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In all my years of planning weddings I had never had any wedding or event called off before last year. The pandemic has been a lot, during and after, for all of us to deal with. Our world is a truly dark place at this particular moment and I’m amazed by the strength and resilliance of so many wonderful loving couples through all of this. With all the happy marriages started together despite changed or totally destroyed plans, new gorgeous babies created, and so much joy I’ve enjoyed with so many of you every single day – it has proven to be too much for too many.
If you find yourself in a position where you must call off your engagement and go your separate ways, this is yet another place where your wedding planner is here to help. I have always had a seemingly theoretical non-refundable retainer clause, and it’s important. I put a lot of work in to your wedding before your wedding date. I don’t think it ever truly occurred to me before recently that this is important for my company and all of your vendors.
If you must cancel for any reason, the closer you get to your wedding date, the harder it is for your vendors to get hired by another client for your date and the more of their time they have put in to preparing and doing work for your upcoming wedding. These clauses are there because we are mostly a collective of small business owners, and not because there is any joy for anyone if your wedding is cancelled.
So what do you actually do if this happens to you? First of all let me assure you that everyone is so incredibly sympathetic and sad that you are going through this. Often it can be hard for you to process any of this and on top of that you now have to deal with the financial obligations coming due.
Here is my step-by-step guide on what to do:
If you have a planner, you have paid a non-refundable retainer to them. Ask them for help cancelling if you have service hours left to spend. If you don’t have a planner, ask a best friend, wedding party members, parents or somebody you trust. Give them a contact list and copies of your contracts. Let them read through the cancellation clauses for you to see what you need to do, how it needs to be done, and what cannot be refunded when cancelled.
If you are doing this yourself (or if you are the person assisting the couple with this process), put it all in writing! Email is a good start and counts as “in writing”. Contact each vendor one by one – do not write one group email. Acknowledge the exact details needed ex. Couples name, event details, location, and date. Let them know the reason you are contacting them and know that exact details of the reason are not needed, just the facts, respect the couple’s privacy. Acknowledge the deposits made, ask if any services were rendered up to this point for that deposit and ask if additional or replacement services can be offered in exchange for this pre-paid total. Ask what exactly is needed to officially cancel their services or if this correspondence is adequate. If it is unclear, ask if more is due from the couple at this point or in the future.
Answer all the questions the vendors may have. Gather all of the details of exactly whats been paid, what if anything still must be paid, and exactly what is required to cancel officially if anything more is needed. Once you have all of the details lined up once and only once email the couple or responsible person from the couple and cc the individual vendor. At this point you should be able to easily confirm to them, this service has been cancelled. The deposit is non-refundable but if you decide you want to use it in the future (list any way it may be used) then otherwise this vendor’s service is cancelled and nothing further is due.
If more is due, let them know what and when.
If more steps are needed to cancel but they must do it in writing directly, let them know what they need to do and that the vendor is copied so they can complete that step together now by replying all.
If there are options to forgive the deposit (example a venue may allow you to recoup some or much of the cost if you can rebook the date) then go to facebook planning pages or other spaces to announce the details of what is available.
If something is fully non-refundable and already paid for decide if there is some other event it can be used for on the same date. Even if the couple wants nothing to do with being there, and who would blame them, somebody in the family may want to use it rather than lose it.
It is terrible. It is sad. It is ok to be upset and beyond yourselves with all that is lost. Part of processing all of this is going to be letting it go, cutting your losses, and moving on with your life. None of that is actually easy to do, but it is required and you will absolutely get through this. Ordinarily I’d be very quick to always advise therapy and at this time I will say it is exceptionally important.
As I told my kids many times as they were growing up, it doesn’t matter if you’ve dated two weeks or been married for 50 years, if somebody doesn’t want to be in a relationship any longer that is absolutely ok and their right. It sucks. It isn’t easy, but life absolutely goes on and you deserve to be loved completely and truly.
I hope this is helpful and as always feel free to ask questions.