As a wedding planner approaching my one-year mark, I have experimented with different payment options for my clients which typically range around $800.  I originally began by asking for 50% down as a non-refundable save-the-date fee for day-of coordination services.  However, I've been leaning more towards changing to $100 to reserve the date and then the remainder is due before the wedding date.

Has anyone else tried this?  And what do you require as a deposit and why?

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I require a signed contract and 25% of the package price as a retainer to save the date. Then the remainder of the balance is due 30 prior to the wedding. I am a photographer, and I know how I practice is pretty normal for photogs. I wonder if it is the same with planners..

I also call the 25% a retainer because if you use retainer instead of deposit, then it is legally okay as non refundable. If you use the term deposit, it gives the client legal ability to get their funds back if they cancel.
Thanks for your input, Rebecca. I suppose the way I've been looking at it is, what if they do cancel? Is it fair of me to keep 50% of what they would have paid me even if I didn't do any work. Granted, the date is reserved for them but other than that...?

Just my thoughts.
True. But you can set it up as non refundable, and then take it by a case by case basis. For example, if it is super close to the wedding date and you are unlikely to book that date at that point, don't give them a refund, but if it is 6+ months out, and you are likely to get another booking, you can decide to give them a partial or full refund. Then they will love you that much more because they weren't expecting the refund!
I always explain it up front. I'm as fair as I can be and knowing that, they feel very comfortable. I am just trying to figure out how much down to start is best for me? LIke I said, I've tried 50% - but I'm not sure if that works best for me. Just trying to see what works and what doesn't for others.

that is a great point. i am going to change my agreement right now!

Absolutely! We have taken a "booking fee" usually about a third of the full package price to book the day and then the rest of the fee is paid 30 days before. We have never, in nearly ten years, been questioned about this or had a problem with it. We do, of course, also insist on a signed contract. I think any bride/couple who argue with this or try to negotiate over it are going to be far to much trouble and not worth working with!!

There was recently a large discussion on this at linkedin. It seems most people do 50 percent. My company has been at 20 percent for the last 4 years. The rest is due 10 days before the event.

I ask for 30% at signing or 3 day of singing. I then ask for the remainder 14 day prior to event. I also let the client know that if they cancel the event with in 45 day 50% of the remaining balance is due. Th3 30% is non Refundable Retainer. I do allow payments after the deposit if needed.

I am in rentals, and I require 50% to hold your items for your date with the balance and a 20% damage deposit due two weeks before the event date. This has worked very well for me, and customers have not seemed to have a problem with it. The biggest reason I have the deposit is to get a commitment from the customer.

Without the deposit, I found people were putting off making decisions,usually because they are busy and time just seems to go by, then finding that the items they finally decided they wanted were already booked. Also, customers would get a quote, acknowledge that it was exactly what they wanted (verbal order) but then down the road, would change things drastically or decide to go elsewhere, leaving me with items that I could have rented to other customers that I had to turn away.
A deposit protects both the vendor and customer. If I accept a deposit, I am obligated to provide the service I have contracted for and the customer is more committed to the order they placed.


Requiring the bridal couple to make a deposit is an absolute MUST.  If they don't have an investment in their wedding, they can continue to search for better prices.  They will have no reason to be loyal to you.  Verbal contracts / agreements are worthless, especially with todays brides.  Get everything you have discussed and agreed to in writing, with both the groom and the bride.  (two signatures, then yours).  my deposit fee is non-refundable, which is printed on the contract, IF they cancel within 90 days of the wedding date.  The same information is reflected on my website.  The deposit is subtracted from the balance due on the wedding date.  NO GUESSWORK on the bride's part.  I also allow payments to me in increments.  My weddings average 8 - 12 monthly.
I usually do anywhere between $200 - $500 to reserve the date
I'm a wedding officiant and I require 50% of the total as a "retainer" to book, and then either the balance 3 weeks prior to the wedding (if a check) or in cash on the day of. I used to really fight the "day of" approach, but I got tired and haven't really had problems. I have leverage most of you don't have though - if they don't pay me, I just won't submit the license! LOL Plus, who wants to stiff their clergy - not good for "karma." I agree that about 50% is a good number for the retainer - otherwise, they may not be that invested. It's also critical to have a contract and spell out that the retainer is non-refundable - and ALSO that if they change any of the details (time, date, venue) the original contract is null and void and must be rewritten and everyone must consent to it again. Finally, I've found that if I try to be really nice, accommodating and try to make it easy on them (a lower retainer, a discounted price), that I don't get the same respect. It's all about "perceived value" - an important concept for everyone in business to understand!


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