Let’s say that you have found the perfect wedding planner to help you plan the wedding of your dreams. You are ready to seal the deal when, your wedding planner gives you a 7 page contract to review and sign before he or she will start planning your wedding.
Don’t dismay! The fact that your wedding planner has a contract at all should set your mind at ease a bit. It means that your planner is sensible about his or her business, and is experienced enough to know that a well-drafted contract is important. And, frankly, having a contract with all of your vendors is the Wedding Lawyer Golden Rule. It’s awfully risky to not have a contract which will set out all of the expectations for you and your vendor. Discussed below are a few provisions that you may find in your contracts.
As you read this article, please remember that there is no substitute for having an attorney review your contract, explain it sufficiently to you, and protect your interests. The following contains general information from general rules of law, and may not be specific to your state. Also, your contract will be full of important information. This article discusses only some of the provisions you can expect to see in a wedding vendor contract.
1. Important Details
Your contract should absolutely spell out the following:
- Name of service provider and the individual representing the business, such as the president or owner;
- The name of you and your groom or bride;
- Date, time, and location(s) of the wedding and reception;
- Concise description of services to be provided:
- What is the provider agreeing to do?
- What will he or she do before the wedding? During the wedding? After the wedding?
- Are there any important deadlines? For instance, the contract should spell out when a videographer or photographer plans to deliver the video or photographs to you. Timely delivery of photos and videos is a frequent problem. So, be sure to clearly spell out the delivery date!
2. Boilerplate Provisions
“Boilerplate provisions” are standard contract provisions. Please note, however, that standard language can be subjective and the provisions may be tailored to suit the needs of the contract drafter (likely the vendor), and may not necessarily be universal. These provisions are important and will guide the parties in the event of a dispute. Unfortunately, they are not usually written in plain English, and can be a little confusing. Let me offer some clarity:
A. The Integration Clause.
An integration clause provides that only what is provided within the 4 corners of the contract, and not necessarily what you discussed prior to the contract, is binding This provision can help prevent the other party from claiming that you agreed to something that is not contained in, or even conflicts with, something in the contract.
Sample language. “This Agreement supersedes all prior agreements between the parties with respect to its subject matter and constitutes complete and exclusive statement of the terms of the agreement between the parties with respect to its subject matter.”
This means that all of the conversations, emails, and text messages prior to the formation of the contract are irrelevant. You get what you see in the contract. The lesson then, is to carefully review the contract and make sure the important details are there. If you and your wedding planner discuss that he or she will go dress shopping with you, make sure there is a provision to that effect in the contract.
B. Governing Law.
A governing law provision makes it is clear which state laws governs the agreement.
Sample language. “This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the state of California.”
If you and your vendor reside in different states, you could spend lots of time and money arguing over which law governs. So, it’s best to have a provision that makes the law clear from the outset.
A venue provision will set forth precisely where the parties will litigate a dispute, in the event of litigation. Venue is slightly distinct from governing law because this provision addresses which court, within the state, will hear the dispute.
Sample language. “You agree that any claim or dispute you may have against [Vendor] must be resolved by a court located in Los Angeles County, California, except as otherwise agreed by the parties. You agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of the courts located within Los Angeles County, California for the purpose of litigating all such claims or disputes.
For instance, let’s say that you, a resident of Beverly Hills, entered into a contract with a vendor in Orange County. It makes sense to provide where a dispute will be handled between you and the vendor ahead of time. Otherwise, you may be pulled into court in Orange County, which make take upwards of 2 hours to drive to from your home, as opposed to a 45 minute drive to Downtown Los Angeles. Or, heaven forbid, your vendor is in Wichita, Kansas. Thus, be clear about where any litigation will take place in your contract.
A modification provision will provide that the contract cannot be modified unless certain steps are taken. It can require, for instance, that any amendment to the contract be in writing and signed by both of you. In this way, you and your vendor can make sure that you’ve thought about the changes and expressly agreed to them.
Sample language. “This Agreement may be supplemented, amended, or modified only by the mutual agreement of the parties. No supplement, amendment, or modification of this Agreement shall be binding unless it is in writing and signed by all parties. For purposes of this provision a “writing” may include an email between the parties. The parties’ email addresses are as follows: budgetsavvybridget@hotmail; and firstname.lastname@example.org.”
3. The Cancelation Clause.
A cancelation clause spells how the parties will handle cancelation of the event. I am not including it in the “boilerplate provision” section because there are multiple variables at issue with these provisions. This is probably the most important part of the contract. Be wary of these. As with all contract provisions, make sure that you understand the substance of the provision. I’ve read some that were so complicated that it took me a chart, a latte, and 30 minutes to fully understand. In the event of a change of heart, this could add a lot of expense on top of heartache.