Mark emailed me a very startling article on The Today Show’s web site. A married couple has been exposed as con-artists, running a luxurious wedding site in Las Vegas, taking up to $20,000 of people’s money, then canceling their reservations and refusing to return the money. I swear, I’ve never heard of anything so dishonest. And to add insult to injury, they have zero remorse.
You can see the story here: Rossen Reports – Brides Say Company Ruined Their Wedding Day
In a nutshell, 53 couples from around the country have lost money to Griffin Mansion. They all had their weddings planned at the site, then were suddenly told that the site was closing down and refunds were not available.
One couple purchased the all-inclusive package at $20,000. ELEVEN MINUTES after the bride made her final payment, the site’s owner called to say that the site was closing down and a refund wasn’t available. This was TEN DAYS before their wedding was supposed to take place. Really? Seriously? That is just dastardly. (I’ve been waiting to use the word dastardly.)
These con-artists were pretty much stealing people’s dreams. They took couples’ wedding dreams and stomped all over them, while simultaneously stealing a small fortune from each couple. The con-artists encouraged couples to pay with cash, offering a cash discount.
After all 53 couples were informed that the site was closing down, the site owners continued to meet with prospective clients. (The Today Show sent someone in under-cover, armed with a hidden camera.) The Griffin Mansion has since claimed bankruptcy and has declined interviews. Why did they have to file bankruptcy? Because they spent all the money they stole on lavish personal expenses, such as expensive clothing and even fertility treatments.
All 53 couples were unaware that Griffin Mansion was operating without any of the proper permits.
Seriously folks, don’t let something like this happen to you! Take steps to protect yourself from fraud with ANY wedding vendor.
First and foremost, make sure that the vendor has the proper licenses and permits. (While the Today Show’s under-cover “bride” was taking a tour at Griffin Mansion, she asked, “So you have a liqueur license?” The female owner said they did. They didn’t. They never did.) When checking your wedding site, check for a business license and liquor license. If they don’t have them on site to show you (which they are supposed to have them posted onsite), or if you’d like to check before you take a tour, call the city of which the site resides. Licenses are public record. I also suggest checking the Better Business Bureau for any complaints that have been filed against the site.
Check for business licenses while dealing with PHOTOGRAPHERS. There are thousands of horror stories about wedding photography gone wrong – the photographer required payment in advance and didn’t show up on the wedding day, or the photographer did a horrible job and wouldn’t refund the couple, or the photographer lost all the digital images and the couple ended up with bubkis. Really, the stories go on and on. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dishonest people in the world.
Even if the person isn’t dishonest, there is another reason you should confirm a wedding photographer’s business license. There are tons of people out there who’ve purchased an expensive camera and decided they were going to be wedding photographers. They don’t have training or experience, don’t have licenses, and don’t pay taxes. Anyone can put together a flashy web site and market themselves as a wedding photographer, but not just anyone can do a great, professional job photographing your wedding. Don’t become one of those couples who have to take their photographer to small claims court because you forked over several thousand dollars and the photos didn’t come out.
I suggest you confirm business licenses with all your vendors – florists, DJs, caterers, bakers, etc. It’s good to know you’re working with someone legit.
The best way to confirm a vendor has a current business license is to call the city and ask. As I’ve said, it’s public record. If you simply ask the vendor, “Hey, do you have a business license?” the vendor can just say, “Yes.” That doesn’t confirm anything.
Another way to protect yourself from cons is to pay with a credit card, especially when dealing with ceremony and reception sites. That way, if the vendor ditches you, you can dispute the charges with the credit card company, and usually the money will be refunded to you because the charges will be deemed fraudulent.
Wedding insurance is another way to go. It costs approximately $150 – $500, depending on the cost of your wedding. This is way worth it if you’re spending more than $10,000 on your wedding. (The average wedding in this country costs over $20,000.)
I hope you found this article helpful and didn’t just make you paranoid. Feel free to post any questions below!