You’ve likely read somewhere that photographers require a signed contract and retainer in order to hold your wedding date exclusively. Retainers usually fall anywhere between a flat rate or 30-50% of your package cost and are generally non-refundable – even if the wedding gets cancelled. While this may seem unfair at first though, there’s actually a reason behind it.
Most couple book their photographer 1-2 years before their wedding, requiring the photographer to mark the day as no longer available and turn away potential brides interested in the same day.
Should your wedding day be cancelled for any reason, the money paid is able to be retained by the photographer in order to offset their loss of business. In other words, the photographer has dedicated this date solely to you and stopped marketing your wedding date the moment you booked. This causes the photographer to lose the potential income from other couples who could have booked. The wedding photography industry is typically broken up into two parts: busy season and booking season. Once booking season has passed, the odds of the photographer re-booking a cancelled date drops dramatically.
Now, while not receiving a refund of your retainer sounds kinda lousy, there’s actually a bright side for you! Photographers who require a substantial retainer amount are completely committing to you, meaning they aren’t going to leave you high and dry if another “better” client comes along or something cool pops up, like a family vacation.
The non-refundable retainer also covers the services provided prior to the wedding day such as time set aside for email exchanges/phone calls with the bride, putting together timelines, engagement sessions, costs related to the wedding prep such as stationery/welcome kits, etc. It also helps to stop couples from cancelling their photographer because they found someone cheaper or because they decided a friend could photograph the day instead.