client canceled wedding photographer 11days b4 wedding

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by dara_harris|1, May 5, 2009.

  1. Hello Everyone,
    My client wants to terminate her contract 11 days b4 wedding. I have already done engagments and gave book of 50 images, and already done Bridal and gave book of 50 images. Spent 2 hours on each session. They have CD of both. They were happy with them ,even raved to everyone. then out of the blue after mom odered several prints to display at wedding,mom now hates all pictures,mom is a crazy lady.Her daughter also liked the pictures,I have emails stating so.Daughter signed contract.Mom said images to artsy. I do have a contract. It is too late to book another wedding. May 16th. Any advice???
    Dara Harris
  2. First, I am really sorry to hear that you're in this position. There is no easy or happy way out of this if, in fact, the MOTB doesn't want you to shoot the wedding; if you do shoot it, and you've not brought her around again, she is going to hate the pictures simply on principle.
    My guess is that she suddenly found a friend who is willing to do it for a lot less and is now trying to get out of the contract.
    There is, however, a bunch of information that's missing before anyone can really give you solid advice:
    • Regarding the termination of your services, what is the 'drop dead' date for canceling? Or is it a non-refundable deposit?
    • Have they paid the deposit?
    • What does the contract state about recouping expenses already paid (like albums, prints, etc.)?
    • Presumably the daughter is 18 and competent to sign a contract in her own name?
    I know how I would handle the situation but that's because I also know my contract terms.
  3. hello dara,
    i think you should contact the mother directly. if you are writing, tell them that the deposit is non refundable if you have taken one. if you haven't, make sure that they pay up the cost of your time and effort. then let them out. the other option is to chat and see how they want you to shoot.
  4. Rob is right: your course of action is based on what is and isn't in your contract. If you don't use the term "retainer" for the money a couple puts down to hold the date, make that change right away. And, call it a non-refundable retainer, which is a bit redundant, but it bolsters the point that a retainer is there to reserve services rather than a product (deposit). If you haven't given the people a product, they're more likely to be able to get money back.
    All of the terms in my contract come from all the many, many mistakes I've made. So, anyone who cancels less than six weeks before the wedding is liable for the full amount.
  5. When contract is signed let the couple know that you answer only to the them: the bridal couple. The bridal couple is my only "boss". I will listen carefully to the concerns of any family member but the bottom line is the bridal couple which keeps things nice and clean and simple. Nothing worse than multiple bosses. No matter the name on the check the bridal couple is my boss.
  6. You have two choices. The first is to try and repair things so that you are back on the shoot. The second is to terminate the contract, but (hopefully) you have a deposit which is non-refundable. Some photographers have it in their contract that if the contract is terminated within x days of the event, the client (whomever signed the contract) is liable for the entire amount. Good luck, of course, getting the entire amount, if you don't already have it.
    To do the former, you need to feel out the bride and see if you can find out the real motives for the mom wanting termination AND the daughter going along with it. If you can't, then you have no choice but to terminate. If you can, you will have to figure out real fast, whether you CAN repair things, and if so, do it.
    As for the money part of it, hopefully you have been paid for engagement session and products. If not, you are in a pickle. Hopefully, you have the deposit (retainer). If not, you are in a pickle.
    So what does your contract say?
  7. My contract states all deposits are non-refundable, so that covers me money-wise for time and effort if they cancel. I wouldn't exactly want to post on an internet forum that her mother is "crazy", that's not really good business practice, just FYI.
    If the daughter signed the contract I would just verify with her that she wants to cancel, wish her luck, and cut your losses. Depending on what your contract states I would just take the deposit and lick your wounds. It sucks, but always keep your business in mind when dealing with difficult people.
  8. Do not contact the Mom. Deal with daughter as she signed the contract.
    Go by the contract. That's why you signed it.
    Did she pay for the first two books? If not make sure she pays for them and if your contract alows you to keep the deposit, keet it.
    Place an ad on Craig's list stating that you have the date open.
  9. What Anthony said. It's not up to mom and dad, it's up to whomever signed the contract, legally that's the way it works! Don't make any exceptions. We retainer fee, non refundable and payment in full non-refundable 30 days before regardless as to whether or not the wedding is shot, non-negotiable for just these kinds of reasons.
