What Should You Pay and When?

This is a question I have been hearing a lot lately, so I thought I’d ask around and get some opinions and due dates from other vendors.  This was the first time I inqured of other vendors their payment policies and due dates, and as such I learned a few things myself.  First, I learned dates vary based on the type of service being provided.  I also learned, that these dates and timeframes seem to be relatively consistent among each type of service being provided.  The following are vendors I specifically asked and received permission to quote them in this blog, though the policies and opinions they shared with me were expressed by other vendors of each type. One common thread with EVERY vendor I spoke with, despite the type of work they do, was that their deposits are all non-refundable.

The first service I contacted was Jen K Floral Design.  When you hire Jen as your florist, she requires 30% down, and balance is due one month prior to the event.  A florist’s expenses include the actual flowers that will be arranged, the labor costs of the employees that will be hired to help build centerpieces, bouquets, and other arrangements, as well as the time it takes to arrange all of the elements on the day of the event.  As well, you are also paying them for their time and expertise in the creativity and design of your arrangements.

My next call was to Molly Ann from Luminaire Images.  When you hire Luminaire as your photographer, they require 30% down when signing their contract, with the balance due one month prior to the wedding.  Additionally, any type of additional prints, books, or additional items order after the wedding must be completely paid for at the time the order is placed.  With a photographer, you are not only hiring them for their time and expertise while photographing your event. You are also paying for the included prints in your package.  Additionally, you are paying for the time it will take them to sort through your photos and complete any touch-ups, if necessary, after the event.  For photographers, this is a type of material “insurance” that they will be compensated should things go sour after the event has completed.

I wanted to get a coordinator’s perspective, so one of the coordinators I spoke with was Susan MacDonald with SuMac Productions.  When you hire Susan, she requires approximately 1/3 down, depending on the size of the contract.  Her final payment is due no less than 2 weeks prior to the event depending on the amount of work she put into it and the type of service she is providing.  The job of a coordinator varies based on the amount of work for which they are being hired. Some coordinators only work as what is referred to as a “day-of coordinator”.  These coordinators do not do as much work prior to the event, but instead are hired to show up the day of the event and insure that the event runs smoothly according the the agenda created with the client.

As for for myself and other DJs I have worked for, when the contract is signed a 50%, non-refundable down payment is due.  The final payment is due 60 days prior to the event, which is prior to my final 2-hour design meeting with my clients, where we sit down and go over the specifics of the event, from what song plays when, who will toast and when, the genres of music they want played during their dance sets, and more.  To ensure that I am compensated for my time and effort doing the necessary music preparation, creating the necessary agends, if requested, and the time I spend sitting down with my clients.  A DJ’s job is done the moment the last announcement is made and the last song stops playing.  There are no flowers and no photos to be held as collateral, should the wedding cancel or the client decide that they do not wish to pay the amount originally set forth in the initial contract.  As a sole proprietor/owner operator, unless a wedding is very early in the morning is at a venue nearby, I can only DJ one event per day.  Also, with all of the meetings and preparation prior to the event, by the time the wedding happens, I am more than 50% finished with the work necessary for me to help execute the perfect event my clients expect and deserve!

Many florists have multiple crews that can potentially design and setup multiple weddings on a single day.  Jen K is an exception, as she only works on a single event each day.  That being said, she has flowers that may be reused and/or resold should the wedding cancel prior to the event.

This next issue is something event professionals hate to talk about, but it is necessary because it does, in fact, occur on a rare occasion.  That is the unfortunate circumstance when a wedding cancels.  This only happens about, at most, once in every 20 or so weddings for which I am hired, so it is certainly is not common and is certainly NEVER something we, as vendors, expect or something for which we can extensively plan.  Unfortunately, in my personal experience, weddings that end up cancelling do so 100% of the time between my final meeting with the client and the time of the wedding, and most often, they cancel within a couple of weeks of the event.  In my position, if I had a different policy and I did not require payment full so early, I would lose out on at least 50% of the day’s pay because weddings very rarely book less than 4-5 months out, leaving me with no way to make up for the lost income, and a lack of compensation for the time and work that has already been put into ensuring that a client’s wedding will be as great or better an event as they imagine!  In addition, the LAST thing a vendor wants to have to do on the most important day of their clients’ lives is talk business and act as a bill collector, especially when they are trying to create a fantastic event.

**Geoff Maddox has been a professional wedding and event emcee and DJ for over 15 years.  He has appeared on TV and has been interviewed by various news outlets about his books and how he helps couples avoid vendor scams and advises them on ways to have their dream wedding without breaking the bank.  For booking and other information, please visit http://GMEdj.com, or call (949) 342-5079!

About GME DJ and Event Entertainment

I have been a DJ for about 10 years. Though my main business is weddings, I've DJed everything from corporate parties, to clubs, to sweet 16s, bar and bat mitzvahs, and more! I began singing when I was really young which jump-started my love of music! Not only does this give me a unique perspective, but it also allows me to more accurately assist clients with their music selection! My main philosophy is that a wedding or other event should be a reflection of the bride and groom or the person whom the event is for, and because of that, at the end of the night, they should feel like it was "The best party they've ever attended!", and I go out of my way to ensure that experience!
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