suppliers that attend your Wedding

What are your plans if you cannot attend (ill health/vehicle breakdown/family emergency)

Most quality suppliers will be networking with others and will have a list of trusted “competitors” that they know would provide the service to a similar standard.  It’s rare to expect a drop-in replacement, but knowing they’re well connected is a good sign.

Who will be in attendance?

Some suppliers may sub-contract in other suppliers.  This is acceptable if you are told about this before you book (so ask!) and you’re happy that their relationship is long standing as opposed to whoever provides them with the best profit margin.

As a DJ, I do see some suppliers asking for any DJ to cover a booking.  I would not want any random DJ to provide their services for my own Wedding and nor should you.

Do I have your full contact details?

I provide my Landline, mobile, Base address and a 2nd Mobile Number on all official documents (quotes, booking confirmation etc).  This information is also on my website HERE
Any supplier should be able to provide the same, why won’t they?
You should be able to contact them during working hours.  Some may not be full time and so their landline may just go to voicemail, but they should call you can as soon as possible.

The best way to resolve any questions/concerns is over the phone or via email.
Facebook Message is not the best way!  Facebook may close the account without notice, or they can simply block you.

Once you’ve their full contact details, Facebook/WhatsApp messenger etc are all perfectly good ways to communicate with casual questions.

How do I pay for your services or products for my Wedding?

PayPal

PayPal is easy, if you sell items on eBay, you may have funds in your account and so it can work out very good for couples.

Never send funds to suppliers as “Friends & Family”.  There is no PayPal protection, so if the item arrives broken/not to spec or not at all, you’ll have to find compensation directly from the supplier.

PayPal changes it’s terms fairly often, so it’s worth checking them or asking in one of the many Facebook Wedding Groups:

https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/paypal-safety-and-security

My clients that wish to use PayPal will get a link that makes it easy for them;

https://www.paypal.me/DanceSoundsDisco/550

This is paid correctly as Services/Products, so you will have the PayPal protection.  I will pay 3.4% PayPal Fees.

Bank Transfer

As a business, I prefer a Bank Transfer into my Business Account.  Here is a conflict – I’ve just suggested PayPal for it’s protection, yet, I wish to reduce my costs and so prefer a Bank Transfer.  However, I totally understand my clients that wish to use PayPal.

Most couples bank online and so this is easy and quick for them.  I receive a text message every morning when there is activity on the account and so I can acknowledge the funds/booking as soon as I’m made aware.

I run a responsible business, my clients have my full contact details and a contract that they can read before they book.  I have been trading for many years, have a good reputation to uphold so the risk of the service not being supplied is very low (a major issue with traffic/floods/weather would also affect most local Weddings)

Cheques

Cheques are being Phased out, but some Couples opt to pay with a Cheque.  Can your supplier accept these?  I do accept cheques as I find that some parents/grandparents prefer to issue them.

It’s fairly rare these days, but if you need to pay your supplier with a cheque – ask up front before you order/book.

For me, it’s slightly more inconvenient, but I would never refuse a cheque and these can be posted (my home address is on all official paperwork)

 

Other things to check…

Are you insured?

There are a few types of insurance, the main requirement from Venues is Public Liability Insurance.

If the supplier is providing a service that may result in damage/loss to the venue, it’s very common for this to be required.

A DJ/Band may have lighting stands.  If these are mis-handled during set-up and break an expensive Window or Painting, the supplier will need to pay for replacement/repair (usually ££££!).

If the lighting stand falls on to a guest or staff member, it is fairly normal to expect a personal injury claim.  Without insurance, the supplier will need to personally fund the compensation.

A respectable supplier will always have Public Liability Insurance to protect their buisness.  A claim can be very expensive and to personally fund it would put most suppliers out of business.

The other type of insurance is professional indemnity.  This is more common for Photographers/Videographers where their work is not immediately obvious until weeks after the Wedding.

If all their memory cards are lost/corrupt, the couple will not have any Photos/Videos of their Wedding.  A full refund may not be acceptable and so the suppliers professional indemnity insurance may pay out.

Can I see your Terms and Conditions?

Quality suppliers will have these.  They should be readable (not too much legal speak!) and fair.
If you cannot understand a section, ask them to clarify (via email so you have a record!).

My own terms have evolved over time, and are based on Feedback from Legal professionals (many of my clients are Legal/Financial experts). I try to ensure they are fair for all and to date have never needed to enforce any clauses – I do want to be reasonable.

How do I book/order?

Most quality suppliers work the same way;

  1. Quote (possible with a few iterations)
  2. Issue Contract with Terms.
  3. Customer Signs
  4. Invoice/Deposit/Payment.
  5. Supplier confirms the order/booking.

For a low price item, this process may be shortened and it doesn’t have to be in an official long document.  However, if there are problems, it is helpful to point to any confirmation that shows where they made the mistake.

Don’t skip this process for any major aspect of your Day.    If there are problems later, you’ll want a paper trail (or email trail!) to show your order did not match what was provided.

This is your day, you’ve been planning this for a long time and expecting a major supplier to operate in a professional manner is not a big ask.

Finally…

If you are ripped off. Please pursue it via Trading Standards or MoneyClaim online.  I get the impression that many couples do not bother.  They’re upset and annoyed they’ve been ripped off, but for some reason never take it further.
Personally, if I spent £50 on an item and was ripped off, I would be pushing for a full refund and ultimately pursue it further to ensure there are no other victims.

https://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk/web/mcol/welcome

There are fees for taking the claim to court, but you don’t usually need legal representation (but please decide this for yourself).
If the supplier is pulling a fast one, they’ll get notification and will usually settle early to avoid problems.

The court fee is based on the amount you’re claiming, plus interest.

(Data from https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees)

Claim amount Paper form fee Online claim fee
Up to £300 £35 £25
£300.01 to £500 £50 £35
£500.01 to £1,000 £70 £60
£1,000.01 to £1,500 £80 £70
£1,500.01 to £3,000 £115 £105
£3,000.01 to £5,000 £205 £185
£5,000.01 to £10,000 £455 £410

From the above table, most claims will be less than £1000 and so your costs will be <£70 if you do it online.

They’ll have to defend the claim against them or they will lose by default and will then become liable for your fees in addition to your claim.

Keep all the paperwork, screenshots of Facebook Messages/Text Messages/Emails.  Any piece of correspondence you have will help justify your claim.