  10. Thank You. I do have a non -refundable retainer fee clause in the contract. However, do not have any limit set yet for termination. Just on my end if full payment is not recieved 2 weeks b4 I have the right to terminate. I have tried to solve but, mom stating her friend is a professional photographer and mom now dosent like my work. There was no comprimising with her. Daughter is very close with her. So, Mom is speaking for her. I have the full payment from Mom,but daughter signed contract. I am trying to keep peace, just trying to figure out what is fair for us both. Mom said she did not like my style of photography.B&W,angles,some pics couple were not directly in center.She said she likes standard photography. Daughter likes in her words "artistic photography". Mom hasnt been involved until now. I have learn alot this go around,never had this happen before. Total was 2,100 and retainer was 525.00. Like I said ,spent 4 hours(just shooting) already and delivered 2 books,flush mount 50 images each.And Cd and online posting and had several orders from the shoot. Now licking wounds. I will use all the advice for future contracts.What is fair amount for refund?
    Dara Harris
  11. I am assuming that when you say you have full payment from Mom, you are referring to the retainer? If not, and you mean the entire $2100, I would refund the difference between $2100 and $525. If you kept the entire amount, even if you had a clause in your contract, you will be hard pressed to make this stick should they take you to court--small claims or otherwise. I cannot, of course, say for sure, but I would think most judges will not look kindly upon your keeping the entire amount while having done zero work for it, unless the engagement products were part of it. If so, you'll have to figure out what those are worth per item and back those out. Whether you start backing them out from the $2100 or from the $2100 minus $525 is up to you. If it were me, I'd do the former, as nothing good can come from hard feelings over the termination, which would be unavoidable. I'd call it a lesson learned and move on.
  12. If you don't use the term "retainer" for the money a couple puts down to hold the date, make that change right away. And, call it a non-refundable retainer, which is a bit redundant, but it bolsters the point that a retainer is there to reserve services rather than a product (deposit).
    What actually matters is if they way the contract language actually works. Merely substitituting one title for another is insufficient. You could call this part of the contract the "The Funky Banana Split Clause" and in the end its the way the contract is set up with repect to refunds and forfeitures that will govern.
  13. if your contract alows you to keep the deposit, keet it... ...Place an ad on Craig's list stating that you have the date open.

    In some states, such as mine, it will be extremely difficult to keep the retainer if a sufficiently paying gig is secured for that date. Ther is also a duty to actually make a reasonable effort to mitigate the loss and to try to get a new gig. Many states view the enforcability of liquidated damages clauses (including hold the date type retainers) by determining its reasonableness only from the date of contracting, others also include the date of breach as part of the equation.
    My comments here on the thread aren't legal advice, just a big hint to get your legal advice from an attorney in your state instead of the thread.
  14. Thanks Nadine,
    Yes, I have recieved all payments.Total of all being 2,100.00 I have already done engagement and Bridal and delivered both products. (books) Both were part of her package.I am thinking I will charge separately for each product. I charge normally(if bought seperate from package)Bridal 300.00 and engagment 300.00 Thats what I charge for this ala carte. But the books she chose are extra. They are 92.00 my cost each. Flush mount.8x8 1 image per page.Usually it is just 4x6 prints. not flush mount. I will back them out from 2,100. I did the online viewing too,part of package. Good lesson. Thanks again.
  15. There is no fair amount, send them on their way as quickly and easily as possible. Get a nice bottle of wine and rent a good movie for the 16th, kick you're feet up and enjoy your night off.
  16. Just a thought--can you shoot traditionally? If so, why can't you shoot both styles at once. I've done it. You have to work almost twice as hard and keep reminding yourself about the one style that is weaker for you, but it can be done. Have you talked to the mom and bride about this alternative? If the mom hires the traditional photographer, that satisfies her needs but what about the bride's wish for a more artistic style? I'd think the bride's wishes still count for something with the mom. Course, I could be wrong.
  17. 2 comments :
    1) You website does not work in Firefox 3.0 (works in IE7 though).
    2) I found your pictures were a little on the artistic side (as opposed to traditional). So the bride-mom was probably saying the truth, and may not be merely looking to go for a cheaper option. Of course what she did is still unethical but as a non-technical person she may not have realized how non-traditional your pics were till she saw the first prints.
