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How to Deal with Last-Minute Vendor Cancellations | Becoming a Wedding Planner

Amira Harris is the owner and destination wedding specialist of Aisle Travel™ based in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Aisle Travel™ provides Canadian couples with full group travel services, destination wedding planning, and customized wedding group experiences. Today, she shares her insight on dealing with vendor cancellations as part of the Becoming a Wedding Planner series.

Last-minute guest cancellations are to be expected with every wedding. It’s super frustrating since your bride-to-be likely has already finalized the seating plan and paper goods.

But nothing is worse than vendor cancellations, especially when the wedding is days or hours away. It’s incredibly stressful and even more so if your client is out money, too. It’s the wedding planner’s job to alleviate their stress and come up with a back-up plan before a bridal meltdown.

Keep reading for our guide to dealing with last-minute wedding vendor cancellations!

Discuss the situation thoroughly with the vendor first

wedding florist vendor putting together floral event decor

We always need a back-up plan for every scenario. Before telling the client about the vendor cancellation, get your ducks in a row. And stay professional, no matter how frustrating the situation is.

Discuss with the vendor about what they will provide in light of the cancellation. Are they providing a replacement? If not, can they make any recommendations for a back-up vendor? Are they providing a full or partial refund to your client? When will they be receiving the refund?

Your conversation with the vendor will determine your next steps and what you’ll need to tell your client.

Sample scenario: Bridal makeup artist cancellation

In this scenario, let’s say the makeup artist who was supposed to do makeup for the bride and bridal party can’t provide services on the wedding day due to a personal emergency. Instead, she has provided an alternate makeup artist within the company who can assist and is available.

It’s easier to explain this all to the client once a Plan B has been laid out. Explain that the original makeup artist isn’t available due to an emergency; however, she has a back-up artist who can accommodate the group.

bride table setting sweetheart table becoming a wedding planner tips

You had a problem and were able to provide a reasonable solution to your client. This is in contrast to contacting your client about the makeup artist canceling before drawing up a back-up plan. If you jump the gun, it is guaranteed to freak your bride out! Always have a plan and a backup plan before giving a client unsettling news.

The wedding vendor contract: Cancellation clauses

Cancellation policies vary from vendor to vendor. However, every vendor has a cancellation clause in their contact. The contract would have been reviewed before signing to see what the vendor provides in case of a cancellation.

Find out what their procedure is regarding cancellations and how often they have had to cancel with other clients. These are all important questions to ask the vendor before reviewing and signing the contract! The more you know at the beginning, the better equipped you and your client are if something were to happen.

Depending on the reason for cancellation, their back-up plan may differ. Is it a family emergency? In that case, many vendors always have a back-up plan to cover the missing staff.

When (and why) do most unexplained vendor cancellations happen?

table decor vendor for wedding

I find hobbyist vendors and planners who like to dabble in the wedding industry are more likely to cancel than any established, well-respected vendor. This is because hobbyists usually have a full-time job outside of wedding planning—this is their side hustle, so they’re less invested in your big day.

When I do hear about a cancellation on a bridal forum, it always seems to be the vendors found on a Buy and Sell group or classifieds. They are usually new to the industry or offer too-good-to-be-true cheap services.

In these panicked forum posts, the frantic bride often mentions that no contract was ever signed or provided! This is always a red flag and something that could have been prevented early on. All professionals in the wedding and events industry have contracts. If they “don’t do contracts”, you need to steer clear and keep looking!

One of the many reasons couples should hire a wedding planner is because they always recommend reliable and top-notch wedding vendors. They’ve done the research so the couple doesn’t have to. Established wedding planners have experience working with these vendors and know their track record for delivering services and having a seamless backup plan.

Professional wedding vendors don’t cancel for no reason—no matter what!

rustic catering for wedding planning job

Professionals will be there or have a replacement.

Years ago, I became very ill just a few days before a client’s wedding. I would never miss a client’s wedding or leave them high and dry. Luckily, I had set up a back-up plan.

No matter how ill I was, I wanted to show up and put in 110%. I would never let a client down. So, I would have someone with me all day to become familiar with my client’s wedding plans. If I needed to leave their wedding earlier, my number two could take over right away.

The most important thing was having a back-up plan. Being proactive early on ensures less stress if there is an issue that arises. And a proactive approach is far better than a last-minute reactive approach!  Have you had to deal with a shady, unreliable vendor before? Share your wedding planner horror story below!

You can never be too prepared! Check out this infographic for an event planner’s emergency kit shopping list!

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One response to “How to Deal with Last-Minute Vendor Cancellations | Becoming a Wedding Planner”

  1. Jacqueline says:

    This is great info. I recently did a wedding styled shoot, and the seamstress would not answer my email or text. Eventually, she told me she was sick and in the hospital. When I genuinely asked by text/DM if she was feeling better and out of the hospital….nothing. She did say it was best I find someone else after I offered to do so. I understand being sick, but at what point were you going to tell me? We were less than a month away.

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