Here’s How Wedding Pros Are Handling Soft Holds
Unless you’re running a very large volume-based business, you’re probably aiming to take on a limited number of weddings and events every year. Deciding which events to take on can be quite daunting. With leads and inquiries coming in from couples, other wedding businesses, wedding planners, and past client referrals, the entire task of deciding who to book is a daunting one! How to handle it all? Enter the soft hold.
What is a soft hold? To put it simply, it’s when a wedding pro or business is asked to “hold” a date without a signed contract or a deposit or retainer. It’s a tricky place to be in as a pro. On the one hand, you want to give potential clients time to make a decision but on the other hand, holding a date can really impact your bottom line. We reached out to a few wedding pros to get a sense as to how everyone is handling the soft hold. Read on for category-by-category tips and insights!
Soft Holds for Wedding Planners
“As a rule, we will place a soft hold on select dates with a signed contract for our clients for three weeks while the venue process takes shape. We understand finding the right locale takes time and as we onboard a limited number of multi-day events a season, we have the ability to soft hold for our clients to ensure we have sufficient time for research and scouting.”
- Aleah and Nick Valley of Valley & Company Events
“While the strategic biz owner in me doesn’t believe in or agree with soft holds for a variety of reasons, the relationship building “connector” in me loves them. They’re an avenue of enhancing value and provide an incredibly convenient service to the referral source (typically a planner). This assumes it’s a B2B referral of course. For B2C, they’re not in alignment from an operational efficiency standpoint”
- Courtney Wolf, principal planner with Invision Events and co-founder of Educate | Empower | Encourage
“At the end of every consultation, discovery call with a potential client, I let them know that we place a 48 hour courtesy hold on their wedding date and we also tie a signing bonus discount to it. They have this time to officially reserve their wedding date before we open their date up to other couples. If the contract is signed within 48 hours, they receive a 10% discount signing bonus. 2 reasons we do this…
1. All couples want to save money (I built in the appropriate margins for this to still be profitable)
2. I’ve never met a planner who didn’t want to fill their calendar up with great couples as quickly as possible.
This provides couples with a positive sense of urgency while also using the rule of scarcity. It is a win/win situation for us and the client. We see many clients book within this timeframe and it’s a proven tool to grow our business exponentially. After the 48 hrs expires, we are still happy to welcome them should the date still be available, but at the full price.”
- Jacquelyn Mavrookas, founder of The Wedding Planning & Company
Soft Holds for Wedding Photographers + Videographers
“Wedding planners that we work closely with will either directly call or text us about an event date. If that happens, that date is pretty much locked in immediately; with or without a deposit or a contract. Their word is all we need because we have a long history of servicing their clients together. Eventually the paperwork will get done, and those clients get first dibs on having us as their photographer.”.
“When someone requests for us to place a soft hold on a date, we will mark it down in our calendars as such. If we get any other promising inquiries for those dates, we will communicate with the first potential client and give them first right of refusal. We know every case is different, so we try to be as flexible as we can. And usually if the first person knows there’s another interest, they will be quick to make their decision.”
- Cherish Conklin of Le Reve Films
“I only do soft holds for planners/clients who I have a history of working with who normally confirm. I have trust that if they are bringing a date/client my way it’s because they are already vouching for me and just waiting to get the budget approved.
- Amy Anaiz of Amy Anaiz Photography
Soft Holds for Freelancers
“Basically I consider them courtesy holds if the date is still open. If I get another offer for the same dates, I’ll let the first party know and they can either confirm me or catch me the next time. Once it hits about two weeks out without hearing anything, I’ll check in with the planner and 9 times out of 10, it’s still on and they’ve just been slammed…especially this season.”
- Sophie Landry
“Most freelancers book 6 months to a year out from an event. Since everyone is typically vying for the same weekends, I usually notify the planner as soon as I get a second inquiry to confirm the booking and clarify the exact dates of work. In general, if something is canceled within a two month window, I think it’s fair for event planners to pay 50% of the expected fee. Since most of us freelancers supplement our income in other ways, I think soft holds are a case-by-case basis, as with all things: it’s all about the relationship.”
- Bill Coyne
“I throw dates up on my calendar as soon as I receive them for my primary clients and planners, which for destination events is often 6-12 months out. I make it clear (for myself) if it’s a hold or confirmed. If another job or opportunity comes up I’ll circle back to see how “real” a hold it is. It’s not a perfect system and honestly, I’ve occasionally gotten burned by it in the past—jobs fall through, long term project involvement is scaled back, budgets get cut, or I find out later that they no longer plan to use me but haven't communicated that. I have strong relationships with everyone I work with and a good deal of empathy for the position we’re in from both sides. I find people who have freelanced themselves have a good understanding of what they’re asking and are especially respectful of this process.”
- Amanda Myers-Walls
Soft Holds for Venues
“We offer a soft hold after we have spoken with the client, qualified them, and sent a personalized full proposal for their wedding. We let our couples know that the date/venue space will be on hold for up to 2 weeks unless another party becomes interested sooner (and wants to move to contract) we will then reach out to the couple and give them 1-2 days to get back to us with first right refusal. When the couple is ready to contract, they have 1 week from the contract sent date to sign and make their first deposit. We will not offer that date to other parties for that week as this is now a tentative hold, and not a soft hold.”
- Robin Ewing, Director of Catering, Four Seasons Philadelphia
“While I am open to placing a date on a soft hold, the circumstances need to be carefully qualified. Ideally, the couple’s wedding planner has been secured first as they are always going to be the best advocate for their client’s wishes and be able to understand their needs, wishes and budget parameters the best. Before penciling in a couple’s name on a date, I want to be certain that our destination is in their top two and that they are in the stage of planning where they are empowered to make decisions. Most importantly, if the client has not been to the resort before, a site visit must be pre-scheduled. The last thing I would want is for a couple to come to the property, fall in love and I no longer have a date available; so the hold is important so the clients can trust we have their best interests at heart. We do not require any sort of written agreement or deposit – it is more about making sure the clientele is a lovely fit for us and vice versa.
If the clients and I are not actively working on a contract within a couple of weeks of a site visit, it is typically best practice to send them an email and let them know they I am releasing the date but if/when they are full steam ahead with planning to please check back with me on if the date is still available or if we need to shift to other weekends. I will never release a date without written communication to them first.”
- Shannan Caldwell, Director of Sales, Weddings, Montage International
“At The Madison we give people a 5-day complimentary hold on a date they are interested in. Beyond that we go with a first come, first serve basis. We ask for 1/4 of the final bill and a signed contract and The Madison is all booked!! “
- Chris Jespersen, Owner of The Madison
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