    And considering she's paying for her daughter's wedding photography I guess she is within her rights to get what she thinks are the best pics. She may also have been strongly coaxed in this direction by her photographer friend.
    So while you have reason to feel upset, from her perspective she's doing her best for her daughter's wedding. So there's no bad guy here.
  18. I have to wonder, if the mom was the one paying, why is she just NOW seeing examples of your work. Moms often accompany brides to meetings with me, or at least see my website before pony-ing up cash. Something about this sounds off.
  19. In most courtrooms I know of, deposits are refundable. Even if your contract states it is not. However, a retainer fee is not refundable when it is stated so in a contract. Look into that before your next contract.
    If you really cannot repair the situation and go shoot the day, I would heistate to refund anything in that time frame. I would likely give them something else though. For instance, a family session and some prints/ baby/pregnancy pics when that happens, etc.
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “My client wants to terminate her contract 11 days b4 wedding. I have already done Engagements. . Bridal and books of images CDs, Spent 2 hours on each session. It is too late to book another wedding. Any advice???”
    I would immediately agree to the Client' wishes and terminate the contact once I received her signed written instruction. Given the outline, I would not *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#*-foot around attempting to recover any position: too many red flags for my liking.
    The amount of time and the effort you have given is irrelevant, also the fact that you cannot book another Wedding so also irrelevant - all the emotion, whilst understandable, is irrelevant - it is a simple business decision
    “What is fair amount for refund?”
    I was originally confused about the amounts of money and what they were for . . . But I get it now, I think.
    You've received $2100 and that is the total you expected for the whole gig. But it was an Inclusive Package.
    Your intention is to separate the costs for each of the items which have been received. You will price each at your individual price. You will add that all together. (That’s $300 +$300 + 2 Books + Pages / Mounts) Then subtract that total from the $2100.
    I agree, but I would also keep the Retainer that is paid to me as a fee for my services to be exclusively available – if they choose not to use me, then that is the Client’s prerogative.
    I could not book another Wedding: the short time frame would not allow me to show due professional diligence with the necessary planning and preparation with the clients; reconnoitre; allow the preparation of the clients in front of the camera; develop rapport with the clients – no doubt all the reasons why your encouraged your clients to take this package, allowing all the contact, shoots and meetings.
    Obviously it is impossibly to do all that again, with a new couple, in only 11 days.
    I too would drink red wine that evening – it would be very therapeutic.
    I also suggest you run the $, by a lawyer - my Consumer Legislation is no doubt different to your laws - but if one only keeps the fee for the goods and servcies provided to the old client who quit, and has not time to secure a new client and provide equal service to them, that seems fair to keep all those payments from the old client.
  21. William W gives very sound advice.
    Take all of your pricing, a list of what was delivered and paid, and ALL communication (e-mails) and go to a good law office. Spend an hour or so with them (be sure to add the legal fees to your costs). Next, send a check for the difference between your expenses / costs and the amount received, along with a letter stating per the wishes of the mother of the bride, you consider your contract terminated, via REGISTERED MAIL to the Bride with a copy to the Mother of the Bride. Make sure you inform them that you will not provide any further services under the contract.
    John brings up a valid point too... ask the attorney what you have to do (if anything) to try to secure another client for that date. Most contracts state that the retainer is paid in order to prevent the photographer from soliciting other work that date and to prevent the bride / couple from soliciting multiple photographers. Legal requirements and time varies from state to state on the requirement to try and solicite other work. Some states don't require you to even try, others require a good faith effort.
    One more thing that hasn't been pointed out yet... Your assertation that "mom is a crazy lady" is now preserved for eternity on this forum and is discoverable / addmissible in a court of law, should this go that route. Don't post opinions about clients or ex-clients on this or any forum / blog / e-mail etc... That may be all a good lawyer needs to turn this against you. Also - your name is forever tied to this post via google...which, right or wrong, is what a lot of potential clients do when checking out a photographer.
  22. once I received her signed written instruction.
