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Wedding Reception Deposit - 50%????

I just got a wedding reception contract from a restaurant and they require a 50% deposit of the total bill (including service, tax, gratuity, etc).

I guess I'm shocked because most of the catering halls we have talked to have anything from a "anything you can pay" (older owner of a hall) to $2,000, but with a max of $5,000.

Is it normal to slap down $15k as a deposit for a wedding in late 2009?????

Is there anything I can do if it isn't normal?

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  1. I got married last September at the Crescent Beach Club in Bayville, LI, and certainly didn't put 50% down that far in advance. I don't think I had paid 50% until probably like 90 days out.

    And you can always negotiate. EVERYTHING'S negotiable.

    1. Having been in the catering and restaurant business for over 20 years, it sounds to me like someone's trying to fleece you. Who's to say that these folks aren't planning on selling the place, or planning some other strategic financial escapade? We were happy with 20% upon signing, 50% of the balance sixty days before the event, and the balance on the day of the reception. Anything around those figures and within those time frames is customary.

      1. A catering couple (mother & son) were recently convicted here in Columbus, OH for fleecing customers by taking the money and not providing the contracted services. Sometimes they didn't show, made too little food, or did a poor quality job. The judge was insistent that something be done so they couldn't simply close down their catering under one name and open up again under another, so he sentenced them to fines and jail time!

        1. I wouldn't dream of putting down 50% 2 and a half years in advance, they could go out of business before then. I would suggest 10% now and make a plan with them, perhaps another 10% in another year, then 30% 6 months before the wedding and the balance on the day. For one thing how can they quote you now for late 2009?

          1. If they want that kind of money now (15-18 months in advance), I'd be worried about their solvency...sounds to me like they need cash NOW just to stay in business. If that's true, there's a pretty good chance that by this time next year, you'll be in a long line of creditors, trying to get your deposit back.

            1. I don't think this is normal. If I were you I'd go on to www.theknot.com-- go to your local message board there and ask other soon-to-be weds about your reception site. They may be able to provide more insight.

              1. Not to scare you, but when my brother was getting married, my parents picked a very upscale restaurant that they frequented for the rehersal dinner. They put down a 30% deposit 8 months before the event. The restaurant went out of business 3 weeks before the wedding...no phone call or notice. Naturally, they were out the money and left scrambling for another location. Asking for 50% deposit a year and a half in advance sounds mighty suspicious...

                1. Run and find some place else to have your reception! Either you're trying to have your wedding reception at 'the' hottest place in town that people try to get into for years (justifying the huge price) or, more likely, somebody's trying to fleece you. Deposit, yes... deposit of that size? Not likely!

                  1. Having been an event orgaizer in another phase of my life, I did often have to book venues in cities other than my own and because we were from away sometimes we did get asked for sizable deposits far in advance. If I had any concerns about the long term viability, I of course tried to find somewhere else. Also check to see if you could be granted some kind of insurance/assurance by putting the deposit on a credit card.
                    I know if you put airline tickets or other such things on your card and they go out of business, the credit card company can sometimes get refunds easier.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pengcast

                      Im with Kajikit - find another place. I wouldn't say you have "plenty" of time, but there are lots of places that will be able to accomodate you and wont extort ... er .... require a large deposit this far out. Anyone who wants that much $ this far ahead is NOT really "kosher" if you know what I mean.

                      1. re: pengcast

                        If you go that route, check with your CC company first, some won't do chargebacks more than a set time after the original charge. A year from now when the place burns to the ground in a suspicious fire the card company may not bail you out.

                        Either way I wouldn't give them more than 10% to hold the date at this point with a bump to some higher percentage 3 months out at the most. They're going to make you pay the balance day of in any case.

                      2. I have friends who have a pretty small wedding who were asked to do that, but it was for a popular place in DC, and she is having a very small wedding. We paid very little for our Deposit compared to what our total bill would be.

                        Sounds suspicious, especially with the countries economic vitality right now, I would try to negotiate down, go somewhere else, or get wedding insurance.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: ktmoomau

                          Wedding Insurance? is there really such a thing? I wonder how an actuary would calculate the risk factor on that.

                          In the old days it was called a "shotgun"...

                          actually if it does exist, proof of it could be a bargaining tool for a lower early deposit with the caterer. you don't lose the money and there's a guarantee to the caterer of some sort of reimbursement if the happy couple get last minute cold feet (after the food's been ordered, the staff hired etc.).

                          1. re: hill food

                            It would be the other way around - not insuring anyone against the (putative) couples' actions/issues but more like business-continuation with the OP being the beneficiary or "vacation insurance" for their out of pocket financial loss. I have no idea if it exists, mind you, but it's not too strange an idea.

                            Back to what to do. Like any business transaction, there isn't much you can do but talk to them about it and see what they say. Call around to arguably similar (style, price, popularity) venues and find out what local practice is. If your place is high, ask them why? If they don't budge and you're set on the place, you could try offering a graduated deposit, a small % now, more in 6 months - something along those lines.

                            1. re: MikeG

                              I got married last year, and there is, in fact, such a thing as wedding insurance. (We did not get it, mind you.) Here is a site: http://www.wedsafe.com/

                              It works like the above poster said -- it protects the couple from financial loss if the wedding is canceled. Also, apparently, it can protect from liability in the event of injuries or whatnot at the actual event (I didn't realize that).

                        2. The hall we rented in Seattle in 2004 required a 50% deposit. We had a rather simple wedding and reception in the same building so our price ran significantly less than yours. I seem to recall that the caterer also required a 50% deposit.