Handling “no thank you” gracefully

Growth and development


I bought something recently from an old colleague, and it is this experience that is prompting me to write this blog post today. The subject isn’t exactly the sales process, instead it the after part of an enquiry we are going to cover, and something that is important to discuss.


As a wedding supplier we all have our own ways of handling it, some good, some bad and some very unhealthy.

When a client tells you, they don’t want to work with you, it might be for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes those reasons are true and valid, and sometimes the potential client tell you lies because it feels more comfortable to them than telling you the real reason.

Sometimes the reason they give for not booking is because they’ve decided to work with someone else instead, or they may have had an offer from someone else, or worked out that they actually cannot afford you. This is something we all have to deal with, something that happens across all parts of the wedding industry, and is something we have to be able to handle as a creative wedding supplier.

Your potential client will engage more than one person as part of their decision-making process, its fact and its sensible. Whether you are a photographer, florist, caterer, or an event planner, it’s perfectly reasonable, even advisable in many cases for a couple to choose to speak to more than one person before making their decision. The process helps them to learn more about what they need and love, what kind of service they connect with, as well as what is available to them. Ultimately it supports them in the process of finding the solution that is the best fit for them.

The reason we added graceful to this blog title, is over the years we have heard suppliers say pretty hideous things about suppliers who had said no, thank you. Which is not really a great way to approach this perfectly normal cycle of wedding supplier-hood.

No matter how good your sales conversation, regardless of how well you communicate the benefits of working with you, or how well you reassure their concerns. It is unusual, if not rare these days for a client to come back to you to say that they were impressed with you and loved everything you talked about. But… they have decided to buy from someone else instead. This is one of those things we refer to when we say – the awkward, yet honest conversations the wedding industry is not having with couples as a whole, but should be. Ultimately, it comes down to their need to avoid any possible embarrassment, and more importantly a clear worry that they are going to experience something negative and unpleasant.

When they decide to work with someone else

When this happens it’s particularly important that you handle the “No” gracefully even if you are not feeling at all gracious.

In my own recent example, I was trying to decide between two service providers. I liked both, I researched both thoroughly, both offered what I needed, and I knew working with them both would be a pleasurable experience and would solve a problem and need that I currently have in my business. However, like any couple getting married, I could only choose one!

So, slightly nervous about informing the one I did not select I called to have a chat. It felt better and more respectful. My call went through to voicemail, and I left a chirpy message, asking for a chat. The call back came 3 days later (which I was a little surprised about), and it did not go overly well. I did everything I would have wanted to hear when I was a photographer, with respect and kindness. The reaction left me really quite shocked. Words came tumbling out “That I had mislead her, that I had led her down the garden path, that I had not operated the quoting process to allow her to show her full potential”. By the end of the call, I was utterly uncomfortable, and really shocked. What was originally going to be a thank you so much for being so amazing, I would love to refer you is that ok. Basically, ended up in a harsh and terse good bye.

Clearly this is how NOT to handle rejection.

So, by relaying this to you I wanted to talk basically about how NOT to handle a rejection call or email. Here’s a great way of doing it in a professional manner that will ensure you remain respected, and referable to their friends.

Acknowledge their decision
Make it clear that you respect their choice
Say how pleased you are that they found a service or supplier they feel happy with
Say that you hope they have a superb day
Let them know you are there if they need anything in the future

How NOT to handle rejection

Don’t outwardly express your disappointment in a way that could be perceived as unprofessional (like my supplier above). Yes, of course you are likely to be disappointed, and it’s OK to let the potential client know that’s how you feel and that you would have loved to work with them, but don’t express it in a way that could leave them feeling bad about themselves – or you. (If that means you need to ask somebody to cast their eye over an email before you send it that’s OK).

Don’t disagree, or appear to argue with their decision.

Don’t make any unprofessional comments, however subtle you think you are being, to undermine the decision they’ve communicated to you.

Absolutely the WORST thing to do (and I know for sure this happens in the wedding industry. Never, warning or slag off the person they have chosen. Even, if you really believe that they’ve made a gargantuan mistake.

Getting it Right

It is fairly obvious from the above example that not handling rejection well will be bad for your business. That includes taking the decision into your brain and heart and losing sleep, not doing work you are already committed to and being awful to yourself after you have heard the decision. There is no point beating yourself up is there?


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