Ever had somebody bail on a photography contract for a wedding after paying?

Joined
Feb 10, 2009
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St. Paul, MN
So, my contract states that 1/3 of the fee for me to shoot is due upon the signing of the contract to reserve the date. I think this is pretty fair, since in order for me to accept a wedding, it means, by default, that I will not be booking anyone else for that day, and some days (as any Saturday in July would count) are quite popular. Even though I am only shooting a few weddings a year.

It also states that this amount is non-refundable, and if they cancel, then they can receive credit for some other type of portrait session etc, though I doubt that will ever happen.

Has anyone ever had a bride/groom cancel on you? It just happened to me. They said that after putting down the money for me to shoot, they looked at the package fees (I separate out "shooting" from the packages as it seems that what Brides want these days is so varied from shoot and burn to full scale album packages) that I was too expensive. Part of me thinks that this is just crazy. I'm not sure how to feel. I am pretty disappointed that I am not shooting the wedding, but on the other hand, every last moment of dealing with the Bride and Groom has been beyond stressful. It makes me wonder if this is for the best.

Oh well I guess. Anybody have a wedding that they need shot on July 16 within 300 miles of Minneapolis/St. Paul? Cause I'm free, and then maybe I can refund some of their money.
 
Joined
Jul 30, 2006
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Southern California
Jan, if you're like me, you don't need to shoot the wedding to put food on the table. In that case, I think it could be a show of good will to refund a least a portion of the "down payment" or retainer that they paid. At the same time, if you really wanted to do the wedding (which it sounds like you are somewhat relieved to be done with it) you could offer to lower some of the prices for them, or put together a cheaper package that might fit their budget better. If that doesn't work, kindly refund a portion (I would leave myself about 25% if it were me), and say goodbye, thanks for considering me. :smile: You just never know if down the road they may regret their decision and come to you for other business...
 
Joined
Oct 20, 2010
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home
I do not make my living shooting photographs.

They knew what they were getting into when they signed the contract? This wasn't in the fine print? You didn't hide the overall cost?

And more importantly, not refunding them their money will not ruin business in the future for you?

If all the above it true, they deserve to lose the deposit.

Maybe I would feel differently, if there was a job lost, marriage not happening because of issues, or other significant event, but stupidity is not a good reason for you to take money away from you.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2006
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434
Location
Portland, OR. USA
I have mixed feelings about the situation. If it were me, I would need a lot of persuasion to refund the full amount. Finding someone cheaper would not cut it. There are so many packages and rates it is difficult to compare. I agree that photographers need to stay competitive, but you only want to be competitive in price if the work and product (prints) quantity are also on equal levels.

One thing for sure, is that you can always get someone to do it cheaper, you can never go back in time to get a re-shoot if/when the cheaper guy fails to deliver.

I would let someone else shoot the wedding, something gives me a bad feeling about the outcome. <knock on wood>. I hope what ever you decide to do, that you come out satisfied that you did the right thing and did it in a professional manner. Best of luck!
 
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
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Location
Tulsa, OK
So, let's just make up some numbers here. Say you quoted them $2400 for the wedding providing x amount of prints etc. They gave you $800 up front. Even if they found someone to now offer the same as you were offering, but for $1600, they would still be back to where they started as they lost the initial $800 to you...

This is confusing... They must have found a REALLY inexpensive (Craigslist or Soccer mom) photographer to do it...
 
Joined
Jan 28, 2009
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Indiana
So, let's just make up some numbers here. Say you quoted them $2400 for the wedding providing x amount of prints etc. They gave you $800 up front. Even if they found someone to now offer the same as you were offering, but for $1600, they would still be back to where they started as they lost the initial $800 to you...

This is confusing... They must have found a REALLY inexpensive (Craigslist or Soccer mom) photographer to do it...

Exactly what I was thinking. They must have found a really cheap photographer to break even.
 

LyndeeLoo

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May 19, 2008
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St. Louis, Missouri
So, let's just make up some numbers here. Say you quoted them $2400 for the wedding providing x amount of prints etc. They gave you $800 up front. Even if they found someone to now offer the same as you were offering, but for $1600, they would still be back to where they started as they lost the initial $800 to you...

This is confusing... They must have found a REALLY inexpensive (Craigslist or Soccer mom) photographer to do it...

Or maybe they just used that reason as an excuse and there's really something else going on...

In any case, I'm of the opinion that if your contract stated up front that your fee was non-refundable (and it wasn't hidden on page 115 in a 1 size font, for example), then you adhere to the contract.

Of course now, being that it's your business, you could adjust that as you saw fit...
 
