Every contract is different, but here are the major terms you need to know and understand.

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Credit: Kelli Durham

By the time you've hired all of your wedding vendors, you may feel like you've gotten a full schooling in contract law. In reality, every contract is written differently and with varying protections for clients and vendors, so it's important that you fully understand what you're agreeing to before adding your signature. While it's pretty unlikely that you'll have any issues that need to be settled legally, it's important to be sure that you're completely comfortable with the agreements you're making. The good news is that most of the vendors you'll work with want you to trust them and will be happy to talk you through every stitch of the contract you're signing.

Here, we're breaking down the basics you'll find in the majority of these agreements so that you can get that conversation rolling.

Scope of Services

Each vendor contract should specify the scope of services in accordance with the package you've chosen and agreed upon. This is important because, while it's common for plans to change and evolve over time while you're planning a wedding, a significant change in the scope of services could result in your vendor's pricing changing in accordance. For example, if you start working with a wedding planner on an intimate wedding for 35 guests at a local winery and a few months into the planning decide that you'd instead like to have a destination wedding for 150 guests, your wedding planner's workload just changed significantly and you'll likely need to revisit the contract terms.

Damaged Goods

Wedding planner Sunna Yassin of Bash Please advises understanding your contract's terms about damaged and missing items. "The language can be tricky when dealing with specialty rental companies," she says, "For example, there is quite a bit of language about potential damage to the rented product. Make sure you fully understand what is covered and what is not. No one wants to worry about a red wine spill on a rented couch or a broken glass at their wedding reception!"

Event Cancellation

Every vendor and venue has a different approach to handling cancellations, and it often comes down to how much work has gone into an event at the time of cancellation. Your contract should clearly state which deposits are non-refundable, and what happens in the event of a cancellation. Instead of allowing refunds, some vendors and venues may allow you to apply your deposits to a future event if your wedding is cancelled entirely, though this is not always stated in the contract.

Hotel Attrition Rates and Cancellation

Many hotels allow couples to block groups of rooms but include attrition rates if they are not reserved by a particular date. As every hotel has its own policy around cancellations and unbooked rooms, it's very important that you understand this process prior to signing these contracts. "With hotel contracts, couples find themselves questioning why they are responsible for rooms that are not booked by their guests," Yassin says, "It's hard to understand that many hotels are more profitable by booking leisure business versus wedding room blocks at a discounted rate." The majority of hotel group bookings have some flexibility built in for their clients, but you often need to be on top of cut-off dates and getting your guests to book ASAP.

Force Majeure

Force majeure is a term that covers unforeseen emergencies; say a natural disaster, medical emergency, or something tragic that could cause either party to cancel the services agreed upon in the contract. Pay close attention to the terminology with force majeure, as this policy should protect both parties mutually.

Failure to Comply Clause

Similar to force majeure, some vendors may include a failure to comply clause that states that they'll do their best to find a replacement, return deposits, and give as much notice as possible if they're not able to hold up their end of the contract. This is common with photography contracts especially, as a photographer can be so hard to replace.

Indemnity and Hold Harmless

An indemnity clause is a way of your vendor or venue dictating responsibility in case something unexpectedly goes awry. This is often paired with a hold harmless agreement, which basically states that if something happens, you won't hold the contractor liable. Let's say a guest slips on the marble flooring of a venue and breaks their arm during your wedding. It's likely that your venue contract will have terminology that keeps them from being liable for such an event. If there's any lack of clarity or confusion about these terms in your contract, or if the terms are missing entirely, it may be worth having a candid conversation with your venue or vendor and adding more detail to this clause.


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