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Hooray, You're ready to hire your Wedding Vendors! It's time to review some Wedding Contract and get down to the details. We're covering Negotiations, Quotes, Cancellation policies, and more. 
* Everything you need to know about Wedding Contracts. Wedding Venue Contracts. What is in a Wedding Contract?

Hey there Bride to Be. Are you cruising through the TEAM Experience like a champ and heading into Vendor Week? Ready to learn all about Wedding Contracts? Yes, if you’re in my TEAM Wedding Planning Experience, we’re gearing for Week 3 which is all about Vendors. When we talk *Vendors* we mean everyone who will be working your wedding from limo drivers to the honeymoon suite.

Everything your need to know about Wedding Contracts

So you’ve made it through Week 2 of Wedding Planning, met with and interviewed all your favorite Wedding Professionals. Now it’s time to call back and hire. HOORAY! You’ve drafted your Dream Team! Believe it or not, that was the easy part. I’m not trying to scare you, obviously, but prepare you for this big FINANCIAL step ahead. Up until now, this engagement business has been pretty blissful, but it’s about to get real. The first big commitment you make to the wedding day is putting a deposit down and signing a Wedding Contract. It’s a big deal and should be treated as such. It’s also a VERY important step in protecting you and your wedding day.

What should Wedding Contracts include?

A wedding contract is a legally binding document between you and a Wedding Professional {or friend, or family} who is working your wedding day or providing services to you. Wedding Contracts make a lot of people feel overwhelmed, myself included. There are a TON of big words hiding in them that are sometimes hard to understand unless you’re a lawyer. You may be tempted to sign the paperwork quickly without reading the fine print. PLEASE, ALWAYS READ THE CONTRACT.

What do Wedding Planners look for in a Wedding Contract?

First, let’s get one thing clear, I am not a lawyer. Please do not mistake this article for legal advice. If you have an issue or confusion with a contract, always seek professional legal counsel.

Now that I’ve said that I can tell you that I’ve read hundreds of wedding contracts. All of them are different and various based on the services the vendor provides, but all should include {in writing} these basic points:

  • Names and Contact Info for You and the Vendor.
  • Date, Times, and Locations of the Ceremony and Reception.
  • List of Services Provided in itemized detail with fees
  • Arrival Times and Time Needed for Setup at the Ceremony and Reception.
  • Cancellation Policies & “The Clause that Protects”

That last one is the BIGGEST thing I always look for and it needs to be written into the contract before you sign it. Many couples don’t look for this or don’t think much of it because “nothing will happen to my wedding” that would cause a cancellation. Unfortunately, that is a big mistake, and yet another reason you should have already purchased your ever-important Wedding Insurance… more on this in a bit. Let’s go back to before you sign.

How to Negotiate a Wedding Contract

Before you meet with any vendor, you must prepare for the interview process. Print out a list of questions from the basics to the really small details, “like who takes the garbage out in the morning?” small. If you’re looking for a list of questions to ask your Wedding Vendors consider the GEG EBook, How to Hire your Wedding Dream Team. With this, you’ll be able to cover all of the important questions and more.

In addition, here is a GREAT article from Bridal Guide on even more things to watch for… BRIDAL GUIDE: 6 Things you should know about Wedding Contracts

Itemizing the Details | Quote

If you acquired the pricing information before the meeting you’re starting with a quote from the vendor. Odds are you already did this step, got the quote and want to proceed, or negotiate terms. After making sure all the itemized details from your quote make it into your contract, dig into the heart of their contract terms. Cover every fee, delivery, color, material, etc. and WRITE IT IN. If in the interview, you and your baker negotiate fondant over buttercream, make sure it is reflected in the contract. If your vendor says, “sure we can throw that in for you” make sure it is reflected in the contract. Many things are said in an interview that never makes it into writing. Jot some note in the margins and have him/her initial it. Then ask for a redraft to sign.

Benefits to Itemizing

Some vendors know I’m a little knit-picky when it comes to contracts. But I like them to be as concise as humanly possible for two reasons: First, you want the vendor to meet your requests and make your wedding day exactly as you envision it. Second, everything should be clear enough for an outsider (even a judge) to understand what you have agreed upon.

I advise not signing a contract at the initial interview, though it may be tempting, but instead at a follow up after you’ve had time to read and/or negotiate the contract.

Get Everything in WRITING

First and foremost, you’re writing a contract that binds two people to an agreement. Therefore everything agreed upon {above ^^} must be written down before being signed. That’s the whole legal and binding part. Unfortunately, verbal contracts though they happen every day, might not hold up in a legal dispute. The problem with a verbal contract is that there is no way to prove that you are right, even if everyone involved knows you are. A solid, written contract prevents problems before they start simply because no one has to rely on memory for terms of the agreement. So, before you go into an interview, or I suppose, before you leave, make sure you’re taking home a hard copy of a contract to review before signing. Better yet, Have the vendor email you a copy before the meeting so you can prepare for your negotiations prior.

