What You Need to Know Before Signing a Wedding Vendor Contract
As you start planning your wedding, chances are you’re researching and reaching out to many vendors to help get your wedding just right. As you begin to select your photographer, videographer, decorator, venue, or caterer, you’ll soon encounter a dreaded word: contracts. We are here to talk about what you need to know before signing a wedding vendor contract.
And to answer your question: Yes! Contracts are important. It’s a tedious process, but it is a huge step that must be completed. A written agreement benefits both the couple and the vendor because it clarifies what you get and how you’ll get it. Getting it in writing takes the uncertainty away when planning your big day. Let’s walk through exactly what you can (and should) expect in those contracts.
What is a Contract?
At its most basic, a contract is an established agreement between you and the vendor that describes what you’ll get during the wedding and how you’ll pay for it. Contracts in the U.S. can technically be binding even if they’re just spoken, but it’s always best to get it in writing. That way, there can be no misunderstanding of what you (and your vendor) agreed to.
Contracts of any kind tend to include a few basic things:
- Your name and address
- The vendor’s name and address
- The services rendered by the vendor
- The cost of those services
- It is a way for both parties to acknowledge what’s in it, typically through their signatures.
When both of you sign the contract, both will receive a copy that they can review later. In some cases, it can stop there. A short contract is better than none at all. But of course, it typically has plenty of details about what actual service you get – more on that below.
Read It, Reread It, And Ask Questions
The first important thing you want to do when you get a contract from a vendor is read it. You might even want to read it a couple of times to ensure you’re not missing or misunderstanding anything. Then, it’s time to ask questions.
The vendor’s standard contract might not include the level of detail you’re looking for, or some of the services might differ from what you’re expecting. The solution is simple: ask them about it. Don’t think of it as the final document, but as a starting point for discussion. Most vendors are willing to make some changes, but keep in mind that they’re not obligated to follow any request. They might say no.
Can Your Wedding Vendor Contract Include Service Details?
Beyond those basics, most contracts include several details of the exact service you’ll receive. Make sure you review them closely to avoid surprises when the big day comes and the vendor renders their services. Below are some examples you could expect when signing your wedding vendor contracts.
Keep in mind, though, that all this information is optional. It depends on both your needs and expectations and those of your vendor. When you know you want something specific to be part of the agreement, ask if it can be included.
Wedding photography contracts can include a wide range of details. The agreement will consist of the photographer’s name, when and where the wedding will occur, and the number of images the photographer will provide. You might even find some details, like the dress code for the wedding, whether the photographer will be able to eat at the reception, or the exact equipment the photographer uses.
One thing to expect in a contract with a florist is substitutions. Flowers aren’t an exact science, and sometimes substitutions may be needed if certain conditions are not met (transportation, supply, coloring, etc.).
According to Anna with Rose Moss Designs, “substitutions may be made based on industry issues (Covid 19, extreme weather causing delivery delays) or other uncontrollable issues.” And when you sign a contract with a florist, “necessary substitutions will be at the designer’s discretion.” Any florist contract will reserve the right to make the appropriate substitutions so that the quality of flowers used is always top-notch.
Planners are essential on a wedding day and in high demand. One thing couples need to remember is that wedding dates are booked in a blink of an eye. “Potential wedding dates are lost if a couple does not promptly return a contract or deposit,” says Jana with All About Weddings. Many wedding planners “release” dates back to the calendar if there is a delay in the booking process.
There is one word to remember with rental companies: availability. Getting on a rental company’s books is essential to planning a wedding, and snagging the items you want to make your wedding a success is a must. Sending any inspiration pictures to the vendor – especially of a unique design – will ensure that the rental vendor has the item in stock to achieve the dream wedding vision with a fair rental price.
Now, here comes the contract part. In talking with Brian Marsh of Marsh Made Design, he lists a couple of things that brides need to know when signing a contract for one of his arbor pieces. “Late night pickups and Sunday pickups require a fee,” he states. “Also, the flowers must be removed before pick up.” He also states that there is a damage clause in his contract in case an item is damaged.
Other rental companies may have similar lines in their contract, so make sure to read every contract from every company — no matter if they are a similar vendor.
A lot goes into making the perfect wedding cake. One of the most important things to remember is finalizing your cake design with your cake artist. “The important part of my contract is for my clients to finalize the wedding cake design at least one month prior,” says Brittany with All Mixed Up Cakes. “Any changes make it difficult for me to adjust accordingly. It may require special ingredients or materials that I cannot acquire in time.”
What Your Contract Says About the Payment Details
One of the big things about what you need to know before signing a wedding vendor contract is payment information. The total service cost and the down payment percentage should be provided. Due dates are also typical. And, if you’re booking your vendor for a specific time frame, the contract should probably cover any fees required if the wedding runs long.
Beyond that, it depends on the vendor. Some contracts include specific payment methods, such as cash, check, or PayPal. You’ll also find whether payments are refundable or non-refundable.
The Importance of Cancellation Clauses – For Both Sides
We never want to think about things going wrong on a wedding date. But, unfortunately, it is a real possibility. (Insert COVID). Postponement and cancellation clauses in your wedding contract cover what happens if you need to make new plans.
A date change may not require a refund if the vendor is still available at the new date, but it helps to double-check—many vendors only off refunds or credits when the postponement is due to an Act of God. That same courtesy tends to go both ways. Check if your contract includes details about the vendor needing to cancel. Check your contract for the details.
The above is a good starting point for considerations surrounding your contracts with wedding vendors. Wedding vendor contracts protect all parties involved, entitling you to certain services and entitling the professional to specific compensation. You have no reason to avoid such contracts and insist that a contract is needed. Once your contract is completed, you can get to the fun stuff and have the best wedding day ever!
Keep in mind that the information above is not intended to be specific legal advice – treat it as a general guide, but always consult with a legal expert for any more detailed questions related to contract law.