I keep seeing news articles about dress shops going out of business (hello Alfred Angelo), venues shutting down (hello Amish Acres) or declaring bankruptcy, and vendors who stop responding after payment is issued. I wanted to write up a blog post with some tips in case this were to happen to you. It's a scary situation when you think you have all of your vendors in place and then something happens. Below are a few tips to help you out but hopefully you will never have to worry about this with your vendors!
Here are a few tips for before you book your vendors:
Before you even reach out to a vendor to book, make sure you take the time to read their reviews online. Reviews can give you a great insight into their business and what you can expect with working with them. Make sure you not only read the good reviews but the bad reviews as well. Now, just because a vendor has a bad reviews doesn't necessarily mean that they are a bad vendor. Things can happen so be sure to read the context of the review and how the vendor responded to see if they tried to make things right. If there are multiple bad reviews or reviews that just don't seem right, you will probably want to keep your vendor search open.
Read and Sign a Contract
I know, contracts aren't fun and no one wants to take the time to read through a contract but they are really important! Contracts not only protect a vendor if you were to fail on your commitments but they also protect you as a customer in case something were to go wrong. When your vendor sends over your contract, take the time to read over it and make sure that there is a clause in the contract that goes over cancellation and failure to perform. These two clauses are what would cover you if something did happen to your vendor and should spell out if you would receive a refund, etc. If you have any questions about the contract, don't be afraid to let the vendor know! Legal jargon isn't always straightforward and easy to understand so if you need any clarification, your vendor will be more than happy to break things down for you! What happens if the vendor you want to book doesn't have a contract? I would, honestly, recommend that you look for another vendor. Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event so contracts are pretty much a must for all wedding vendors, you want to make sure you are covered.
Ask your vendors if they have a Contingency Plan in place. A contingency plan is sort of like a will for a business. It lays out exactly what would happen if a vendor would pass away or get in an accident where they would be incapacitated. Again, contingency plans aren't fun to talk about because they do deal with death but they are very important as well. Contingency plans will break down exactly what should happen to a vendor's clients to make sure they are taken care of, how to issue refunds, what to do in case of bankruptcy, and so much more. A lot of wedding vendors are not corporations who have multiple employees who can take over in the case of an emergency. You will want to ask your vendors about their contingency plan and if they aren't able to answer what will happen in a worst case scenario or do not have a plan in place, then you may want to look elsewhere.
Maybe you did all of the above and/or you still find yourself in the horrible situation of a vendor cancelling on you, backing out, declaring bankruptcy, or just not responding to your emails. Below are the steps you should take:
I know it's easier said than done but if you do find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is stay calm so you will have clarity to put a plan into action. If you need to take a few moments to cry and compose yourself, it's okay! It's a scary and frustrating situation to be in but you won't want to try to get things accomplished while you are upset.
Pull Out Your Contract
The next thing to do is pull out your contract with that vendor. Read through it again and find the clauses that deal with the issue you are dealing with. Highlight or mark those clauses so you can quickly find them later.
Reach Out to the Vendor
If a vendor just isn't responding to you or are not upholding their end of the contract, calmly email or call them and explain the issues and reference the clauses in the contract. You may be able to work things out in the end and if not you can use those clauses to get things back on track and/or get a refund.
Look Into Small Claims Court
If your vendor isn't responding to you, closed up shop, or just ran away with your money, the next step will be filing a case with the court. You may be able to do Small Claims Court on your own or you may want to hire an attorney depending on the complexity of the case. If you know of a lot of other couples who are also in the same boat as you, you may be able to build a case together. You can find all the information on Small Claims Court on your state's website.
Reach Out to Your Other Vendors
You will need to replace the vendor for your wedding and the best place to start is by reaching out to the other vendors that you booked for your wedding. Explain the situation to them and see if they know any vendors you should reach out too. The wedding community is close knit and willing to help couples in need so your other vendors may be able to help you find a vendor who is available on your wedding date and who can step in. In the case of a wedding venue closure, a lot of times other wedding venues rally together to help place those couples who are out of a venue and sometimes businesses or people who own land will donate their spaces. Even though you are in a tough spot that seems impossible, everything will be able to get worked out in the end.
Research Other Vendors
If your other vendors weren't able to help you with a list of vendors who are available, you will need to start your vendor search again. Start reaching out to vendors who you find who you think would be a good fit and explain your situation to them. If they aren't available, then they may be able to pass along some names as well.
Look Into Stopping Your Payment
Depending on how and when you paid the vendor, you may be able to stop payment, reverse the charges, or start a claim with your bank. You will need your contract handy along with the necessary information. Call up your bank or credit card company, explain the situation to them and see if they can stop payment, reverse the charges, or open of a claim. With that said, make sure you reach out to the vendor and exhaust all of your options before you try to reverse the charges but this may be able to help if you are still having issues.
In The Case of Bankruptcy
If your vendor has declared bankruptcy then there are a few steps that you need to take and it can be a longer process. You will need to find the company who is handling the bankruptcy and file a claim. This will put you on the list of people who the company owes. Keep in mind, that when a company files for bankruptcy, sometimes not all debts are paid back in full and it can be a long process. However, you must file a claim to be considered for a refund. You may also still be able to cancel payment or reverse charges with your bank or credit card company in the event of a bankruptcy so it still doesn't hurt to reach out there as well.
Hopefully for those of you reading this blog you will never have to worry about this! If you are currently in this situation, hopefully this blog was a bit helpful. If you are going through this and need any help or vendor recommendations, feel free to reach out and I will help you as much as I can!