What do you do if there’s a problem with your reception venue, perhaps they are double booked.

Or what if your flower supplier gives you late notice that they cannot supply your bouquet.

Even worse, god forbid, your celebrant falls ill, dies, or turns out to be a scam, what do you do?

Note: For the most up to date, correct and legislative advice please consult a practising lawyer or your local member of parliament. Someone with authority to speak on the issue at the least. I’m just a marriage celebrant who can research, but even I am fallible, according to my wife…

The top ten complaints that couples have about their weddings are about the following:

  1. dresses
  2. videos
  3. photos
  4. venues
  5. flowers
  6. rings
  7. cars
  8. make-up
  9. catering
  10. suits

So make sure you are well planned, protected, and try to prevent the problem in the first place.

Prevention first

Every Australian wedding vendor/supplier/business is different and their responsibilities differ from industry to industry. Only one wedding supplier is regulated outside of the normal consumer laws, and that’s your celebrant.

Checking out your celebrant

It’s easy to find out if your celebrant, or minister of religion, is legitimate. A minister of religion should carry an authoritative document or card, and a civil celebrant is registered by the Attorney General.

To see if your celebrant is registered and has the authority he or she says they do, check the Attorney-General’s website to see if their name is on the list: marriage.ag.gov.au.

It doesn’t hurt to do the standard Google search on your celebrant, check out their website, Facebook page, Twitter and other web pages. Word-of-mouth matters.

Checking out everyone else

Business reccomendation websites come and go every day, but the best advice I can offer to see the opinions of others regarding your vendor, is this:

  • Google search business name complaint or business name problems
  • Look at the fan feedback on their Facebook page, where fans post on their wall and comment on their posts.
  • Search for their name or their @name on Twitter.

A vendor’s responsibilities to you

Every business/vendor/supplier in Australia has a common set of responsibilities to it’s customers, though marriage celebrants must adhere to a code of practise which we’ll look at soon.

Businesses must also guarantee products and services they sell, hire or lease for:

  • under $40 000
  • over $40 000 that are normally bought for personal or household use.

Services provided must:

  • be provided with acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge and taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage
  • be fit for the purpose or give the results that you and the business had agreed to
  • be delivered within a reasonable time when there is no agreed end date.

The only time this guarantee does not stand is when you

  • misused a product in any way that caused the problem
  • got what you asked for but changed your mind or saw it cheaper elsewhere
  • knew of or were made aware of the faults before you bought the product
  • bought a one-off item from a private seller, for example at a garage sale or fete
  • plan to on-sell or change the product so that you can re-supply it as a business.

The best way to cover yourself here is to communicate. Before you make a purchase, lay down a deposit, or pay for the product or service ask

  • Can you provide the service/product as desired or requested, on the date required?
  • If  situation changes, or personal circumstances interrupt supply, is there a backup or what are the terms of receiving a refund.
  • Can you be supplied with mobile, phone, email, contact details in-case the supplier is not contactable.
  • Agree on benchmarks for payment, quotes, drafts, supply and delivery.

Your responsibilities to a vendor

Capitalism dictates that you hold the power in this transaction, but there are a few things you can take responsibility for in order to make your wedding day a success:

  • Respond to emails or calls in a timely manner,
  • Confirm if a deposit or payment is required to secure your wedding day,
  • Make payments as required,
  • Make the vendor/supplier aware of your wishes as early as possible.

Simple things, but it helps your vendor help you.

The code of practice

Not every wedding industry is governed by a code of practice, but marriage celebrants are.

You can view the whole document here, but here are the general responsibilities your marriage celebrant has to you, the couple being married:

  • act  professionally at all times,
  • be respectful to cultural, spiritual and family differences.
  • observe the legislation and the law in solemnizing your marriage (aka marrying you),
  • give you the freedom to create your own wedding ceremony,
  • must conduct a rehearsal if desired,
  • arrive for the ceremony at an agreed time, at the least 20 minutes beforehand (I generally arrive an hour early. Unless I misunderstand the pre-ceremony drinks time, in that case I’ll be there two hours early)
  • maintain a professional business including document filing facilites, office facilities and maintain confidentiality of the couples married.

It sounds like simple stuff, but obviously at least one person made a complaint so each item made it to the list.

Changing your plans

Things change.

The best you can do in this circumstance is communicate openly and honestly about what has changed.

If you need to change your date or venue, make sure this is communicated to everyone necessary  and make sure your vendors have this date available.

Each vendor’s refund policy is different, and if you require one because of a date or place change or cancellation, it’s best you know that a business does not have to give a refund if you simply change your mind or the circumstances were not their doing, unless they have a policy to offer a refund, replacement or credit note when this happens.

They are obliged to offer a refund if they are the instigators of the change. For example if they fall sick, or pass away, or are unable to supply the service or product, they must provide a refund, not a credit or voucher.

What about you, Josh?

To secure your date on my diary I ask for a 20% non-refundable deposit. This secures that day for your wedding and I will not book another wedding on that day unless I have asked you and agreed on the terms and times.

If I must cancel my service for your, I will communicate this as early as possible and offer suggestions of other celebrants in my network. I recently had to do this because my brother announced his wedding date and it clashed with a couple I had already booked. I promptly contacted the couple, eight months in advance, and offered my assistance in finding a new celebrant and also provided a refund of the deposit as a show of good will.

If your date must be changed, and I am available on that day then I will gladly move the date at no charge. If however I am already booked and unavailable I cannot offer a refund of the deposit because that date has most probably been requested by other couples and I have had to reject the opportunity to marry them.

Of course, if you have any questions or queries about my services, please communicate them to me via email or give me a call. If you’ve a problem with your marriage celebrant (hopefully not me!) then contact the Attorney-General here.

As for your other vendors, good luck and be prepared!