Joined
Feb 10, 2009
Messages
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Location
St. Paul, MN
Yeah, if I rebook, I will certainly give them their money back. Just wonder if I should give some of it back as a sign of good will (or essentially as a way to hope they don't purposely bad-mouth me). Unfortunately it is already invested into new gear, so it would sort of be coming out of my pocket. My contract is very clear that it is a date reservation fee (not a retainer or deposit), and that it is given in consideration for me to reserve that date for them and not to offer it to anyone else. If they do go through with the wedding, then it is applied as a credit towards the day of shooting. As it turns out it was drafted by a local attorney, me.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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Location
North Carolina, USA
Regardless of any kind of refund, I wouldn't expect them to give you any referrals. Right or wrong, they've essentially already told you that they feel like you are too expensive, and it's reasonable to assume that's what they'd tell others as well.

Given that your contract seems pretty clear, I can't see where you have any obligation (moral or otherwise) to refund any amount. Giving something back in the event that you re-book the date with someone else would be a nice gesture, though, given the definition of the deposit in your contract.

In no event would I suggest simply lowering the cost for the same services. If you feel that there's some particular part of your service that they can do without, perhaps modifying the package in an effort to lower the cost makes sense. But any cost reduction should be directly tied to a reduction in product/services, not simply a discount for what you've already quoted.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2005
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Bournemouth, UK
spending the money already is bad practice, what happens if you had to cancel them, presume you give a refund in that case?

I don't know the laws that cover contracts where you are but there was a case in the UK that the photographer had set a high 'non-refundable retainer' - the couple cancelled and took the photographer to court, the judge awarded the couple part of the retainer back because the amount was set too high,. contracts can be challenged,. signing contracts are not always enforcable
 
Joined
Jul 27, 2008
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494
Location
Fort Worth, TX
Jan,

I really don't see a problem here. I"m sure you spent more than a couple of hours meeting with them, going over packages, emailing back and forth, taking and making phone calls about the wedding, right?

As an attorney, don't you charge for just about everything you do for a paying client? Why do you feel bad in this situation? Is your "photographer" time not as valuable as your "attorney" time? In both, you are providing a service, you are a trained expert in the field, and they are paying you.

They made a decision to back out and didn't even ask for a partial refund. Some of your time was spent working on their wedding before they backed out. Keep the money, move forward. Don't sweat it!
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2011
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Australia
they paid a non refundable deposit, cancelled the job and now want their deposit back?

tell 'em to go boil their heads.
 
Joined
Mar 31, 2005
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Location
Toronto Canada
A contract is a contract is a contract. You signed, they signed. Stick to the terms of your contract or else you'll just be asking for trouble. Once you show that you'll waver from the terms, they're in the driver's seat and will steer you where they want you to go. Your contract states that (1) it's non-refundable and (2) they can get a credit for another photo session. Leave it at that. It's then their choice to use it or not. Simply send them the credit to use for other photography services, expiring in one year. Make sure your other services have the pricing clearly marked on your site and stick to those. Of course, this is my opinion based on them backing out due to getting another photog at a better price. If the reason was illness, catastrophe, etc, then the answer would be totally different on compassionate grounds.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2008
Messages
305
Location
CANADA
I Agree with Sandi; You won't gain anything from refunding part/all of the money.

Alternatively you can say to them that if they change their minds; to let you know and as long as you have the day open still you will honour the original contract. (since you mentioned you would still want to shoot their wedding - even though they were beyond stressfull to deal with :) )
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2010
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Portage, IN
When my wife and I got married we had to cancel one of our vendors. Our contract said something similar and we understood that when we canceled we gave up that money. Don't refund them, they broke the contract not you....
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2008
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Neosho, Missouri
Real Name
Keith Jalbert
My feelings.. Do NOT refund as Sandi says give them credit to be used in future within year.. A contract is a contract you do it once word will get out and someone else will do it to you stick to your guns my friend
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2010
Messages
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Location
Atlanta, GA
I find that wedding photographers never trust their gut enough. If these people were a hassle to deal with on the front end, and flaked out on you, why would you possibly want to shoot their wedding? Do you think they'll be more reasonable when there's more stress and the pressure is turned up?

Walk away. Keep your 1/3, of course. And walk away.
 

Butlerkid

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I find that wedding photographers never trust their gut enough. If these people were a hassle to deal with on the front end, and flaked out on you, why would you possibly want to shoot their wedding? Do you think they'll be more reasonable when there's more stress and the pressure is turned up?

Walk away. Keep your 1/3, of course. And walk away.

+1.

They knew what they were signing. They gave their reason for breaking the contract. It wasn't the tornados, major health issues, etc.

The biggest alarm bell going off for me is your statements that they have been tough to deal with. Perhaps this really is a blessing.
 

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