What is a retainer payment?
On Wednesday, I posted a blog that addressed the question of ‘How much does an Ontario Wedding Officiant cost?”. It discussed why it can be so challenging to answer this question when someone calls and that is their first question. The one topic I neglected to mention was the retainer that couples are asked to pay prior to the wedding and what this retainer covers.
It’s become a topic of conversation in the wake of COVD-19 which has caused restrictions on family being able to travel to the ceremony and on the number of people who can gather. At this time, I’ve had 9 cancelled weddings and just as many emergency wedding requests.* I’ve had a one couple ask for their retainer to be refunded, and another asking if I can hold their tentative wedding date and time in August, but they don’t want to pay the retainer until they know if the wedding is happening.
When booking a wedding, the retainer payment to the Officiant is a percentage of the overall service fee that, in my case, is not refundable, but completely transferable to another date and time.
The retainer is the payment that covers the time the Officiant has taken when discussing your wedding plans, determining which ceremony to create for you, and writing the ceremony. It also retains your date and time, which means it pays for your date and time to be held and prevents any other couple from booking that date and time.
It not only prevents the Officiant from booking other weddings, but it also keeps them from making plans with family and friends. One wedding on a Saturday afternoon keeps an Officiant from going out of town for the entire weekend. It’s a labour of love, so of course we do this willingly, but it also brings the sacrifice of missing birthday party dinners, declining invitations to go to shows, and annoying family because we have to plan our holidays two years in advance.
The Coronavirus has caused a downpour of rescheduling weddings and walk-throughs into an already busy 2020 summer. I’ve been flooded with relief when I have been able to find them dates that are still available. I’ve been filled with gratitude when other couples planning small weddings have been graciously flexing their ceremony times to accommodate the couples seeking a time that works with their large venues. I’ve been lucky to have friends and family who understand when I’ve cancelled plans with them to accommodate this rescheduling.
In some forums, Officiants are discussing an increased fee when couples are rescheduling their ceremony during prime periods because it is causing them a loss for the year. I haven’t considered this, but then again, I’ve never charged more for long weekends and holiday periods either. I will, however, stand by the policy for a non-refundable (but transferable) retainer because even though Officiating is the love of my life (my joy, my happiness, my passion!), so is my time with family and friends, so retaining it - is worth something.
*Emergency weddings: Couples who require the marriage certificate to begin their immigration process. Now more than ever, people are scared that they will be separated from those they love!