In this world we live in, natural disasters are inevitable. Though they have peak seasons and are more common in specific places, no one can fully be prepared for such kind of disasters. From hurricanes to tornadoes and earthquakes, all these natural disasters leave people’s lives and properties lost and/or displaced. A few days ago, Hurricane Matthew brought catastrophic loss to many places such as Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and areas in the south-east of the United States.
A couple of days after Hurricane Matthew hit the news, I came across a story (which I can imagine is one out of many) of a bride whose wedding was disrupted by the hurricane. With so much planning that goes into weddings; from vendors to guest and all levels of logistics in between, experiencing something as catastrophic like a hurricane would most certainly leave all involved shocked and devastated.
The bride in question had all her vendors happily refund the payments made as there was no way the wedding could go on as planned. All but the photographer. While many debated if the photographer was right or wrong for not refunding, I began to explore other options that could have been helpful in such a situation.
When A Hurricane Disrupts Weddings
One of the comments on this real situation was that the bride should have known or at least have been prepared since she knew her state was susceptible to hurricanes especially at the time of the wedding. My thoughts? When someone is low, don’t kick them. At the point of devastation, one can not shrug their shoulders and say “well she should have known” to a bride who is devastated. To a certain extent, such comments sound like victim blaming.
At the same time, no one is saying it’s the photographer’s fault either. None of the parties could have known for certain that a hurricane would cause the wedding to be canceled. So the issue should not be not “whose fault is it?” but more of “how can we move forward?” or “how can both parties meet halfway in resolving the issue?”
Again, no one knows for sure when it comes to natural disasters, so no one can really be 100% full proof. But there are measures that can be taken that could reduce the chances of being affected or the degree of the result of such disasters.
Wedding Insurance: Couples can look into buying wedding insurance for cases such as these. When purchasing this, couples should review very carefully what is covered and what is not instead of only focusing on insurance with a the cheapest premium.
The “Act of God” Clause: When booking wedding vendors, the couple should look for what is commonly referred to an “Act of God” clause and review it carefully. An “Act of God” is referred to as an event outside human control, such as natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible. Following this part of the contract should have what the vendor proposes he/she would do in such instances. A couple should review these carefully and be sure they are comfortable with the actions to be taken in such situations.
These actions could be;
1. Offer a Different Service: One of the various ways to resolve cases like these (where a service booked was disrupted by a natural disaster) would be for such a vendor to offer a different service to the couple. For example, a photographer who was paid to cover a wedding which was canceled due to a hurricane can then offer the couple services such as wedding portraits, anniversary sessions, baby/newborn sessions, etc. However, these services should be equivalent to that of the initially booked service. For example, a 2 hour wedding portrait session is NOT equivalent to an 8 hour wedding day coverage.
2. Offer Same Service at a Different Time: A vendor can also keep the service booked but then offer it for a different time. This time would have to be agreed upon by both the vendor and the clients.
3. Offer a Refund (Full or Partial): If the vendor has no other service that is equivalent to the wedding or a timing for a rescheduled wedding can not be agreed upon, a refund option can be explored. It can either be full or partial, depending on other various factors.
It is a common belief that if no work has been done, then no money should be paid. If both parties agree to this belief, then the client would get a full refund.
However some vendors can argue that a fee be retained and only a partial refund be given even when no work has been done. This fee retained is usually referred to as a retainer. Upon receiving a retainer, a vendor is considered “booked” and required to not accept any further jobs for the time frame for which the retainer was paid. So in cases where another client wants to book the said vendor (even for a higher costing service), such a vendor would have to reject such job opportunity since he/she has been “retained”.
Knowing this, a vendor would be a bit apprehensive to refund the retainer as it could be viewed as the compensation for a “missed job opportunity”. So in such cases, the client can get a partial refund; the full fee paid minus the retainer which the vendor would keep.
Question of the Day
Would you book with a vendor who explicitly states in his/her “Act of God” clause of the contract, that no refund would be given to the client in such a case? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave your comments below!