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Wedding Cancellation Costs

Wedding Cancellation Costs

Tiffany Cannis (Wedding Coordinator) gives expert video advice on: What vendors should I call first if I cancel my wedding?; What should I tell vendors if I'm calling off my wedding?; How does the timing of my wedding cancellation affect what I can get from vendors? and more...

What vendors should I call first if I cancel my wedding?

You need to call all of your vendors at the same time. So, realistically, the day you decide to cancel your wedding, that day you need to contact everyone. So there's two things you need to do. You need to contact your vendor via phone and let them know that you are cancelling and that you would like a cancelled contract to be mailed or faxed to you. Realistically it should be mailed; you should have the original signature on it. And then you need to send them a letter in writing saying 'we are cancelling our event and we would like our deposit back or whatever we can get back' and then also a contract stating: 'Event has been cancelled' with the vendors signature.

What should I tell vendors if I'm calling off my wedding?

If you decide to cancel your wedding, you don't need to give your vendors an explanation. Vendors will understand more than guests will, because we definitely have experienced it, and more than anything. We have invested in our clients, so therefore we feel for you. And we will probably be more accommodating than family or friends will be.

Do the rules for dealing with vendors change depending on when I cancel my wedding?

The rules don't necessarily change, but your liability does. So for instance, in a contract, it may say, if you cancel 6 months out, you lose 25% of your deposit, or you lose 25% of what the total fee you would have paid for those services are. If you cancel 30 days before your wedding, you're probably going to lose everything. You're not going to be able to get any of that money back. Because realistically, the vendor doesn't have a very good chance of rebooking that date, especially for a wedding. Now for other events, maybe they would have a chance. Maybe they would have a chance if it was a portrait session, or just catering a random event. But for a wedding, they really don't. Another big thing in terms of vendors is you can always ask them, if you rebook, what can I get in return? What money can I get back? There's also a lot of legalities and laws about vendors being able to keep a full contracted cost and rate if they do rebook a date. So those are really good things to educated yourself on before you cancel a wedding.

Is there anything I can do to get deposits back if I cancel my wedding?

You should be able to get some money back. If you decide to cancel your wedding, again it really determines when you do it, or depends on when you do it. If you decide that you're going to cancel and it's only 30 days out, I would basically just say that you're happy that you're not getting married. If you're six months out, absolutely, they can probably re-book that date. You know, you could probably even help them rebook the date. You know you could post something online. You can try to help them in every way possible.

If my vendors won't give me any money back, should I just go ahead with the wedding?

Absolutely not. You definitely shouldn't put your family and friends through any form of activity such as a wedding or a rehearsal dinner, or a bridal shower even, if you are really thinking that you are not going to go through with the wedding. You're putting everyone through an emotional journey. If you decide that you are going to kind of one day be really happy and then the next day say, "You know? I really wasn't happy. I was kind of pretending. And I'm going to cancel."

If I can't get any money back for the venue, should I just have a party instead of a wedding?

That's a personal choice. I personally wouldn't recommend that you have any memories connected to what would have been a wedding day. But maybe you can give that to a charity, you can say, "You know, we do have this room, we do have this food. Maybe you can have a really nice gathering for your employees." Something like that, just make sure that it's not connected to your wedding. Make sure they just know that you just happen to have this space. Usually, too, most sites won't really let you do that, they've booked for a certain event, and that's what your contracted at. And in your contract it does say what your event is. So you'll definitely want to ask the site about that ahead of time.

Since my rehearsal dinner isn't really the wedding, shouldn't I get my deposit back?

You know what? A rehearsal dinner is actually still an event, so it's still a contracted event. The only way that you really won't lose money on a rehearsal dinner is if you're just having something at a restaurant or at a private home. If you haven't actually contracted for event services, then you won't lose money. But if you have, it's just like having a wedding, unfortunately.

Can a vendor demand that I pay my bill in full?

Not necessarily, I don't know any vendors that would ever demand that. I know that some vendors say if you pay in full I'll give you a discount of some sort and that's completely up to you. Realistically no one is pushing you to sign a contract, so if you decide to pay up front that's pretty much your profit or loss depending on if you do go through with your own wedding or not.

Is it easier or harder to get my money back if I bought a package deal?

If you decide to buy a package deal the perimeters are just different so the sliding scale of getting deposits back is different. Plus in terms of a wedding they're aren't many package deals available unless its a sight that comes with a certain DJ, a certain caterer, a certain decor, things like that.

Can I play on a vendor's sympathy to save money if I cancel my wedding?

I'll tell you this much: it's your wedding and you're probably not going to want to play a vendor's sympathy. You'll probably going to be so emotional yourself that you're probably not really going to be up to anything. You're probably going to want to just get out of the wedding, and so whatever ends up having to be paid for has to be paid for.

Are some vendors easier to cancel than others?

All vendors are different so it's not really a category that makes someone more cancellable, it's really just the vendor themselves. So there are some vendors that are more sought after which means that they will have a much better chance of booking a date or lets say for instance there are a lot a photographers that are really amazing photographers and people really want to book them, so they may be able to call a client two months out and say you know what I had a cancellation, do you still want to book me. Realistically cancelling with any vendor is going to be a huge, huge challenge, not to say though that it should be something that hinders you from cancelling your wedding. If you need to cancel, you need to cancel, and I'm sure you have good people around you, you can hire people like myself to help walk you through the process and realistically you're going to be so much happier later on if you just say, yes maybe I lost twenty grand, fifty grand on a wedding that I didn't have but it's better than having a husband or wife that you look at and don't want.

