Altar Ego Wedding Ed: How to tell a wedding pro from a non-pro! Don't risk your wedding day!

We've all seen them, haven't we?  The news stories about shady wedding vendors who take clients' money and run off with it?  Or those who make promises they can't or have no intention of keeping?  In the wedding industry, we are constantly plagued by unscrupulous "professionals" that tend to give all of us a bad name.  Unfortunately these are the stories that make the news instead of the stories of how industry pros save the day when this kind of stuff happens.  There are thousands, probably millions, of top-notch wedding professionals around the country (and the world) who strive for excellence, integrity and hold the client as their main focus.  Altar Ego Weddings is proud to be one of those companies and we pride ourselves on working with wedding pros who are as well.  Let's begin an educational dialogue about how to know if you're working with a reputable, reliable business or a fly-by-night, opportunistic business.  How do you tell a wedding pro from a non-pro?  Here are our suggestions:

  1. Read online reviews!  What do past clients say?Read reviews on WEDDING-RELATED websites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot.  We are diehard fans of Wedding Wire's review process and here's why.  The client can post whatever they want!  As vendors, even paid advertisers, we don't have an option to have a review removed unless it's flat-out not a legitimate client.  If a bride is unhappy for whatever reason and chooses to post, even if her resulting unhappiness was caused by her decisions, she can post a negative review.  We can comment on her post, but that usually just makes us look defensive.  In the case of random negative reviews, if the rest are glowing, you can see that in even in the wedding business, not everyone will be pleased.  So, read the reviews.  Consider them very carefully.  We are so proud the majority of our clients are pleased and even thrilled with our service and enjoy wearing our 5.0's like they're gold stars.  Especially in the wedding planner category, our reputation is all we have.  So, long story short - read online reviews!
  2. What associations are they affiliated with?  We are blessed to have many options of high-quality wedding and event organizations in which wedding professionals can participate.  Some allow us to received designations and certifications, thus providing an additional level of confidence in our abilities.  Many also provide, and some require, continuing education as a benefit to its members.  If a business is a member of an organization, it means they have financially invested in that association.  They see the value in distinguishing themselves as a professional.  At Altar Ego Weddings, we are members of the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners, or AACWP and the International Live Events Association, AKA ILEA.  AACWP allows us to meet criteria to become a "Trained Wedding Planner," "Certified Wedding Planner," and eventually a "Certified Master Wedding Planner."  AACWP also requires us to receive at least 4 hours of continuing education per year.  We usually get more because we love what we do and always want to become better.  ILEA is an amazing organization that provides us with wonderful vendor networking events, continuing education and opportunities to give back to the community.  These organizations also require members to sign a code of ethics to ensure their members conduct business with the utmost integrity.  There are several national organizations with local chapters and local and regional organizations available based on where you're planning your wedding.  In our markets, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, in addition to the associations we listed above, check out the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), Wedding Network USA, Society of Wedding Professionals (SWP), Professional Wedding Guild (PWG) and many more.  Is your photographer a member of a photography association?  Does your DJ belong to an AV or entertainment organization?  These are all indications that your wedding vendor has made an investment in their business and adds an additional layer of security.
  3. How long have they been in business?  This one's a tough one.  Altar Ego Weddings will celebrate 10 years in business on January 1, 2017, but keep in mind that on January 1, 2007, we were brand new.  We completely understand that everyone has to start somewhere and we're grateful our first sweet bride took a chance on us that first year.  Long story short, she had no idea we had never coordinated a wedding!  But - we were the real deal!  There are fabulous new vendors out there and many of them provide exciting opportunities to have a young, fresh perspective in your wedding.  We love having new blood in our industry!  Ask your vendor how long they've been in business.  You will obviously get deeper, broader experience with someone who's been in business longer.  It also proves your pro can handle this business.  The wedding industry is unlike any other.  The pressure and stress alone makes people quit.  On top of that, think about all the emotions from not only brides, from grooms, their families and even other vendors.  If your vendor has been around for a long time, there's a good chance they're legit.
  4. Do they carry business insurance?  Let's be real.  I'm a wedding planner.  Guess what?  You can stick a sign on your door and call yourself a wedding planner, too.  Barriers to entry in the wedding industry are very low.  There's no central governing authority that regulates what is and isn't a wedding professional.  There's no state the grants a license like lawyers, doctors or accountants receive.  Ask your wedding pro if they carry business insurance.  We do.  It's another clue your pro values their business and is serious about how they run it.
  5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  What's the price?  When dealing with a reputable wedding business, you can expect to pay for quality.  If a business is doing all the things we've mentioned above, THEY HAVE PAID FOR THESE THINGS.  They have invested in their business to provide you, the client, with the best product and/or service they can.  They want to be good and they want happy clients.  Furthermore, they may be providing for their family with this business.  As professionals, we need to be paid as professionals.  We aren't in business to do favors.  We are in business to provide amazing service and make money.  These are our jobs just like you have yours.  Finally - use common sense.  If a photographer promises you 8 hours of wedding day coverage by 2 photographers, an engagement session, bridal session, 2 family photo albums and will throw in a videographer, too, for $500, just walk away.  A reputable business will never make money that way.  They cannot afford to stay in business.  Look around at the pricing of other vendors in that category.  If the going rate is $3,000, for example, except you've found this one guy who wants to do it for $500, that is a red flag!

Brides and grooms - you are investing a ton of money into your wedding day!  It is too precious to trust to someone you don't trust.  Evaluate hiring vendors like you would hiring contractors to work in your home.  Remember that wedding pros, the real ones of us, are just that - professionals.  We have a passion to serve you and want you to be satisfied.  Hire quality people!  Don't get yourself in a situation you will regret.  We hope these tips have been helpful!  If you have questions or want to chat further, please contact us!  We would love to help you navigate planning your Dallas-Fort Worth or Austin area wedding without worries!