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Everyone will agree that a wedding day should be one of the most special days in a couple’s life. It’s certainly not a day anyone envisages as being marred by bogus wedding venues and suppliers not delivering on promises.

However, recently a few incidents were reported in the news of a number of South African couples’ whose wedding days have become disasters due to fraudsters, acting as wedding venue operators or suppliers simply disappearing with their money – without supplying any of the services they had agreed to. To safeguard against such malicious criminals, it’s advisable that couples ensure that they’re signed up with a reputable wedding venue and suppliers.  Owners and managers of Muldersdrift’s renowned wedding-mile venues agree. Karen Nortjé, Wedding Coordinator at  Avianto, says when selecting a wedding venue, it’s important to visit the venue in person to see what it looks like. That way you can best judge the maintenance and upkeep of the building, as well as enquire how long the venue has been in existence. “It’s also a good idea to visit the venue while they are busy setting up for another function. That way you’ll be able to see the quality of the cutlery and crockery, as well as the condition of the tables and chairs.” “The internet is also very helpful in terms of doing a search of any reviews and comments about the particular venue. This will give you an idea of the quality of the service and food, as well as former clients’ experiences,” she says.

Cecilia Kruger, from The Moon and Sixpence, suggests asking the owners of the venue for reviews by previous bridal couples who made use of their facilities. “It’s also a good idea to speak to service providers connected to that venue and hear what they have to say.” When it comes to the food catering, couples should also book a lunch or dinner at the potential venue, or find out if the venue offers tastings to see how the food is presented and prepared, says Michael Oosthuizen from Toadbury Hall. “This effort won’t go to waste, as food is one of the main features of a wedding.” He suggests that, after the viewing, the venue provides a tailored quote, and encourages couples to ask if there are any hidden costs. “Once a couple has decided on their preferred venue, it is standard practice to sign a contract – which protects both the client as well as the venue in case of a dispute,” says Nortjé . “This is the opportunity for the bridal couple to question anything in the contract – and all parties need to agree to a change and put it in writing.”

Since most weddings are booked a year or more in advance, it is especially important to have in writing what the venue agrees to supply on the day of the wedding. “All the details given to the couple during the initial viewing should be confirmed in writing and form part of the contract. The couple should read the whole contract and pay attention to the terms to make sure they are covered in case something happens to the venue and the wedding cannot take place in that venue, due to fire or any forces of nature, for example, or if a venue decides to close down before the actual wedding date.”

Even though it might feel like nitpicking, Kruger points out that it’s in fact commendable if the terms of the contract are strict. She also suggests going through the invoice provided and making sure it’s all in accordance with what you’ve discussed.  “A venue providing all the costs upfront and stating what’s excluded is highly recommended.”

Remember that when faced with a choice between over the top promises versus practical tips, the latter is preferable. Price is another strong telltale factor, she adds – if it’s too cheap it may not be a quality venue. “Let’s face it, if you are a quality venue you need quality staff, stock, furniture and fixtures – all of which costs money in upkeep.” Most venues require the full venue hire to be paid upfront in order to secure the date. “It’s generally standard practice for the rest of the costs to be covered prior to the wedding as well,” concedes Nortjé.

Being in business for more than 10 years, Kruger explains that these measures are in place because venues have found it too risky to wait until the last month to wait for the client to pay for the wedding. “Some people are happy to pay the deposit and then just disappear at great financial loss to our business. That’s why the total amount must be paid before the wedding, especially before any food is ordered. However if a couple is still concerned about the credibility of a venue or service provider, they could consider taking out wedding insurance.”

However, if a contract is not upheld and an official complaint has no effect, Nortjé assures couples that the contract they signed is a legal document, and  they have every right to approach an attorney to handle the case. “They have the support of The Consumer Protection Act. It’s important to take action against these operators as they tarnish the reputation of other reputable establishments in the wedding business.”

“Muldersdrift offers a range of wedding venues catering for weddings of varying guest numbers, requirements and themes. If you’re looking for a reputable wedding venue we’d recommend you start with Muldersdrift,” says Gilbert Hickman, spokesperson for the Muldersdrift Community Action Group (MCAG).