“Weddings are a very emotional and stressful time, and on average, couples make about 250 decisions leading up to the wedding,” Jacobson says. “Sometimes logic falls by the wayside and they can fall prey to a lot of the pitfalls of scammers.”
One rule of thumb to avoid getting scammed: trust your instinct. “Deals that are too good to be true usually are,” she says.
Here are four scams to watch out for when planning your big day.
SCAM: Venues that shut down
While it’s rare, Jacobson says venues and businesses may shut down before your wedding date, taking your deposit — and your dream wedding—with them.
“There are cases where venues close, either they’ve gone bankrupt or it’s just dishonest business,” she says. “It’s really important to look for these red flags early on, such as being non-communicative with you or not totally straightforward.”
While venues will require you to sign a contract, it’s up to you to use a fine-tooth comb to make sure you understand what it says, and what you’re responsible for if the venue does close or something changes at the last minute.
“Make sure you understand everything,” Jacobson cautions. “Have your wedding planner look at it, have your parents look at it, or hire a lawyer for an hour and have them look at it just to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.”
SCAM: Unreliable or overpriced vendors
When it comes to photographers, florists, bands or DJs, figuring out the costs and reliability can be confusing. That’s why it’s so important to do as much research and vetting as you can, before you make a deal.
“If you’re wary about a certain vendor—if they don’t seem to have a portfolio, if they don’t seem to have any reviews—those could be red flags,” she says.
Jacobson recommends interviewing 3-5 vendors to compare costs and see if someone is charging much higher rates for the same services. Use sites like The Knot or WeddingWire to read reviews from people who have worked with the vendors in the past.
SCAM: Buying your wedding gown online
The thought of spending thousands on a wedding dress may fill you with dread, but sometimes you get what you pay for if you choose to purchase your dress online.
“We don’t recommend wedding dress shopping online because the risks are very high for getting a completely different dress than what you ordered,” Jacobson says. “Oftentimes, you won’t be able to return it if there are no terms and conditions on the site.”
Jacobson says the average price of a wedding dress is $1,500, so if you spot a gown for $150 online, beware. “It’s definitely a scam and you should not purchase it,” Jacobson warns.
Instead, visit your local bridal shop. Try on the gown, feel the fabric, and make sure you’re getting exactly what you want. If you want to cut costs, try shopping a trunk sale where gowns are often on discount, Jacobson says.
SCAM: Paying in cash
Weddings are a massive expense: according to The Knot, the average national cost for a wedding is $33,391. While there are many ways to cut costs, Jacobson warns that paying for goods and services in cash is a major red flag.
“You should pay for everything with a credit card if you can,” Jacobson says. “Leave a trail just in case you need to dispute anything later on.”
She also recommends getting wedding insurance, which will protect your investments in case anything does go wrong.
At the end of the day, your wedding is stressful enough! Being proactive will put your mind at ease, Jacobson says.
“You usually don’t have to cross your fingers and hold your breath because you’ve basically done everything you can do to ensure you have an amazing wedding day,” she says.