Ask the Expert: Advice about managing contracts with vendors

By Mackie Faye Hill, Simply Unforgettable Events by Mackie

Congratulations! It is time to plan your wedding! So where do you start? The answer: Meet with vendors, interview them, choose ones that match your taste, temperament, and schedule.  Once you have decided on the perfect vendors, get a contract from each and every one of them.

What?  Did I say “contract”? Yes. Although your wedding may be a fairy tale in your head, it is also a very important business deal. Each vendor, as business people, are promising you a product. By signing a contract they are held accountable for that promise. You wouldn’t buy a house without a contract. You don’t buy a car without a contract. Even when you buy that fancy pair of shoes with your credit card and you sign the little receipt, that is a contract. So why shouldn’t you have a contract to ensure that one of the most important occasions in your life is guaranteed and secure?

I know it is almost painful to think of a bad side to your perfect day, but without contracts you are leaving your wedding open to irreparable damage, whether purposeful or an act of God.

Here are a few tips to guide you through this process:

1. Always get a vendor contract!

Some vendors may have never used a contract. This does not mean that you cannot work with him/her. There are many generic contracts that can be purchased and altered to fit the service your vendor is providing you. If you are using a generic contract try and compare yours to contracts online from other similar local reputable wedding vendors to ensure correct wording and legality. If you come across a vendor who refuses to sign a contract, move on. There is a reason they won’t sign and you do not want to be the victim of whatever is hindering them from entering into a binding agreement regarding their services.

2. Make sure the contract clearly states what service the vendor is providing and your expectations of those services.

This means specific duties of the vendor, when the provision of their service will begin, and when the provision of their service will end.

3. Your contract must also clearly state what is expected of you as the client.

This is your timeline, the provision of other vendors, and most importantly your method of payment and how and when that payment is to be distributed.

4. Last, make sure that your contract is specific about repercussions regarding cancellations, no-shows, damages, etc.

Sadly, it does happen.  Weather, family issues, a vendor no show, these are all things that can cause a wedding to be postponed or cancelled.  In the event that this happens you want your investment protected.  Make sure your vendor contracts clearly state what happens in the event of a cancellation.

5. Last and most importantly, do not sign a contract that requires you to pay the entire fee upfront.

It is perfectly reasonable for a vendor to want you to pay a deposit, even up to 50% of the total payment. However, by no means should you pay in full well before the service is provided. Many vendors will require payment in full before the wedding, so read your contract and ask questions. Remember you are paying your vendors to do a job you should not pay in full until the job is done.

Remember a vendor’s job is to take care of you and make your wedding blissful. Your job is to ensure that they do that. Protect yourself so that you fairy tale does not turn into a horror story.