Can you get Refunds on Wedding Deposits?

In light of all the events surrounding the COVID-19 virus and the impact it’s had on the wedding industry as well as the couples, now is a better time than ever to share some transparent education about wedding vendor contracts and what you need to know when signing a wedding vendor contract.  It’s not uncommon for couples to be asking “Can you get refunds on wedding deposits?” and this is the perfect opportunity to shed some light on refunds, wedding deposits and what’s happening in the industry with the COVID pandemic.

Given the unprecedented situation around COVID-19 and the fact that it’s basically turned the industry upside down overnight, I’m proud to say that the wedding industry is really coming together on this one to provide flexibility and support to clients during this time.  Knowing how COVID is affecting weddings is crucial as a professional; part of running a business means understanding what your clients are going through.  Moreover, understanding how COVID is affecting the wedding industry is part and parcel to the teamwork that’s needed between a vendor and a client to navigate this situation with grace and understanding.

Let’s start by a review of the most basics: A contract.

Contracts are legal agreements that you enter into with a vendor.  All vendors should have a contract and if a vendor ever tells you “Oh there’s no need to sign anything” then you better RUN!

Contracts outline what’s going to happen in a variety of situations; they should discuss how retainers/deposits work, cancellations, services to be provided, etc.  By signing the contract, you’re stating that you fully agree to all the terms within.

So here’s the thing:  You cannot agree to a set of terms and then at some point in the future, decide that you no longer like those terms simply because they are being enforced.

This is what I’m noticing in the wedding industry right now: couples are upset that parts of contracts are being enforced even though they signed those contracts and agreed to the terms.  They’re asking if they can get refunds on wedding deposits when contracts have clear language about whether that’s feasible or not.

When entering into a contract, you have to think about all of the situations that could possible happen, read over the terms carefully, and make an educated decision based on the risk/benefit ratio as to whether or not you will accept the vendors terms.  If you choose to enter into a contract, you cannot be surprised if a vendor insists that certain clauses must hold (such as returning of deposits/retainers).

So how does a wedding vendor use a retainer?

When you sign the contract and place your deposit/retainer, you are investing into that business.  A deposit/retainer isn’t just to hold your date; it’s used for keeping the business running while your date is being held.

Deposits/retainers provide compensation for not only your date being held for it also provides to the business and business owner in the following ways:

  • pays for things like studio/office rent
  • pays for business insurances
  • contributed to equipment cleaning and upgrades
  • contributes to the various subscription accounts necessary to run the business
  • all the admin time and interactions you have with a vendor before the end result of their services is delivered to you!

This is why deposits/retainers are non-refundable; it’s been used.  Can you get refunds on wedding deposits?  No.

Your deposit/retainer has already been invested into the business because from the moment you even inquired, the vendor has been investing in you, too.

Contracts also discuss service dates; typically you are locked into your service date and if you want to book another date; you lose your deposit.  Why?  Because the vendor has been turning away all over clients since the moment you booked; but wedding vendors are human too and we are more than sympathetic over this situation.

Every wedding vendor I’ve had any interactions with since the pandemic began has been offering to move the date for clients without penalty – that means no loss of deposit.  It’s our way of saying “Hey – we get it, this SUCKS, so we’re going to work with you and fully intend on being there on the day you get married – whatever day that is!”

In all of craziness, I wanted to end with a little perspective:  We’re all in scary places right now.  Having to re-plan your wedding was an unthinkable thing until only a few weeks ago and now it’s a common occurrence – week by week, as more and more couples make the call.  There are people in the world who are being gravely affected by this pandemic; they’re severely ill, they’re losing their battle with the virus or they’re losing family members to the virus.  In the wedding industry: business owners are trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  Everyone is in survival mode and nobody wants to be!  Nobody wants to be in this position, neither vendor nor client – but everyone wants to survive this.  If at the end of the day we need to take a step away and stop focusing on whether or not you can get refunds on wedding deposits and instead focus on the fact that if we still have our health, we should be grateful.

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