Wedding Vendor Retainers/Deposits Explained

Why do wedding vendors insist on a non-refundable retainer or deposit? After all, if you don’t use them, they didn’t incur any expenses. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Each time a vendor meets with a potential client, they are investing time and possibly money in an attempt to get a new client. Sometimes, the client walks away and other times they book the vendor.

Let me digress for a moment. While you might like to think your wedding is the event of the year, in reality, not all weddings are created equal. Not all clients will provide the same profit potential for all of the vendors. True a band will get the same fees regardless of the size of the wedding. Even then, some wedding will book the band for 4 hours and others for 6.

It is important to remember the contract you sign with your vendors is a two way street. In return for giving the vendor money today, your vendor is promising to show up at your wedding to provide the services you requested. Now it does not matter if the vendor is a one person operation or a large corporation. All vendors have a capacity limit. It could be one event a weekend or a hundred, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter that at some point, your vendor will reach capacity and have to turn potential customers away.

In some respects weddings are very much like airplanes. Each plane has a set number of seats and you can’t put extra people on the plane. On the other hand, when the plane leaves the gate with an empty seat, there is no way to ever fill that seat. The revenue potential from the empty seat is gone forever. When a wedding vendor has an open day, they’ve lost the chance to earn income on that day.

Finally, putting this all together. When you book a vendor, they are promising to be at your wedding and turn away other potential business for the same date. Should you change your mind the vendor may have lost the opportunity to earn a living on that particular day. In addition, most vendors cannot afford to have clients cancel for no reason. If this were to happen, clients would book a vendor and then shop for a better deal.

In the end, all vendors have differing policies for canceling a contract. Some are outright forfeiture and others will provide a refund should they rebook the date. Some will even give a refund for extenuating circumstances (ie. military deployment, family illness). Should you need, wish or desire to cancel your contract with your wedding vendor, you should carefully read your contract to determine the official policy. It never hurts to asks for a refund, but don’t be surprised if the vendor says “No.”

Photos from Kellye and Sean’s Wild Engagement Session at Brookfield Zoo

Kellye (yes she does add an “e” at the end of her name) and Sean had their engagement photos today. As you can see, we used a wild location, the Brookfield Zoo. It was different and a lot of fun, despite the rain. Kellye is a high school French teacher so when we saw this by the Ape house, well…. we just had to take the photo!
Kellye and Sean's Engagement Session at Brookfield Zoo.
Engagement Photo of Kellye and Sean at Brookfield Zoo.
The lake at Brookfield Zoo was the site for this engagement photo of Kellye and Sean.
This engagement photo of Kellye and Sean was taken at the lake at Brookfield Zoo.
A photo of Kellye and Sean at Brookfield Zoo taken during their engagement session

The Winner Is….

As promised I was at yesterday’s bridal show. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful ladies who are planning their special days. I really wish I’d been able to personally speak with everybody who attended. Anyway, the winner of the frame drawing is Julie Jefferson who is getting married next May. Thank you to everybody who stopped by and entered the drawing.

Scheduling Your Wedding Day — Part 2

The ceremony is over, you’re married, the photos have been taken and now you are on your way to the reception. The time line planning is not over yet! There are still several events to schedule. More so than anything else, a wedding is judged based on the reception. The timing of your evening plays a large part on the flow of the wedding. The basic rule is “You don’t want to move (herd) people too much. The flow should be from cocktail hour to dinner seating to dancing. In addition, you don’t want to interrupt their dinner.

The major events at a reception are: Cocktail Hour, Introductions, Toasts, Dinner, Cutting the Cake, Serving Desert, 1st Dances(B/G, B/Dad, G/Mom, Bridal Party), Garter/Bouquet toss and the Get Away. You may decide to forgo somethings like the garter toss and add other events like a dollar dance. To determine your schedule for the evening, you will need to consult with your Master of Ceremonies (DJ/Band Leader) and the reception hall. If you are planning to serve your wedding cake as desert, your reception hall will need time to cut the cake. Therefore, I recommend cutting the cake right after you are introduced. I’ve seen couples cut the cake between the soup/salad or main course. Personally, I don’t like leaving the cake out too long as you never know who might accidentally bump into it.

Most couples schedule their first dance as desert is being served. As soon as the first dances have been completed, the dance floor is opened to all the guests and the party really begins. If you do decide on a dollar dance or garter/bouquet toss, you’ll want to plan on those a bit later in the evening. Finally, you should be mindful of when your photographer is scheduled to leave. As I typically book for the event and not by the hour, I’m there until all the events have been completed. However, there are those photographers who do book by the hour. They will leave at the scheduled time. If you want something photographed, you should make sure your photographer has not left yet. With proper planning, speaking to you venue and master of ceremonies, you will have a fun filled evening to remember for years to come.

