What If the Wedding Doesn't Happen?
Thank you, Alan Katz- Presiding Officiant at Cute Little Wedding Chapel ,for bringing up this taboo issue within the industry. It certainly sparked many opinions that sided with both option A or B and I wanted to discuss it. Perhaps if Brides took into consideration the frustration professionals experience and why they uphold their refund policies so strictly they may show some composure. I also have seen some heartless customer service within the industry as well. So here it is, folks. We are going to tackle this topic with poise and assertion.
As a planner, one of the biggest nightmares that plague me is "What if the wedding doesn't happen?". I can't even imagine the stress a Bride or Groom must go through during the months leading up to the big day. At the same time, as the planner, it's a possibility I have to be prepared for.
Jessica Gonzales is a lead event planner with Great Minds Event Planning, which is primarily located in Denver- serving the entire state of Colorado.
First of all, let's take a moment to understand WHY there are nonrefundable retainers in the business. Aside from the divorce rate associated with getting hitched... think about how many wedding are called off every year. The wedding simply doesn't happen. To protect professionals who have spend HOURS preparing for YOUR big day, they ask for a deposit. Most professionals can choose to make that deposit a non-refundable retainer or adjust their policy as they see fit. In my experience, the truly incredible and crucial members of your occasion usually side with nonrefundable. They put in a ton of effort, planning, preparation, and (dare I say it) heart into a time sensitive celebration. A called-off wedding is heartbreaking for many people involved... especially a wedding professional who literally has nothing to do with your emotional politics, finances, or life preferences. When you walked in their door asking for their assistance you entrusted them and they (in return) trusted you as well. That trust was then inserted into an agreement... ensuring the understanding of both of your (contractual) trust in each other. The vendor usually has a hard time filling in the date they set aside for you! That equals lost business to their livelihood. Hmmm that may be why we take it super seriously?
I have always been an advocate for fair business. So let's look at the opposition,
Ok, so we know a lot of time and thought goes into it from the professional's standpoint. What about the Bride and Groom... and the parents... the Bridal Party... the extended family and friends. There are alot of working parts when it comes to compiling supplies, information, and decisions in regards to a wedding. It can be stressful, expensive, and down right near impossible. It takes a special person to keep their wits together during a year (if they are lucky) to plan a wedding. Let's face it... things happen. There are many reason something may get postponed, prevented, or cancelled altogether.
One of the frequently asked questions I have received from my experience as a wedding planner is "Has anyone called the wedding off?" Short answer? Yes.
There are many personal reasons a couple might call it off: finances, stress, family pressure, distrust, disrespect, or lack of excitement, lack of communication seem to be the top culprits (in my opinion). You can argue that list as much as you want but I have seen many private heartbreaking moments to suggest otherwise. I have seen people handle it with grace and others with complete disregard for discretion.
Perhaps the Groom discovered unfavorable traits in his Bride-to-be. Perhaps the money wasn't budgeted, the timing wasn't right, or their life isn't lining up quite how they would like. Unfortunately, it's no secret that some people get married for the wrong reasons. I have always had a certain respect for someone who knew it wasn't right for them to disregard the pressure and do what they felt was best. Your planner has seen it all; so, be open to him/her. They usually understand what you are going through and are a great resource when it comes to emotionally sensitive issues like canceling a wedding. I have not come across one planner that hasn't been through a cancellation.
I have always thought it was better to endure temporary embarrassment, lose deposits, or anger someone than make a huge mistake you felt wasn't right for you. It's better to make the decision before the wedding than 30 years of being unhappy...
That being said... I have seen professionals with big hearts being taken advantage of and refunding practically any cancellation and stone hearted "pros" who can't see a struggling couple genuinely in a hard spot. I believe a strict policy should be communicated from the beginning. It should be made clear that you are a diligent vendor and take your service seriously. I've always said to my team to be prepared for anything and then tackle issues if it arises.
Have a plan but don't stress over something that may not happen. If the wedding doesn't occur, then make a decision based on the reason.
I wish everyone in the business understood that a cancellation should be handled with tact and sensitivity. Sometimes the client doesn't disclose the reason. You shouldn't pry but sometimes it is necessary to have an idea in case the retainer is disputed. The contract usually (certainly should) list out the exceptions to the nonrefundable retainer. It is the responsibility of the client to thoroughly read the agreement before agreeing to it. At the same time, I believe it is the vendor's responsibility to be confident the client knows what they agreeing to. To me, this is simply good business... you should never sell something to someone who isn't a good fit or unknowingly agrees to something. It's important to explain this to your client. Be in the habit of doing it early on. I only like working with vendors who believe in transparency. Not everyone does...
If your wedding is cancelled:
1. Don't Panic- Process it in private
2. Inform Those Who Immediately Need To Know (discreetly)
3. Your Planner Is Great At Breaking Bad News
4. Look at the Bright Side- Better To Do It Now
5. Let Your Guests Enjoy Themselves Regardless
* People will get over it
YEAH BUT SERIOUSLY WHY?
Because it's the right thing to do.
Great Reasons to Refund:
Acts of God: Weather, Catastrophes, Death in the family, Pregnancy (re-schedule if possible), military obligations, Floods, Hurricanes, Terrorist Attack
Not a Good Reason to Refund:
Preference-Based/ Laziness: Date Change, disorganized, unavailable vendor, work/school schedule, elopement, intoxication, no-shows
NOW FOR SOME ENTERTAINING (REAL) REASONS AND REQUESTS:
" The Groom has called off the wedding. He feels his (ex) has acted like an unmanageable and indecent human being." (almost refunded... but didn't)
"We will have to forfeit our deposit. Our spoiled brat of a son and his "princess" won't be getting a penny for this absurd wedding." (I refunded... they were TERRIBLE.)
" I would like to cancel my daughter's wedding. We just don't like the Groom."
(was not contractually able to cancel the wedding- called me a dozen times requesting this- no no no)
"No, nothing bad happened. We just went to Vegas last weekend and got married. What do you mean we don't get our money back?" (mouth dropped- no sorry)
" We want our entire beverage bill ($3,500) waived due to the passed out Groom found in the honeymoon suite before the ceremony." (Are you crazy?)
" I want a refund because the Bride said "I do not." when she was suppose to say "I do."' (sorry)
" Yeah... but the Groom never showed. We should get a refund." (nope)
" The road to the venue was underneath 4 ft of snow. No one could get there." ( I refunded )
" I can I work off the deposit?" (Absolutely! REFUND!)
What do you think?
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