A complete guide to vendor contracts

By Maddalena Scarpellini | 17th December 2015 | Blog categories: Planning Info, Wedding Blog

Dear brides-to-be this week we want to address a more technical side of your wedding planning, which we feel sure is as important as your wedding style and the dreamy decorations. While you are taking time to look at pretty Pinterest-y images and stomach-flipping photos of real weddings, make sure to include time to control all your of vendor contracts.

Contracts control your money and provide confidence in receiving the agreed products and services on your big day! So we highly recommend ensuring that every time you hire a photographer, a caterer, a venue, or order something, you must set out your agreement in writing. Take time to carefully read everything in your vendor contract and be sure to document every wedding arrangement you make.

Here are the essential points that should be included in your vendor contract:

• Dates and times of all services (including the time the vendor should arrive)
• Date of the wedding
• Names of all parties involved in the agreement
• The deposit and final payment amounts (plus the payment schedule)
• Contingency plans and substitutions (if white peonies aren’t available, white garden roses will be used instead)
• Detailed description of services
• Refund and cancellation policy
• Some venues might also require a wedding insurance clause

While each vendor’s contract may look a little different, here are our major elements to consider:

1. Signatures matter
The name of who signs the contract can be more important than you think. Besides you and your partner, if another party, such as your parents, are paying for wedding services, they need to be the ones signing the contract. Be clear about who is paying.

2. Scope of services
The scope of services is the most important part of any wedding contract because this is where your vendor specifies what it is that you will get for your money. It’s important to be specific. Does your contract say how many hours of service you will be getting or list any products, like photo albums or digital files, that you will be receiving after the wedding? You’ll want to be clear about both what is provided and what is not included, so that everyone’s expectations are in perfect unison and there are no conflicts during or after your celebration.

3. Cancellation/refund policy
Along with the basics, every contract should include a cancellation and refund policy on both ends that discusses what refund you will receive if you cancel and what penalty the vendor will pay if they cancel. With a refund clause, you should be able to get back a certain percentage of any deposits you made if the party is cancelled by a certain date. Make sure you completely understand the refund policy.

4. Flexibility
Since the planning process often takes around a year or more, changes along the way are not uncommon. Wedding planning is a fluid process, so look over your wedding contract and discuss whether your vendor allows for flexibility, as well as what changes made will mean (often it will be things like additional staff or additional costs for time or supplies). And always, always get those changes in writing!

5. Knows your payments
Most wedding vendors will require an initial booking retainer and then either another payment during the planning process and/or a final payment just before your wedding. Make sure the payment schedule and the amounts are all clearly spelled out in your contract so you can budget ahead. As you can imagine, with a dozen vendors, that’s a lot of payments to keep track of. To save yourself the headache, we recommend opting for vendors who offer simple payment methods.

And remember — don’t sign the contract unless you’re 100 percent comfortable with it, and both you and the vendor should sign and date two copies so you can each have one.