The short answer is, it varies.
Pippin Hill wedding venue
Credit: Branco Prata

It's never ideal to cancel a wedding contract early. Generally speaking, both you and the vendor have already done a bit of work together in preparation for your event, and neither one of you wants to see that effort go to waste. However, sometimes circumstances beyond your control can arise, making it impossible for you to move forward with the existing arrangement in place. This can leave you with unexpected legal and financial responsibilities. We spoke to Caroline J. Fox, attorney and principal of CJFox Law, PLLC and the founder of the Engaged Legal Collective, to find out what you need to know about the costs associated with cancelling your signed vendor contract before you make the final call.

It Matters When You Cancel

"The tricky part is that every event vendor is different, based on their industry and the amount of prep work," Fox says, explaining that the standard she's used to seeing requires a nonrefundable deposit of ¼ to ½ of the total contract cost. Payment is generally due in full within 30 days of the event, so if you're canceling the contract less than 30 before the wedding, Fox says you should expect to pay in full. "Note that this does vary, especially based on the experience of the vendor and how many materials the vendor must procure up front."

A Solid Contract Protects You Both

Fox recommends avoiding verbal agreements or "handshake" deals, because loosely defined contracts can do more harm than good. Make sure you have read over the terms and understand what you're signing, it will be your first line of defense if anything goes wrong in the transaction. "Look at those 'Termination' and 'Notice' provisions, and follow them exactly," she says, adding that both you and the vendor should get the termination confirmation in writing.

Understand What You Sign

If you are signing a settlement agreement, check and see if there is a non-disparagement clause. These will usually explain that the vendor is keeping a smaller portion of the balance in exchange for the understanding that you won't leave any negative reviews about your experience with them. While this is more likely to pertain to a situation where you're walking away from a vendor because you are unhappy with their service, it still applies if you are cancelling because of an issue on your end.

It's Not Personal

"Planning a wedding is an intimate and emotional process, and selecting vendors that align with your inner thoughts and feelings based on Instagram stalking and one 30-minute meeting is difficult," Fox says. "Sometimes, people just aren't a personality fit—and that's okay!" If you feel like your vendor isn't a good fit, or else you can't seem to get on the same page about your wedding day vision, you should feel free to terminate your contract to find someone else. Just remember that the vendors are working with you on your wedding because it is their job, and they deserve to be compensated for any work or materials they've already provided.


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