    A good point. Verifiable evidence that the client has repudiated the contract and instructed the photographer not to show up and perform is very useful. If no suitable photographer is secured, there is danger that the cleint will claim that the photographer is the one in breach by not showing up. If there is a crazy mon minvolved, that situation is more likely. People will do anything. Without the written notice, prudence may require showing up to shoot or to be turned away.
    Its good to have written notice required in the contract in order to cancel the services along with the warning that the portion of the payment made for holding the date will not be refunded.
  23. Dara
    The reason that I said post an ad on Craigs List is to protect you if you end up in court. You need to be able to show the Court that you took efforts to get another client for that day. A Craig's List add would show that you had. I would also put a notice up on your web site saying you are available for that day.
    The odds are that no one will respond. But you will have taken effors to mitigate your losses.
    You need to check with a lawyer as to who you issue the refund to. Only the daughter can terminate the contract. My guess is that you would issue the refund to the daughter not the Mom and she can pass the funds on to the Mom but your state law will apply here.
    Goood luck.
  24. You don't mention if you have a written copy of the cancellation. If not, do get it, as you don't want any other trouble down the line for 'not showing up'.
  25. Has the client actually terminated or is it just a suggestion?
    If there is an actual termination (letter, e-mail etc.) work out how much you would reasonably charge for the work you have already done and refund the rest.
  26. If you cancel, make dang sure you have something signed stating that the bride or who signed the wedding contract has cancelled your services. Also, for future weddings, a "deposit" can be requested to be returned. A "reservation fee" can not. To protect your future business, you may want to let this one go,,,
  27. Chimera,
    A number of things to consider. Are you paid for the engagement and bridal portraits? Are they part of the contract?
    Try to negotiate a settlement and get a "release" of the contract in writing. Then run as far as you can in the other direction. Make sure the release is signed by whoever signed the original contract or it means nothing. These are not honorable people.
    You may be able to patch things up and photograph the wedding, but I'm sure you'll be sorry afterwards. These people have seen your work and you've already done 2 shoots for them. Don't force your services on them, it'll only come back to make your life miserable at some point....-Aimee
    PS .Don't assume that a customer selects another photographer just because of price. Put your ego aside. Know your competition, what they're offering and what their work is like. This is valuable information that you should always be on top of if you intent to compete.
  28. I have ask for written notice from the bride to terminate(she signed contract)still dont have it,just had verbal contact from mom to terminate.There is no resolution on moms part.She just wants another photographer,I was shocked,because they loved everything at first,bought reprints. Bride and groom and mom meet me at first meeting and showed portfolio. Second meeting just bride and groom.Then they signed. Retainer fee states non refundable in event of cancellation.I did shoot artistic and traditional at both shoots. Tried to please,but my first time with this,I get along fantastic with everyone normally. Lesson learned, hope somebody else learns from my experience. Thanks again for advice
  29. Hi Dara,
    Like I said at the very top, and I'll say it again, I'm really sorry that you're in this position.
  30. Dara,
    I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, I strongly suggest you find a local lawyer to advise you of the law.
    I don't know what your contract says, but I would think that you are still obligated to shoot the wedding, until you receive written notice from the signer of the original contract. The terms or your contract will tell you what needs to happen.
    I would think that if you've only received a verbal response from mom and then don't show up at the wedding, then you could be sued for breech of contract as the contract was with the daughter. I wouldn't consider verbal notification from someone I don't have a contract with to be notice of termination.
    Good Luck,
  31. I'd say it doesn't matter what the mom thinks of the images, the daughter is bound to the contract, so whatever your contract states about terminating the photo session should be clear.
  32. If it were myself I would just bailout, dont know where you live but this can only
    come back to haunt you give them a cost at wholesale and just let it go
    I live in Reno NV and everyone KNOWS everyone and by trying to get full cost
    will hert in the long run just do break even and consider yourself lucky as its only going to
    get worse..... live and learn there is almost no way you can win your rep is all that you have
    you are only as good as your last shot and if they tell all their friends and word gets
    around where will you be cut your looses as quickly asap get it in writing
  33. as implied by several reply posts.....your contract is with the "daughter", only she can cancel it and you must make sure she does it in writing. To a court of law the mother is not party to the contract and has nothing to do with the services you provide to the daughter. If the daughter does not cancel the contract, you will be in breach if you do not follow through and shot the wedding as contracted. It can be a sticky mess, but you must keep the legal aspects "clean" if you do not want to suffer further losses.