Read the Wording Carefully

Contracts can be intimidating. If you don’t understand the wording, ASK. If after a verbal explanation you still don’t understand, ask again. Ask for an example of a worst-case scenario. Ask if this has ever happened to a couple before. You’ll want to highlight any payment deadlines, late fees, cancellation deadlines, and non-refundable policies before signing so you’re not charged later, unnecessarily. Simply put, if you sign a contract with a late fee, and you’re late paying because you miss a deadline you didn’t know about, you’re liable. After your interview, re-read the contract and write notes on it at home. Talk over any modifications with your vendor and draft an updated contract before you sign.

After you sign GET A COPY! If the vendor has the only copy, it will do you absolutely no good in the event of a dispute.

Modifications After Signing

Once your contract is signed and you’re rolling away on your wedding planning, changes and adjustments naturally occur. You gain a bridesmaid and need an additional bouquet for example. Ta-Da! You now have to modify the existing contract to reflect said change.

Option A: You and your vendor handwrite the modification onto a copy of your original contract, date it, and both sign it. Make a copy for the other with the changes.

Option B: Create, sign, and date a brand new “Amended Contract.”

It is often enough, but not my preferred method, to exchange emails confirming the change. Just make sure that your vendor actually responds (in writing) confirming the changes and not over a phone call. I always advise brides to have the vendor write the amendments back to them in the email as opposed to replying “yes” to what she writes them. This avoids any, “I misunderstood what you meant over the phone” excuses. Have your florist write, “Yes, I will add one additional bouquet to your quote for a total of $XXX.XX” instead of “sounds good!” Make sense?

Payment Policies

Your vendors will all require a deposit before they can hold your date or do any work for you. These can be negotiable too if you agree on a reasonable plan for both you and your vendor. Trust me, we want your money so we’re {mostly} willing to work with you on how to get it. A 50% upfront deposit is a lot to swallow for many people so if you’re not comfortable with that amount, say so. Please do not ever pay in full upfront either. You’ll want to spread out your expenses when you can.

Note: If a deposit is required to hold a date it should be lower than if the vendor has to buy any materials for you before the wedding.

Keeping Receipts

Another thing my brides used to always groan about when I was coordinating in person is keeping ALL of their receipts. Yep, ALL of them! There are numerous reasons to diligently track your wedding receipts. If you pay in full for anything, you need a receipt. Receipts are like min-contracts.

BONUS READ: How to be a Money Savvy Bride

Can you get out of a Wedding Contract?

The short answer is, maybe. What happens if you decide to cancel with a particular vendor or need to cancel your wedding entirely? Or, on the other hand, if a vendor has to cancel with you? There will be a clause in your wedding contract that spells out exactly what happens in the event of cancellation from either side. In most cases, you receive a percentage of your deposit back {not all of it} if you cancel by a certain date {see above about reading carefully}. If your vendor cancels with you, you’ll receive a refund, but, only if it is outlined in the contract. Again, READ carefully. Be sure you’re fully aware of your vendors’ cancellation policy—it’s a big investment to protect… which is also why you should work in an additional clause.

The Clause that Protects

In my wedding planner certification class, this was the most important point they drilled into us before we could pass, “The Clause that Protects.” It is essentially all about making the contract at least transferrable if not refundable in the event of cancellation. All contracts have a cancellation policy that is usually pretty firm and detrimental to the couple, meaning absolutely zero returns or refunds of expenses. You’ll want to find this clause and request adding a Transferability Agreement: This agreement should honor your deposit if another event is booked by you for the same services within a year.

Not every vendor will be keen on this clause, as most of our contracts are written to protect us and our families from Bridezillas. Actually, MOBs and even fathers… those are the worst encounters I’ve had when we were a rental company. :/ But trust me, we do want to make you happy and be fair as we LOVE the wedding world and want to make your day beautiful too. With this amendment, you’re promising to help protect their business as well as your wedding. But remember, if one year goes by and you don’t re-book, your money is theirs.

Final thoughts on Wedding Contracts

Wedding Contracts exist to keep everyone in check and accountable. They’re a tool to protect you and us vendors from the unpredictable. You’ll want to put in the work and effort to make it right because the better it is, the less likely you’ll have to use it {in court I mean…} Clear communication and efficiency are key. Remember in the I’m Engaged ECourse when we talked about becoming an Effective Team Leader? This is it, girl. Don’t be afraid to flex your leadership skills and remember:

  • Get everything in writing.
  • Read it carefully.
  • Negotiate when needed.
  • Write in a Clause that Protects!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is general information. It does not constitute or serve in place of specific legal advice and does not create any attorney-client relationship. This post should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

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Hi there! I’m Kandice, Owner of Green-Eyed Girl Productions and engineer of The Project Block System. Thank you so much for stopping in on this blog post! Join hundreds of Bride who have worked through The Project Block System while planning their Wedding. Our Team Experience is now FREE to everyone planning a wedding during this chaotic and confusing time.


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