Wedding Day Time Line

I’m often asked about a wedding day time line. A cramped schedule can leave the bride, groom, bridal party and guests feeling rushed and stressed. Some of the stress can be caused by the unexpected occurring. On a wedding day, even the simplest of tasks can take longer than anticipated! There are many factors which determine your time line. They are driving times/distances, photographer, length of wedding ceremony and preparation time.

The two biggest mistakes brides make when planning their wedding day are not providing enough time for hair and makeup and not allowing their photographer enough time to capture all the family group photos they want. These mistakes are easy to avoid. First, about a month before your wedding, have a hair and make-up practice session. Not only will you know how much time it takes, but you will also assure yourself you’ll like the hairstyle you selected (I’ve seen brides run behind schedule because they redid their hair several times).

Once you know how much time your hair and makeup will take, the best advice I can give any bride, is to speak with your photographer. Your photographer will know how much time they’ll need for all of the photos you’ve planned to take. Some photographers spend an hour taking fashion photos of the bride and then take all the family photos. Other photographers take a more hands-off approach.

As you plan your special day, please understand you have two fixed times for the ceremony and the reception. Many times ceremony sites have several weddings scheduled in a single day. Reception sites have planned your dinner for a specific time. If you are late, then your dinner will be cold. Furthermore, some multi-room venues have a couple of room waiters and then share dinner servers between the rooms. If you are late, you and your guest will have to wait until the shared servers are free to serve your room. When I work with my clients to build a schedule, I start with the two fixed times and build around them.

9:30 Hair/Make-up
11:30 Photographer arrives for getting ready photos
12:30 Bride Ready for photos
12:30 Bride/Bridesmaids/Bride Family photos.
1:30 Photographer Leave Bride’s Getting Ready location for the Ceremony Venue (assumes 15 minute drive)
2:00 Photos of Groom/Groomsmen/Grooms family at venue
2:45 Photographer prepares for wedding ceremony
3:00 Ceremony
3:30 Ceremony Ends
3:45 Formal Photos in Church (assumes Bride and Groom do not have a private first look)
4:30 Formal Photos End
5:00 Park/Outdoor Photos of Bridal Party and Couple(Park is on the way to the Reception Venue)
6:00 Cocktail Hour Starts
6:45 Dinner is seated
7:00 Introductions/Toasts
7:30 Dinner is served

This timeline is meant to provide you with a general idea of how your special day might be scheduled. Your timeline will need to be adjusted based on your particular circumstances. Please remember that everything takes longer than you think on your wedding day. With a properly scheduled wedding day, you’ll have a wedding day you can enjoy and look back upon with fond memories.

Old Scam, New Twist — Identity Theft

The con artists are at it again. They’ve find a new approach to an old scam. Previously they pretended to be getting married, book wedding vendors via e-mail, sent them a check or money order for more money than was originally owed to the vendor. The vendor was asked to forward the funds to another “vendor” who was an accomplice. By the time the bank notified the original vendor the check/money order was a forgery, the funds were long gone and the vendor had to make good. One of the red flags vendors used was the wedding information provided to verify the wedding was really taking place.

Now you may wonder what is the new twist and how can that hurt me, the bride? The con artists are searching the web for a couple’s wedding website. Most brides are happy to share all the details of their wedding with their friends. What you don’t realize is you are really sharing the information with the world. A world with con artists looking for just that information. While they are not stealing your SSN or bank account, the con artist is stealing your wedding information and attempting to use it to defraud wedding vendors in your area.

Most wedding vendors are aware of this fraud and ignore the inquiries which have red flags or they check with the venue to make sure the couple really exists. For in the past one red flag was a fictitious name or venue. There are constantly new vendors entering the field. Vendors who may not be lucky enough to know about how the fraud attempt works. Every once in a while, I’ll hear about a new photographer who has lost thousands of dollars to a scammer. Now that the scammers are using real couples’ identities the scammers have eliminated a couple of red flags. More vendors may actually book the event and be scammed. The scammed vendors will be attempting to collect the bad debt from the brides they THINK defrauded them. They could file bad check charges and sue them for the amount of the bad check.

Can you imagine if the vendor is contacted by a scammer using your name AND you at the same time. You meet with the vendor and book them. Meanwhile, the scammer sends them a fraudulent check, which you could end up having to make good. No matter what publishing too much information on your wedding blog/website, Facebook or Twitter can lead to problems you don’t need when planning your wedding.