You’re a couple who’s getting married, or a vendor building their business. There are so many exciting things about this process – and let’s face it, contracts aren’t really one of them. But, wedding vendor contracts are a huge deal, for vendors and couples, and it’s super important that you sign one!
This guide is all about wedding vendor contracts. What’s in them, why they matter, and why you need to make sure you have one.
What is a Wedding Vendor Contract?
You probably know that a contract is that thing you sign – but let’s dive into a little more detail.
A wedding vendor contract is there for both the vendor and the couple. It outlines expectations, and covers both parties in case anything goes wrong. It’s also a written agreement for your wedding day – it’s legal confirmation that the vendor will be there. A professional wedding vendor will always have a contract. Typically you aren’t officially booked until the contract is signed and a booking fee is paid.
While you always hope things will go smoothly and you won’t need to think about the contract after it’s signed, the truth is that mistakes, mishaps, and even small miscommunications can happen, and it’s incredibly important to have a contract with each vendor, to read that contract before you sign it, and to keep a copy of it.
Why are Wedding Vendor Contracts Important?
Here’s why wedding vendor contracts matter, and why you should always have one:
Reserving Your Date
As a couple, you want to know that your wedding vendor has your date reserved – that they won’t be cancelling on you or not showing up on the big day. And as a vendor, you want to know which days you have available and which ones you don’t! Having a contract is what makes bookings official, and it ensures that legally, both parties have to show up on the agreed-upon date.
Covering “What If” Scenarios
You always hope that you won’t need to reference your contract, but things happen! What if the DJ’s laptop breaks and you’re left with no music, what if the florist doesn’t deliver the flowers, what if the couple has to reschedule the wedding (maybe because of an unprecedented pandemic… or something)?
The contract should have an answer for all of these scenarios, letting you know, in detail, how exactly all of these situations will be handled. Wedding vendors are a big investment – important and so worth it, but big! So it’s definitely crucial to make sure you’re covered, and that you know what happens to the deposit if anything does go wrong.
Each wedding vendor will usually have deliverables. For a photographer that would be photos, for florists that would be flowers, for a planner it would be things like timelines and seating charts and being there on the big day to coordinate everything. A wedding vendor contract will set expectations for what exactly the vendor will do and when – for example, how long after the wedding day photos will be delivered.
It Protects Everyone!
A wedding vendor contract isn’t designed to favour one party or the other, and it shouldn’t feel one-sided. The contract is there to protect everyone, to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and to give concrete, written guidelines for both parties.
What’s in a Wedding Vendor Contract?
Wedding vendor contracts include a lot of things, and they definitely depend on the vendor as well – but here are some things that should always be in the contract, and what’s typical for vendors to include:
This is one of the most important things – what happens if the couple cancels the wedding, and what happens if the vendor cancels? Typically, if the couple cancels the wedding, the vendor has the right to keep any money that has already been paid. If the vendor can’t make it, they will usually either find someone to fill in for them if possible, or they will have to give the couple back their paid balance (minus any booking fees).
Sometimes the wedding isn’t cancelled, but it needs to be rescheduled. We wedding vendors often have an inconsistent pay check, so reschedules can really affect us – plus, any dates that we reserve are dates that we potentially turn away other couples.
So, if the couple needs to reschedule the wedding, wedding vendor contracts might include a fee for rescheduling, and the two parties will also need to agree on a new date that works for everyone.
A wedding vendor contract should also include a force majeure clause – this is a clause that outlines what happens if the reason for canceling or rescheduling is something out of anyone’s control. Maybe your photographer can’t show up because their flight is cancelled and there aren’t any other ones, maybe the wedding has to be postponed because of an earthquake, or a pandemic, or any natural disaster which you can’t do absolutely anything about. The force majeure clause tells you what happens when someone can’t fulfill their contractual obligation.
There might also be times when someone wants to terminate the contract. This usually happens when one party feels that they no longer want to work with the other. If you hire a wedding vendor you thought was great, but you feel disappointed and would rather hire someone you’re more confident in, the termination clause tells you what happens. Typically, whoever terminates the contract will forfeit the money from the booking fee. If it’s the couple, the vendor will keep the booking fee, and if the vendor wants to terminate, the couple will get their booking fee back.
Another important clause in a wedding vendor contract is about liability. This usually states that the vendor can’t be sued if something happens at the event, and that they can’t be sued for more money than you paid them. For example, if your wedding photographer doesn’t deliver your photos, you would be able to sue them for the amount that they were paid, but they can’t be sued for someone tripping over a camera bag at the wedding.
Make Sure You Always Have a Wedding Vendor Contract
The most important takeaway from this post is that whether you’re a vendor or you’re hiring a vendor, you should always have a contract. It’s better for everybody! Make sure to read any contracts carefully before you sign them. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification about anything you see. And if you’re a wedding vendor, make sure you have a proper contract. It’s worth the investment.
If you are a vendor looking for a great resources for a contract, check out The Legal Paige here.
If you are ready to look for a wedding photographer or videographer, you can contact me and I’ll walk you through my booking process (including contract!)
The Person Behind The Lens
If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.
Sam Wildridge is a lifestyle photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing wedding, family + corporate photos for 9 years and defines her style as "organic storytelling".