Ask the Experts: Are Referral Fees Ethical?

By Azure Nelson, Published Feb 4, 2010

Ask the Experts is your chance to get wedding advice from a panel of wedding professionals. If you need wedding advice write This week a bride asks: Dear Ask the Experts, I’m considering hiring a wedding planner for my wedding, but I read a lot of conflicting information about how they work. Some people say that all wedding planners charge referral fees (which sound like kickbacks to me) from vendors, and those fees wind up getting charged back to the couple. I’ve even heard of planners charging referral fees for vendors the bride and groom found on their own. Other articles say that reputable planners don’t charge referral fees, and that you should have in your contract that they won’t. Do ALL planners charge referral fees? Is it ok for them to do this? What’s a polite way to ask a wedding planner about their policy? Signed Confused about Planners Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images: My feeling is brides shouldn’t worry about asking questions politely. If you want to know something, ask! Start by determining if the provider is right for you in terms of service and rapport; then, ask the business questions. How you feel about referral fees should dictate what you decide. While we don’t charge or receive referral fees, some highly reputable professionals do – especially if they’ve set up cooperative arrangements in terms of advertising and marketing. Bottom line: As long as you are happy with the services you receive and the price you pay, should isues like “where the money goes” really matter? Melissa of Stylish Blooms Says: It’s ok to ask if they charge for referral fees and if they do WALK away! You want a vendor to refer you to another based on merit and reputation not because money is driving them. I only refer vendors with whom I have worked closely. The vendors that I suggest are ones that I would want to use my self. If any vendor on my list sends clients to me I give a 10% discount to the couple as a thank you for choosing me and my preferred vendors do the same for my clients. It’s all about working together and knowing that together our clients will have the best services. Never hesitate to ask any vendor any question you may have. The best vendors will be open and answer honestly. Vera of Weddings Simply Unique Says: You are confused and that’s ok because asking questions will create clarity; which is all the more reason to know it’s ok to ask questions. Do not be intimidated about asking questions about any service you pay for, whether it be a wedding planner or a carpenter. You are paying for a service and you want to know how that service will be provided and if there are any hidden costs. Your questions will either be answered to your satisfaction or not. If not, then your response would be to find a planner that meets your requirements and service needs. About our Experts: Vera Fernandes of Weddings Simply Unique has been helping Connecticut couples plan their weddings for over ten years. Melissa Bonoffksi is the creative force behind Stylish Blooms in Bristol CT. She holds and A.A.S In floriculture and have over 13 years design experience. Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images Jeff Haden is President of BlackBird Images, wedding photographers based in Harrisonburg, VA. Not only is he a well-respected and talented photographer, but has also gained recognition as a ghostwriter.

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