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Robin Huebner, Published October 18 2013

Robin Huebner Reports: Wedding vendors say last-minute cancellations uncommon

FARGO – While it’s not the fairytale wedding the former bride-to-be planned, a big party is still on for tonight at the Ramada Plaza and Suites in Fargo.

Michelle Marxen and her family spent thousands of dollars on her wedding before the groom backed out. Even though the wedding was off, contracts with vendors still had to be paid.

So, Marxen and her family decided to turn a wedding reception in the Ramada ballroom into a Halloween bash for CCRI, a Moorhead organization that serves people with disabilities.

Fargo-Moorhead area wedding vendors say they don’t often see the level of generosity displayed by Marxen. They also say canceled nuptials aren’t that common, but they have policies in place when someone does say the wedding’s off.

“I do feel bad for the brides,” said Tom Poole, owner and general manager at the Avalon Events Center and The Hub in Fargo, which both host wedding receptions.

Poole said most couples who cancel do so because of financial reasons.

His businesses charge a $600 room rental fee, with the average wedding reception costing between $5,000 and $10,000 when figuring in food and staff.

Couples come in, in love, “But they look at the economics of it and things start to crumble,” Poole said.

If a couple cancels, Poole will keep the deposit unless he can rebook the room.

“We have refunded more deposits than we’ve kept,” he said.

The Ramada Plaza and Suites requests a $1,000 deposit for wedding bookings.

General Manager Carol Johnson said for cancellations, the hotel will refund the deposit, depending on the month and whether they can resell the space.

In the case of the Marxen wedding, there was no turning back because of the late notice.

Johnson, however, admires Marxen and her family for allowing others to enjoy the party.

“It’s awesome what they’re doing,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Poole say they make considerations for extenuating circumstances, such as a military deployment, death or serious illness.

“But when it’s two people who just decided they’re not going to get married, it has to be treated more business-like,” Johnson said.

Trickiest aspect

The bride’s dress might be the trickiest aspect of dealing with a wedding cancellation.

“Once the dress is ordered, the bride has to pay for it,” said Rand Allrich, owner and designer at Alan Evans Bridal in Moorhead.

Allrich said brides at his shop pay a deposit that’s half the retail price of the dress, and have 30 days to pay the balance once the dress arrives.

He’s had a few jilted brides stuck with a dress, who want nothing to do with it.

“They think it’s a bad omen,” he said.

But Allrich encourages those women to hang onto it.

“I tell them, it may have been the wrong man, but it was the right dress.”

They often agree, he said.

Flowers for the wedding

The owner and vice president of Shotwell Floral in Fargo said fresh flowers make his part of the bridal business unique.

“Our product comes in very close to the event,” J.D. Shotwell said.

If there is a cancellation before flowers come in, Shotwell said they will issue a refund.

“Once the flowers are in, you can’t use them for anything else,” he said.

Shotwell Floral asks for a 10 percent deposit, with the rest due about a week or two before the flowers come in.

The business was hired to provide flowers for Marxen’s wedding.

Shotwell said they hadn’t put much time into planning her arrangements and the flowers weren’t in, so Marxen received a full refund.

Wedding photography

The owner of Milestones Photography in West Fargo said a bridal party will cancel his services about once a year.

Dave Arntson’s customers pay a $750 non-refundable retainer when they sign a contract.

“That said, I recognize it’s a tough situation when a wedding is canceled,” he said.

Arntson said in that case, he’ll shoot family photos for the client instead.

As is true for many industries, the bridal business can be an unpredictable one.

“Brides are booking into 2016!” Poole said.

“Who among us can forecast the future?”