A handshake and a smile might seem like it’ll seal the deal on your wedding day must-haves, but when something goes wrong, those aren’t enough. Vendors and couples both need to know what to expect from each other. Having these expectations in writing is imperative for a worry-free wedding day. Contracts can give you confidence that everything is under control even if something goes wrong, but it is important to know exactly how a vendor contract can do this. There are a few things you must outline in each contract in order to be sure both parties are on the same page.
General Vendor Contract Information
Some vendors offer formal contracts drafted by lawyers. There might be a lot of jargon you won’t understand, so make sure to go over each line with them so that there are no misunderstandings. Many smaller vendors offer an informal contract, which is usually just a simple agreement outlining what to expect from both the vendor and the client. Even if you are working with a friend, you need to get expectations in writing. It might seem strange asking a friend to sign something, but there is a fine line between friendship and business. Don’t do yourself a disservice by relying on word of mouth to get the job done.
What to Include
Both formal and informal contracts should include the date and time of the wedding. This ensures there is no doubt the vendor will be available for your wedding. Costs should be broken down so that you know exactly what you are purchasing, meaning your vendor cannot add random charges later. There should be a clause for any expenses that occur outside of the contract.
There is often a payment plan outline as well, so you will need to include the dates by which each payment must be made to the vendor. Then, you each need to sign the contract. If changes occur after signing the initial contract, you both update the contract and sign. This protects both the vendor and the client. Make sure each party gets a signed copy of the contract.
Cancellations and Refunds
You don’t want to think about the worst, but you simply must when it comes to wedding plans. If something happens with the wedding and you have to cancel the vendors, you must have a cancellation and refund policy in place to protect yourself. On the flip side, you need a policy in place in case the vendor cancels on you. This policy needs to state exactly how much money will be returned to you if you cancel as well as how much the vendor pays you back if they cancel.
In most cases, you will have made a deposit. The clause needs to state how much of this deposit you get back depending on how close the date is to your actual wedding date. If the vendor cancels and does not follow the cancellation policy, you can take the company or person to court to get a refund.
A liability clause protects the vendor from issues out of the vendor’s control. Most contracts will include a clause that states that the vendor will try to find a replacement in the event of an emergency (such as a fire, transportation problems, an illness, and/or an accident. Again, you don’t want to think the worst, but always be prepared for any event.
Code of Conduct
Many contracts include a code of conduct. This usually states the vendor will dress in the proper attire, arrive on time, and behave professionally.
The Wedding Dress
The bride’s dress is one of the most important contracts to consider because if you don’t have a dress, you might be getting married in your t-shirt and jeans! Make sure the contract states precisely when the dress will be complete with full alterations. Include whether there will be charges for any extra fittings or fabrics. Alternations are not usually included in the price of the dress, so read the fine print.
The Wedding Planner
The wedding planner usually runs the entire show, while a day-of coordinator only makes sure the day of the wedding runs smoothly. If you hire either a wedding planner or day-of coordinator, you should outline exactly what is expected from him or her. Most planners will consult with other vendors, review contracts, manage the budget, and ensure all payments are made to vendors. If he or she is going to be involved with the rehearsal or the rehearsal dinner, outline this as well. On the actual wedding day, most wedding planners will continue to coordinate with vendors and keep you on a strict timeline.
The Wedding Cake
A cake seems like an easy thing; it sits there, looks pretty, and then you eat it! However, a wedding cake can get complicated. The contract must state exactly how many guests the cake should serve. Many times, a bride wants flowers or decorations on her cake. The vendor must state whether they will provide these things or if the bride must provide them. Also, many times a baker will request that the room be a certain temperature so the cake will not freeze or melt. Larger cakes often include fake layers. The entire cake should be outlined in a contract so that you know how many fake layers, colors, and flavors should be expected.
Photographer and Videographer
You will probably meet with your photographer and/or videographer a few times to discuss your expectations. Many times, these individuals or companies will offer different packages, so make sure you outline exactly what you want in a package. Most photographers give you the rights to the photos once they are produced. This means you can make copies on your own without having to go through the vendor. This is an important thing to get in writing so that there is no problem when you want to go and order a few pieces of canvas art and/or an entire wedding album full of professional wedding photos. It is also important to include how you will get the photos—as in will you get them as digital files, on a CD, a USB drive, or website.
You also need to clearly outline the time frame in which your photographer/videographer will cover the event. If the vendor goes over the designated amount of time, outline a fee for a certain amount of hours. You can also include the amount of time it will take to receive all of the shots. This is important so that you are not expecting the photographer to have the shots edited in a week, while the vendor knows it will take closer to a month.
The videographer and couple should also agree on how many cameras are included and what wireless audio equipment is needed for a certain number of people. The photographer and videographer will usually include in the contract that they cannot be held liabale for bad lighting or camera angles or equipment malfunction.
The venue will outline all expectations of the bride and groom. Contracts with venues need to include the number of people expected at the wedding. They may also include rules about bringing in outside vendors, lighting, sound, and even decorations. They will have set times for when you can come in to decorate before the event as well as for when you must have everything cleared out and leave. There might be an alcohol policy and/or certain restrictions regarding serving alcohol. If the venue includes catering, the amount of food to be served should be outlined as well as the size of the portions. State if there are overtime charges and gratuity included. Taxes should also be outlined so that you are not left in sticker shock. Many times, larger vendors carry their own insurance, but some venues will ask that you have your own insurance. You can speak with your insurance provider about adding this rider.
DJs and/or bands often have specific instructions on what kind of music they play and when. Your basic contract should state the time they arrive and leave. Sometimes, weddings are still going strong at the time DJs planned to leave, so make sure you include charges or instructions in case this happens. If you want the party shut down no matter what at that exact time, make sure it is in writing so you don’t get a random charge should the DJ decide to stay. Make sure they include details on their equipment and its use at the venue. There are usually clauses that include how the musicians comply with the venue and its rules.
Wedding florals can get tricky. Make sure the florist knows exactly what type of flowers you want and how large you want them. If they show up with tiny white flowers and you were envisioning rows of huge blossoming white flowers, you have a problem. Take the time to meet with the florist and discuss your exact vision and expectations.
You should both be clear on the amount of flowers you will need for bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. Centerpieces and other decorative flower pieces should also be accounted for. If you need vases or additional ribbon, this should be included in the contract. The florist cannot be held accountable for accessories just because you think something is obvious. Keep in mind that weather can be a factor in just how perfect flowers turn out for your wedding, so make sure there is something about weather in the contract. Since flower availability can easily vary, list any substitutions just in case something happens.
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