Six steps to wedded bliss

Michael Peters Wedding planner Chad Michael Peters advises brides and grooms to make their wedding-plan decisions with a business-like approach. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Alyssa Giacobbe
Globe Correspondent / March 18, 2010

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DO YOUR RESEARCH. “Choose venues and vendors who are long established and have a track record,’’ says Aisling Glynn, a Nantucket wedding and event planner. Look for mentions in magazines and websites, and listings in online directories. “If a vendor is not on Facebook or Twitter or their last blog post was six months ago, what have they been doing?’’ Peters asks. “They should at the very least have a clean, professional website. If there’s no online presence at all, that’s a big red flag.’’

GET REFERENCES AND USE REFERRALS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. “The easiest way to protect yourself against choosing a bad vendor is to get a trusted recommendation,’’ says Tamar Salter Frieze, a wedding and event planner in Boston. “Friends, family, and event professionals can be invaluable when it comes to finding reliable vendors that they themselves have used or have seen at an event.’’ Both Glynn and Peters say most of their clients come through referrals. Barring personal recommendations, Glynn suggests brides ask for and actually call references before hiring photographers, florists, musicians, or wedding planners. “A very good sign is if a wedding photographer is accredited by one of a number of photography associations,’’ she says, including Wedding & Portrait Photographers International and the Wedding Photojournalist Association.

HAVE A FACE-TO-FACE MEETING EARLY ON — AND BEFORE ANY MONEY CHANGES HANDS. While the Internet makes it easier to gather information on anyone you’re thinking about hiring, it also opens the door to all sorts of scams, as the recent expo scam proved. Experts advise against relying exclusively on an e-mail conversation with anyone you’re considering giving money to. “You could be talking to anybody,’’ says Glynn. “And be smart: If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.’’

GET IT IN WRITING. “Get contracts with absolutely everyone,’’ says Peters, from your ceremony and reception venues to your florist, pastry chef, and dressmaker, even if those people are friends. Peter Gelhaar, a partner at Boston law firm Donnelly, Conroy and Gelhaar, LLP, advises couples to be aggressive in negotiating the terms of any written agreement. “As vendors get more sophisticated about their own contracts, you need to be more careful about reading the entire agreement,’’ he says. “Be bold about changing terms you just can’t abide by. Because if you do sign it, you’re likely to be held to those terms.’’ Gelhaar adds that if certain vendors don’t have their own, couples can create a simple contract by noting terms and restrictions in an e-mail exchange.

GET WEDDING INSURANCE. Wedding insurance can protect couples from weather-related disasters, as well as unforeseen circumstances like cancellations, illness, or instances in which vendors — like a country club or a dress shop — go belly up. Frieze suggests inquiring about wedding insurance with a broker you’ve used for home, renter’s, or car insurance. Prices vary, but a couple of hundred dollars isn’t a big price to pay when it comes to safeguarding the big day. Frieze also recommends paying with American Express whenever possible, noting that the company thoroughly vets companies using its credit services. To that end, purchases made with AmEx are often fully protected.

CONSIDER A WEDDING PLANNER. Skipping the wedding planner might seem like an easy way to save, and if all goes well, it could be. But consider that an established wedding planner’s relationships can also provide a certain amount of security, saving money and frustration in the long run. The cost of a planner can range from a few thousand dollars to as much as $50,000, though most are willing to work with a budget to offer services a la carte. “A wedding planner — and more specifically a wedding planner’s relationships — can protect you from a tremendous amount of drama,’’ says Peters. “As a planner, I already know who’s reputable and who it might be best to stay away from.’’