I currently don't charge a deposit. So far, I have not had many cancellations, and the ones I have had, really had little impact. Meaning, customers pick a different date if a date is already booked. So I don't often lose a sale because a date is already booked.
Anyway, I had a customer call today to tell me they are thinking of cancelling due to predicted bad weather. That's understandable, except that the event is 8 days away. Weather is barely predictable 1 day in advance, let alone 8. I think this was just an excuse to cancel. That's ok, it's what I get for not collecting a deposit.
For now, I think I will continue NOT collecting deposits. It still does not seem worth the overhead (keeping track of payments and dates for reimbursements). I'm sure after getting burned a few more times, especially if I end up losing out on customers, I will change. But, for now, I'm still ok as is.
I am posting this mainly because I am still learning and changing, and I want to chronicle my progress. Maybe this will help someone in the future.