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Wedding Contracts: Everything You Need To Know!

Wedding Contract

A happy wedding planning requires some careful paperwork. This is crucial now, more than ever. In the unprecedented events that follow the pandemic’s rise and fall, both couples and vendors are in a vulnerable situation, and to help tackle it – there’s a simple solution – a wedding contract. As the name suggests, this contract is a legally binding one that holds both parties responsible in case of any dispute. The contract will also specify what’s included in the services, payment policy, refund policy, which state jurisdiction is it under, date and time of the wedding, clauses for rescheduling a wedding, etc. Interesting, huh? It gets better. Read on!

Why are wedding contracts important?

Without key vendors on board, your dream wedding day simply won’t happen. While discussing and envisioning the details with them will give you butterflies, in the end, booking a vendor is like a business transaction. It’s imperative you keep the details of that transaction clear and concise by putting in place a wedding vendor contract. 

A binding contract defines everything from when, who, where, how, why, monetary details, and almost anything that matters. Until you sign a proper contract, there’s no guarantee of the vendor being obliged to you for anything, so it basically protects you and your dream day! And it protects the vendors too from any changes the client might demand after booking. The formal agreement is usually drafted by the vendor, and the changes can be made with mutual consent from both parties. 

Formal Contracts 

Some wedding service companies have a legal contract drawn in from their lawyers. In that case, the obscure language can throw you off. It’s easily understandable though, take some time to read thoroughly. If there are specifics that you don’t understand, don’t shy away from asking. Sometimes, just the simplest words can make a difference. For instance, *and/ or* when included in *sherbets and/ or lassis* – the caterer can serve only one depending on availability and you can’t hold them responsible later. You can always have your own lawyer to look into the contract. 

Informal Contracts

Some vendors, especially those offering short-term service or owns a small business, are more comfortable handing an informal contract – sometimes handwritten and signed by both parties.

Contracts Can Vary A Great Deal 

The contracts can be as detailed and as concise, depending on vendor to vendor. Of course, your wedding baker will have a shorter contract than the planner – considering their services encompasses much less than the latter. Then again, different wedding planners can have different contracts.  This can depend on how detailed things you want on the wedding day. 

Anyways, doesn’t matter how short or lengthy it is, just READ the contract. If the technicalities are complicated for you to understand, hire a lawyer and let them decipher the points for you! Weddings are a big investment and you don’t want to spend thousands of bucks on something without knowing what it contains. Plus, sometimes there can be clauses that are tailored to benefit the vendor. Like the Integration Clause which clearly specifies only these 4 corners of the contract binds the vendor. In other words, they aren’t liable for anything promised that’s not written in the contract. 

See: Sample Wedding Contracts

What’s Included In A Wedding Contract?

Here are a few key things to be included in a wedding vendor contract: 

Key Details: 

  • Date Of The Event(s) since Indian weddings are generally a 3-Day event; this includes the time of the arrival and departure as well. 
  • Name Of The Couple; both bride and groom, not just one
  • Name Of The Vendor, and his position
  • Team Members Of The Vendor; example is you MUA also bringing a hair artist with them. Include this, please.

What Do The Services Comprise? 

This should include all the details of the services you’ll be receiving from a vendor. Hiring a makeup artist? What all are they providing? Only makeup, or makeup, hair, and draping. Dealing with a photographer? Are they also providing videography services? Will they bring a team? How many pictures will they provide after the ceremony? And how many albums are they going to publish? 

There are all kinds of nitty-gritty associated with each vendor, just get them all sorted out in the start. Also, included here is there a particular person in charge of providing these services or the company as a whole is responsible? This comes as an essential point when litigation is filed. 

Travel 

Are you having a destination wedding? Or, have you hired a wedding professional based out of the city? In both these cases, there are good chances you’ll be paying for their travel too! And if the travel takes time, they are potentially losing time to fulfill other bookings. Will you be paying for this? Are you also booking them a hotel room and reimbursing them for their meals? All these specifics need to be answered before booking a vendor from outstation. 

Payment Timeline

All monetary details need to be included here. What’s the total amount to be paid? What’s the booking amount? How much is the retainer amount? Do I need to pay extra for rescheduling? Any penalties if the payment is late? What are the refundable amount and non-refundable amount? Clearly list any payment-related facets in this section. 

