Didn’t Get What You Paid For? How to Negotiate a Refund with a Vendor

From missing bouquets to low-quality photos, experts weigh in on how to get your money back when things go wrong on your big day

Updated 12/01/19
Karen Kasmauski / Getty Images.

Contracts, invoices, order forms, and delivery schedules are all designed to keep you and your vendors on the same page, and to make sure they deliver what you’re expecting on your wedding day. They almost always work, but there’s an off-chance things won’t turn out the way you’d hoped. Didn’t get what you paid for? These expert tips will help you negotiate that refund.

When to Ask for a Refund

Once the checks have been written and cashed, you hope you’ll get exactly what each vendor outlined for you. But what if those chandeliers you rented never lit up, or the florist only delivered half of the bouquets you ordered? When it’s more than a matter of opinion—and actually a service you paid for but didn’t receive—you’re in a position where asking for some money back is totally appropriate.

Start With the Contract

“If you find yourself disappointed after the wedding, you may wonder what your options are,” says Amy Nichols, founder of Amy Nichols Special Events. First and foremost, look at your contracts. “What exactly did your contract specify, and more importantly, did you and the vendor both sign the contract? Your best chance of receiving any sort of refund will be if the vendor breached or did not fulfill his or her duties as outlined in the contract.” For example, if you ordered 12 centerpieces and the floral designer only delivered 10, then yes, you can certainly ask for a refund for the two centerpieces that were not delivered, assuming you very clearly communicated your final table numbers with your floral designer. "This is a reason that having everything in writing is key," adds Nichols. "A verbal agreement is going to be harder to enforce in a situation like this."

Assess the Situation

So what if you got what you paid for, but you're not happy with what you got? "If you receive your wedding photos and you don't like them or don't like how you look in them, you're going to be hard-pressed to get a refund from your photographer, unless there was something very seriously wrong (for example, if your photographer arrived after the ceremony started, etc.),” continues Nichols. Know that many factors are out of someone's control, such as the weather or lack of natural light, so if your photos turn out dark because it stormed all day, there’s only so much editing a photographer can do. "A wedding photographed on a dark day will never look like natural light in the summer in wine country!” Nichols explains.

Be Proactive

If you notice something amiss on your wedding day, point it out to your venue, planner, or the vendor on the day-of. “If your florist is told that he or she didn’t deliver as many bouquets as they’d promised right when they make the delivery, they may be able to put one together for you before you walk down the aisle, but they can’t fix it when it’s all said and done,” says Nichols. “Your vendors will want to remedy the situation quickly, from checking or replacing malfunctioning equipment to adding extra power, so let them know as soon as you notice something is amiss.”

Ultimately, your chance of getting a refund will come down to what was agreed upon in the contract, whether the issue was neglect on the part of the vendor or something force majeure that was completely out of their control. “When you go to discuss with your vendor, have the facts in hand, but also be rational and respectful,” says Nichols. “That will give you the best chance of coming to a mutual decision on how to remedy the situation.”

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