Wedding Contracts 101

Everything you need to know before signing wedding vendor contracts. Keywords: wedding contracts

By Shira Telushkin

Wedding Contracts 101
Photo by Zola

The first thing to know about wedding vendor contracts is that you should have them. The second thing is that you should read them. Your wedding will likely have many moving parts, and while finding the right flowers, venue, bakery, band, photographer, and whoever else you might need is critical, it is only half the process.

You also want to ensure that your wedding vendors are aligned with you on what to expect on the wedding day itself. Don’t skip the contract, even if the wedding photographer is your best friend—drawing up a wedding contract not only ensures that the big questions are discussed early on, but it lowers the risk of any unwelcome surprises at your wedding.

This is your ultimate guide to wedding contracts.

What to Include

A wedding vendor contract does not need to be an elaborate, formally worded legal document. The important feature is that it includes all the relevant information, and that both parties agree to it.

Every contract with a wedding vendor should, at minimum, include:

  • The date of the wedding
  • The date and time at which the service provider or wedding vendor will provide services
  • Detailed description of wedding services to be provided
  • The name of the parties involved in the contract (to avoid complications down the road, make sure to name both wedding partners in all wedding contracts)
  • The total payment amount, including the payment schedule and services expected at different junctures
  • The backup plan for any substitutions that might be needed, or delays that might arise. For example, what happens if the lead singer of the band is sick on your wedding day, or the delivery of roses goes awry.
  • The cancellation and refund policy
  • Whether or not wedding insurance is required
  • Contact information for the wedding day itself, including who to call with questions or concerns

What to Look For

For experienced vendors, the wedding contract will be a polished document that ideally addresses all major factors relevant to the services they are providing. Nonetheless, you can always push back on a clause with which you disagree, or ask to negotiate some element of the contract. There are some factors to consider when reading through your wedding vendor contract, including:

The refund and cancellation policy. You want to absolutely make sure that you understand the circumstances under which the vendor can cancel, as well as the circumstances in which you can cancel and still be refunded. Consider the timeline of approved cancellation, the portion of the guaranteed refund, and the reasons for which cancellation is considered eligible.

The timeline of delivery. For tailors, photographers, and other vendors whose services are provided in multiple sessions, you want to ensure that the delivery timeline is clear, both before and after the wedding. The photographer might show up on time and do a fantastic job, but if you don’t get the photos for another five months after the wedding, you want to know now.

Use of your image for marketing. For wedding photographers, wedding venues, bakeries, and other vendors, it makes sense to read through their policy on using your image to promote their services. If that is a problem for you, feel comfortable asking them about it.

Additional fees, charges, or items that are not included. You might assume that the bakery providing the wedding cake will also transport it to the wedding reception, but don’t be sure. In every contract, make sure that you understand what is not included, and ask for clarification if you see a phrase that covers services that are not clearly detailed.

The Wedding Day Itself

The wedding day itself is always hectic, but you want to ensure that you have a few aspects of your arrangement with your vendors already covered.

Tips. The contract should ideally make the payment schedule clear, and it should state whether or not tips are included. If not, then consider if you need to be tipping in cash, and make sure that someone is prepared.

Receipts. You’ll want receipts for some of your vendor services, to give proof of delivery and evidence that everything was handled to satisfaction. Like the contract, this can be a very simple document, but it can prevent confusion on a busy day.

Clean-up. The wedding venue contract should stipulate what aspects of post-wedding clean-up they will handle, and if there is anything you are expected to do after your wedding celebration. This might include flower disposal, taking with you any special ritual items, or some other element that you have not considered. Make sure to ask.

Feeding the band. The wedding day is long, and you might have vendors who are with you for most of the day. Consider whether providing them with food is part of the expectations.

Terms to Know

Force majeure. Also known as an ‘act of God’ clause, the force majeure clause is for when circumstances prevent the fulfillment of the contract in ways completely beyond the control of either party, including a natural disaster, fire, or medical emergency.

‘Indemnity’ and ‘hold harmless’. This is the clause that stipulates that the vendor is not legally responsible for the events of the wedding. If a guest, for example, eats food to which they are allergic, or runs into a glass wall, the wedding catering or the venue could not be sued. Many couples consult with a lawyer to ensure that this clause is the right choice for them, and some choose to purchase wedding insurance to cover any potential mishaps on the day.

Confidentiality. This clause is intended to ensure that the vendor agrees to keep information about your wedding celebration private, including where it is located and how many guests are arriving.

The wedding contract is a useful document to ensure that there are no surprises on your wedding day, and that all parties are aligned on expectations for services provided. While legal documents can seem overwhelming, you should always read your contract carefully. Ask for clarification if a clause does not make sense to you, or request to change your contract if it makes you uncomfortable. The Zola guide to Wedding Contracts 101 is the right place to start.

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