Wedding Cake Change of Heart Creates Controversy

Industry experts say getting a contract with all wedding vendors is the key to avoiding drama on the big day

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    One North Texas couple learned the hard way that having clear, easy-to-understand contracts with wedding vendors can help avoid drama on the big day. (Published Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013)

    One North Texas bride-to-be and her fiancé said the cake they ordered for their big day became a stumbling block in their wedding plans. But experts say couples can avoid unnecessary problems with vendors if they follow some simple rules, like making sure they have easy-to-understand contracts. 

    Jessica Frye and Matt Womack, who were taking their first trip down the aisle Nov. 2, were planning a wedding with 40 guests in a short three-month timeframe and on a tight budget of just $5,000.

    The money would have to pay for the ceremony, dress, decorations, the reception and the catering. Still, Frye wanted her dream wedding and that included a dreamy cake to top off the night.

    The two went to Sweet Memories, which is a quaint Keller caterer with a giant cake on the lawn.
    “That’s was the first cake place I’d ever been to in my life. It was exciting,” said Frye.

    It was so exciting, the couple decided on the spot to place their order. They paid in full, $267.59, for the cake.

    Shortly after they left the bakery, Frye had a change of heart after realizing that the cake would eat up 5 percent of their overall budget – far too large of a slice. Days later, Womack called to cancel, and he didn’t think it would be a problem getting a full refund.

    After a week, he finally connected with Sweet Memories’ owner Susan Clark, who had been away on vacation. After the two finally spoke, Womack said Clark told her there were no refunds.

    But he said that’s not clear in his paperwork. The invoice showed he paid in full but it had no mention of a refund policy. Additionally, the line marked one-third non-refundable deposit was blank. So Womack didn’t understand why he was not entitled to a full-refund.

    NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit called Clark.

    “When you phoned me it blew me away,” Clark said, who has been in the catering business for two decades.

    Clark said of the $267.59 for the cake, she was willing to give the couple $178 back, but not the $89, which she called a non-refundable deposit. She said that’s standard for her business.

    "What that deposit does is it books a date and time in my calendar for delivery,” she said.

    Clark said that line on Womack’s invoice was blank, but she’s never had a problem like this before, so she didn’t fill in that line. She also said she reviews invoices with every customer.

    And one repeat customer sings her praises.

    “I think she’s fabulous,” said customer Pricilla Hamilton.  “She did my best friend’s engagement party cake. She did my other dear friend’s wedding cake,”

    Hamilton explained. “She did husband and mine’s, because it was a second marriage. She did my best friends son’s and then she did my mother’s 80th birthday party.”

    Celebrity wedding planner Donnie Brown said there should always be clear contracts with every wedding vendor, from the caterer, to the baker, to the venue, to the band. He said contracts protect both parties in the event of any changes. He advises couples to ask about refund and deposit policies with every vendor before forking over any money.

    “It’s a big ticket item for most couples. They need to make sure they’ve got all their ducks in-a-row. Everything is black and white. All the T’s and I’s are dotted and crossed,” said Brown.

    In Texas, consumers have a three-day right to cancel some purchases, but not every purchase.  The law only applies in very specific situations, and in most cases it doesn’t apply to the wedding industry. That’s why it’s key to have clear contracts.

    After NBC 5’s Consumer Unit spoke with both Clark and Womack, the couple got a full refund.  But Clark said couples should take the time to think before making decisions, and if couples have tight purse strings they should consider alternatives because professional bakers are expensive.

    “People that usually have a smaller budget really need to be in Wal-Mart or the grocery stores, because they’ll be better located in their budget for them,” Clark said.

    Frye said she’s learned a valuable lesson too.

    “Make sure that if there’s a refund that you know, or if there’s not a refund, make sure you definitely know that before you go with those services” she said.

    Still, making it down the aisle was all that really mattered.