• Jack Helbig

Why Are Some Vendors Keeping My Retainer?

I'm seeing a few 2020 couples frustrated and confused about why some of their vendors will not refund their non-refundable retainers right now. As we make our way through this crisis, I truly understand the confusion, but as a small business owner affected as well by this, I understand why some are retaining them. So, I wanted to write about this to help some people understand the logic behind this practice.

First off, Coronavirus/COVID-19 isn't forcing anyone to cancel their wedding. Some couples are being forced to postpone. If someone decides to cancel because of COVID-19, that is a choice they made. Every vendor is in a really tough spot as they balance two situations: Being flexible and understanding, but also ensuring their business stays in business for their other clients. Everyone has been impacted by this and we're all doing what we can. This is nobody's fault. Nobody was prepared for this, so everyone is trying to do what's best for their clients & their business. Businesses have different procedures and policies, which means they have different way of handling this during this unprecedented situation. There is no "right" or "wrong" here. Non-refundable retainers are put in place for a reason. As a true sole proprietor, for example, I only work one event per day. So, that non-refundable payment is paid in exchange for reserving that date (and also doing work that's applied to that event on that date). That means that that date is not available to other business. I have entered into a good-faith agreement with my contract with my couples that both parties will fulfill their end of the deal. So, we've both made promises: I've promised to provide my service for your event on your date & will turn away other business. You have promised to allow me to provide my service for your event and earn the balance of the agreement.

Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the wedding & private event industry -- but not a permanent one. Weddings, in general, are able to be postponed. Couples can still get married and celebrate with their family and friends once everything calms down & states being to "reopen" (although wedding ceremonies have never been banned in Ohio during any "Stay-at-Home" or similar orders). Plus, any "Stay-at-Home" orders directly impacted couples only during a few months. I don't know of any vendor who isn't being accommodating and allowing couples who have been directly impacted by the pandemic to postpone their wedding without penalty. But if someone decides to completely cancel their wedding, therefore no longer needing the vendors you hired, you should expect to lose your non-refundable retainer. Because -- as stated earlier -- when that contract was signed, you made a promise to that vendor. That is to provide services for your wedding, reserve that date for you and turn away other couples. Couples who may not have ultimately canceled on their vendors. Canceling is a choice you are making when there are plenty of opportunities to postpone to a later date. The "non-refundable retainer" is specifically for that situation. After all, why bother with a contract if a client can simply cancel and get all of their money back from their vendors.

We know the Coronavirus pandemic is beyond your control, but please keep in mind that it's beyond our the control of wedding vendors as well. We're all either stressed, anxious, frustrated, angry and/or helpless. We're all losing out at the end of the day. That's why when you're looking for a dates to postpone/reschedule your wedding, it is very important to work with your all wedding vendors to try and find a solution that works for all of you. Your vendors DO want to work with you AND fulfill their end of the agreement! 

Wedding vendors also realize they have no control over what their clients decide to do. You're given the availability of your vendors & it is hoped you will choose a date that works where they're available. But, we are completely at the mercy of your date change decision as you have the power to choose a new date. Now, if a client reschedules without consulting their original wedding vendors and/or chooses to reschedule for a date that their wedding vendors are unavailable, most vendors will have to fall back onto their contract language and keep the non-refundable retainer.  It's viewed as a cancellation/termination of services. The non-refundable retainer serves as compensation for holding that original date for you and as reparation for the choices you make when it comes to rescheduling. 

Availability is truly limited because our "inventory" is dates on the calendar. So, wedding vendors are truly at your mercy to reschedule a date where all of us can be there. That's why working together to find a mutually agreeable reschedule date is the ideal situation. But, in cases where the clients don’t consult their wedding vendors before rescheduling or willingly choose to reschedule on a date when the vendor isn’t available, keeping the non-refundable retainer is absolutely fair and definitely a standard practice during the coronavirus crisis -- or any other time.

Wedding vendors are not keeping non-refundable retainers to be jerks. They are actually standing by their contract (just like you'd expect to hold a vendor to their contract if they canceled on you). Wedding vendors are in survival mode as we have to make business decisions to keep our business afloat. Unfortunately, there are some that are using the pandemic to think they can breach an agreement without penalty and/or then trying to bully (or worse) and threaten to blast them on social media to get what they want. That's not how it works and I can tell you that some vendors are taking action against those who are getting nasty simply because the vendor is falling back on their agreement. Again, an agreement BOTH parties legally entered into (not to mention an agreement that the client would enforce if the vendor canceled on them). As of this writing, any wedding or event between March 15, 2020 and May 29, 2020 are directly impacted by any government orders. Outside of that period of time, weddings and events are not directly impacted. This time of year is the busiest and most profitable time of the year for wedding vendors. And many are seeing that wiped out as there is absolutely no income coming in for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind, majority of your vendors are truly small businesses and probably sole proprietors (like me). We may be rescheduling an entire years' worth of weddings, which means we won't be able to book new couples who want us for 2021. The financial difficulty is definitely being felt this year. And most likely next year as well. Just remember, everyone is dealing with the same challenges of rescheduling. There are 365 days in a year to reschedule. We are human and doing the best that we can. Which is also why vendors are being pretty flexible. We realize this is an unprecedented time. We've never experienced this before, so this is foreign territory for us. But a client has to be reasonable as well. Canceling a future event simply because of the "pandemic" and expecting the terms of the contract to be irrelevant, that's unreasonable. We do thank you for working with us as we make our way through this. I know it's cliche, but we will get through this together. Just remember, although your day might be delayed, you WILL get to marry your best friend. Your family and friends WILL still look forward to celebrating with you. And your day WILL be amazing! #clevelandweddings #akronweddings #ohioweddings #covidwedding #weddingpostponed #ohioweddings #clevelandweddingdj #akronweddingdj

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