"Is this a good price?" and other subjective questions
I wanted to get some of these questions out in the open and out of the way before tackling the processes of paying for things. It's important to realise that you are not everyone else, and everyone else is not you. The same also goes for your wedding, and what you deem important at your wedding. Aside from some of the standard and necessary inclusions, eg a venue, registrar, legal fees etc, everything else you choose to have (or not) is optional, and thus there are always going to be dozens of choices you need to make. Each additional extra you choose will differ wildly in price - from the bare minimum and budget option, to the whole 9 yards with all the bells and whistles option.
Although asking this question of other brides can be a reasonable way to ascertain a budget that is realistic to set for your own sake, it's difficult for others to give you a reply in terms of value, as this will mean different things to different people. Let's take wedding photography as a prime example, and I'm trying not to be for or against a certain way of thinking, I'm just going to pose statements to make you consider both sides of the argument.
Say you found a photographer who is offering to be at your wedding for the whole day, provides a photobooth, will give you every single photo taken a week after the wedding and is charging £300 for it all. So you present the package and the price and ask the question - is this a good price? On the one hand you could get someone who is an absolute joy to have at your wedding, friendly and hard-working, has an awesome turnaround and you end up with so many amazing photos at the end. All for £300. Yes that is a good price, no it's an AMAZING price and you should book them right away. Or, you might have your photographer turn up late, dishevelled, not sure what they're doing, is rude to guests, and send you loads of blurry images of people's feet and back of heads. Both are possible although those in the know or who have the wisdom of experience at having gone one way or the other themselves will no doubt say which is more likely.
The point is that when presented with so little information, it becomes impossible for others to say whether something is good value or not. Value is important, much more so than price on its own. Do some research and be sure of the quality you will receive and base your budget for a supplier on how important their input or contribution is to your wedding day.
"They want £x so many days or weeks before the wedding, is this normal?"
This is totally normal practice for nearly all if not every supplier you will have booked. What may differ is how long before the wedding they may want the balance to be paid. It could be a week, 4 weeks, several months even. This is unlikely to be different for some suppliers compared to others. They will also no doubt all have some sort of cancellation clauses and a non-refundable booking fee or deposit. Read the fine print in your contract. No contract? I would be very wary of booking someone who doesn't give you some sort of written and signed record of what if it you're getting and how much you've paid for it.
"Is bank transfer safe?"
Bank transfers or BACS payments are often requested for payments as they are reliable, traceable and quick forms of payment with no fees for either party to pay. Provided you have agreed appropriate terms and are offered written contracts and/or invoices and receipts then there is no issue with this method of payment whatsoever. If you are unsure and are seeking confirmation of its frequent use then there may well be trust issues with the supplier who is asking for it. Yes there are some unscrupulous people out there who do take advantage, and these give trusted suppliers a bad name, but they are very much in the minority despite the horror stories you may read online.
"Can they ask me to pay more to cover Paypal or card fees?"
Legally, no they cannot. It is against the law for businesses or sole traders to pass on any relevant transaction fees to the customer. They have to incorporate these fees into their prices if they wish, or take the financial hit. These fees are often in place to cover the cost of using a convenient financial service. Customers may feel inclined to pay using these services as it sometimes affords them extra protection than by using other means, but not always. Paypal is often toted as being very safe, and you can even use it with a credit or debit card without being a member yourself. There are fees that the business will have to pay. What is important to note is that Paypal had a limited and timed dispute policy. Some may say that you are covered if you pay for goods and services (not friends and family) however this may not apply if the time between payment and the receipt of the goods or services is beyond this limit. For most people who are paying for their suppliers months or even years before the wedding, they will find themselves not covered.
Cash, Cheques and Card Machines
Cash and cheques, like bank transfers, carry no fees in their usage and are likely to be accepted by some businesses as another means of payment. Really there is no good reason to refuse these as long as you are confident in the authenticity of the cash and the cheques are dated appropriately and do not bounce. Cheques of course are traceable at the point of cashing both out of your account and into the recipient's.
Card machines used to be the domain of larger businesses or physical shops, but now you can find pocket sized ones that pair with a mobile device to create a mini 'till' system. They are a great personal payment option but again there are often usage fees to take into account.
With so many questions surrounding payment and pricing, its easy to get overwhelmed and be unsure which is best or appropriate. I would say that if you have any mistrust of a business or a means of payment then find someone else who puts you at ease. Sometimes your gut instinct is a good thing and should be listened to. The fact of the matter is that any way of payment has its good and bad points, and often they are bad for the supplier, but that doesn't always mean the customer has an advantage in terms of safety to compensate. One way to ensure some level of security is to take out wedding insurance. This is incredibly popular and gives you some peace of mind. Ideally though everyone should give you a contract to read and sign covering your inclusions and costings, and provide you with receipts detailing payments made.
If you're looking for a photographer that not only offers you the convenience of multiple payment options, full receipts, will explain the entire booking and planning process and is generally awesome to work with, I'd love to hear from you!
Informative posts about weddings and related things, as well as general photography stuff.