In a perfect world, events would always go as planned, but sometimes life happens and things need to be cancelled or rescheduled. With some advance planning, you can avoid having to cancel most events and when you do need to cancel an event, you can make the cancellation much smoother.
For larger events, it is wise to purchase event cancellation insurance. Cancellation insurance will cover event costs in case of an unforeseen problem which necessitates cancellation or if a vendor is unable to deliver a service. You should be able to get this insurance from the same company that you use for your event liability insurance (which is often required and always smart for large events). Be sure to review all contracts carefully when signing up for any insurance plans so you know what is covered and what is not before a problem occurs.
When planning your event, try to foresee and avoid conditions that may cause cancellation. In Portland the weather is perhaps the most common reason for canceling outdoor events. Whenever possible, have an alternate plan in case of rain. Renting a tent is never a bad idea. Even if the weather is sunny and nice, guests will appreciate the shade. Sometimes an alternate location is preferable to a tent for wet weather plans. If you are having a small party, perhaps you can have it in a restaurant instead. Sports events may be able to be accommodated in a gym or another indoor facility if arrangements are made in advance. If it is absolutely necessary to have good weather for an event, whenever possible, plan it for summer months, especially July and August, and keep an eye on the weather reports so if cancellation is necessary you can make arrangements as early as possible.
If you are considering canceling an event for any reason, weight the pros and cons of cancellation carefully and consider whether there are any solutions that will allow the show to go on. If an entertainer is unavailable, can another comparable one be booked? Would an event organizer or additional helpers make the event feasible? If a venue is unavailable, can the event be moved? If the date is a problem, can it be rescheduled? There are certainly times when cancellation is the best option, but it is rarely the only option.
When booking an event venue, entertainers, and caterers, and renting equipment be sure to make yourself familiar with cancellation policies. The earlier you cancel event, the more likely you will be able to recoup some or all of the costs. If you are concerned an event may have to be canceled, discuss it with the vendors, and they may be willing to work with you. Some vendors will give full or partial credit if you are rescheduling the event. Last minute cancellations, however, are likely to require a loss of all deposits and vendors may choose to charge the full amount of the service cancelled if their contracts allow.
Along with canceling the venue and vendors, it is also necessary to let anyone involved in the event know about the cancellation. This includes any employees or volunteers who were planning on working the event and any participants and guests who were coming to the event. Contacting guests is made simpler when you have a good contact list for everyone involved, but this is not always feasible.
For events when you are unsure how many people will attend or who will attend, sometimes advertising the cancellation is the best solution. Put a small ad in any publications and web-sites that were originally used to promote the event. If tickets were sold, it will be necessary to refund any money collected. Include information on how to get refunds or exchange tickets with the cancellation information. If possible, post signs at the venue where the event was to be held on the event day so any individuals who show up will be informed of the cancellation and, when applicable, refund instructions.
Canceling an event is never an ideal situation, but it can be done when necessary. Hopefully this list of suggestions will help you avoid canceling your event, or if you still have to cancel or reschedule, will help things go more smoothly.