It's essential to hire wedding vendors, but it's also just as necessary to create a contract for them. This can help avoid any misunderstandings or miscommunications on the day of your wedding.
In this blog post, we will go over what should be included in a wedding vendor contract and why it is crucial.
You wouldn't buy a house or a car without knowing exactly what you're getting into, right?
The same holds for a wedding.
A wedding is a significant financial undertaking, and wedding contracts ensure you know exactly what you're getting, when and how you'll pay for it, and, perhaps most importantly, what happens if those services cannot be delivered in full.
So don't sign on the dotted line without spending some time with the pages. Saying “I do” at Boutique Events Group is an elegant and luxurious affair.
But what's included in these agreements?
What's the proper protocol for signing one, and what does all that legal jargon mean? Read on for everything you need to know about wedding contracts.
Why Are Wedding Contracts Important?
Wedding planning can often feel like it's all romance and butterflies, but working with a vendor is a business transaction—and it's crucial to ensure the components of that transaction are clear to both sides.
A contract makes sure everyone is on the same page. It also protects both parties from potential issues.
To that end, you should expect a contract from pretty much every vendor participating in your big day.
One-off purchases—an Etsy cake topper, for example—will be the exception. Still, anything involving custom work (an escort card wall), payment instalments (your dress), or goods used and services performed on the wedding day (furniture rentals, photography, etc.) should come with a formal agreement.
Making sure that everything you expect from the vendor is in the contract is the most important thing.
If it's not in agreement, it doesn't necessarily matter. You could have something in an email, but that doesn't necessarily count. If you want it, put it in the contract.
For the rest of the document, think like a journalist: Determine the who, what, when, where, why, how, how many, and how much of your agreement, and be sure those items are included.
Many wedding services supply formal contracts that their lawyers have drawn up.
Don't be put off by the obscure language; although you can always pay to have your lawyer look over a contract, if you take the time to read it carefully, you should be able to decode the legalese yourself.
Make sure you read every line and understand every nuance—even the most straightforward phrases such as "or" ("red or white wine" is too vague if you want both) and "above" (it could refer to the previous line or an item in paragraph one).
If you're unsure of anything, ask the vendor to explain—something he's probably accustomed to doing.
It helps create a detailed list of essential points from your perspective (for the band, for example, arrival and break times, transportation costs, and attire) to compare to the contract provided by the vendor.
Then you can request appropriate changes to the document.
Some vendors, especially those with small businesses, may draft a handwritten agreement or use a simple proposal as the contract.
You don't need a long, complicated contract as long as the terms are precisely defined and clearly stated.
Every contract should cover essential points, including the most obvious: the date and time of the wedding.
You'll probably see the phrase "time is of the essence," signifying that the date of the contracted service is an essential part of the agreement.
The contract must also list the vendor's fee and a breakdown of the costs. Some contracts have a price-escalation clause, which allows for unforeseen expenses.
If you can't get the clause deleted, insert a ceiling on the total costs; no more than 15 per cent over the base price is fair.
The contract should also record the terms of payment; typically, vendors ask for a 50 per cent deposit upon signing, with the balance due shortly before or on the day of the wedding.
How Are Wedding Contracts Organized?
Contracts are typically broken into sections called clauses. Here are the key provisions to look for:
This clause should include a specific rundown of what you'll be receiving from a vendor. It should go beyond a general description of their business.
If you're getting photography services, what does that mean?.
Are you getting a certain number of hours, a certain number of photos? That's what should be included in the service section.
The service section should also specifically detail who is providing the services.
Are you contracting with an individual, or are you contracting with a company? That distinction can become important later on if a conflict arises.
This section is also where you'll find logistical details as well as communication guidelines. The latter is especially important when working with a planner.
Knowing what's included in a month-of, day-of, or full-service wedding planning package will help you understand when you can expect their services to kick in and how quickly you should expect to receive a reply from them during the wedding planning process.
What's excluded from a contract can be just as important as what's included. Event planners, for example, might not involve clean-up in their package.
As a couple, you need to know that so you can arrange for alternative services.
If your wedding is happening outside of a vendor's standard radius of service, what additional costs are you expected to take on to get them there?
Is it a per diem, or do you agree to book or reimburse flights? Are you returning their meals? Are you booking a hotel room for them? If they will be driving, will there be a mileage charge?
Knowing the answers to these questions is crucial for budgeting purposes.
What is the non-refundable deposit? When are payment instalments due? When are additional payments refundable versus non-refundable? What are the overage fees? What are the penalties if you are late on a payment?
These financial details should be listed out in this section.
Postponements and Cancellations
What is a vendor's rescheduling policy? If the event needs to be pushed back, is the retainer fee transferable?
What happens if you need to reschedule and the vendor cannot accommodate your new date?
Having clear expectations about how to move forward in situations like these can save many headaches down the road.
