From one COVID-19 bride to another, someday we'll look back at this time without crying into a bottomless glass of merlot. Until that day comes, let’s chat about business because couples are still rescheduling their weddings (as witnessed by the TONS of stories pouring intoThe Legal Paige Facebook Group), and the question remains: Should you charge a rescheduling fee?
Rescheduling fees aren’t one of those easy, cut-and-dry issues. In fact, they fully depend on your business, your pricing, and your policies. With that being said, I CAN equip you with some solid legal information surrounding reschedulings and the options available to you. Knowledge is power and after reading this post, you’ll walk away with confidence in your decision to charge a rescheduling fee or not. Ready? Let’s dig in...
1. Should You Charge A Rescheduling Fee?
This answer is going to fully depend on you and your clients. Ask yourself, is this the second or third time my clients are rescheduling? Am I missing out on dates that other couples could have booked? Are they wanting to reschedule to a prime Saturday date in 2022? Do I need to charge a fee?
If you are on your second or even third time rescheduling a couple it’s probably time to charge a rescheduling fee. You’re missing out on dates you could have available to other couples (at your NEW/INCREASED rates!), you’re putting in more work to arrange a second (or third) date, and sometimes are switching to a completely different location or venue. If this is the case you shouldfully consider charging a rescheduling fee for your couples. Being nice originally and allowing a complimentary first reschedule, especially in the beginning months of COVID-19 around March-May 2020 was totally understandable due to the state of the world. But, now that things have progressed and COVID-19 is ever present, not going away anytime soon, and a known factor in planning a wedding, you are completely justified as a wedding vendor in asking for a fee when couples reschedule. You have to keep your business financially stable and allowing endless complimentary reschedules is allowing your business to become a sinking ship.
Now, if this is your clients first time rescheduling you absolutely have the option to decide to give them the first reschedule complimentary. BUT, know that since COVID-19 is a known factor that’s something they should be taking into account when planning. I want all wedding vendors to be aware that it is completely reasonable at this stage to charge a fee for the first reschedule and put that into your contract.
2. How Much Should You Charge and What is Reasonable?
If you are charging a rescheduling fee, once again how much you charge is totally up to you. The main thing legally to be aware of with determining what that amount is is the “reasonableness” of the fee. A “reasonable fee” describes a fee that isn’t too high or too low when it is compared with similar fees for a similar service. And when a court interprets whether a rescheduling fee is reasonable or not, it uses a “reasonableness standard” test which weighs whether an individual or entity engages in a reasonable way with clients, and whether an action was taken in a reasonable or unreasonable manner.
At this point in time in the court systems across the U.S. there is no clear case law precedent that sets the standard for a ‘reasonable rescheduling fee’. (Seelinks below this blog post for current pending cases on this subject.) It is all circumstantial and courts are taking matters on a case-by-case basis. Thus, while all the pending cases before judges are still in litigation, it’s important as wedding vendors to be aware that you should be able to justify your rescheduling fee as a “reasonable” amount that you charge clients for moving their weddings to a new date at the end of 2021 or into 2022. Also, be sure to charge your clients the SAME fee. (i.e. If you charge one client a $1k rescheduling fee for a new Friday date in 2022, you have to charge that same amount to another client doing the same)
My suggestion is to start with a percentage that is 30% of your average total wedding package and make that into a flat rescheduling fee (so if you, on average, charge about $4000 for your wedding packages, 30% of that amount would be a flat rate of $1,200 for a rescheduling fee) OR around what your retainer fee is. Then, you can also upcharge for “prime” dates. So, if $1,200 is your flat fee rescheduling fee for clients, you could keep that amount for all Sunday-Thursday rescheduling in 2022, but clients who would want a prime Friday or Saturday date in 2022 would incur an additional fee of, say, $800 for blocking out a desirable date on your calendar for any new clients. Thus, you are still keeping the SAME fees for all clients---$1200 and $2000, respectively---and it’s up to them which say of the week they are wanting to reschedule to.
Like I’ve mentioned, the key here is to make this fee a FLAT RATE for all rescheduling so it's the same across the board. A flat fee for all clients across the board is easily proven as reasonable, should you have to go to court to argue for your fees. A rescheduling fee is in place because of the loss of income to you, the administrative costs to rescheduling, and the loss of work and income to your business this year. My hope for you is that you never have to get to the court stage, but just in case you do I want you to be prepared to handle whatever arguments comes your way.
And, finally, whatever amount you do charge, you want it to be just high enough that it’s an incentive to NOT reschedule. That’s the ultimate goal right?! To keep clients from changing their dates and taking one that could open for another couple. Hence, I would NOT suggest doing a $250 rescheduling fee because that’s easy for clients to rationalize and they will easily reschedule for that amount. But, you don’t want the clients to feel like they are paying for an entire new booking with you either at a $3000 rescheduling fee for a $4000 package. The balance between ensuring it's high enough but not too high is tough, but important. This is why if you at least start your rescheduling fee somewhere around your retainer fee it's a bit easier to explain to clients (or a judge), because you’d be losing out on booking another retainer from a new client for that same date.
While I can give you advice all day long on this issue because it's an ongoing issue in our industry right now, you are going to have to make a decision on what works best for your business. No one can really do that but you. Hopefully though, by talking through the reasoning behind why (and when) you should charge a fee is helpful and ultimately gives you the confidence to form new rescheduling policies and explain (and enforce) them with your clients.
If you are needing legal documents to support you with issuing rescheduling fees, TLP suggests using our Rescheduling & Cancellation Bundle which includes two contract addendums, a Rescheduling Contract, and a Cancellation Contract for you to implement your rescheduling fee policy into.
If you are full service planner listen to this episode on The Legal Paige podcast with guest Brandee Gaar!
Additional Resources & Pending Case Law:
Unable to get a $12,000 refund from the wedding estate, which decline to postpone their wedding to another date--Lawsuit still in review. Read More Here
“Every contract is different, and some make it very difficult to change plans and obtain refunds – even during a global pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that venues and vendors can’t be reasonable and flexible.” Opportunity to file complaint with AG’s office, but no specific remedies or blueprint laid out for what is reasonable and what isn’t. Read More Here
Texas court records show at least 15 lawsuits over wedding contract disputes since July 2020, 3 against one venue, all still pending. One suit citing “failure to disclose it could not perform because of COVID”. Read More Here.
Bill S2896/A4658 in New Jersey would require businesses to refund payments for events canceled because of COVID and cap the amount they could charge to reschedule at no higher than the rate of inflation. Moved to consideration in January 2021. Read More Here
Lawsuit filed in Dallas County, class action status requested on behalf of all couples with ceremonies at the particular venue, Walters Wedding Estates (mentioned in other articles). Read More Here
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.