FAQS: If a wedding is canceled do you return the client’s non-refundable deposit?


(Cash register image via Public Resource.org)

I have had many cases, especially with weddings, where for one reason or another someone chooses to break the engagement.

This is always a very upsetting time for both families. And one of the saddest things is that, most of the time, they already put down non-refundable deposits for the location, food, flowers, etc–money they will most likely never see again.

Every time I have had one of these broken engagements, despite my airtight contract, I always make an effort to return as much of their money as possible.

I have a few simple reasons why:
1) It’s the right thing to do. We just need to put ourselves in that person’s place to reach the same conclusion.
2) Every single time I returned this money, I gained a client for life.

However, there are some exceptions to keep in mind:
1) If you turned down other clients for this occasion (hotels often have this dilemma), and you cannot book that date at the last minute, then yes I think you should consider keeping the deposit.
2) If you spend money to buy goods (flowers, tablecloth, etc), you should consider deducting your expenses. And if you already have the flowers, maybe you could send them some with a sweet note.

Yes, at times, I have already invested a lot of time and energy before my client canceled. However, I am always willing to make that investment and return their money as long as I can sleep well at night knowing I did the right thing.

What is your opinion?