Cancelled events—every event professional’s worst nightmare. As dreaded as they are, things happen and sometimes events fall through. Whether your couple decided to elope instead or your corporate client went through some unexpected changes, it’s always best to be prepared when the time comes.
While it’s important to be empathetic toward your client’s reason for cancelling, it’s just as imperative to protect your business interests and ensure that you’re compensated for any time spent to date. Assuming your contract includes a clause that ensures your deposit is non-refundable, you’ll still be paid for your work. It may even make sense to update your contract that designates percentages for certain periods—for example, you will receive 75% of the fees if the event is cancelled within X months and 100% if cancelled within X days.
Stick to the contract?
With that said, it’s important to deal with news of a cancellation swiftly to recoup any losses and make the most of the situation. When dealing with the client in question, my rule of thumb is simply to stick to the contract. The other party had already agreed to the terms when they signed it, so there’s no reason to deviate from the standard.
Of course, there are certain situations in which personal sympathies may challenge the routine. If, for example, a couple is dealing with a serious illness and are trying to make ends meet with hospital bills, we would consider that a unique situation and do whatever we could to help them in their time of need. Being a good business owner is important, but being a good human is even more so! In such cases, do what feels best to you—there’s no point forcing your clients to pay up money in a difficult situation if you’re going to feel bad about it later.
If the event is cancelled well enough in advance, chances are you can still book another client for the day. Consider offering a discount on the day’s work, since you kept the retainer from the previous client. A special deal is a great way to bring in interested offers, but be sure the client is aware of any limitations due to the shortened timeline. In addition to putting the offer up on your website, share it to social media as well as any local industry groups you belong to. They may have some referrals to send your way, so don’t forget to say thank you if they help you book the day!
Unfortunately, in some cases, the date is just too close to fill. In such a case, it’s best to move on and work extra hard on the other events you’re in the midst of. Find something to do on that day to make the most of it—getting caught up in emotions doesn’t solve anything! A relaxing massage or a dinner reservation to look forward to may be just the answer to moving past the whole situation.
Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.