Am I obligated to refund a retainer regarding wedding photography with no contract?

UPDATED: Aug 2, 2011

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Am I obligated to refund a retainer regarding wedding photography with no contract?

A client pays a hold-the-date retainer for wedding photography services with intentions of ironing out contract details in the coming weeks. 5 weeks later they call asking for a refund, as they have delayed the wedding. I offer to move the date but no refund as I have missed out on the prime booking season.

Asked on August 2, 2011 Washington


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In most states, there are laws essentiallystating that there is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit in the absence of a written contract to the contrary.

Unfortunately, you have no written contract with the client for wedding photography services with respect to a stated deposit, price, and refund policies. The client was relying upon you as a business person to not only take photgraphs at the upcoming wedding, but also to be a professional business person with a written agreement detailing the terms for services. This did not occur.

You would be obligated to return the "hold the date retainer" to the client. From a business standpoint, the best and worst advertisement one can receive is by word of mouth. I would think that the client who promptly received the return of the full retainer would speak well of you in the future resulting in more business than less.

Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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