How do you choose trustworthy wedding vendors? In the span of a week, two bridal shops abruptly closed their doors in the San Antonio area—one after filing for bankruptcy, the other for non-paid states sales tax for over a year. The two closures left a long string of brides in a panic and rightfully so. These brides were left scrambling trying to figure out what they were going to wear down the aisle on their wedding day.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of brides being left abandoned before the big day. I’ve heard of wedding planners doing the same thingand photographers. So in an industry where you are paying for most of the big ticket items up front months in advance (or sometimes more than a year), how do you protect yourself against fraud or a flaky business owner?

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Tips to Choosing Trustworthy Wedding Vendors

Here are some helpful tips to help you choose vendors who aren’t going to fail you:

  • Use vendors that have been referred from family and/or friends
  • Always check reviews—the good and the bad
    • Be aware that some wedding planning websites showcase “featured” businesses; this is nothing more than a paid spot—they pay extra to have that spot, it doesn’t mean that they are more trustworthy, it just means that they are spending more money to try to get your attention
  • Use Google, Google knows everything
  • You can research the Better Business Bureau, though not many businesses seek accreditation these days
  • Meet the vendor in person before hiring; use your intuition
  • Before hiring, check the State Sales Tax Records to make sure the business is in good standing (Before switching to LLC)
    • No sales tax permit usually indicates that a “business” is not a legitimate business and just operating as a cash-under-the-table outfit; not a good sign
    • Every business that performs a service is obligated by the State of Texas to charge sales tax
      • [Edit: There is a small selection of vendor categories that may not be obligated to pay sales tax based on the actual services they provide, i.e., wedding planners. However, most wedding day vendors are indeed obligated to pay sales tax.]
  • What is the professional appearance?
    • Is this a part-time or full-time gig for them? (Part-timers generally have other full-time jobs and that means less time for you.)
    • Do they have business cards?
    • Do they  have an actual website or just a Facebook page?
    • Do they have a storefront or in-home studio, or do they meet you at Starbucks?
    • Are they operating as a sole proprietor? (Not a huge red flag, but a possible concern.)
    • Again, do they pay state sales tax? (Failure to pay sales tax is a huge red flag; clear indication of not operating their business properly.)
    • Is their business listed on the county business tax records? (Another indication of how serious the business owner treats his/her business. This is also another tax they should be paying annually.) (Bexar County CAD Search)
    • Are they insured? (Another huge red flag if they are not.)
    • Are they members of professional organizations?
    • Do they seek continuing education or are they accredited in some way?
    • How long have they been in business?
  • Ask to see verification of liability insurance
    • A legitimate business owner should be insured by a private insurance carrier—not a mere benefit from a professional organization
    • You want to have recourse of action should something go wrong
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for references—both professional and personal
  • When you do decide to hire, get it in writing… every last detail, with every last vendor!!

In regard to specific products:

  • Buy what you can that is already on the rack/in inventory instead of ordering and waiting months for delivery
  • No one will know your wearing last year’s dress
  • Keep in contact with your vendors—I’d suggest a monthly call/email after ordering or booking to ensure everything is going smoothly; keep a log and document all conversations

Ultimately, you could be left high and dry no matter how long someone has been in business… no matter how pristine someone’s reputation is… and no matter how on top of things your planning is. In the end, the whole day is really a just huge gamble. You’re gambling on the weather, whether everyone will show up on time, whether your hair will turn out right, if you’ve practiced your vows enough, if none of the flowers will be wilted before the ceremony begins, if the officiant will remember your name and if you know all the steps to your synchronized dance.

You just have to make the best of whatever happens and this includes choosing the right wedding day creatives and vendors to help you put this whole day together. Do your due diligence to pick the ones that are most likely to do the best job for you. Good luck! 

The post, Tips to Choosing Trustworthy Wedding Vendors, first appeared on Ata-Girl Photography Co.’s website and blog. Please feel free to comment here, or share this post with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Please email me if you have any questions about this article or want to share a neat idea for a future blog post with me.