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Today, both Tom and the photographer go out of their way to praise each other. What made the barter work so well? Banfield says it was important to her that the trade felt like a fair exchange and that she was getting something of equal value. She also thinks the fact that the logo was finished before the wedding was key. "It made me want to give the wedding the extra effort that he gave me," she says. In fact, Banfield was so motivated to live up to her end of the trade that she created a custom photo album for the couple, which she estimates was worth $800, and gave it to them for free.
Banfield still uses her logo today. But Tom insists that he and Nichole got the better end of the deal. "The photographs were above anything we could have hoped for," he says. "Once the wedding is done, all you have left are your memories and your photographs."
Brooklyn-based interior designer Vané Broussard had a similarly positive experience when she was planning her April 2008 wedding. She bartered her services with a professional makeup artist and also bartered for one free hour of the videographer’s services, rehearsal dinner invitations and flowers in exchange for mentions on Brooklyn Bride (bklynbrideonline.com), her popular wedding blog. Her vendors told her they were delighted by the referrals they got when she wrote about them. And Vané loved how her barters turned out, too. "I chose vendors I wanted to work with and who have good reputations," she says. “Other people offered to trade, but if it wasn't my style, I said no."
Unfortunately, the arrangement can sour quickly if the trade feels lopsided. When Banfield bartered with a bride for help with her Web site, she was sorely disappointed. "I shot her wedding for a super deal," she remembers. "But she didn't start working on the Web site until after the wedding." The relationship grew strained when the bride took much longer than Banfield expected to finish the project and was defensive about feedback. "I realized that I wouldn't have used her if I had been paying cash for her work," she says. "To make a trade work, you need to trade with someone you’d hire, instead of just finding a way to get a service you need." Banfield eventually paid a different designer to revamp her site. "Unfortunately, when you do something for free, sometimes you get what you pay for.:
Many couples are wary of bartering for an event as important as a wedding, which means that vendors can have trouble finding takers. Rebecca Eby is a wedding photographer in Gays Mills, WI, who is interested in bartering with engaged couples, but her posts on both Craigslist and Weddingbee.com have yielded only two potential customers. California flower broker Amber Rapozzo posted on Weddingbee.com and was surprised by how hard it was to find a good barter partner. "There was very little response, and what the other brides had to offer was not very exciting," she says. "I could have saved them up to 90 percent on florals, and they wanted to trade me leftover paper goods and miniature bells from a discount store."