  34. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I have ask for written notice from the bride to terminate (she signed contract) still don’t have it, just had [spoken] contact from mom to terminate."
    I do not profess to know the ins and outs of your laws: but if this remains the situation on the day, I would arrive and fulfil my end of the deal. As John H states this is the prudent option, without any signed written instruction from the client to quit.
    I add: I would have an assistant for this gig, one who likely would have a note pad and pen, and a mobile phone.
    I am fond of diary notes. And also speed dial.
  35. Tell me again why you wedding photographers do what you do? It can't be because it's fun....
  36. Also, for future weddings, a "deposit" can be requested to be returned. A "reservation fee" can not.

    Once again be aware that labels are not a be all and end all. While these terms are correctly described, its crucial that the contract be set up so that it really functionally works as a non-refundable hold the date type retainer. Gregory may not have intended to suggest titles alone are sufficient but so many seem to think it is, that clarification is in order.
  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Tell me again why you wedding photographers do what you do? It can't be because it's fun...."
    I assume the question is a tad tongue in cheek, but my answer centres on these general feelings
    Adrenaline, reasonable bucks, ego outlet, ability (now) to choose what, when and where, that sort of stuff, really. And I actually like shooting happy, energy charged events: most Weddings are.

  38. More advice....Simply...
    Take the $2100 subtract for portrait sessions, subtract for photos and then subtract for the retainer. Return the rest.
  39. I am no attorney but in a case like this I am inclined to be a not so nice person.
    Get the Red Wine and I recommend mushrooms and stilton to go with it. Have that ready.
    Do nothing. If the only person you have heard from is the MoB then I think you would assume you still have a contract with the person who signed it. The Bride and Groom. If neither one of them have personally asked for you to terminate the contract, just show up ready to shoot. If they cancel the day of the wedding they will play all hell getting a cent back.
    Or you can send a registered letter to the bride and groom telling them that the MOB tried to cancel your participation and that only they can do that. Remind them that the deposit is non-refundable. Leave it at that. If they want their money back make them offer a compromise. Otherwise keep the money. Remember that if they send you a letter, by the time all of this happens they will be canceling within days of the wedding.
    Go home. Microwave the Stilton and Mushrooms. Open the red wine (hopefully a good Bordeaux) and watch wresteling.
  40. Dear God, do NOT follow Rick's advice. Stilton should NEVER be microwaved!! :)
    Actually, Dara, if my math is correct (and it rarely is, so...) the wedding is on the 16th, right? Please let us know how this turned out.
  41. If you feel the need to give a refund (NEVER the retainer) subtract the cost of the products they already ordered a la carte. Nuff said.
  42. Dara,
    If you don't have a written cancellation, then you MUST show up, ready to shoot as scheduled. Otherwise you're asking for trouble. If it were my, I would prepare a written document and make an appointment to meet with the bride and a witness and have it signed. If anyone else signed the contract, you need their signature as well.
    If you can't get this done ahead of time, bring it with you on the day of the wedding. You need written proof that she's cancelling the contract, otherwise you're obligated to provide the services and products that you agreed to....-Aimee
  43. I would not marry that lady, sounds like the son-in-law is "cruzin for a brusin"
    just be careful and do what protects you finacially and professionally.
    bad things can happen , even months later
    "the witness" not some flakey friend is excellent if you do not get qa cancellation in writing and do show up ready to take photos
    if they "toss you out" be sure the witness is alert and right by your side.,
    maybe an off-duty policeman.
  44. yeah, if you do go, you better take someone else with you, good suggestion
  45. Dara,
    Any update?
  46. If you have a contract with the bride. And you don't show up to shoot because the brides mother told you not to. Then YOU (not the mother) are in violation fo the contract.
    If you don't get written cancelation from the Bride (not Mom) then I think you might be obligated to shoot anyway. Be very careful here. The cancelation must come from the signer of the contract (not a 3rd party) and it should be in writing as well.
    For all you know the bride may still think you are shooting and want you to.
  47. Dara,
    It's the 17th. How did things turn out?

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