Need to Postpone or Cancel Your Wedding? Here's How to Do It
Termination is different from cancellation in that it results from something that happens within the relationship between the vendor and the couple, not outside of it.
It should be treated as a separate clause from Postponement and Cancellation.
If you as a couple are not happy with the services being provided by the vendor, how do you get out of a contract that's not serving you? How do you move forward, and what happens to the payments you made along the way?
As a contract clause, this French phrase is a way for a party to excuse their performance of a contract without penalty. There are situations beyond the control of the said party that were not foreseeable in any way.
A force majeure clause does need to name a specific event as a force majeure event for that event to be counted under the clause.
Examples of force majeure events include hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, destruction of a venue or wedding location, and, yes, pandemics.
Signing and Making Changes
Once you have agreed on a contract, both you and the vendor need to sign it.
You'll want a copy for your files with both signatures, too, because otherwise, the document can be challenged should there be a disagreement later.
Don't hesitate to make changes.
The vendors want to do business with you, so they'll probably be as accommodating as possible—but if you agree on changes midway through the planning, follow up with a letter signed by both parties, and keep a copy of the letter with the original contract.
A contract should detail the refund policy if the company doesn't fulfil its end of the bargain.
To protect against a no-show or a company's sudden demise, consider paying in instalments by credit card, so you have a chance of getting your credit card company to dispute the charges if necessary.
A contract can also describe the circumstances under which you get a refund if you cancel the plans.
While it's unlikely you'll get your full deposit back, you may not have to pay the entire bill if you have an agreement.
The more you can anticipate, the more peace of mind you'll have as the wedding approaches.
Things to Look for in Your Wedding Vendor Contracts
So, what should you look for in a wedding contract, exactly? Here, the top five things your wedding vendor contracts must include.
You might not want to think about an April snowstorm's effect on your lovely garden ceremony, but if you want to ensure that the catering hall's ballroom will be available, write that into the wedding contract.
Don't be afraid to alter the stock wedding vendor contract that the vendor or manager offers. If your request is reasonable — for example, you want the supplier to be liable for potential negligence or willful misconduct — and the vendor won't agree, look elsewhere.
What should you do if you've made some decisions but haven't finalized details? (For example, you know you want lots of roses, but you don't know the exact cost of the centrepieces).
You can make a contract when you book the service and include a general amount or maximum cost for assistance, but add a sentence that says details will be confirmed in writing by a specific date.
But even with that, it's good to be clear with your visions and ideas from the beginning to ensure that your vendor is the best match.
For example, if you're at the point where you're ready to book your florist, you should make sure that you and the florist are on the same page with expectations.
If you put down a deposit but haven't figured out what the centrepieces will look like, there may be some problems down the line. It's essential to communicate your expectations before agreeing to hire a vendor.
The Necessary Info
On every wedding contract, write:
- Dates and times of all services (including the time the vendor should arrive)
- Date of the wedding
- Names of all parties involved in the agreement
- The deposit and final payment amounts (plus the payment schedule)
- Contingency plans and substitutions (if white peonies aren't available, white garden roses will be used instead)
- A detailed description of services
- Some venues might also require a wedding insurance clause for liability insurance
Note: When dealing with vendors providing a service on the wedding day itself, make sure the contract includes the name and number of the person the vendor should call if anything goes wrong or gets delayed.
Along with the basics, every wedding contract should include a cancellation and refund policy on both ends that discusses what refund you will receive if you cancel and what penalty the vendor will pay.
With a refund clause, you should be able to get back a certain percentage of any deposits you made if the party is cancelled by a specific date.
But the closer it is to the actual wedding date, the less likely you are to get your money back — establishments and other wedding professionals are simply protecting their own business.
Usually, a refund policy will be for failing to perform entirely or for a significant issue. Make sure that you completely understand the refund policy.
When you order something, such as a dress, a tuxedo, invitations or favours, the contract can be as brief as a store receipt. That said, it should still include:
- Wedding date
- Style (a number, a detailed description, or the full invitation text, for example)
- Date item will be picked up
- Price and payment schedule
- Outline of what the price includes (such as alterations, accessories, delivery, and envelopes)
Common Wedding Contract Terms
Here is a glossary of terms you may encounter in a wedding contract.
A retainer is another word for a non-refundable deposit. It's the fee you pay to reserve a vendor's services on the date of your wedding. It's typically non-refundable unless your vendor is the one who needs to cancel.
You'll see this term in the clause pertaining to the retainer. It's essentially the legal term for a non-refundable deposit and is used as compensation for booking your event and any work that is done upfront.
Jurisdiction and Venue
This term refers to where lawsuits regarding your contract can take place. If you're having a destination event, your vendors may have jurisdiction in a venue of that location.
So you couldn't sue them in your home state.
Act of God
An act of God is a subclass of a force majeure event.
The phrase is often used to classify events outside human control or creation, such as fires, floods, lightning strikes, earthquakes, and hurricanes.
