Wedding Vendor Contract: The Pen is Mightier
You’ve heard it before: the pen is mightier than the sword. But most weddings aren’t rife with swordplay (unless you’re planning a Renaissance Faire themed wedding, that is). So what are the sharp-edged perils you really need to avoid when planning your perfect day? The answer is: Bad contract wording.
Signing the wrong kind of wedding vendor contract can cut deeper than a blade–especially when it comes to your carefully-planned wedding budget. Read twice and sign once. Careful contract wording is a shield that will protect you (and your wedding vendor) in case anything goes less-than-perfectly on the big day.
Avoid Verbal Agreements
Beware of wedding vendors who use boilerplate contracts “just to satisfy the legal side of things,” then want to discuss specifics separately. This is a bright red flag that you’re not hiring a professional. Unless an arrangement is agreed upon and signed on paper, there’s no way to enforce it later.
For example, say an unscrupulous caterer wants to attract you with a generous discount. He promises you a free soup and salad course with the purchase of his standard single-entrée package. But unless you get it in writing, he has no reason to follow up on his promise later. You’ll be stuck wondering why your reception dinner is lacking, and if you try to leave him a bad review or seek legal recourse, he’ll be able to furnish the written contract where you bought only a single entrée. Resorting to a “but you promised!” argument only makes you sound naïve, and it won’t hold up in court.
Add it In
When possible, request that your wedding vendor draw up a custom contract detailing the arrangements for your wedding. Small businesses and individuals should have no problem customizing the contract for your wedding. Large corporations (like hotel chain wedding venues) sometimes have mandatory standard contracts that have already been drawn up by their legal departments, but you still don’t have to rely on verbal agreements. If you’ve verbally arranged a special agreement with the salesperson, you can take a pen and write it on the contract before you sign.
As long as you and the salesperson both initial the changes and date and sign the paper, it’s as legally binding as the words printed via computer.
Read the Small Print
Anticipating a wedding is exciting, and it’s understandable if you don’t want to dim your happy glow by squinting through pages of small print. However, these “boring parts” often contain the sneaky little details that can ruin a wedding. While most wedding vendors aren’t looking to cheat you (after all, they wouldn’t get much business if they left a trail of unhappy clients!), they still might unwittingly provide bad contract language that comes with a boilerplate contract. Since most non-lawyers don’t go through the small print on contracts word by word, bad language can persist on standard contracts for years before anyone notices.
Look for problem clauses that give the vendor permission to change prices after the contract has been signed, as well as clauses that add costs for additional services like setup, delivery, and overtime. Don’t be shy about writing out the final, agreed-upon price and a list of all services it covers if the contract doesn’t do that already–this is your only protection against changes later.
Look for problem clauses that allow for substitutions of key elements of your service (like allowing for an assistant photographer to shoot your wedding photos instead of the company owner you thought you were hiring, or a three-piece wedding band instead of the five-piece band whose demo track you adored). Above all, be wary of clauses that ask you to sign away your right to litigate–this means that, if the worst happens and you need to take your vendor to court over a breach of contract, you won’t be able to present your side in a proper court case and get an enforceable verdict in your favor.
Hire Trusted Vendors
While you should never skip legal formalities like written contracts, even when hiring friends as wedding vendors, it’s also important not to let suspicions and negativity ruin the excitement of planning your dream day. Whenever possible, hire wedding vendors who come well-recommended by friends and people you trust. Check online reviews and portfolios before signing any contracts, and look for vendors with long, successful histories of providing services in your community.
The best incentive for providing honest and top-rate work, after all, is upholding a stellar reputation! When you work with wedding vendors you have good reason to trust, you can both sign the contract and relax into the happy excitement of helping your dream wedding come to life.