How to Deal With a Canceled Wedding
It will happen at least once in your career – a client will cancel their wedding plans. Whether it’s called off early, or the day of, you need to know the best way to handle a canceled wedding!
So wedding planners, buckle up. This is going to be an emotional rollercoaster of a ride as we take you through the steps of dealing with a canceled wedding!
Focus on the couple
First things first, you need to establish the fact that the wedding truly is off and this isn’t just a dramatic overreaction (you know which clients we’re talking about…). While you’re digging for details, you need to be extremely tactful and kind to your clients – they’re probably dealing with a broken heart and a stressed-out mind!
Being supportive of your clients and putting the focus on their needs is how you keep a solid business relationship. We know you’re worried about not being paid and having to cancel all of your meticulous plans, but that can be dealt with later. Being there is the best thing you can do for your clients – even if they’re surrounded by friends and family.
Remember, if your clients are suffering from a broken heart, the last thing they want is to deal with guests and vendors. They’re probably embarrassed and in shock, so your job is to let them absorb the situation without the stress of nosy guests.
Dealing with guests
Next, you’ll need to deal with the wedding guests. This is mainly for day-of cancellations, but you’ll have to notify your invitees either way!
When you have a venue full of expectant faces, you need to be confident and tactful in your announcement. The important thing here is to let them know there won’t be a ceremony, while not revealing your client’s relationship details. Direct guests to the cocktail hour or to another activity. The last thing you want is impatient guests, so getting them into a new setting is vital.
You’ll likely deal with plenty of curious guests asking questions and wishing to see the couple. Your line should be “My clients are unavailable at the moment, and I am not able to share any personal details. We appreciate your patience and are preparing another announcement very shortly.”
This type of response does two things: 1) It gives guests a polite hint that this is not their business, and 2) You assure them there will be an update. Yes, you may have the odd person pestering you – but they don’t need to know everything that’s happening. If your clients don’t want to make a fuss, you don’t make a fuss!
The big decision
After a few minutes to themselves, your clients will need to consider their options for the rest of the day. Most clients will not want to continue on with the event – which is totally expected! However, you might find that some clients want their guests to enjoy the evening even though there is no wedding.
If your clients call everything off, that’s it – the end. As the wedding planner, you’ll kindly tell guests that your clients appreciate their understanding and offer their sincerest apologies for the unexpected changes. Guests will exit, leaving you free to deal with the venue and vendors…
But if your clients decide to still entertain their guests, you can keep the meals and activities on track. A simple update, like “My clients will be unavailable for the rest of the evening, but sincerely hope that you enjoy dinner and dancing. We will continue with the evening as planned,” is to-the-point and keeps the guests informed.
This decision shouldn’t be made hastily, but it should also come within the hour! Although your clients are your number one priority, you’re also responsible for the guests and vendors. You can’t keep a full venue of people waiting the entire night!
Dealing with vendors
Now, if your clients decide to call off dinner and dancing then you’ll need to contact your vendors. Hopefully, they’re at the venue and are easily tracked down. If this is the case, you can hold a small meeting of the team supervisors to tell them the situation. Next, you’ll need to hash out details of payment.
Generally, your contracts with vendors will cover this type of situation. If they don’t, it’s well worth adding in a clause! This will make it easier to compromise on payment and keep your reputation as a planner afloat.
You don’t want to put vendors out – they’ll never want to work with you again. Being professional, apologetic, and flexible will help you keep your business relationships intact. Keep in mind that vendors have dealt with plenty of weddings so they might have experienced a canceled event before! Even if they haven’t, it’s part of the industry. They’ll understand.
Even though the wedding has been canceled, and the couple may no longer be together, you still want to remain on good terms with your clients. Not only could this lead to a contract in the future, but you’ll also get a rave review once the whole situation blows over. Your generosity and understanding will mean the world to a heartbroken client!
Just as well, you’ll need to discuss payment moving forward. Again, your contract should state the amount payable to you (if you haven’t been paid yet!) no matter what happens to the wedding. You need to be paid – this is your livelihood, after all.
The most important thing to remember when you’re faced with a canceled wedding is to remain calm and professional. There will already be stress, anxiety, and anger running through the room – if you’re in control, this will reflect on your clients and guests.
Our parting words? Keep calm and carry on.
Ready for more advice? Find out the 5 things that no event planner training can prepare you for!