An act of God would not include things like labour strikes or government restrictions resulting from a pandemic.
Waiver addresses lapses in payment.
Just because you miss a payment by accident or your vendor lets you slide on one, it doesn't mean you can do that in the future.
This term is used to uphold a contracting overall if a particular portion of the contract becomes unenforceable.
That portion of the contract can be nixed or severed without nullifying the agreement in its entirety.
You'll see this term in contracts for large-scale events and contracts outside of the wedding world, too.
Indemnify, defend and hold harmless means you'll compensate for any harm, losses, or legal liability that arises from your event.
What Should Be Included in Each Wedding Vendor's Contract?
Specify the kind of meal (lunch or dinner, buffet or seated); the number of courses and size of the portions; what beverages will be served; the size and style of dishes and glassware; and whether the wedding cake is included the price. Check out our list of ultimate Wedding Caterers in Melbourne here.
Also, discuss the size of the serving staff, and ask about overtime charges, taxes, and whether gratuities are included.
Because catering a wedding takes so much coordination, you may see a contract clause enforcing the "one-week" rule, meaning you must finalize all details seven days before the event or incur extra fees.
Another item to look for is liability insurance. While most midsize to large companies carry their insurance, small vendors may not — in which case you may want to add a rider to your existing homeowners or renter's policy.
A contract with the florist should spell out the number of bouquets, boutonnieres, centrepieces, and corsages on order, as well as any decoration for the ceremony and reception locations.
Discuss charges for accessories, such as an aisle runner, ribbons, and vases. You should also list any particular flowers you want, allowing for substitutions by specifying your second choices.
But it's best to leave the specifics up to the florist — something he will undoubtedly want to be written into the contract.
Any music contract — whether you are using a band or a disc jockey — should record arrival and departure time.
It's a good idea to state who has the authority to let the music go into overtime, so you're not suddenly charged for an extra hour thanks to the well-intentioned initiative of some exuberant guests.
You can also specify particular songs, the duration of sets, and whether prerecorded music will be played during the breaks.
Be sure to specify the names of the musicians who will be there.
You probably hired particular performers because you liked what you heard at another event or on a demo tape, and you don't want to discover at the last minute that the lead singer's cousin is filling in.
Hairstylists and Makeup Artists
As with the musicians, specify the name of the artist you are booking. Also include the number of people the stylist is taking care of and whether she'll stay to do post-ceremony touch-ups.
These contracts should state how long the photographer or videographer will spend covering the event, what she'll wear, your preference for black-and-white, colour, or both, and your choice of formal portraits, candid shots, or a combination.
It should also detail what is included in the total fee — which albums and how many prints for the photographer, how many videos and the editing cost and style for the videographer, and the cost of materials, hotel stays, and any other extras — and when you can expect to receive the finished product.
Some experts advise you not to pay a photographer or videographer in full until you see and approve the final result.
The Rental Company
Contracts for rental items such as tables and chairs need to state the time and date of delivery and retrieval.
If you don't arrange for same-day or next-morning pickup, you may be charged a fee by the reception site.
The Car and Driver
A contract for a car to transport the couple or guests from one location to another can cover matters from the fiscal, such as tolls and parking fees, to the stylistic, including the car's make and colour, amenities inside the vehicle, etc. and the attire of the driver.
The Dressmaker/Tuxedo Rental Shop
Don't overlook the making or fitting of your wedding attire.
To be sure the bride's dress will be done on time and there won't be any charges for extra fittings or fabric, get it in writing.
The groom should have his details — his tux and shirt style and the size of his shoes written down in a contract, too.
Remember — don't sign any of your wedding contracts unless you're 100 per cent comfortable with them, and both you and the vendor should sign and date two copies so you can each have one. Check out our Top Wedding Planners here to help make your special day as smooth as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Venues will typically require a deposit between 25% to 50% of the site fee or estimated charges when booking your wedding. ... If you cancel far enough out and the venue can re-book your date at the same price, then most venues will refund the deposit in full.
Amount: Although wedding planners don't expect a tip, if you'd like to show your appreciation for examples of exceptional service, consider offering a tip that's 10-20% of the total bill (up to $500), or a personal gift.
And even though service charges may be spelled out in your contract, tipping—although not mandatory—is always appreciated for a job well done, not to mention a kind and thoughtful gesture. So don't forget to factor in tips when making your wedding budget.
Many wedding contracts — but not all — contain a force majeure clause that allows either party to terminate the agreement if an event of nature (or an “act of God”), such as a hurricane, or an act by a third party, such as a strike or terrorist attack, has made it impossible for the parties to meet their obligations.
But make no mistake, brides and grooms -- making the decision to terminate the services of your wedding planner halfway through the planning process is a HUGE one. Whatever you do, and no matter how mad you get, do not lose your temper and fire your wedding planner on the spot.