May 10, 2022

How To (Nicely) Turn Away an Event

We all know it can happen.

And you dread it.

That email or call from the wedding couple that, for whatever reason, is just not the right fit for your venue. 

You know you shouldn’t take the booking, but you hate to miss out on the revenue.

What we know for sure is that letting events go that are not a good fit is, in the long run, the better choice for your business

But, how to do it gracefully? I’ve worked with my colleague, Hayleywho came to us as an Event Manager, to give you some structure to meet this challenge.

1. Be honest + polite.

“I understand your needs for your wedding day and I also understand how important it is for a client to have all those needs met—especially in terms of their wedding venue. At this point in time, my business cannot meet all of the expectations you described and I wish you luck on your search for your perfect venue.” When taking this direct approach, keep in mind that anyone can write a negative review—so be sure to remain calm and kind.

2. Suggest an alternative. 

Show that you want what’s best for them. If you know of a few venues in your area that may meet their criteria, suggest them to the couple. You can give your fellow venue owner a heads up if you want to, but that’s not required. 

Be sure you know your area and your competitors and have a go-to list of alternative venues that you can suggest. If it’s a budgeting issue, have a list of venues that you know might meet their needs. If it’s just not a great fit from a more overall perspective, sending a general list of alternative venues may be the way to go. 

3. Set the stage from your first inquiry email. 

“I’d love to see if we could be a good fit for each other.” ← This phrasing ensures that, from the get-go, the couple knows that this is a two-way street—and it’s more than just them loving your venue. It needs to be a fit on both sides. By mentioning this up front, if you need to pass on the event, you’ve already let them know it was a possibility.

4. If you’re willing to work with the client, but the event is perhaps not the best fit for your most sought-after Saturday of the year…

Try incentivizing less peak event days/times. Keep those peak dates open! Suggest a Friday, Sunday, or off-peak season date that you’re looking to fill instead and try offering a special deal. They will either sort themselves out organically, or you may fill a date that you had open anyway.

A few warning signs that a couple may not be a great fit: 

  • If the person is rude or disrespectful during the site visit or in your phone/email communication.
  • If the person is asking for unreasonable services at unreasonable prices. 
  • If the person has never even taken the time to look at your venue and just wants to talk “deal”.
  • If the couple requests unreasonable amendments to contracts.

Finally, know you’re not alone. Every wedding venue deals with this issue and it is one of the very diciest. My most sincere advice is to trust your gut. If you get a niggle that the bride, groom, or couple (or extended family member…) will be trouble, listen to that and use one of the ways above to move them along. 

Those nightmare events steal the joy from the good ones. Let’s not let that happen.


Check in with yourself. How likely are you to ignore your instincts and take on a troublesome event?

Which one of the tips above can be most helpful to you the next time you’re faced with this situation?

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Meredith Monday Schwartz started at Here Comes The Guide in 1997 (we didn’t even have a website back then—there might also have been dinosaurs running around!) and was a wedding venue specialist for 10 years before taking over as Chief Bossypants in 2007. In the years since she joined HCTG, she’s learned a lot about wedding couples, wedding venues, and running a company profitably and well. To hire Meredith to consult on best practices in your wedding venue business, email