I know, I know. A Girl & A Bald Traveller is supposed to be a travel blog. You folks are following our blog to read on exotic travel destinations, not wedding packages.
Still, do bear with us as we sidetrack for this one article, as we'd really like to share the "scams" we came across from both local and overseas bridal studios while preparing for our big day.
Many couples find themselves in a dilemma when choosing the "ideal bridal studio". Would an overseas bridal studio be more cost effective? Perhaps they would know the "better places" for photo taking; it's their country after all.
Or a local bridal studio? Pay a little more, take the photos in Singapore, hassle free; no need to leave the country.
Because of a scam by an overseas (supposedly award winning) wedding company known as "Cool Wedding", the Girl & I have had the (unfortunate) experience, of having to try out both.
Yes, we actually did two separate photo shoots with both an overseas wedding company (the scam; Cool Wedding),
AND a local bridal company, Yvonne Creative, who really saved us from the embarrassment of having zero wedding photos on our big day; Kudos to them for coming to our aid and sponsoring a wedding photo-shoot for us.
Local Bridal Studios
Image Credit: Yvonne Creative. Taking a wedding photo with my "Baldmobile" as a memory before sending it to the scrapyard a week later.
Like most other soon to be married couples, The Girl & I did what most Singaporean couples would do; shop around.
We attended "wedding shows", allowed ourselves to get "tagged" by enthusiastic bridal sales people at "bridal roadshows" in Marina Square and also walked into a number of bridal studios along Tanjong Pagar road.
A few weekends of "shopping and comparisons" later, we realized that not only was the wedding industry not "white", it was in fact, "Grey".
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Image Credit: Yvonne Creative. "The Girl's" choice out of the hundreds of gowns
This is one of my favorites. Assuming you sign up at a wedding roadshow (under pressure), there's no way you'll have an idea of what gowns are available as part of your package. They'll just say a "wide selection" is available and show you all sorts of beautiful pictures.
After you sign though, and actually get down to choosing your dream gown, you'll suddenly be told, "oh, this particular gown you selected is under our Premium/VIP/whatever range. The package you signed is for our Classic Selection, which are those (pointing in the direction of some low quality gowns) over there, if you'd like the gowns from our Premium/VIP range, you'll have to top up $300 - $1,200 SGD.
Image Credit: Yvonne Creative. "The Girl's" other gown choice
Additionally, you might want to check if their any of their gowns are only for indoor shoots and can't be used outdoors. Many many ways to get you to part with your hard earned $$.
And then, your like WTF!!! Either you convince yourself that "hey, the Classic Selection" isn't so bad; else it's reach for your wallet. After-all, you've committed to the package either in full, or risk forfeiting your deposit. (Oh, and don't forget to add in your future spouse chipping in with "you see la.I told you don't sign so fast. You tell me how now?)
Make Up & Accessories
"The Girl" getting her make up done
You'll need to be clear on exactly what constitutes make up. When they are convincing you to sign, they'll just say 2x make up included, before the 1st march in and 2nd march in (like duh). But exactly what is included?
Some places charge extra for even hair setting, because the hair style you want is "very intricate", not everyone can do it (yeah right). How much are they charging for accessories like say false eyelashes?
Do you have to pay extra for the make up artist because she specializes in "whichever form of make up?" If you don't want to top up its fine, you'll just get the basic make up. (knowing Singaporeans girls, basic is not what they want. So watch out guys)
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Image Credit: Yvonne Creative. We have wedding album's at last!
You have to ask specifically, exactly what sort of album you'll be getting as part of your package. Some will show you beautiful quality acrylic covered albums at point of sale. But because you didn't specifically ask, you get a paper covered/poorly printed album.
But you chose so many beautiful photos, it would make sense to have a great album to display them wouldn't it?
Never sign on the dotted line before seeking clarity on the following details. When it comes to getting couples to part with their money, local bridal studios have more techniques than just "hard selling" during photo selection time.
Overseas Bridal Studios
Our original intention was to take our pre-wedding photos in Mongolia; photos of grasslands, deserts and snow mountains would make a great wedding album. We would take time to visit another "exotic destination" while settling our photos at the same time (or so we thought).
