Cancellation and Reschedule Policy
Last Updated Jan 8th, 2021
Who would’ve thunk it? The smallest virus can take down an entire world, and with it, global economies. Every human being is affected by this pandemic in more ways than one. We’ve all heard the bad news and the continuous buffet of potential scenarios and “what ifs” isn’t going anywhere. As a small business owner, I have had to make hard business decisions I never dreamed I would have to make.
Cancellation and Reschedule Policy and Defintions
As of October 1, 2020, I have had 12 of 17 weddings in 2020 rescheduled, 9 of which have moved to 2022. Many of these couples will continue to adjust plans as news breaks about the virus. Some have rescheduled once, some have rescheduled twice, and sadly, 3 weddings have altogether canceled. I’ve even cancelled future vacations to make more weekends available for my couples to use. Between lost future sales because fewer people are planning a wedding, and lost sales due to rescheduling and cancelling, I have lost substantial revenue in the past 2 months alone, a number I assume will only increase. If Stay-at-Home orders continue into the 2021 and beyond, I will completely lose at least a year’s revenue as all my 2020 and 2021 weddings will reschedule to the following year thus removing available dates for new business.
Every photographer and every vendor has had to go through these mental gymnastics and make choices that best suit their business. I did not arbitrarily come up with this policy which was modified to contemplate COVID-19, but carefully considered information about industry practices, sought counsel, and spoken to other vendors and photographers. Virtually all of them are in agreement that going forward, their cancellation policies will need to reflect a more realistic financial posture. I promise you, I do not wish to exploit this situation by price gouging. But I also promise you that if my business doesn’t financially survive this pandemic, you won’t have a photographer in business able to come to your wedding. So it is in everyone’s best interest that my business remains viable.
For some of my couples who had to make immediate decisions as the virus news was emerging, at great cost to me, I was glad I was able to extend every bit of grace I could knowing full well that their circumstances could not have been anticipated (true of everyone really), but more importantly, they didn’t have the luxury of time to adjust and change their plans. But their situations are the exception.
While it is a rough time indeed for small business owners, I know perspective is important now more than ever. My partner Tim and I aren’t supporting small children, we haven’t gone into debt, we have our health, and we are truly grateful for things we have that we don’t deserve. Others are not so lucky and do not have the ability to tele-work and a great number of people work paycheck to paycheck, and still others have lost their jobs. All that said, I wanted to outline my existing policies for my business that clarify the language in each and every contract my couples have signed. Given the drastic change and uncertainty about the future, I felt it is best to over-communicate and make the expectations clear and give everyone a line-of-sight on options they may want to consider. Despite the fact that, prior to COVID-19, re-bookings and cancellations are very rare events, I wanted to better help my couples refresh their memories on what we all agreed to do under these improbable and difficult situations. Here are some helpful definitions, and an excerpt from the Agreement relating to cancellation and rescheduling as signed by every couple:
Non-refundable Retainer: This is the payment Clients made around the time they signed an Agreement with The Tattooed Bride Photography. This retainer is your commitment to me and promise to pay the balance. My commitment to you is blocking off your wedding date and no longer marketing it to other potential clients even when I am approached to sell more lucrative wedding packages, begin planning for your wedding, and arranging for an engagement session if purchased. Moreover, the retainer is often already used to pay off expenses, upgrade equipment (which I may have elected not to do without that retainer), spend time planning your wedding, communicating with you, etc. That’s why it is non-refundable.
Rescheduling Fee: This is a fee I would have normally charged (even before COVID-19) for couples who wish to reschedule their date (assuming my availability) to offset my loss of income due to losing a future date I could have sold to other clients for thousands of dollars. Every time a wedding is rescheduled into the future, a Friday, Saturday (prime day), or Sunday is no longer available to me to earn a living. This fee will be 20% of your contract total package cost.
Change Fee: Separate from the Rescheduling Fee, this is a fee I have normally charged (even before COVID-19) for couples who reschedule their date (assuming my availability) to offset price increases from year to year. Every business must raise its prices from year to year to account for increases in expenses, contractor costs, album costs, inflation, etc. For example, if you purchased a package in 2018 for a 2020 wedding and find yourself needing to reschedule to 2021, my prices would have been higher for 2021 and 2022 weddings. In fact, I have already sold 2021 packages at higher prices, so it would not be fair to those 2021 couples to be charged more than 2018 couples who reschedule to 2021 without an adjustment. This fee will be 10% of your contract total package cost.
Regardless of which scenario your situation may fall under, it is essential that you notify me of postponement/cancellation and check with me first about my availability prior to signing or formally changing your date with a venue, a caterer, or other vendors or parties. If I am not available, you run the risk of losing monies you have already paid and not receiving a future service. I don’t want to happen to you, so please keep me in the mix! When you notify me of such a situation please do it by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do not check my social media messages daily, but I do check my emails several times a day!
Important Note About 2nd Shooters and Videography: If you end up having to reschedule your wedding and purchased a packaged that comes with video and/or a 2nd photographer, I will make every effort to have the videographer and 2nd photographer cover your wedding. They may not be the same people I had originally planned on, but I make a reasonable effort to have them or a qualified substitute. Have said that, there may be instances where I am unable to find a 2nd photographer and/or videographer due to unavailability which has become more common with so many couples rescheduling their weddings due to the virus. Please be prepared to consider this possibility as you consider your options. Of course, if I am unable to find replacements, I will let you know that I am unable to provide that service.
Every vendor/business is free to operate their small businesses and choose how to run our finances, what rescheduling and cancellation policies to employ, and risks to tolerate. Because COVID-19 is no fault of my Clients, I have waived all rescheduling and cancellation fees up to today Jan 8th 2021 but cannot continue to do so after this date. I am beyond grateful for my sweet and patient clients in this trying time. Thus far, you have all been understanding, kind and thoughtful in this process and it has made my heavy heart lighter. For those that have made the choice to postpone and not cancel, I’m here for you and I appreciate you beyond words.
-Amy Jo Edwards | The Tattooed Bride | TheTattooedBride@gmail.com