Covid-19 wedding cancellations: is it reasonable to ask for a full refund?
Since Covid-19 restrictions came into effect in March, we’ve heard from many couples who are stressing about their upcoming weddings. Adding to that anxiety is the fact that many deposits have been paid to secure venues and other wedding services for the intended date. Some couples are now having major disputes with vendors who are refusing to refund those deposits.
At Knotz, we’re in a position to help affected couples, and we also have very close relationships with wedding vendors. We’re going to attempt to write a balanced perspective that hopefully sheds some light on the current predicament.
Cancel or Postpone?
First and foremost, it’s REALLY important to make this distinction. We know that many vendors are being very accommodating for couples who choose to postpone their wedding. This is only reasonable, since big gatherings are totally prohibited under current guidelines. Most vendors should allow you to shift your date later in the year, or to next year, subject to their availability.
If you want to totally cancel your booking with that vendor, however, then it’s a different situation. We might get some hate for this, but our honest opinion is: you shouldn’t expect a full refund if you’re cancelling. Here are a few reasons why:
Still getting married ma, right?
Unless social distancing/ stay-at-home made you suddenly re-evaluate your choice of life partner *dun dun dunnn*
But let’s pause for a moment. If you got cold feet under normal virus-free circumstances, would you really expect to get your deposits back? This isn’t like Zalora, you can’t demand a refund just because you had a change of heart.
Pick date first, then see how. Don’t need so scared.
Just pick a date. It’s true, no one knows when this will be over. But if you still intend to get married, you could pick another date later in the year (or 2021), or maybe even the same date next year instead of outright cancelling. If you show the vendor that you have the intention to honour the booking at a later date, they will be much more appreciative and open to discussion.
Many vendors are experiencing negative cashflow
Vendors are facing massive losses too. Not all, but some. We’ve heard from several bridal studios that they shipped in custom orders, or completed the gown fitting and alterations, only to have the bride cancel and demand a refund. We know for a fact that these bridal studios are more than happy to hold on to the gown for a later date. But if something was ordered just for you, is it fair to walk out and leave them to bear the cost?
Think of it like going to a restaurant and ordering seafood fried rice, with a special request for brown rice, no soya sauce, and all the prawns to be replaced with fish. Then as soon as the dish is ready, you suddenly leave and refuse to pay. Is that fair to the restaurant? You made a custom order which they can’t serve to anyone else. If every customer were to do that, the restaurant would go bankrupt pretty quickly.
The same applies to wedding businesses. If you engaged those vendors because you liked their product or service, then have a heart. Stick with them through this rough patch, so that they can execute a great wedding for you and other couples in future. Otherwise, this is what will happen:
Assuming vendors DO give a refund. This means that they will have to refund ALL their customers, right? Assuming $1,500 deposit for 20 clients. That would mean $30,000 of NEGATIVE cash flow out within a month. Do you think they can still survive after giving out $30,000 cash in just one month, and subsequent months? Basically, asking for a full refund now might cause them to close down forever, essentially affecting other couples who have weddings in 2021 and 2022.
We’ve also heard about other disputes that are less straightforward. Some vendors are demanding for the entire amount to be paid upfront before they agree to postpone the booking. This is unreasonable, and as much as we sympathise with vendors who face cash flow troubles, we still don’t agree with passing the buck to customers.
Our advice in such situations is to stand firm, and have a frank (but polite) conversation with the vendor. Emphasise to them that you still want them to do your wedding, but maybe you don’t have the financial means to pay the rest of the amount right now. We are seeing vendors becoming increasingly flexible and sympathetic (they know that negative word-of-mouth is spreading almost as fast as the virus), so hopefully there will be less of such cases.
What if the vendor already has a prior booking on your new date?
This is a tricky situation, and unfortunately there’s no easy solution. For a solo vendor such as a photographer, they only take a limited number of bookings every year, so one lost booking due to schedule conflict can have a significant impact on their business. In such cases, we would suggest negotiating with them to either 1) a different service, e.g. pre-wedding shoot instead of actual day, or 2) transferring the booking to someone else. Many couples are changing plans because of the virus situation, so there should be a pretty active market for swapping of dates.
We know that these are difficult times, and everyone is looking for some guidance. The best general advice we can give is to use your heart. Treat others with understanding and compassion, and they’re more likely to do the same. Remember that many wedding vendors, especially the smaller ones, are just honest people who are trying to make a living. Unlike hotels, small wedding businesses are owned by people like you and me. They don’t have a big corporate balance sheet or deep investor pockets to help tide them over. If we can all come to a reasonable agreement, then that gives them the support they need to pull through this crisis.
Protecting yourself for future bookings
Understandably, you might be nervous about wedding vendors going out of business due to the crisis. Aside from buying wedding insurance, the next best option is to use the protection offered by our Knotz Bundles. We guarantee that if your selected vendor goes out of business (or is unable to fulfill their obligations for other reasons), we’ll let you switch to another of our partners with no penalty.
Useful links for couples
If your plans have been affected, we’ve got a few things that might help:
Local Pre-Wedding Shoot Promo – Free Video Montage Add-On
Had to cancel your overseas pre-wedding shoot? Book a local one instead, and you’ll get a videography team from Unveil Production on-site to film a 1-minute video montage. Click here for more info!
Stay Home Wedding Sale
Wedding planning goes on even if you’re stuck at home! Browse our ongoing promos here, for deals on venues, decor, makeup, car rental, hen’s parties, and many more.
Knotz SG SG Bride-To-Be Support Group and Marketplace
Looking for someone to take over your photographer/venue/MUA booking? Post it to our Facebook group for more exposure.
Need other advice or just someone to talk to? Email us!
Sharon April 22, 2020 at 3:37 pm
Forfeiting deposit is something we as some bride to be is ready to do so. However, some banquet (like mine), insisted on compensation of 80% of e total bill when we decide to cancel due to e situation. We did not want any postpone as we intend to just settle with ROM and move on with our life and our life plan. After all, no one really knows when this virus will go away. No point holding back our life and life plan bcos of a banquet.
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Thanks for your article! While I sympathise with the vendors, as a bride to be, I can also choose to go ahead with a 10 pax wedding instead of postponing my wedding indefinitely. With family planning in mind, it does not make sense to hold couples hostage just because of their deposit (this is especially for venues).