After a recent phone call from a bride who has been married a few years, this blog post was born. She called wondering what our policies and procedures are for couples we work with. The photographer she hired a few years ago was not living up to her expectations and she just needed someone in the industry to bounce ideas off. During the phone call, my first question after she explained the situation was, "Do you have a contract and what does it say about the issue you're having?"
Her response was, "That's the problem, they never provided a contract and we didn't realize at the time it was needed. Looking back, it should have been a priority, but hindsight is 20/20."
A wedding day that does not include contracts is a recipe for disaster. The disasters can potentially start the week of your wedding or may even happen after the wedding day is complete.
Imagine not having a contract with your caterer who calls you the week of the wedding to inform you that your beef dish was more expensive than anticipated and instead of $24.50 a plate, the price will now be $27.00 a plate. What do you do?
Without anything in writing you may be stuck paying the higher price. With a contract you have terms and conditions to go back to and begin an open dialogue.
What about after the wedding if the DJ contacts you saying you owe a balance of $200 in addition because they "stayed longer than expected". If you have a contract, you know exactly when they were scheduled to arrive and depart. Without a contract, what do you do?
The biggest benefit for vendor contracts is that is sets clear expectations for what services you (the bride and groom) will receive. Setting up a clear agreement means expectations and accountability are set for both vendor and client.
A contract tells clients what to expect. It states what you're going to do, and how and when you will do it. Contracts cover accountability and responsibility of both the vendor and the client.
So what should go into a contract? Below is a list of the basics.
Side note before I get to the list: If you've already hired vendors, this list is still important. Even if you're hiring "friends" to be a part of your wedding day, put something together that sets clear expectations for what they are going to do on your wedding day. I can't tell you how many times we've had couples let us know after their wedding day, "We had friends who were supposed to do this, but ended up not really doing what we thought they would..." Put something in writing so everyone is on the same page. It might even save your friendship.
- Parties Involved - Names of Business & Clients
- What Is Being Agreed To - Services and products for the client for stated monetary payment
- Retainer Fees & Payment - When & How balances should be paid. Are fees refundable?
- Expectations - Turnaround time, product delivery, etc. What will happen following your wedding day?
- Emergency & "Act of God" Situations - Provisions for emergencies & if an "Act of God" (earthquake, etc) occurs
- Limit Liability - Caps the amount of damages that can be recovered by either party
- Dispute Resolution - If a dispute arises, what will happen? Courts, mediation, arbitration?
- Signatures of Both Parties - Contracts should be signed by both parties
- Cancellation & Late Policy - Are they clearly communicated & easy to understand?
- Travel Fees - Policies regarding travel fees
All of these items should be covered somewhere in the wedding contract. As you move toward your wedding day, do you have the details of your wedding day in writing?
If you do, you'll be blissfully happy knowing that all the details of your wedding day are covered and you'll end up looking as happy as Jeff and Sarah did on their wedding day!