When we sign on a new client, we feel victorious!
There is no better high in the professional realm. You won! You made the cut! They picked you. You can hear trumpets from the heavens above and confetti is falling at your feet. It is a truly exhilarating feeling. Once the ceremonial orchestra calms down, you soon get to work with onboarding your new client.
Then, out of the blue (or maybe not so out of the blue), you get an email saying how terribly sorry they are but they’re going to be canceling their contract because, blah blah blah or something of the sort.
Canceling a Contract the Right Way
What’s the correct thing to do? When a client cancels their service with you, how do you handle it?
In today’s blog post, I’m going to answer your questions about how to go about canceling a client’s service the right way. To be honest, this is a really common question in many wedding planner Facebook groups. And I’ve seen a wide range of answers. I’ve seen things like “stick to your contract” and “keep your boundaries,” but let’s remember to never have a scarcity mindset. Don’t go to a place of fear when this happens (and it will happen). You do want to have a solid contract, yes, of course, but make sure your contract is also fair. Fair to you and fair to your client.
First, let’s discuss why a client might be canceling a contract with you.
They thought they needed you but now they don’t
They heard from their friend Stacy that a wedding planner is a must. But Stacy had a 300-person wedding with 20 people in the bridal party and family dynamics we only see on daytime television. Your bride is going for a small, intimate affair. She is reading blog posts and gathering ideas, and she is starting to think she can do it by herself, no problem. Instead of flat-out canceling, maybe suggest a less needy package. Try to work with her so she gets what she wants but is able to stay sane while doing it. Don’t get huffy and say 100% or nothing—all of me or you get no part of me. This might be a good opportunity for your assistant to try going solo or for you to test out a service you’ve been wanting to try.
After paying all their vendors, they don’t have money to pay you
This happens often. Especially for those who collect the final payment a week before the wedding. Avoid this situation altogether and have them make the final payment a month before the event. You should have a cancellation clause for this case and you should use it to the fullest. The chances of you booking another client in that time is slim to none and you have a livelihood to maintain. Even with a good contract, these type of conversations can be hard though. Click here to learn more about our email templates for difficult convos.
The whole wedding was cancelled
This is always a disappointment. Definitely for you, but can you imagine what the bride must be going through? My heart breaks at this moment, but I also rejoice in knowing that’s one less divorce in the world. One less person hating marriage and feeling like it’s a prison sentence instead of the best life experience it should be. This will be a sensitive situation and one that should be handled with compassion. When making your decision, consider the date of cancelation, work rendered, and if they had wedding insurance.
They decided to change location
This can happen sometimes. They want to have a destination wedding, so they will hire a wedding planner from the area. But they didn’t realize the expenses, or perhaps certain hierarchical family members can’t travel, and now they want to get married in their hometown.
They decided to postpone
So, technically, this is not a cancellation, but if I’m going to be really honest, this is my least favorite reason to cancel. Depending on the service they hired you for and what your contract says about postponements, you may or may not be responsible for helping them find a new date and coordinating with vendors to ensure their availability. You can also offer this service of coordinating and sourcing out in the vendors for them if it’s not covered in your contract. Make sure your contract clearly lays out how you will handle postponements.
So how do you go about canceling a contract now that we know some of the big reasons why they might cancel? Canceling a contract is an emotionally charged event. It carries a lot of negative feelings for everyone involved. So when you get that email, breathe and take a step back. Try to disconnect yourself and realize it happened for the best. Don’t be scared; believe in your heart that you will have some other opportunity waiting in its place.
1. Have a solid contract
This is the most valuable piece of advice you’re going to get today. Make sure your contract explains the cancellation schedule with clarity and that it includes a nonrefundable retainer fee. However, with that being said, make sure the schedule is fair. It isn’t fair to charge a 50% retainer fee and then to hold onto it if you haven’t started working on their wedding—like if their date is two years away.
2. Have a discussion about wedding insurance
Wedding insurance is a great investment. It’s usually fairly affordable and it covers most types of situations. Find what you like, make sure you understand it, and then suggest it to couples. You could have a form they initial or sign during the onboarding process. This form would explain all the reasons for having wedding insurance, why they should get it, and that you will not give back their retainer if said situation happens. You can’t feel guilty about keeping their retainer fee if it was signed and agreed upon.
3. Only charge for work rendered when canceling a contract
Consider only charging for the work rendered. It’s important that you keep track of your hours or at least understand how many hours every wedding task you do takes on average. This will be helpful when figuring out your hours worked. If you did a design for them and it took hours and hours to put together, make sure you’re paid for your time.
Last Words on canceling a contract
Remember that a cancellation isn’t the end of the world. In fact, sometimes it can be a real blessing. A cancellation is never fun, but it is part of owning a wedding planning business. You need to prepare for it and have a plan for when things get a little bumpy. How you treat your clients will be remembered and talked about—whether it’s positive or negative. Try your best to make this difficult situation an easier experience for both you and for them. Do you struggle with finding the right words? No, problem, get our 12 grab and go email templates for all those hard situations.