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 always require 50% up front. Doesn't matter how close to the wedding they cancel, I keep the 50% (unless they cancel due to something out of their control or for emergency purposes, such as the groom got shipped out to Iraq, then I refund the deposit out of good faith). If I am performing with an ensemble and need to pay others out, the total is due 2 weeks before the wedding date, so that the check clears and I can pay the other musicians the day of the performance. If I am playing solo, I require final payment on the day of the wedding day.

I used to require payment in full 30 days before the wedding day if the client cancels, but I just couldn't get it. They wouldn't pay or it would cause me a lot of strife to collect it. I figure that getting 50% is plenty compensation for cancellation. (As for the use of "retainer" vs. "deposit", it may depend upon your State and your local legal laws. I had that discussion with my attorney and she said there is no difference in using those terms.)

I think if you are providing a service and a product (such as wedding cakes), it makes sense to collect the entire amount before the wedding date. 

I personally always require a signed contract with a $300.00 "save the date" fee that is non-refundable for weddings  

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We are a professional wedding and event planning firm.  We request 50% down and remaining balance one month prior to the wedding date.  We are starting to work on the client's file once we are hired so the retainer covers our staff in the event of some unforeseen cancellation.  If you are charging only $100 you risk doing a lot of work and then not being compensated.  We do not release final timelines until balance is paid.   You may want to re-evaluate your fees in comparison to your market, it seems very low for day-of services.    Our day-of packages start 2 months prior to the wedding date as you just don't walk in and hope for the best, we need to know EVERYTHING and double check everything.

Congratulations on your one year mark! Our payment schedule is a bit different. We require a signed contract with a 50% deposit to book the couple's wedding date. The remaining balance is due on a payment schedule at 9 months and 6 months. The final payment is due 60 days prior to the wedding. The schedule depends on when we are booked in their planning process.

I paid my planner half down, half about two months later. She was impressive and invaluable.

My business is different, but I require half down or $100, whichever is greater.


I usually ask for about 1/2 up front, so that I will be able to order the paper that I will use.  The remainder is due upon completion.

25%-50% for retainer, than monthly payments. Last payment due 30 days before wedding. If you collect such a low deposit what keeps them from bailing on you? The more money they put out, the less likely they will leave. 

I hear what you are saying, but my clients aren't the type to "bail". I work with those who have a mutual respect and understanding; honestly, if someone wanted to bail on me, then I would hate to have them be unhappy and stay with me just because they put down a higher retainer. I would much prefer they move on and find someone they gel better with. Just my thoughts tho. 

Also as an update, I originally posted this question over two years ago (where did the time go?) and I now charge a 20% retainer which seems to be best for everyone. The remainder is due before the wedding rehearsal. 

Thank you everyone for your feedback, responses and tips!

I am a wedding planner and have experimented with this for several years.  What I have found works best for me the last three years or so is this:    I require a signed contract with an $800 retainer/booking fee, and a flat rate monthly planning fee ($300) which I invoice each month.   The contract spells out everything in the wedding package they want with dollar amounts/budget stated for each vendor. The whole wedding package including my monthly service fees, less the retainer/booking fee, is broken down into equal monthly installments over the remaining months until the wedding. 


Since they hire me to manage their money and budget, I invoice the couple/parents each month giving them a running tab for each vendor - when the deposit was paid, how much was paid, what the remaining balance is, etc. etc.   I have it figured that all vendors would be paid in full 14 days before the wedding.   This allows a couple of weeks to relax before the wedding and not have any  money worries anymore.   The wedding is paid in full.  


It's a little bit more paperwork, but I do it for these reasons:   1)   It takes what usually is a very large amount of money and breaks it down into more manageable payments....which everyone loves!!  2)  It gets my vendors paid on time and keeps me in good with them.  3)  It validates their need for my wedding planning services...reducing stress, handling details, handling payments   4)  It keeps income coming into my office each month.  


My retainer fee for my wedding service $800 is nonrefundable, but is transferable to another date if I am available.  Thirty days before the wedding, there will be no money refunded by me for wedding services or by the vendors.  Most of my vendors will transfer to another date if that is needed and if they are available.   I've never had a wedding cancel completely in eight years.  But I would handle that on a case by case means if it ever happens. 

We were asking for $50 to retain our services and that would go towards the balance.  Then 50% is due within 30 days of that and then the final 50%  due 30 days before the wedding.  Figures are worked out for shorter notices.

 BUT recently we have had several cancelations and clients even asked for their $50 back (the initial booking fee is non-refundable).  This is not working for us because most of our clients are only booking out 3 months or less.  That is not enough time for us to book another wedding at nearly the same cost.

Our thoughts are that 50% of the balance to book is not unreasonlable.  

Once they pay the retainer you cannot accept anymore business for that day?  True ?  

My retainer is 25%-50% of the total fee, depending on the amount. We figure the more they put down, the less chance they are to cancel and lose that money, because it is nonrefundable, but transferable. 

We do weekly and monthly payment plans so our clients aren't scrambling to give us big lump sums at one time.

We also ask for 50% of the budget upfront too, to cover deposits and initial purchases.

Hello! I am a leader of a group of hairstylist, makeup artists, and nail professionals that travel to the brides. I require a $100 non refundable "good faith retainer" to lock in our price, if the wedding is more than 4 months away. If the date is within 4 months there is a 50% retainer of their entire package (minus the $100 if they had to pay that), and then the remainder is due within 2 weeks of their wedding. This way we don't have to worry about people changing their minds and our group having too many people at that event. I believe this keeps the "flakey" bride away.


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