Ahh, now this is a topic that is rarely discussed in the wedding world but oh so important for both brides & grooms and wedding vendors alike. Wedding contracts!…you know those legally binding documents that state what a vendor is providing you, and when, where, and how they will provide it. I get it, contracts aren’t fun, they can be long and boring to read, and often are written in unintelligible law jargon. But listen up all you brides and grooms out there, you must read them and even more importantly, you must understand what they say! Please don’t sign something if you have no idea what it is you’re signing for. You might have a rude awakening later. And please make sure you read them again a few weeks before your wedding day so you really understand exactly what is contracted for and exactly what can happen if things don’t go as planned on the wedding day. Here are a few of my favorite examples that I have come across in my profession as a wedding planner:
– Pay attention to the exact number of hours your photographer, videographer, DJ, or band includes in the contract. Countless times I have gone ahead and started working on the wedding day timeline and had a bride tell me, “oh we would like the photographers to start shooting as soon as we get to the salon and we’re having a grand exit at the end of the reception and we would like them there to capture that too.” Unfortunately, the bride has forgotten that on that contract she signed with them 10 months ago, she only paid for 7 hours of coverage, so that’s not going to work (this is why I read every contract my clients give me so there are no surprises on wedding day). And make sure you know in advance how much an extra hour of coverage (or playing time by a DJ or band) costs in case the timing of the day runs longer than expected.
– Read carefully what it is you’ve purchased vs. what you may be renting or borrowing from a particular vendor. For example, all those beautiful glass vases your floral centerpieces come in are actually only for rent. Same with that cake stand or those gorgeous broaches on your cake, or those table number stands your planner was kind enough to let you borrow. I sometimes have to stop guests from walking off with full centerpieces (glassware included) from a reception. Yes, the flowers were purchased and do belong to the bride, but the containers do not so unless you bring your own container, you can’t take the centerpiece with you. I’ve also heard of florists losing hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in inventory due to couples or their parents telling guests to take the centerpieces and later saying “well how were we supposed to know the containers weren’t ours?”. You should know because it was in the contract you signed. And also make sure you take note of what the ramifications are if things do happen to go missing or are damaged. Often you will be responsible for replacement costs.
– Know exactly what it is you’ve contracted for and if there are any specific tasks for which the vendor is not responsible. For example, in my own contracts I list out every tiny detail that I will take care of on wedding day (and the days leading up to it) so that there is no confusion. I also list a few things that my team and I do not take care of. For starters, I do not cut cake. Typically the catering staff is trained to handle cutting and plating the cake, but I have had on occasion couples who try to avoid a cake cutting fee and just expect me to do it. Seriously, I’m not trying to be a pain, I’m just not trained to cut a cake and therefore will probably make a giant mess of it and cut the pieces too large so that not everyone will get one. Another example: rental company set-up. If you’ve hired a rental company and they are delivering tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, etc. make sure the contract states that they will also be setting everything up (there is usually an additional fee for this because there’s more labor involved). If you have not contracted for set-up with the rental company, be sure you have contracted with someone to do it! It’s really not fair to your florist or caterer to have them show up to your venue only to find a giant stack of tables, chairs, and linens in the corner. This will also derail your entire schedule because it takes many hours to set up an entire room. Many wedding planners can and will take care of your room set-up, but often there is an extra fee involved so be sure it’s in the contract.
– Finally, understand what will happen if something major goes wrong on your wedding day such as a natural disaster (often deemed the “Acts of God” clause in a contract). I will admit that up until the flood in Nashville last year, I didn’t pay too much attention to those clauses but now I realize how important they are. What happens if a vendor can’t make it? Will they send a replacement? Do you get your money back? All of it or just the deposit? What if the replacement can’t make it? I know it’s never fun to think about the worse case scenario and I definitely think you shouldn’t dwell on it, but have an idea of what happens in such a situation so that you can be prepared for it.
So go read those contracts and always ask your vendors questions if you don’t understand something or why something isn’t included, etc. With everyone on the same page, you will have a smooth and lovely wedding day!