What to know about wedding contracts
Some parts of wedding planning are more enjoyable than others, like shopping for a dress or tasting cakes. On the other hand, reading contracts probably isn’t anyone’s idea of fun – but it is crucial to pulling off a successful event.
“The wedding contract makes sure everyone is on the same page,” explains Caroline J. Fox, attorney at CJFox Law and founder of the Engaged Legal Collective, an educational legal resource for event professionals. “It puts everything in writing so we can all make sure there is no confusion about exactly what your service provider is doing for you, and how much it will cost,”
Not sure what should be in a contract? Luckily, you don’t need to be a legal scholar to ensure you’re protected. Just check out these quick expert tips before signing any agreements with your vendors.
1. Get a contract from all your vendors
Unless you’re making a one-off purchase, you need a written agreement from each of your vendors. That means the photographer, the planner, the venue, the caterer, the baker, the DJ – everyone.
Even if the vendor is a friend or family member, you need a contract that puts all of the details in writing. This protects both you and the vendor.
2. Read each contract completely
Like any expensive purchase, it’s important to read the fine print of your agreement and not just trust what you see or read online.
“It’s critical that couples look at the service package they are getting. You could see an amazing all-inclusive wedding planner package on Instagram, but in reality, you booked a very limited hourly-rate package for day-of coordination,” says Fox. “I will see people really fall in love with a planner, a photographer, a rental company, etc., only to find out that what they saw on Instagram or Pinterest really isn't the ‘norm.’”
3. Know what should be included
“I tell all my vendors to look for the ‘who, what, when, where, how many, how much,’ at a bare minimum,” says Fox.
• Who: Who is a party to the contract and who is allowed to make changes to it?
• What: What services or products are actually being provided? What is the package level?
• When: What time do the services start and end? When is payment due?
• Where: Where is the service located? Will you have to pay any travel fees?
• How Many: How many things (hours, designs, items) are being provided?
• How Much: How much does it cost? Are there any fees or penalties? Is there a deposit? Do they offer a payment plan?
All contracts should also include language addressing worst-case scenarios. What happens if you need to postpone or reschedule? What happens to your deposit if you have to cancel? What happens if there’s a natural disaster or pandemic?
4. Watch out for short agreements
In addition to carefully inspecting the language of a contract, you should also be wary of a document that’s too short, according to Fox.
“If the contract is under three pages, I would start asking a lot of additional questions. It is very hard to address everything that needs to be discussed in so few pages, unless it's for, say, an officiant or a violinist,” she says. “The contracts I draft are usually around eight pages long, and I have nothing shorter than five pages in my rotation.”
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Not sure what a term means in your contract? Want to see a modification or addition? Talk to your vendor! You shouldn’t feel pressured to sign anything until you completely understand – and agree to – the terms. Because once it’s signed, it’s legally binding.
“Be authentic and explain exactly what you need clarification on or what it is you want from the vendor,” advises Fox. “Often, the vendors will be able to adjust pricing up or down to meet your need. You may have to make some concessions like date, time or day of the week, but many vendors want to make your dream wedding a reality!”
6. Respect your vendor’s business
While contracts are certainly negotiable, keep in mind that your vendor might not be able to give you exactly what you want or need.
“If they can't meet your needs, know that it's not personal. It's business. They can't go ‘into the red’ financially to execute your event,” says Fox. “They may really want to help you, but if they can't make it work, they can often refer you to someone in your budget or who has that date open.”