Will vendors charge me for items bought specifically for my wedding?

It depends. As a vendor myself who does a lot of decor, if someone came to me and said "I'm canceling my wedding" and let's say, hypothetically, they had a very eclectic design palette, I would definitely try to reuse the items again. Because a lot of us buy wholesale, it's practically impossible to return an item to a wholesale supplier but we can usually try to reuse it. We can spray paint it. We can be really, really creative. And I think in the long run most wedding vendors are happy to help in any way that they can. Also, too, maybe it's things you want to keep. If we've purchased custom chandeliers or something like that for your wedding, maybe it's something that you'll just want one. You picked it out. Maybe it's something you didn't really connect emotionally with to the wedding but just really to your own sense of style.

How can my wedding coordinator help me if I want to cancel my wedding?

With a planner you really don't have to do anything. That's the benefit of having a coordinator in general. What we do is provide a full service, which basically means that we take care of anything that happens. So if you decide to cancel your wedding we take on cancelling everything for you, making sure that you get the most money back. Often people will book vendors that we have very good professional relationships with so we will help also try to re-book those dates and try to get as much money back as possible. But if you're deciding that you are going to cancel you wedding you need to be prepared to lose money and to take a loss on it. Just like if you decide, that you're going to sell a car and you're going to sell it before you show it or turn in the lease or something like that. It needs to be one of those things that you're making a life decision not that you're making a financial decision.

Can I hire a wedding coordinator just to help me cancel my wedding?

I have never had anyone call me and say "Can I hire you now to help me cancel a wedding?" Again normally it happens so quickly that if I know someone and they are a close family friend, maybe I have done the wedding for another person they may say, "Tiffany, can I have some professional advice, can I have some help?" Realistically, if you decide to cancel your wedding it is one of those things where you are going to do everything you can and a wedding planner can help you because, being myself, I have read the contract thoroughly. I know all the loopholes. We have discussed it, we have kind of negotiated it, we know what is happening. We usually do not negotiate cancellation fees because it should not even be a thought. If it is going to be a thought then you probably should not be getting married which is really challenging. I have never really had a client say "Well, I want to make sure that if I cancel then I will be safe."

Will I get all of my money back if a vendor is able to rebook for my wedding date?

If a vendor is able to rebook a space, there may still be some form of fee for the work that they've had to do to rebook the space. It's a case by case basis. I've never heard of anyone taking a vendor to court saying, "Oh, wow, I can get my money back. I didn't get what was due back to me for cancelling a wedding." But realistically, maybe the people who are helping you and supporting you will do that. Let's say, hypothetically, that you spent $20,000 on a photographer and that person was able to rebook the date. You're definitely not going to give that person $20,000. But maybe you will give them a $1,000 fee, whatever the initial deposit was. Again, this is all on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, in our business there's not a standard contract for any vendor, every single vendor has a different contract for themselves that protects themselves. And they pretty much determine what they're going to give back and what they're not going to.

Do vendors take advantage of people who cancel weddings by requiring contracts and deposits?

Unfortunately weddings nowadays are so commercialized. You know I was actually talking to someone the other day who said "You know when I got married it wasn't this big thing or ordeal where you pick a site and you spend a year planning it. It was something where, you know, you get engaged and your wedding happens in three months max." And you don't spend $100,000, $200,000 or half a million dollars to have these amazing blowout weddings." You spend what you need and that's a great celebration. And so nowadays a lot more people are canceling their weddings because it is more of something where people will say I want the party. So with my clients I always say "Look are you getting married and you happen to be having a party or are you having a party and you happen to be getting married?" Because if it's the latter then you definitely don't want to be getting married.

What if I want to cancel a destination wedding?

If you're having a destination wedding, right off the bat, I would say, make sure your tickets are refundable. Go through an actual airline. Go through a travel agent. If you think you're going to be having a significant number of people at your wedding, go through a travel agent. Travel agencies are able to cancel a lot easier than a person is able to because they have a personal relationship and a professional relationship with the companies that they book through. And they are seen as a travel professional. So that's a representative for you just like hiring a coordinator is.

Are expensive weddings easier to cancel than less expensive weddings?

I wouldn't say either one, actually. You've still invested a good amount of money, and it's all based on perspective. So maybe, if you have an unlimited budget, then you really have that money to lose, per say. And maybe if you have a smaller budget, it really has been your life savings. So I think it's really dependant on the person, and what financial burden that they've taken on.

When is it a good idea to get event insurance?

One of the concerns that I have with my clients is I always ask them how they're paying for the wedding. Are they taking out a loan? Are their parents taking out a second on their home? If they are doing things like that, then they want to make sure that they're definitely going to be married, and that they want really good event insurance. So that if someone does get sick, or there's a death in the family, or there's a huge fire like what we recently had, or something like that, they can be protected. Because realistically, nowadays people are spending so much money on weddings. It's an investment, just like putting a down payment on a home, or buying a car, or investing in a college education, so you really need to make sure that it's a thought-out process, not the whim of "I'm getting married, so throw me a huge party."

Does event insurance cover cancellation fees if I decide to cancel my wedding?

Event insurance actually doesn't cover change of heart, which means you have cold feet or you just decided “I am not getting married”. Event insurance will cover if you have a death in the family, if you have an illness, if you have a natural disaster, or if there is a huge weather problem. But no, it won't cover change of heart