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As soon as you begin your wedding planning, you'll start dealing with deposits for vendors and other wedding services. It's important to understand the necessity of your vendor deposits and keep a really good record of what you have paid, what you still owe, how the payment must be made (check or credit or cash), and when it is due. It's not the vendor's job to remind you of the deadlines. This is your wedding, so pay attention!
Here are five steps to understanding and managing your wedding deposits:
1. Try to clear a credit card balance to zero (or get a new one with a lower interest rate or no fees deal) to use specifically for wedding expenses. Make sure you're getting something back — points, miles, rebates, etc. — because you're going to use this card a lot. If you plan your budget well enough, you may be able to clear it back to zero prior to your actual wedding date and use the same card for all of your honeymoon expenses.
2. Using one card (or two, if your limit isn't high enough on just one) will help you monitor the deposits as they're charged to you when you sign contracts and it will also give you the ability to issue charge-backs against the vendor if they cancel on you and don't issue a refund, or in the event of some other major problem. Keeping all your wedding charges in a limited number of places makes life easier.
3. Never take a pass on making a deposit to a wedding vendor. You want to have money down — in addition to a signed and executed contract — to cover yourself as the wedding date nears. You should touch base with your vendor on the 60-day out mark even if your final balance isn't due until the week of the wedding, just to make sure they've remembered you and nobody double-booked. It happens.
4. Bigger deposits on the front-end mean smaller payments due in the 30 days prior to your actual wedding date. With all the other unanticipated expenses that will pop up in your life, the last thing you need is a ginormous final tab due right before the wedding.
5. If you're planning really far out and want to hold the date with a popular venue or vendor, but aren't quite sure of the services you want yet, offer to pay a non-refundable fee against your deposit to hold the date if you're certain they're the vendor you will choose. You lose nothing and buy yourself time to make decisions.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.