wedding vendor contract

What to Look for in Your Wedding Vendor Contract

If it’s your first time getting married, chances are you haven’t had to sign a vendor contract before. If you’re not a lawyer, the wedding planning process can be the first time you’re being inundated with complex, multi-page vendor contracts that actually matter. The best thing that you can do is make sure that you read the contracts and any riders or attachments to the contracts, ask questions about the parts that you don’t understand, and get clear answers in writing from your vendors, because buried in all of that paperwork can be a number of traps that snare an unsuspecting couple. Don’t forget that the vendor contract is going to be a form that’s designed to best benefit your vendor and won’t necessarily be what’s best for you. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and negotiate if you see something you don’t like.

But how can you be sure that you’re not a victim of the old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know? Below are a few tips to help you dissect and understand what you’re signing.

How to read a wedding vendor contract

Hidden fees and expenses

Read the entire contract looking for things that you’ll have to pay or provide to your vendor. For example, will you owe your vendor any parking fees? How many vendor meals will you have to provide? If you pay with a credit card, will you be charged an extra fee? Does your contract price include gratuity already? One particularly egregious clause in a contract I once reviewed mandated that in winter months, guests would be required to check their coats at a cost of $4 per coat! If your contract is in electronic format, try searching the document for a “$” sign. It could help you catch items that you missed.  

Method of payment

Make sure you understand how you’re going to pay your vendor. What forms of payment do they accept? How early in advance do you need to pay? For example, does your vendor require a certified check with the balance of your payment 30 days in advance of the wedding? Or will they accept credit card on the day of the wedding? Additionally, gratuities or tips may not be specifically discussed in the vendor contract, but you should be aware that they are generally expected on the day of the wedding. It’s helpful to keep a calendared list of all the payments you’ll owe your vendors to make sure you don’t miss any payments and to ensure that you have sufficient payments ready on the day of the wedding, if applicable.

Termination or date change

What happens if you have to call off the wedding or change the date due to an unforeseen circumstance? Will your vendor keep your deposit? Are you able to reschedule your vendor with no additional cost? Will you owe your vendor the entire amount of the contracted amount even if you are able to reschedule the vendor?

Responsibilities from each side

Make sure the vendor contract contains a clear timeline and description of all the responsibilities that are due from each side. When will your deposit be due? If there will be consultations or walk-throughs before the wedding date, when will they be scheduled? When is the balance of your payment due? If your vendor needs information from you, such as a guest list, when will you need to provide it? When will your vendor arrive on the day of the wedding? Additionally, how long will your vendor be staying? Don’t rely on verbal agreements — make sure anything you agree on is in writing in the vendor contract.

Non-disparagement clause

Does your vendor contract contain a clause that says that any disputes must be kept confidential, or that you’re not allowed to leave a negative review of your vendor? Be careful about working with a vendor that includes such a clause. If that clause remains in the contract, make sure you adhere to it — or you could face a lawsuit.

Vendor-specific concerns

Venue

Make sure you understand what you can and can’t do with the venue. For example, does the venue have certain types of requirements regarding decorations and event set-up? If your wedding is going to be outdoors, is there a rainy day backup plan? Are you limited to using a certain list of vendors? For certain decorations or vendors, will you need to obtain any special licenses or insurance? What is the minimum number of guests that you are required to have? Moreover, how much time do your vendors have to load in and load out? If you are required to pay a deposit, when and how will you get it back after the event? One vendor contract that I reviewed stated that no red or colored foods could be served in a certain room in the venue!

Caterer

Caterers will often quote a per-guest cost, without including a number of hidden charges. Will you be required to pay additional gratuity and service charges? What about linen and utensils? Do you need to pay per staff member? Finally, does the couple count as guests as well?

Photographer/videographer

When and how will you get your photos and videos after the event, and in what format will your images come? What rights will your photographer or videographer have to use your images after the wedding day? Do you have the right to post pictures on social media or to publish them in another public setting? For example, if you want to submit your images to a wedding blog, will you have the right to do that?

Check out How to Hire the Right Wedding Photographer!

It is our hope that with these tips, you’ll be able to navigate the maze of legalese and get to the wedding day that you have in your mind!

Have any questions of your own about wedding vendor contracts? Email us at [email protected]!

Disclaimer: Information posted or made available on this site is not legal advice and intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and any attorney. This information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing any of your legal issues. Questions and answers or other postings to this site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege.

wedding vendor contract
Teresa Lii

Teresa Lii was married on July 31, 2016 and graduated from Columbia Law School.

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