(Disclaimer: I am NOT an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. My thoughts on this are limited to my personal business experience and not meant to be legal advice in any way. I’m a wedding florist who has been rolling with the punches and comfort-eating my way through the ever changing Covid orders day by day, and working toward getting my amazing couples down the aisle in this crazy time!)
photo: Carrie McGuire Photography
Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Let’s talk about what happens between you and your florist (or insert any other applicable vendor here) regarding your booking and your deposit if you decide to postpone your wedding, minimize your guest count, or - heaven forbid - cancel altogether. Your contract is a legal agreement binding you to your vendor, and your vendor to you.
We’re living in a world where things are changing day by day, and the “rules” of gathering are constantly flip flopping. Sometimes we don’t know if we’re coming or going. Heck, some days we don’t actually know which day it is! While this is the current situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process remains the same when talking about wedding floral bookings and contracts on a “normal” day too - so be sure to keep this in your back pocket if this hasn’t affected you yet, whether you’re a vendor or an engaged couple planning your big day.
Thankfully for me, most of my couples whose events have been displaced due to Covid have been able to reschedule their original wedding plans by moving their date (sometimes twice), and almost all of those new dates I’ve been available for. Some have opted to put it all on hold and postpone until further notice, and some have chosen to postpone but have a private ceremony in the meantime, under social distancing guidelines of course. Only one or two have chosen to outright cancel. For every one of them, my heart breaks over and over - I can’t imagine how hard it is to be planning the biggest day of your life during these turbulent times. (Trust me - I’ve been looking forward to your wedding day just as much as you have, and it kills me just as much!)
So what happens now? While I can’t speak for all florists or vendors, generally the first thing couples should consider is, what does your contract say? Does it say you will be charged a transfer fee to move to a new date? Does it say you can reduce your head count/quantities but have to still spend the same dollar amount in the end? Does it say your deposit/retainer/initial payment is “non-refundable”? Does it say you will have to pay the final balance in full upon canceling should you go that route, whether you choose to or have to? These are key points to your contract which are important for you to know and understand. Not just when you’re facing a shift in plans, but before you ever sign on the dotted line. You absolutely MUST read the fine print when signing ANY agreement!! (Life lesson #142.)
When a contract states “no refund will be given for any reason” it’s very important that you understand what you’re agreeing to. Whether it’s worded as your deposit, retainer or initial payment - your vendor is making that money non-refundable in a contract for a reason. It’s to ensure delivery of what’s expected from both sides as defined in the agreement, and also to protect both sides if the unexpected should occur. Most of us florist vendors are willing to (and do) flex and bend over backwards for our couples. (If you don’t already do this, are you even a true wedding pro? Ha!) So it’s important for you, the client, to know why those payments are non refundable.
By the time you’ve even received your proposal, your vendor has already put in the time to create a design plan for you and your wedding or event. They have sourced the products needed, assessed the logistics of delivery and setup, taken time to consult with you either in person, by phone, or email, and they’ve cleared their calendar of other opportunities to work so they can serve you on your date. (This is time and effort not rolled into the cost of the actual product, so they’ve already worked at this point without getting paid for their time.) They are charging you for the years, months, days, and hours, of blood sweat and tears they’ve invested into this business that will ensure your day is perfect when the time comes. They’re already done the work…. Lots of it.
A non-refundable first payment is to guarantee that their time invested in you will pay off. It’s to guarantee that you will have a reliable vendor who shows up with the right plan and product on your big day. It’s also a guarantee to that vendor that they will continue to have the work, or income, from your booking. (Remember, this is after already putting in significant time and effort - whether you see it or not.) In fact, most wedding vendors are Sole Proprietors, Small Business Owners, and Artists who do this for a living. While we love what we do, it’s not just for fun. Trust me. It’s also to survive and pay our bills - the same way our couples go to work every day to do the same. And we appreciate the opportunity that every single client gives us when they put their wedding in our hands! So this is why your deposit/retainer/initial payment is not refundable.
According to my own legal counsel, the words in my contract which state “no refund will be given for any reason” includes ANY reason… such as if your venue burns down. Or you get injured during the Tour De France and can’t walk down the aisle. Or your dog decides to get married the same day and you wouldn’t miss it for the world. Or you split up. Or… wait for it… a pandemic happens. It literally means ANYTHING. Whether it’s out of your control, my control, or my dog’s control. This seems to be so hard for many to grasp in current times, but this is ACTUALLY the purpose of having this agreement worded this way in the first place. First payments aren't non-refundable except for reasons like Covid... they're non-refundable because of reasons like Covid. And I get it... we've all lost so much to this unprecedented pandemic, none of it is fair.
I know this sounds harsh - because it is. Unexpected situations usually are. So, what’s the saving grace? The saving grace is that as your wedding florist, we actually want to see you get married. We want your big day to happen. We want to complete the work in full as you’ve hired us to do. And for the most part, your wedding vendors need the work. Trust me.
Here’s the caveat. This doesn’t mean a vendor won’t ever flex or make exceptions. We’re in this line of work because we care about the couples getting married, and we love what we do. With that comes a heart to make people happy - even if it means giving up a paycheck (yes your booking = my paycheck that I buy groceries and pay bills with) due to a cancellation, or changing the plan whenever we need to, in any way we can.
The terms are different vendor to vendor, as is necessary to run our individual business. For me personally, this means I can offer to switch dates with no additional penalty or fee for doing so as long as I’m available for your new date - and applying that retainer or first payment you’ve made. This means I can rework your designs if needed (and if within reason) to accommodate a new season, a new time, or a new location. This means that if you decide to - gulp - cancel altogether, I’m happy to use what you’ve paid so far as a credit toward flowers for another event as well as be compensated for all the time I’ve already invested in you. And if possible, it means to not hold you accountable for the remaining balance you promised you would pay by signing your contract, should you need to cancel your booking. I take great pride in doing all that I can, to be the best I can, for every one of my couples! If we've exhausted every attempt to accommodate a new date for someone and absolutely cannot make it happen, they may not be given a refund, unfortunately. That's the truth of it, and I know my couples' hard-earned dollars are just as valuable as mine. (Seriously - I get the best couples ever, and I know they are just as kind-hearted and hard working!)
The relationship between a couple and their vendors is a give and take. It’s working together to achieve the goal of creating a beautiful day for you the two of you. It’s about serving you from the moment you contact us. It’s about commitment. And with that comes the responsibility by both sides to do their part. So when booking your florist and signing that contract, make sure you understand and truly agree to the legal promise you are making. Make sure the business you’re hiring truly cares about you and your goals, and that you understand your financial commitment before you agree to it. What better way to prepare for entering a marriage commitment, am I right? It’s the same concept. Trust me.