The Importance of Contracts: Protecting Yourself on a Wedding Vendor Hunt
While deciding on a wedding vendor that fits your style and needs is important, so, too, is finding one that caters to your safety and comfort. There are few things more stressful than having to plan a big event. Whether it’s a lavished wedding or an extravagant quinceanera, every minor detail has to come together for a cohesive affair. That means you’ll be on the hunt for qualified wedding vendors and scouring through the lottery of possible choices.
One of the most vital parts of your relationship with a vendor isn’t just their quality of work. It’s their contract. You may initially question the need for a formal contract with your makeup artist, hairstylist, or any other third-party contractor you’re hiring. It’s a one-day arrangement that shouldn’t be so complicated that you need a contract, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case and moving forward without one can be a detriment to your big day.
Imagine that it’s your wedding day. The sun is shining bright and everything appears to be falling into place. Then, your phone rings. It’s your hairstylist, canceling just hours before the big event for a reason you couldn’t hear over your internal panicking. But before you hang up, you remember the wedding contract you signed. The one that states your stylist is responsible for finding a replacement should they not be able to perform the agreed-upon services. In the end, it works out that you didn’t have to panic and the contract saved you from scrambling to find a stylist last minute.
Without a contract, a written document that lays out clauses pertaining to cancellations and no-shows, you don’t have much you can go on. It’s a “their word against yours” scenario that can get messy and lead to no pleasant resolution, even if you did pay a deposit to secure their services. Maybe they had an emergency, which they feel exempts them from refunding you.
Now flip the scenario and you’re the wedding vendor, but this time, it’s the client that hasn’t shown. Yes, the deposit is paid in full, but you’re still out of the full cost of the appointment. A contract is all about accountability. It makes all parties responsible for their actions and their end of the mutual agreement.
A proper contract will lay out the terms of service as they pertain to the vendor and the client. Cancellation policies, emergency policies, deposits, refunds, and the scope of services should all be included in the contract. The point is to protect both parties in the event that things don’t go as planned.
You may be wondering what the worth of a contract is if it’s just words on a piece of paper. Who, really, has to honor them? And what happens if they break the contract? Well, that can depend on the scope of the relationship and what the party lost due to the breach of the contract.
On the surface, it may seem like a contract is only intended to intimidate both parties. The reality, though, is that the signed agreement is a legally binding document. If your vendor breaches any part of it, they are legally obligated to follow the terms of the contract, including providing a refund.
While nobody wants to go the legal route, if the vendor breaches the contract and is unresponsive, you are in your rights to secure a lawyer. Typically, just the threat of going that route will scare many into abiding by the terms of the contract. You can start with a professional letter that references the contract and which terms were specifically broken. Having that agreement gives power to your words, which should make it easier to negotiate a refund that includes any additional costs you may have incurred due to the breach.
The last step, of course, is to file a suit in small claims court. With a contract backing your case, we should have no issue reclaiming what was lost and having our legal fees covered. It’s a complicated and lengthy process that should be reserved for larger sums of money, but the option is always there.
What to Look for in Your Contract
When it comes time to sign your wedding vendor contract, be sure to read it carefully. You will find that it covers quite a bit, but the main points should include:
- Date of Services
- When will the services be rendered
- Scope of Services
- Which services the contract covers / What specifically is being completed
- Emergency Clause
- What happens in the event of a wedding vendor or client emergency
- Travel Clause
- Who pays for the vendor’s travel
- Payment Arrangements or Payment Schedule
- How much is due and by what date the full amount must be paid by
- Who is liable for mishaps pertaining to the services rendered
Those are the standard inclusions that will help keep the specifics of your business relationship in order. As you’re reading the contract, be on the lookout for keywords. These can lead to additional costs or put the burden on the client. “Fees,” “Additional Chargers,” and “Not Included,” are words you look out for. They can point to addendums that may end up costing you more in the end. Be sure to check for anything about “Gratuity.” If you don’t see it built into the pricing, then it’s your discretion whether or not you will tip.
The best part of a contract is that there is no obligation to sign it.. Even if you are smitten with the vendor’s level of service, if their contract makes you uncomfortable, you can walk away. Of course, you always want to negotiate. Many vendors are willing to review the contract with you. Then, at which point you can indicate which clauses don’t work for you.
Always be open and honest when you enter into a legally binding document. You want satisfaction from the service you receive, but with the terms and conditions of your business relationship.