The Importance of Contracts
ALWAYS have every vendor you are working with on your wedding day sign a contract. Every. Single. One. It does not matter if they are a good friend of the family or even a relative, EVERYONE needs to sign a contract. These contracts protect you, as well as them, in the long term. These contracts, also, set a certainly level of expectation, making all details clear to both parties involved as to what each is expected to provide and what will be received in turn.
If your vendors don’t already have a contract that they can offer you, search online for a boilerplate contract that can be used for them to sign...just be sure that you update it with arrival/delivery times, payment schedule/costs, as well as all the exact details of what is being promised to you. If you prefer not to do this, at the very least, have them detail in writing exactly what they are going to provide and have both parties sign it.
It doesn't matter if the person providing this service for you is a close friend or even a relative, get something in writing. In addition to specifically stating that they will perform the promised services on the specified date at the pre-determined time, but also that they will provide a suitable replacement in the event that they can’t provide the promised services. We know you think it won't happen to you, but isn't it better to be covered even on the off chance that your friend or even family member cancel at the last minute? Yes, we completely understand that it might be awkward to ask them, but trust us, it will be far less awkward than scrambling for a replacement a week or even day before your wedding!! If it makes things easier on you, you can always tell them that your professional wedding planner insists upon a contract from every single vendor regardless of whomever it is so that they have all the information and are better able to anticipate the needs of your vendors whether they be family, friend or professional vendor. If even this really makes you incredibly uneasy, ask your wedding planner to approach them with regards to a contract on your behalf. We are always happy to do so.
If your professional vendor does offer contracts, and some don’t, always get everything they are providing in writing and have them sign off on it. We know that this may not be as formal as a contract, but you will have their word, in writing, to back up what has been promised to be provided. If they refuse to even offer this, this is a red flag! Reconsider your selection of vendor...perhaps your professional wedding planner has an alternative suggestion?
Having a contract is always a smart move; it covers both you and the vendor. A well written contract will even have clauses to cover both parties in the case of weather, family emergency, postponement, cancellation, worldwide pandemic or anything else unforeseen that may occur. For example, if there happens to be an tornado on the day of your wedding you might be glad that force majeure was in the contract.
Contracts are important because they also set expectations from a legal standpoint. For example, our contract details exactly what is included with your selected planning package. This way you are aware, from day one, exactly what services will be provided. We can’t come back to you the week before the wedding and tell you that for us to show up to your wedding ceremony rehearsal it will be an extra $500 because we have it clearly stated and detailed in our contract that your ceremony rehearsal is included and that we will be there to run things for a pre-determined amount of time.
Some things that you might find in your contract are:
• Wedding date and time
• Names of the parties involved
• Deposit, payment schedule and when the final amount is due
(This may vary for some vendors such as catering and rentals as this the amount will change based on your final head count.)
• Contingency Plans and Substitutions
(Will your vendor supply a suitable replacement if for some reason they can’t perform the agreed upon services?)
• Description of all services to be provided
• Insurance and any other requirements
• Contact Information and Signature from both parties
Some contracts are very involved where as others are considerably shorter. Either way, you should always make sure that you read through every section of each contract so you are fully aware of exactly what you are signing off on and what you will be receiving in return.
There are also things you should look out for as well. Here are five "red flags" we recommend you watch out for if you don't have a professional wedding planner to review your contracts on your behalf.
1. Never sign a contract with a vendor that prohibits you from reviewing them after the wedding.
As a client, you have a right to give your opinion on a vendor's service. Why would they have you sign something with a clause that does not allow you to do so? Why would a vendor not want reviews? Perhaps its because they have had a lot of bad ones in the past. Look for publicly posted reviews on all vendors before hiring them.
2. Pay careful attention to the minimum number of guests required in order for the vendor to honor the pricing offered in their contract.
If you've estimated for 125 guests and the venue has listed 100 as your minimum, you are in trouble if your RSVPs come in only at 80 guests. That contract means that they only have to honor the prices offered with 100 guests and in some cases it can require you to payoff the 20 that aren't even there. Always find out the lowest minimum number on that contract tif at all possible.
3. Double and triple check the dates and times on the contracts.
It's easy to miss a small numerical error, however if that error happens to book them for your wedding on a Sunday instead of Saturday...many vendors can have multiple clients on one day but some cannot. A florist or pastry chef can certainly deliver successfully to more than one venue, but you have to establish that delivery time early to ensure that they're actually blocked for when you need them on your wedding day. You don't want your cake to arrive in the middle of cocktails.
4. Be wary of vendors with extreme cancellation policies.
It's not uncommon for initial wedding deposits to be non-refundable, however, some contracts require full payment if the wedding is cancelled less than 90 days prior to the wedding date. That's a lot of money when they have three month's notice to book a new client. Sixty days is more appropriate and in some cases certain vendors are much more lenient.
5. Make sure the details of your order are perfect on the contract before you sign it.
If you told the florist yellow and she wrote down white and you didn't notice when you signed the contract, you are going to get white and it won't be her fault. She is not going to look at your flower order again until a couple of weeks prior to the wedding date, and she is not going to recall your conversation or notice her mistake at that point because you approved it the way it was written.