P.S.: While both – booking amount and retainer amount – are used interchangeably and many vendors don’t differentiate between the two, there is a difference. The retainer amount is non-refundable in case the services are terminated, the wedding is postponed, or there’s a reschedule. While a certain portion of a booking amount can be refunded even in these scenarios. Let’s say you book an MUA charging Rs.40,000/- for wedding makeup, and they hold a booking amount of Rs.20,000/-. In any case, where you don’t need their services on a specific day, they might have a 20% refundable policy, so you’ll get Rs.4,000/-, while she retains Rs.16,000/-, also the retainer amount. Some wedding professionals have the same booking and retainer amount. In the current pandemic situation, defining these terms is essential. 

Boilerplate Clauses 

“Boilerplate provisions” are standard provisions that are a universal part of contracts all over. Here are 3 you need to take into due consideration:

  1. Integration Clause

An integration clause says that anything that’s included in the 4 corners of this contract is binding and none of the parties can uphold other responsible for anything not included in the contract. So any conversation – text message, verbal meeting, e-mails, before and after the contract is irrelevant. Therefore, it’s best to carefully review and understand the contract before signing. 

  1. Governing Law

The laws can differ from state to state. This clause cites under which state’s jurisdiction will govern your agreement. 

  1. Venue

While the governing law dictates the jurisdiction, the venue will state forth which court of which district the parties will meet if litigation is filed. Let’s say you get married in Goa and the vendor is from Goa, but you’re from Mumbai. If the vendor mentions the litigation to take place in Goa, you’ll have no choice but to travel there for any proceeding. That’s still close, imagine being from Delhi and realizing the litigation is filed in Goa. So, just clarify the venue details in the agreement. 

Common Wedding Contract Terms To Look Out For: 

  1. Retainer:

This the non-refundable amount you pay to book the vendor for their services. Unless your vendor cancels, this fee is non-refundable. 

  1. Liquidated Damages:

This is just another term for the retainer amount. Liquidated damages describe the compensation for the wedding professional to hold their services for your wedding day. Again, it’s a non-refundable amount. 

  1. Waiver:

A waiver is generally included in the monetary section of the agreement. It details what happens if the client defers on payment and if they need to pay a fine on postponed payments. 

  1. Act of God or Force Majeure:

Generally includes a natural calamity like flood, fires, earthquake. This doesn’t include the government-imposed lockdowns due to pandemics. 

  1. Indemnification:

A contractual indemnification provision generally includes the common term “indemnify, defend and hold harmless”. This means you’ll compensate for any loss, damage, and other legal liability that arises from your event. This is often found in wedding vendor contracts.

Changes To The Contract As You Move Forward

Both your and your vendor’s preferences can change as you move forward. Let’s say you wanted just a simple two-tier cake on the wedding day initially, but now your heart is stuck on the seven-tier cake with exquisite artwork – this calls for price changes, timelines changes, etc. Depending on how much in advance you inform your cake artist, they might or might not accommodate the changes. Nonetheless, if alterations are made verbally, incorporate them in written in the wedding vendor contract too. 

Cancellation, Postponing & Refunds

Before you decide to break up with a vendor or ask them for a date reschedule – be mindful. The pandemic has affected the vendors too. Their whole career revolves around weddings, and Covid playing with it is hard. So, if you’ve decided to postpone the wedding and your preferred vendor isn’t available on the date – you can’t force them to refund the booking amount or make a fuss about it. The non-refundable amount should be discussed by both parties before and added to the contract. 

Additionally, there are some vendors who’d refund a partial amount from the booking fees. Again, put that in the contract! 

Also, there are some vendors who’d charge a retainer amount for the rescheduled date you’ve asked for. Yes, this one’s separate from the retainer amount you’ve already paid. Let’s say you paid a booking amount for 4th May 2021, and now reschedule it to 7th July 2021. If specified in the contract, the vendor isn’t liable to pay you the booking amount for the 4th of May and charge extra for booking on the 7th of July. That’s because they didn’t take any other couples on both of those days, and so the base payment for their services on a specific day remains paid for. The set monetary outlays should be stated in the wedding vendor contract to facilitate seamless communication between both parties in times of dispute. 

