9 Major Wedding Planning Red Flags to Watch Out For

Consider these deal breakers 🚩🚩🚩

Images by Sourced Co.

When basking in the pre-wedding glow, it's easy to have rose-colored glasses on. But sometimes, a wedding professional may throw up red flags that couples shouldn’t ignore. 

We’re here to help you spot warning signs that could turn your fairy tale into a cautionary one. Here are the major red flags to watch out for when vetting your wedding pros that could save you from a potential wedding disaster—or at least save you time, money, and stress!

Did you know we have an entire podcast episode dedicated to this topic?

Listen to episode 18 of The Guide Gals Podcast where we chat about all of this, plus offer one more piece of advice!

Red Flag #1: Ridiculously Low Prices or "Pay in Full" Discounts

You know what they say: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Wedding vendors offering rock-bottom prices or enticing pay-in-full cash discounts could be a huge red flag. Either they're inexperienced, underpaying their staff, using cheap materials, or - worst case scenario - running a shady operation. 

Asking you to pay the total amount upfront isn't typical either. The industry standard is to put down a deposit to secure your date, with the remaining balance due closer to the wedding. Any vendor demanding full payment upfront may be desperate for cash. Plus, if you pay the total way in advance, you have zero leverage if they ghost you. 

We know planning a wedding isn’t cheap, but protecting your hard-earned cash by hiring trustworthy folks has to be a top priority. Don't ignore those flashing sirens if their pricing or payment policies seem really off! There are too many masterful wedding vendors out there to settle for any shadiness.

Red Flag #2: Unreliable Communication

When inquiring with potential wedding vendors, pay close attention to their communication. If they're unresponsive, miss deadlines or meetings, or seem generally disinterested, it likely foreshadows lackluster customer service to come. 

You deserve vendors who make your big day feel like a top priority by responding promptly, answering questions thoroughly, and giving you that warm fuzzy feeling from the start. Anything less? It's time to take off those rose-colored glasses and show them the door. Because if they're already slacking on communication and customer service before you've even signed on the dotted line, just imagine the dramatics once you're locked in!

Keep in mind, though, that wedding professionals get extremely busy—especially during peak season—so don't immediately write them off if they take a few days to respond. Many will set up auto-replies or give you a heads-up about unavailable dates due to working events. As long as they keep you informed about any delays or tied-up times, a brief lapse in responsiveness isn't necessarily a red flag.

The best vendors skillfully manage their time, set clear expectations, and make you feel prioritized even when they're swamped. A little patience goes a long way, but if unresponsiveness becomes a pattern, it may be time to reconsider your options.

Red Flag #3: Sparse or Shocking Online Reviews

Finding a couple of negative reviews shouldn't immediately turn you off from a vendor. Weddings are highly emotional events with lots of money on the line, so some clients may get overly passionate when venting frustrations—even if they're relatively minor issues.

However, suppose you're seeing multiple reviews citing major problems like the vendor not delivering on contracted services, being flaky or unprofessional, or causing the couple undue stress or financial burden. In that case, those are definite red flags that should make you think twice about hiring them.

New vendors must start building their reputation somewhere, so a lack of reviews doesn't necessarily mean they're ill-equipped. But zero reviews at all for an established business? That's questionable and worth investigating further. On the flip side, if a vendor is racking up tons of low-star reviews detailing nightmarish service, steer clear and keep searching. 

Scour online ratings and testimonials carefully, understanding that while a couple of mediocre reviews aren't the end of the world, a clear pattern of multiple clients reporting significant issues is a big flashing caution sign.

Red Flag #4: Unprofessional Reaction To Negative Reviews

Let’s face it: Every wedding venue or vendor—no matter how stellar—may be on the receiving end of a subpar online review. The red flag to watch out for here is their response to the negative feedback. 

If a wedding professional publicly argues with the client in the review versus coming from a place of genuine care and concern, that speaks volumes about their character and what they’d be like to work with. If they’re unprofessional in the comments, there’s a good chance those are their true colors shining through.

Rather than judging a wedding pro from the at-a-glance “star” rating, take a deeper look at the reviews—and the vendor’s response to them—before deciding whether or not to proceed.

