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Because bartering isn't a cash sale, vendors can sometimes be less motivated to get all the details right. When the father of one of wedding planner Goldberg's clients bartered to paint a florist's shop in exchange for flowers for the wedding and reception, the bride was disappointed with the color of the hydrangeas and didn't feel that the centerpieces were full enough. "She was fine in the end," says Goldberg of the bride. "But she did bring it to my attention and said if she had paid for the flowers, she may have had a better selection."
While most people think of bartering as the kind of informal, one-on-one trades that are facilitated by Web sites such as Bigdaybarter.com, experts say that couples with small businesses who are trying to finance the bulk of their wedding expenses through barter are better off with one of the roughly 400 "barter exchange" offices across the country, which barter on a larger scale. Made up of mostly small businesses, these networks (including merchantsbarter.com and abebarter.com) provide opportunities to trade excess inventory as well as services.
Unlike direct bartering, barter companies charge a 10 to 15 percent commission of the fair market value of the trades. But when you place your goods or services into the network, you earn credits that allow you to choose from a range of services. "To do it one-on-one, you have to go on an extensive hunt to find the right match, and then you have to find a barter that is of equal value," says NATE executive director Tom McDowell. With barter exchanges, if you have something worth a large amount (anything from landscaping mulch to dental services to a boat), you can redeem your credits with a variety of businesses (including bakers, florists and even honeymoon resorts) that are also in the barter network.
That's what Amy Sardone Jones and John Jones did for their wedding last summer in Corinth, TX. When they bumped up against budget constraints, Amy's mother, Debbie Sardone, sprang into action. A professional business coach and the owner of a maid service company, Sardone bartered business consulting and cleaning service through ITEX, a national barter association, for the limousine, tuxedos, flowers and the cake. She also privately bartered maid service gift certificates for the photographer and a photo booth. All told, they exchanged more than $5,000 worth of services. And the event was a huge success. "The wedding was fabulous," says Amy. "We didn't want to go into any debt, so bartering allowed us to get extras we couldn’t have afforded."
Ready to barter? Read this first.
1. Make sure your trade feels fair. Put a dollar amount on the item or service you are bartering, and then agree to trades of equal value. Check out the vendor’s work beforehand to confirm that you like what they have to offer.