There are often disagreements in our industry on whether event planners should accept kickbacks and commissions from vendors they recommend. Here is the simple answer:
If an event planner is taking commissions or kickbacks without their client’s knowledge, it is unethical.
If you do not accept commissions or kickbacks, communicate this fact to clients so they understand how you work and get paid versus how your competitors might work and get paid.
If a vendor or venue offers a commission, simply ask if they can offer it to the clients in the form of a discount instead of paying you a commission. As event planners, it is our job to recommend the best vendors for our clients, not the vendors who are going to pay us a referral fee.
When it is acceptable to take a commission: If it is clearly communicated to potential clients that your company accepts commissions from vendors or venues, it is ethical. Your clients are aware that commissions are part of your pay before they hire your company. For example, a planner may not accept commissions from photographers or floral designers but will take a commission on hotel room blocks and rental orders if they manage those details for a client. Again, this is ethical only if your client is aware of the commission.
I strongly recommend not taking any commissions or kickbacks in your wedding and event planning business.