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What are the most important contract terms to get right with wedding vendors?

The most important terms in a contract with any wedding vendor relate to logistics, price, and adjustments.

For logistics, you want contracts that clearly state what service the vendor will provide at your wedding as well as when and where that service will be provided. At minimum, identify the date and times the service will start and end. If the service extends over a period of time, such as with a Wedding Planner Agreement, for example, the contract may list the dates, times, and locations of any events the vendor is expected to attend as well as when the planner’s services end.

It is important for contracts to indicate the location where the service will be provided. An address is sufficient in most cases, but larger venues may require more specificity, such as “The DJ will perform on the stage under the green pavilion beside the south reflecting pool.” Keep in mind that vendors such as bartenders, caterers, and musicians often need access to a venue before the event begins. Your contract may indicate arrival time and who will provide them access. If a vendor, such as a photographer or videographer will follow you from the wedding venue to a separate reception location, the contract should include each location at where their service will be provided.

In terms of price, you want your contracts to identify the amount, payment delivery time and method of payment. Many vendors require a deposit before signing a contract with the rest due on the date of service or some later date specified by a payment plan. Be particularly certain your contracts include the vendor’s policy about additional costs or upcharges for services they do not consider part of your contract. You also want your contract to outline what happens if you fail to pay or the vendor fails to perform the required service.

When it comes to adjustments, you want contracts that specify procedures for making any necessary changes. It should include the contact information of a point person at the vendor you can reach quickly in case you have questions or something goes wrong. The contract should also detail what happens if you need to reschedule or change something about the service or venue. 

How do we get what we want for our wedding?

The best way to make sure you get what you want for your wedding is to put absolutely everything in a signed written contract with each of your vendors. The more specific and detailed you are in the contract, the more likely you are to get what you want on your wedding day. Be particularly sure that everything promised by the vendor, including verbal promises, are captured by the contract. As much as possible, you should structure the contract so that you pay the vendor after satisfactory service has been performed. Insisting on the formalities may feel unnecessary and awkward in the moment, but it could save you money and frustration in the long run.

More established vendors may have a standard contract that includes the terms discussed above. If a vendor does not have a standard contract, you can prepare your own Vendor Agreement. Even if a vendor has a standard contract, you can negotiate the terms. If a vendor won’t negotiate with you or won’t agree to the terms you want, you may want to search for an alternative.

Why are cancellation and refund policies important to carefully read?

No matter how careful or certain you are, things outside your control can affect your wedding. Your vendors’ cancellation and refund policies are important to read carefully and understand. Vendor availability may be limited if you need to reschedule, particularly during peak wedding season. If your vendor gets booked for another event, they may not be available for the date you want to reschedule to. Before you sign a contract, you want to know what happens to any upfront payments if you need to change your plans or cancel. 

Can vendors require that I provide insurance or permits?

Generally, vendors can require you to provide insurance or secure permits for the service they provide. Some vendors may agree to provide these or ask you to show proof. Your city or state might also require permits for certain activities such as outdoor musical performances, reserved parking, or blocking traffic to load and unload equipment.

As the event organizer, you may be responsible for securing the proper insurance and permits, even if a contract does not mention them. The best way to be sure you are complying with your legal responsibilities is to ask a lawyer. If your agreements do not mention permits or insurance, it may be worth asking your vendor about these and adding these details in.

Rocket Lawyer has legal resources for newly engaged couples to help plan weddings, including from a distance. If you have more questions about wedding venue or vendor contracts, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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