Q: My fiancé and I decided that we didn’t want a long engagement, so we’re getting married in just a few months. I’m working on many things at once and starting to finalize a few vendors like my venue and a photographer. So, I’ve been looking at a lot of wedding contracts and I have no idea what I’m looking at. How do I understand this so I know what I’m signing?
Great question and I’m more than happy to answer it. But, to start off it’s important that you know that I am not a lawyer. I have no background in law, so please do not construe my advice as legal advice. However, I see and review many contracts all the time and this is an area that I help both my one-on-one clients with and our Passport to Joy members.
So, let’s face it, contracts are not the fun or sexy part of planning your wedding. At all. But, it’s a necessary part. And it’s also something you’re agreeing to, so it’s important you understand them.
Luckily, though, most wedding contracts are not super complicated. They’re generally not very long or intense. The venue contract will easily be your largest contract and probably the most confusing. But, they all will contain similar items and I’m going to explain these items below:
So, here’s what a wedding contract will contain:
1. Your information – This is your contact details and information about your wedding.
2. The services they are providing – This will include anything the vendor is providing to you which could be the venue space or your wedding cake or the tables and chairs you need. This also might just be the proposal which works in conjunction with the contract.
3. Fees and Payments – A clear description of what the fees are, when payment is due and how payment is to be made.
4. Restrictions – Not all vendors will have this, but some will like the venue. This is when they’d list out what you are not allowed to do.
5. Liability – This is the real legal part when the fancy words will come out. Basically, this portion is meant to explain what happens if something goes wrong. It will explain what the vendor is liable for and what you are liable for.
6. Cancellation – This explains what happens in the event you cancel the wedding or if the vendor cancels on you.
All of the above items are standard in wedding contracts, but depending on the vendor you may have additional items. For example, a photographer will have a model clause about the use of photos for promotional purposes. A venue may have an insurance clause and require you to provide event insurance. A florist will have a substitution clause about being able to substitute flowers in the event the flowers purchased are not up to their standards.
In addition to every vendor having different contracts, every individual vendor’s contract will also be different. I’ve seen really simple 1-page contracts and immensely long 10-15 page contracts. One is not necessarily better than the other.
The key here is not to get caught up in the differences, but make sure you understand the contract and are protected.
So, the first thing you need to do is READ your contract. This is super important! Read every word. And anything you don’t understand, you need to ask about.
If you don’t understand a clause or the wording, just ask. Your vendors should be able to explain it to you in layman’s terms.
Now, the second thing you need to do is make sure you’re comfortable with the contract. The easiest way to do this is to think about the situation they are explaining. Each clause is basically an if-then statement. If this happens, then this will happen.
So, if you think about that potential situation, are you comfortable with what will happen? If so, then great. If not, then you need to ask more questions to make sure you do feel comfortable. And if there are any situations that are not in the contract that you’re concerned about, just ask. They can explain it and add it in if necessary.
Understanding your wedding contracts are an important part of your wedding planning process. Take it seriously and make sure you know what you’re signing and feel comfortable with it. And if not, work with your vendors to make the necessary changes so that you are happy and comfortable.
(Photo credit: Chrisman Studios)
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