Lady Wedding Luck was on my side throughout my wedding preparation journey, safe for one frustrating incident with a local bridal boutique. I'm not disclosing their brand because my intention isn't to name-shame and the boutique does have good customer reviews. My lacklustre experience could be an isolated case.
In summary, the sales coordinator was persuasive and promised that customisations x, y and z are possible. I signed the wedding package contract on the spot and paid a $3.5k deposit.
A few months later when it came to post-sales, I was told customisation x is still doable but no promises for y and z.
It felt like a betrayal of my trust!
Because I had penned x, y and z into the contract terms (to protect my rights as the customer), the boutique couldn't dismiss those requests. Finally, the management said they'll process a refund and asked me to take my business elsewhere.
The unpleasantness didn't end there.
The bridal boutique insisted they couldn't refund me the $3.5k in full because they had been charged a 5% merchant fee by my credit card company, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). I had received full refunds from other retailers in the past so I figured this couldn't be the norm. I called SCB to check and they were affirmative that no fee had been incurred by the bridal boutique.
SCB however was unable to provide proof for me to iron things out with the bridal boutique. They advised me to accept the partial refund lest the bridal boutique go back on their words to process any refund at all if this drags on. As a show of goodwill, SCB would absorb the amount and credit it to my card.
This was how Wedding Lady Luck took the problem out of my hands. While the issue ended on a good note for me, I wanted the bridal boutique's management to take this as a learning. I filed a formal complaint, and I hope they have a more transparent refund process now.
From this saga, I gleaned important lessons. Here's sharing my key takeaways, in hope that other brides and grooms to be would have a smooth, drama-free experience signing their wedding contracts:
1. Check credibility of bridal boutique before signing
It has happened before. A bridal boutique closes suddenly without notice and the owners are uncontactable. The affected customers find it difficult to recover their monetary losses.
Do a background check to see if the bridal boutique you intend to sign a wedding package with has any history of not honouring contractual agreements. Read recent reviews by unhappy customers (if any) to avoid the same pitfalls if you intend to still engage the same bridal company.
If you still aren't entirely confident, decline full prepayments and negotiate to minimise the deposit payment as much as possible (or drag out the payment timeline.)
If the payment sum is huge and you want to go a step further in protecting your money, it might be prudent to check out wedding insurance that covers business insolvency. Wedding insurance ensures your deposits are protected in the event of an abrupt company closure.
2. Get all verbal agreements in writing
Prior to meeting with the bridal boutique sales coordinator, jot down the expectations you have so you would remember to discuss them.
For instance, you might be getting 3 dresses from the bridal boutique but they have a policy of not allowing dresses to be used for outdoor photoshoots. Suppose you negotiate and they relent on 1 of the dresses, don't celebrate your negotiation success until you have pencilled the verbal agreement into the contract and both parties acknowledge it!
Get down to the nitty gritty details too! You might want to probe if the bridal boutique expects you to return a laundered dress or they would handle the dry-cleaning on their end with or without an additional fee. Being specific prevents rude shocks, second guesses and unnecessary wedding stress.
Is such attention to detail really warranted? The law does recognise verbal contracts and enforce them but it would be virtually impossible to prove that you are right. It'll be you against the bridal boutique team's word. Memory can be fallible, especially if your wedding's a couple of months down the road, so a black and white contract is the best way to safeguard your interest as the customer.
3. Read fine print of contract
The bridal package I signed actually had 5 pages of small print. It was painful to get through all the terms punctuated with legal terminology and jargons (lawyers don't always write English!) but I was glad I invested the time to!
The bridal boutique had inserted a line about them having the right to use all photographs taken in their marketing programmes WITHOUT the prior consent of the customers. WHAT???!
I value my privacy and prefer not to have my face plastered on a marketing campaign, thank you very much, even though it might be my most beautiful day on earth.
I modified the contract by crossing that clause out, signed next to the modification and got the bridal boutique's sales coordinator to counter sign. That gave me ultimate peace of mind!
4. Get a hard copy of the contract
Before you enter into a written contract, make it clear that you want to retain a copy.
If the bridal company is unable to provide you a hard copy on the spot (for whatever reason), use your smartphone to capture clear images of each page. Don't count on receiving an electronic soft copy because that might be subject to the sales coordinator's timeliness and diligence.
Remember - if the vendor has the only copy of your contract, you would be disadvantaged in the event of a dispute.
5. Know your rights if something goes wrong
You might not like to imagine the worst case scenario, but it would be prudent to give it some thought.
Find out from the sales coordinator what their action plan is if the bridal company falls short of their contractual obligation (e.g. fails to alter wedding dress in time.)
Make sure you are satisfied with the answer before you proceed.
If something does go wrong (murphy's law!)
First, document the shortcoming and contact the company immediately, showing them photographic evidence. Allow the company a chance to remedy the situation, be it voluntarily discounting the contract price or offering compensation in goods of equivalent value. It would be great if you can reach a consensus.
If you can't, know how you can exercise your rights and receive the legal remedies you are entitled to. When the bridal company commits a breach of contract, you could refuse payment on the basis of substantial breach. To back you up, seek help from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).
Hope these tips are useful and here's wishing you an uneventful wedding preparation journey. Enjoy the ride!
Disclaimer: The learnings provided in this post are crafted based on my personal experience as a customer. The information should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.