When dreaming of your big day, absolutely every detail is perfect. In reality, all weddings suffer at least one speed bump at some point. While you've got to try to roll with things that are out of your control, like the weather, it's a different story when the venue or florist doesn't live up to expectations.
Ensuring vendors understand what's needed to make your day everything you imagined requires legwork up front. Start by researching reputable businesses: Study online reviews, and ask for referrals from friends, family and other brides. A good vendor will provide references on request, says Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications for a Better Business Bureau in New England, which rates businesses on integrity and performance and provides customer reviews.
Once you've settled on a vendor, get all details in writing: save email exchanges confirming color choices, and provide a set list for the DJ. Most importantly, read contracts, says Ryan Bleek, an attorney based in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, who understands both sides of the business — he also helps his wedding photographer wife on shoots. Bleek tells couples to look for a "no review" clause in contracts, which may forbid clients from posting online reviews — a sign that the vendor may already be anticipating trouble.
But what if you've done your homework, combed over those contracts, and a vendor still performs unsatisfactorily? Before sending a nasty email or threatening a lawsuit, keep these tips in mind.
Take time to calm down
That initial post-wedding contact "is going to set the tone of the conversation," Bleek says. And pouring your unfiltered frustration into an email "may put them on the defensive." Bleek suggests having a friend read and anger-check your correspondence. "Make sure you cool down," he says. "Most vendors are professionals who want to make you happy."
Request a refund
"If you're unhappy with the service or quality of the product provided in any situation, it's your right as a consumer to ask for a refund," says Fleming. Couples should first try negotiating compensation with the vendor directly. If that fails, "you can come to the BBB as a third, impartial party, and we will then help you to resolve the issue," Fleming adds.
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Legal action is the last resort
If you're in a breach-of-contract situation with a vendor, Bleek advises weighing what you've lost versus the additional costs and emotional stress of suing. "It's a bitter pill to swallow, but consumers often realize the pain and the financial hit they're going to take by using the legal system is not worth it," he says. If negotiations with a vendor fail, Bleek suggests hiring a lawyer to write a demand letter seeking restitution, which isn't as costly as a lawsuit.
Think before reviewing
Scathing reviews can damage reputations. Take a step back and try to resolve your issue with the vendor before reviewing their services.
If you do give a vendor poor marks, make sure nothing you write is exaggerated. "I've seen cases where customers ended up on the wrong end of a defamation lawsuit because of statements [in a review] that are untrue," Bleek says. "Take a breath, and make sure you write nothing but the truth."