When we realized costs would come up to as much as $10,000, we scrapped that idea and decided to settle for a more "value for money" alternative, costing us just $3,000; China.
We came across this "award winning" Hong Kong bridal outfit, Cool Wedding. They had a "cool" Facebook page, beautiful photos, positive comments, and over 45,000 likes; trustworthy, or so we thought.
If you thought "money making techniques" by local bridal studios were somewhat "grey", you haven't encountered the "overseas" ones; now they (overseas bridal studios) are the guys with true mastery in the "art of deception".
We were shown a short video clip of various amazing photoshoot locations in Lijiang (the place they advertised for the shoot), about 8 -10 different settings. After the usual sales talk, you'll be asked to pay the first 50% (in our case, $1,500) and the rest on a later date when you discuss in detail.
On the next meet up, you'll be asked to each choose 3 different locations you'd like. Once you've excitedly discussed and selected your 6 locations in total, he drops the bomb; there's only time for 3.
The "schedule" is shown and explained that in say 8 hours, plus traveling time, make up etc, there's only time for 3. to do all 6 locations, you'll have to pay to "extend the hours", start earlier or end later. And guess how much that would cost? An additional $800 per hour!!
Naturally, we were disappointed but refused to top up for extra hours because we were misled to believe that by paying $3,000, we would get a photo-shoot with in all those locations. We even went as far to say we'll stick to just 3 locations because we didn't plan to top up.
After another round of sales talk saying the album would look really bad if it featured just 3 locations, he offered to try to squeeze in all 6 locations by extending extra hours for a "cheaper rate" if we agreed to write a positive blog and Facebook review. At this point, we'd already paid $1,500, no point forfeiting that right? We eventually agreed on $3,500 nett.
Deliberate Lack Of Communication
Once we'd paid the $3,500, the email replies from "Cool Wedding" became less prompt, almost to the point of being practically unreachable.
It wasn't until a week before we were due to fly when Ronnie (the coordinator from "Cool Wedding") finally got in touch with us to let us know which hotel we should stay at, and what time the makeup artist and photographer would arrive. We didn't have much of a choice though; we'd already paid.
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They knew the date of our wedding. We were supposed to meet Ronnie to select our photos 4-5 months before our wedding date so they would have time to prepare the albums and all in time.
No prizes for guessing; Ronnie was "delayed". By the date we actually met to choose our photos, our wedding was just 3 months away. Not to worry, Ronnie assured us, 2 months was all the needed to edit the photos and prepare the albums.
Jumbling Up Photos
As part of our package, we were entitled to 35 photos. Instead of sorting photos by location so we could easily choose what we wanted, Ronnie jumbled up all the locations, making it as difficult as possible to keep track of which photos we liked in a particular location. By doing this, we ended up selecting almost 70 photos instead of 35. While we were still insistent on cutting down to 35, he proceeded the usual "force selling" of photos.
Embarrassment, and Wife Targeting
"You work in finance don't you? It's small money, how could you possible not afford another
$2,000 for a lifetime of memories? You wife would love it."
Right out of the text book. Convince the wife the photos are great, and embarrass the husband on his spending capacity.
Fortunately, "The Girl" was on my side and agreed adding extra photos was a sheer waste of money. When man and wife are in unison, this technique doesn't work
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Holding Couples To Ransom
By this point, we'd paid all we'd needed to. All that was left, was to wait for their email on the album layout we wanted and our touched up soft copies for us to write a review on our blog and the delivery of our albums.
1 month passed, then two months; we were just one month away from our wedding. We emailed "Cool Wedding", messaged them on Facebook, called their Hong Kong number. They seem to have vanished. We were facing the prospect of having zero photos at our wedding.
Finally Ronnie answered. Our albums weren't delivered because we didn't write our positive review he said. I replied, "of course, we hadn't received our touched up soft copies (which we already paid for and were part of our package. He eventually sent 1 low resolution photo), why would we write the review?" I wasn't planning to write a wedding photo-shoot review with zero photos or even just one miserly photo.
And guess when we actually received our photos? TWO months after our wedding. If not for Yvonne Creative sponsoring a local shoot for us, our wedding would most definitely be a moment to remember; the embarrassment of it at least.