Whether you are establishing contracts for your own business, or reviewing contracts being established between clients and professionals, it’s important to note many factors, one of which is the due dates for payments. During the review, you may find yourself wondering why some businesses require full payment in advance and others accept payment at the event, and which is the best option.
The answers are something each business owner must decide for him or herself after consulting with an attorney and financial advisor. Outlined below, however, are some of the benefits and risks associated with requiring payments in either fashion. It’s important to note these are generalizations based on our experience, and not all event businesses structure their payments in the same fashion.
Requiring full payment before the event
Some businesses structure payment plans to ensure the anticipated balance is paid, in full, prior to the rendering of services at the wedding or event. Often, these professionals include planners, venues, bakeries, floral designers, and rental companies. These businesses may also require a credit card be placed on file, which is later used for charges that occur at the event (i.e. burned linens, damaged walls, broken china, etc).
Benefits of accepting full payment in advance include:
• Client does not have to worry about providing payments at the event (with, perhaps, the exception of gratuities)
• Professionals have been paid the agreed-upon rate for services being provided
• Bounced checks or declined credit cards (depending on how far in advance of the event such transactions occur) can be handled prior to the event (and if payment is not made, services are not performed)
• Client feels an obligation to make payments on time to ensure services are rendered
Risks of accepting full payment in advance include:
• Client refuses to sign the contract for fear the professional won’t provide agreed-upon services
• Professional is paid but doesn’t show up
• Quality of services or goods is less than satisfactory or not as agreed, yet the professional was paid their full amount
• Contract cancellations may require a refund based on services or goods provided through the cancellation date
• Requiring payments too early may impact revenue stream into business, especially during peak seasons
• Event-day additions (extra hours, etc) have to be billed following the event in hopes the client will pay promptly (especially when a credit card is not on file)
Requiring full payment at, or after, the event
Other businesses may require a deposit and/or partial payments (i.e. 75% of the balance) be made prior to the event, and the remainder due on, or even after, the completion of services. These may include caterers, photographers, videographers, transportation companies, hair stylists, make-up artists, officiants, and entertainment providers.
Benefits of not requiring full payment in advance include:
• Professionals will provide agreed-upon services to ensure full-payment is received
• Payments (when structured correctly) are better for revenue stream
• Client has peace of mind that the professional will show up (though, not necessarily true)
• Charges incurred the day-of (additional services, hours, etc) can be quickly added to final invoice
• A professional with a deliverable (i.e. photographer has the images) can withhold final products and services until payment is received
Risks of not requiring full payment in advance include:
• Client determines services were not as expected and refuses to pay balance due
• Client fails to pay and ceases communication
• Client provides insufficient funds (either by check or declined credit card)
• Client “forgets” payments at home or in another bag and says they’ll mail it to you after the event, then forgets or takes an excessive amount of time to do so
• Time and money must be spent attempting to collect (including legal action if necessary)
• Due dates may have less meaning to client since event has already occurred
• Loss of revenue
In our opinion, all professionals should require full and final payment no later than two weeks prior to the event. This method nearly eliminates the risk of not receiving payment for services provided. Professionals risk losing income and a substantial amount of time when they do not require payment in full prior to the event. For those professionals who incur charges at or following the event, ensure you have a client’s credit card on file to handle such expenses, and clearly outline in your contract what the card will be used for, the amounts, and the ramifications if the card is declined. If the services performed do not meet the expectations of the client (regardless if they did or did not actually meet the terms of the agreement), then the onus is on them to seek a solution, not on the professional to collect the balance due.
In any case, your contract, or that of the professionals, should clearly detail the payment arrangements and services to be performed, as well as cover late fees, insufficient funds charges, and implications for unsatisfactory services. In the end, all event professionals want the client to be happy and for their contracts to be clear and concise.
Mark Paquette is a certified wedding and event coordinator and the founder of Mark Christopher Weddings and Events based in Denver, Colorado. Mark has a background in catering and operations management, has been planning weddings for five years (and other events much longer), created and provides training for coloradogayweddings.com, and is a board member for the Greater Denver Chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events.