The following article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal advice. You should consult your own legal advisors before engaging in any transaction.
As a wedding and event professional, you most likely got into your job with a passion for music, design, gorgeous lighting, or tablescapes, and it turned into a full-blown career. It’s the dream! But along with the dream comes the actual business side of the industry with a whole slew of tasks you hadn’t really considered when you were buying your camera lenses or your adorable business cards–tasks like writing up a contract. Mistakes in your contracts can become costly to your business so here are 6 typical contract mistakes you don't want to make so your dream business can continue to be successful!
1. Sending an Editable Contract
One crucial step that is often overlooked is taking your contract uneditable before you click send. If you are sending out a Word document, you are sending out the ability to change anything in that contract. Your $500 amount can be changed to $50 or $5000 in one click. Your terms can be reworded, your paragraphs deleted, and so on. It is imperative you take a final step and turn your contract into a PDF or JPG or any file format that cannot be changed. This one safeguard can save you from changes you did not approve and didn't have a hand in making.
2. Dates of Service
It may seem like a no-brainer, but it is very easy to leave off the date of service information when you’re making a contract. You may think you’ve emailed or discussed the dates, written them in a calendar, and everyone is on board, but if it’s not listed within your contract, that could be a legal point of dispute later if someone has a date wrong on their end. Having this in writing signed by two parties is one easy way to ensure you have a solid reference point if the date is ever being disputed or your appearance is demanded at a time you did not agree upon. Add in that date, double-check it’s right, and keep it in the paperwork, not just a calendar!
3. Per Hour Charge if Time Goes Over
This area is not always thought of ahead of time with wedding industry jobs, but it should be spelled out in a contract signed by your client. Weddings rarely run on time, they just seem to hate clocks. Grandma arrives late, someone spills on a dress and it has to be handled, someone in the wedding party gets lost, and pictures run over time. There isn't always a guarantee that all the best-laid plans will actually go to plan. In your contract, you need to outline what your hourly rate is in the occurrence that you work longer than the alotted time. This shouldn’t be verbal on the day of, the rate and method of collecting funds need to be arranged ahead of time and included in the binding agreement your client signs.
4. Cancellation Terms
What happens if your bride calls off her wedding one week before the event? What happens if you get the flu? We don’t know the answer, but your contract should! A detailed cancellation policy that explains the refunds, returns, and steps if either party has to cancel within an allotted time frame needs to be something you have in writing and signed in your contract long before any of those incidents happen. You don’t want any gray area when it comes to transferring money for services. Decide on what your terms should be, ask around to other pros and see how they spell it out, and make sure your contract is clear before sending it out to clients. Things come up, don’t let yourself fall into a bad situation if a sudden cancellation comes down the line.
5. Clause for the Things You Can't Control
If a tree falls right onto a reception table or a guest with a very large camera jumps in front of you as you attempt to capture the first kiss, you really can’t do much about it, but it could be you in the hot seat after the fact and a clause about uncontrollable circumstances can save you. Simply stated, what is out of your control needs to be agreed upon ahead of time. You cannot control a hurricane, very drunk guests tripping over cords, or directions not being followed. A little section in your contract that spells out you’re unable to control all people and things is a nice caveat to have on hand, in the event you’re held responsible for one of them.
6. Gendered Wording in Contracts
Most of us have one contract we tweak a little each time we send to a new client to book their package and rarely look at any of the paragraphs after we’ve established that it’s been working for years. One thing you may be overlooking is words like bride, groom, and pronouns. If you’re sending your old trusty contract to an LGBTQIA+ couple, you are alienating your clients as well not having inclusive business practuces. Where do two grooms fill in their names under a bride-and-groom formula? This is such a simple fix, and simply changing fill-in spaces to words like Client, Couple, or Person Responsible makes your contract usable for all the types of beautiful people and identities that you serve.
When it comes to wedding industry contracts, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, there are so many shared and free resources online to help you make a great one, like the Aisle Planner Templates but it’s easy to miss a few of these key points. Make sure when you’re sending things out like the price of services, you’re also reminding people that you can’t stop a hurricane, and then make it a PDF so they can’t say you're in fact a hurricane stopper. Attention to little details can make a very big difference in the event you’re called into question later. Also, if you can stop a hurricane, you’re going to have an incredible business.