3 Additional Things To Keep In Mind While Rescheduling A Wedding Vendor

  • Take Charge:

The earlier you have the hard talk the better. Approach the vendors that can only do one wedding in a day, like photographers, decorators, makeup artists, etc. Then, move on to those who can handle more weddings in a week, like cake baker, rental companies, etc. 

  • Ask For Recommendations:

There are chances your wedding vendor isn’t available for the rescheduled date. Understand this isn’t because they decided to not do your wedding. Just like you chose them, they chose you. And they’d want to help you in these tough times. Ask them for recommendations. The vendor community is a close-knit group and they’d know people aligning with your wedding vision well. 

  • Re-Think The Costs:

You’re all in this together. And yes, you’re in for some discounts if you’re having a small wedding but only for selected vendors. Like a wedding decorator because the staging area is less or a caterer because there are fewer people to serve. However, in the case of makeup artists, etc. the discount doesn’t make sense because their products and skills are used to the same extent. Similarly, for photographers/ videographers, you can’t ask for a massive discount because majorly they’d still be capturing the bride, groom, and those close to them. 

Termination:

The termination clause is different from the above because that means you’re parting ways with the vendor because you’re unhappy with their services. It happens when you entered the contract with certain expectations and your vendor works in a different way. It’s okay, sometimes things don’t work out. What to do when the contract no longer serves your dream wedding vision well? Include this clause to set things straight here. 

Learn More: When Should You Book Your Wedding Vendors, Pros Recommend

FAQ’s Related To A Wedding Contract

What If The Vendor Doesn’t Provide Services Mentioned In The Wedding Contract? 

Get a REIMBURSEMENT! This is where the wedding contract will jump in to help you, provided you included this in the contract. Let’s say your choreographer mentioned they’ll bring background dancers and they didn’t, or your decorator mentioned cascading florals on the entrance and they skimped up, in both these cases, you should be reimbursed. Mention the point in the agreement and the percentage of the total amount to be refunded back, this can be anywhere between 10% to 50% or more depending on the unprofessional act. 

How Do I Negotiate With A Wedding Vendor?

When negotiating with a wedding vendor, make sure you are offering them a fair price. While this may seem like a one-time payment to you, their whole livelihood depends on that money. Keeping the same in mind, I understand you’re running on a budget too. Say that out upfront and give them a reasonable quote for the services you’re asking for. Mose vendors are more than happy to offer a discounted price if you book them for more than one event – like MUA’s, planners, caterers, etc. The key here is to be empathetic, understanding, and realistic. 

Do Both Members Of The Couple Need To Sign A Wedding Contract?

We’d advise so! This would come in handy if either one of you is present to make the changes to the contract, want to negotiate on a clause, or any legal proceedings are issued so either one of you can show up. 

How Do I Break Up With A Wedding Vendor?

Well, the termination clause in your contract will define the technicalities so you don’t ask for anything beyond the agreement during the conversation. Approach the situation gracefully, do it over a phone or a video call and be as honest as possible. And please don’t immediately threaten with a bad review if they don’t comply, otherwise, you might even lose the chance to get a partial refund. All in all, just keep your intention clear, try to understand their situation too, and the rest of the things will automatically fall into place.

What’s A Contingency Plan And Substitution? 

Contingency Plans incorporates two things: 

  • What happens if there’s an issue with the event (weather-related, lockdowns, etc.)
  • And what happens if there’s an issue with the vendor (accident, sickness, etc.) (In such cases the vendor generally has a substitute professional in place.)

Contingency substitutions are an inclusive term of the contingency plan and define the alternate route if something goes wrong. Like using white roses if white hydrangeas aren’t available. You don’t always have to be specific about all the situations – of course, that’s also impossible. But if you’re particular about a few details – this is the place to write it all down. 

In Closing: Please Get A Wedding Contract From Your Vendors

With a detailed understanding of a wedding contract, it feels like a smart decision to have it in place. Having a written agreement promises a smooth running between both parties and avoids any irrational disputes later. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment down below and we will answer them all! 

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