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Going to the chapel? How to avoid the wedding bell blues

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The cost of weddings, like everything else, continues to increase.

The average amount spent by couples in Kansas last year was between $18,740 and $31,233. (And that is not even factoring in the honeymoon.)

By far the largest part of a wedding’s expense is venue rental and catering. Next comes jewelry, then photography, then wedding planner costs.

With so much to consider and so much money at stake, the Better Business Bureau has some tips for those starting to plan weddings.

Venue and catering

It’s vital to know how much you are going to be able to spend. Having a figure in mind will help you rule out venues that cost more than you’re comfortable paying. Consider:

▪ The total number of guests.

▪ Whether some guests will have mobility issues or other special needs.

▪ Does the venue require that you use a particular caterer, rental company or designer?

▪ Are they full service, meaning do they provide such things as tables, chairs, linens and other catering?

▪ Does the venue have staff that will be on hand to help at the wedding?

▪ How often does the venue have weddings?

▪ Do they charge extra fees? There may be “plate-splitting,” “cake-cutting” or “corkage” fees, for instance. Ask specifically whether their cost-per-person quote includes such fees.

▪ If the venue is a place of worship, ask what they require in the way of ceremonial procedures. Some may have religious specifications that you had not considered.

▪ Check complaints and reviews about the venue with the BBB. Read carefully about any unresolved complaints.

▪ See whether they have a refund policy and get it in writing. Don’t overlook a “cold feet clause” no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

▪ Get everything in writing, including the dates, prices, services and products discussed.

▪ Get references and check them out. See what other couples’ experiences with the venue were like. Ask them whether there were any surprises.

Other considerations

Watch for these issues that can complicate your wedding day:

▪ Dress issues. Wrong sizes or colors of ordered gowns can be a problem when there is not enough time to make changes. Make sure the shop knows your schedule ahead of time. Check them out with the BBB.

▪ Transportation issues. Some limousine services have been known to have poor customer service and rigid cancellation policies. Ask about charges for needing vehicles longer than anticipated. Ask how they handle complaints. Get everything in writing and check out the service with the BBB.

▪ Photographers. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered. Get specifics about digital possibilities like DVDs and CDs, and how long you will have to make your choices. Ask for references and check the BBB for complaints.

▪ Musicians. Find out precisely who will be performing, their cost and how long they will perform. Ask about the cost of a last-minute extension of performance time. Get everything in writing.

There is much to be considered and much at stake in planning a wedding. Trying to anticipate problems in advance can save last-minute headaches on your wedding day.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas.

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