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hitched, not scammed
Sociologist Angela Thompson offers her
expertise on avoiding wedding pitfalls.
By Rick Waters '95
and grooms! Your hearts may be blissfully aflutter and your heads full
of wedding day dreams, but your big moment is just another business transaction
for some wedding pros, says TCU sociologist Angela L. Thompson, author
of Unveiled: Secrets of the Wedding Industry.
don't approach wedding planning the way they would buying a car or buying
clothes. They're being happy and wrapped up in it. Often that can blind
them to scams and pitfalls," says Thompson, who began studying the industry
in 1994 after canceling her own wedding three weeks before aisle time
and getting back most (but not all) of her deposits.
has since married, but the wedding that didn't happen became a dandy topic
for her dissertation. Almost nine years later, she's now exploring the
religious ritual side of nuptials, but she continues to act as a consumer
couples to start by following shopping's Golden Rule: When dealing with
vendors, everything should be in writing.
average wedding today pricing out around $19,000, getting hitched is big
business and couples can avoid many financial entanglements by knowing
their shopping styles.
Do you shop
to excess, buying three pairs of wedding shoes instead of one? You might
be a compulsive shopper. Make a list and stick to it, Thompson says, or
scout out what you want to buy and wait a day before buying it to make
sure that the purchase is a smart move.
If you occasionally
spend more than you can afford and accrue debt, draw up a budget and make
it firm, she says. Don't let sales people push you into bad choices.
shopping is a great skill, but a dozen quotes on caterers is going overboard.
Three or four reputable vendors should be plenty.
big scam is 'add-ons,' " Thompson says. "Watch out for these
cute little extras that are presented as personal touches. Usually, they
come with huge price tags."
pitfalls include the "wedding expo deal" requiring shoppers to sign on
the spot, or bogus photographers passing off someone else's images as
their own and demanding large deposits right away.
recommends recommendations. "Get a reference. If they're unable to give
one, contact the Better Business Bureau or a professional organization
in their field."
a credit card whenever possible, as it is easier to cancel charges when
a vendor doesn't deliver.
a wedding consultant. A good one, even for an hourlong appointment, can
save hassles in the long run. And often they can get bargains a shopper
the bride and groom's responsibility to protect themselves on their wedding
day because some merchants will not," Thompson says. "Common sense and
good judgment always works. And don't be afraid to ask questions."
Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.