Upload & Sell: On
Nathan Padgett wrote:
Just about anytime a bride cancels on you, it's usually unlikely you'll have time to book another client. At least that has been my experience. So I really don't see why four days prior would make much of a difference.
I wouldn't feel right about keeping the full payment since no work is being done.
If a bride cancels months in advance, there's significant opportunity to rebook, or, even if you don't rebook a wedding, there's time to plan other work or valuable activity.
I'm surprised to hear a photographer say "since no work is being done." I expect that from clients, but I tend to think photographers know better.
I once had someone cancel the day before the wedding, and the client's request for partial refund was along that line of reasoning. She called the money a windfall, which I found simultaneously funny and insulting, and had to edit and re-edit my reply before sending it. (I'm a laid-back guy and quick to accommodate people, but I also go out of my way to respect other people's time and effort, and having people undervalue my time and effort frustrates me.)
Perhaps you meant to say no "further" work is being done, which would be a fair characterization. But a cancellation is not just a big refund of useful time -- it is not a windfall.
What costs does short-notice cancellation impose? It voids the value of all the time and effort I've spent on, among other things, negotiating with and preparing the client, shooting engagement photos, researching and scouting the location and suitable spots for bridal-party photos. It usually robs me of future business -- since most of our business comes from bridal party members, guests, and other referrals. It means I've got a blank spot where activity should be, which is another source of new business (i.e., just doing and showing wedding work keeps me visible). And any activity I can slap together at the last minute is likely to be of lower value to me than activity I have time to plan out in advance.
I applaud the OP's voucher offer, and think that's the right move. Full amount due, credit for re-booking within a year. I do that, too, because I think it's the best way to re-capture the referral business if the bride does rebook within the time limit while insuring against the risk the client doesn't reschedule.