Red Flag #5: Their Contract is Ambiguous or Incomplete

It’s critical to understand your contract so you know *exactly* what you’re getting and can plan accordingly. Be sure every detail of your package is documented before you sign on the dotted line. A well-written contract locks in the pricing you have agreed upon and spells out precisely what services and deliverables you're purchasing—eliminating any surprise changes to fees or inclusions.

Vendors giving you piecemeal pricing estimates over email or phone, failing to mention things like taxes, delivery fees, or the cost for additional hours, or refusing to put any additional agreed-upon items into writing are all flashing warning signs. Your vendors should be totally transparent about their pricing and package inclusions—as well as what’s not included.

The easiest way to catch those red flags is to actually read through each contract and proposal—especially the fine print. Anything promised during in-person meetings or over the phone should be written out in the contract before it is signed. 

Red Flag #6: Lack of Contingency Plan

No one wants to imagine something going wrong with their wedding vendors, but the reality is that unforeseen circumstances can happen. An experienced professional will be upfront about this possibility—and have a solid backup plan in place to put your mind at ease.

Before booking any vendor, it's critical to ask about their contingency plans for emergencies or illnesses that could prevent them from fulfilling their duties on your wedding day. What's their protocol? Who are their trusted backups? The best vendors will have this all mapped out to provide a seamless safety net—ensuring your celebration continues smoothly no matter what.

The mark of an experienced wedding pro is their readiness—including failsafe backup solutions. Feel free to have an open discussion about their contingency plans during the hiring process. Their level of preparation and transparent communication about this speaks volumes about their commitment to your big day.

Red Flag #7: Lack of Professional Website

When you're on the hunt for your dream team of wedding pros, don't underestimate the power of a stellar website. Sure, their portfolio is important to showcase their amazing work. But a website is so much more than just pretty pictures. 

A professional website allows each vendor to present a comprehensive and organized representation of their services in their own words and style. More than just showcasing their past work, a well-designed website communicates the vendor's expertise, design style, core values, and business practices. Think of it as a one-stop shop for all the juicy details you need to know as an engaged couple.

In today's digital age, having no website or an outdated online presence is a big no-no. It might just be a red flag that they're not as committed to the wedding game as you'd hope. With a website at your fingertips, you can dig deeper and really get to know the vendor behind the business—from their story and personality to their expertise. Kinda like getting a little sneak peek of what it would be like to work together before you make that all-important decision. 

Red Flag #8: Minimal or Outdated Portfolio

Relating to your vendors having an up-to-date website, they should also have an extensive portfolio of their wedding work. A portfolio is an online image gallery that showcases a vendor's skills, abilities, or creative design work. Although a portfolio typically includes a vendor’s best work, make sure you also check out their most recent work, as their style may have changed and evolved over time.

One thing you really want to look out for, especially when hiring photographers and videographers, is that they have a solid portfolio showing complete coverage of full wedding days. Don't just go off those eye-catching highlights they post on Instagram. While those are great for grabbing attention, you need to make sure they can consistently capture all the important details and moments from start to finish on the actual day of. You don't want to end up with just a handful of amazing shots but then missing coverage of key details, people, or formalities.

Wedding vendors should willingly showcase a robust, up-to-date portfolio of their latest work, especially on social media. If they're making you hunt for samples or only showing dated work, be wary.

Red Flag #9: Your Gut Says No

In weddings, just as in life, always go with your gut feeling. If something feels wrong or off in any way, that’s truly the biggest red flag of them all. 

At the end of the day, you've got to trust your intuition. If a wedding vendor rubs you the wrong way, if their attitude seems off-putting, or if their skills look subpar based on their portfolio, don't ignore those little voices in your head telling you something's not quite right. That's your intuition speaking loud and clear. 

There are so many wildly talented wedding professionals out there to choose from. So listen to your gut. If a vendor doesn't give you those 'hell yes!' vibes, keep looking until you find the right fit.

Need More Wedding Vendor Guidance?

And listen to The Guide Gals Podcast for even more wedding planning advice!