Red Flags and Tips on How to Protect Yourself from a Reputable Houston Wedding Planner
This week, a Houston bride-to-be was featured on Fox 26 News Houston telling her unfortunate story about being scammed out of a significant chunk of her wedding fund. You can read the full story here or continue reading for our short summary of the scam and how you can protect yourself in your wedding planning journey.
So, what happened exactly?
A Houston bride named Savannah recently got engaged in March of this year, and like many, quickly decided she wanted to get the help of a wedding planner. A friend of Savannah's who was also a bride-to-be, recommended a local wedding planner that she had hired to help bring her wedding vision to life. Trusting her friend's advice, Savannah hired her to help plan her wedding for December 2023. After starting the planning process, Savannah's wedding planner told her that she had put a deposit down for items including a tent, flooring, chandeliers, tables, chairs, and more, all in preparation for her outdoor wedding. The amount totaled $5,600 and trusting the process, Savannah and her fiancé sent the wedding planner a check to reimburse her. As the planning continued, the planner once again reached out to Savannah stating that an additional $5,600 was owed. Savannah and her fiancé asked the wedding planner for invoices, which were provided with notes stating that the amount had been paid. Seeing the invoices, once again Savannah sent another $5,600 reimbursement to the wedding planner.
Last week, Savannah received a call from her friend who had recommended the wedding planner. Her friend shared the awful news that they found out the planner had stolen $9,800 from them. Fearing the worst, Savannah began calling her venue and vendors and found out that nothing had been paid and the invoices she had seen her fake. When the wedding planner was confronted, she originally claimed that she would pay it back overtime and now has become unreachable. Fox 26 Houston News called the wedding planner, and the calls went to voicemail and have not been returned. Savannah and her fiancé have filed a police report, and the business has either deactivated or made private their social media accounts.
What can we learn from this story? A LOT. Keep reading as we break down a few red flags from this story and how you can protect yourself in the hiring and wedding planning process with your wedding planner and other vendors.
RED FLAG 1: THE PLANNER'S LACK OF ONLINE PRESENCE
The wedding planner scammer had a lack of social media presence. While their Facebook has since been deleted, their Instagram is still active, and you can see they have 174 followers and follow 184 in Houston. Every planner starts somewhere, us included! A limited social media presence could mean that you're simply working with a newer planner, but it may be something to take a second look at as you're deciding who to hire. We think it's a great idea to hire professionals with experience and credibility.
5 Ways to Protect Yourself:
Ask for references from couples who are married and worked with the planner
Ask other vendors if they are familiar with the planner or have worked with them
Google the company, read reviews, and search for information on bridal groups
Ask the planner for their educational background, certifications or credentials
Look up the planning LLC on the Texas Secretary of State website
RED FLAG 2: THE PLANNER PAID FOR EXPENSES DIRECTLY
Most wedding planners will not pay for your deposits or wedding expenses. Instead, the typical process is to obtain invoices or contracts and be in communication with the vendor and couple to facilitate the process and bridge the gap. In the advanced world that we're in, it's relatively easy to alter or produce fake invoices, as the wedding planner did in Savannah's story. She was smart to trust her gut and ask for invoices, but with the advanced scams that exist, you have to have more direct oversight.
5 Ways How to Protect Yourself:
Before hiring a planner, ask questions and understand how expenses are paid
We recommend always paying the expenses to the vendors directly
Require to be CCed on all emails with your planner and the vendors
Verify with the vendor any invoices or contracts sent from your planner
Trust your gut, if something feels wrong, it probably is
RED FLAG 3: THE EXPENSE PAYMENTS WERE MADE IN LARGE CHUNKS
Most vendors have an initial deposit made to establish your working relationship and secure their services. Depending on the vendor and service, there can be a big variance in the amount required. However, unless your wedding is on the luxury side with a large budget, a $5,600 initial payment is significant and could be something to pause and consider. Additionally, most vendors we work with, from photographers to caterers, have a payment schedule and break your payments down into several smaller payments.
3 Ways to Protect Yourself:
Ask the vendor or planner to provide the deposit amount and payment schedule
Don't send large payments without prior research, communication and confidence
Find out what each item being sourced costs, any taxes, or hidden fees before paying
In a world where wedding scams can leave couples in distress, it's crucial to take proactive steps to safeguard your special day. It's so important to hire a planner that matches your energy and vibe, but it's equally important to hire a reputable and trustworthy planner. With more than a decade of wedding and event planning experience, many happily married couples, and countless vendor relationships in Houston, Happily Ever Houston Events can bring you peace of mind with our exceptional track record as wedding planners and day-of coordinators in Houston. Trust us to make your wedding planning journey both seamless and secure.