What do you need for a contract? Offer! Acceptance! Consideration! I chant this often to my daughter (she’s six months old, but hey, it’s never too early to learn the elements of a contract).
One of the least glamourous parts of planning is reviewing vendor contracts, but it is incredibly important to understand what you’re signing. If you’ve hired a planner, this is a task for which they can provide some assistance.
Being a lawyer by day, friends and family have often asked me what recourse they have after the wedding when a vendor did not execute as promised. I mean, we all know someone waiting for their wedding pictures two years after the fact. Sometimes situations arise and reading the terms of the agreement ahead of time can save a lot of conflict later on. In a multi-part series, I will be explaining some important things to look for in vendor contracts.
Today’s lesson: READ THE CONTRACT! Even if you have a planner or a friend/family member who is an attorney, you, as the client should be reviewing the contract because you are the one privy to the conversations you have had with the vendor and the services you have requested. Typically in the wedding industry, contracts are limited to a few pages, so it should not be too arduous of a task. Looking for the right shade of white tablecloth? Now that is tedious.
It is also important that you identify whether the contract has a merger/integration/entire agreement clause at the end. Typically these clauses are included with the boilerplate (“fine print”) portion of the contract so people tend to glaze over it thinking its mumbo-jumbo legalize. But what it means is that outside texts, emails, handshake agreements, etc. cannot be used to interpret the contract. So if your decorator promises in an email that she will bring ten centerpieces but the contract only says five, legally, that text where she says “No worries, we will make it work!” Isn’t admissible to interpret the contract.
When first receiving the contract, make sure everything you discussed during your initial consultations and subsequent meetings are included. If after signing, there are numerous conversations about items not included in the contract, as there is likely to be, don’t hesitate to ask your vendor for an updated contract or put the amendments in writing and have both parties initial it. It puts everyone on notice that there has been changes and will be much easier to resolve after the fact if the contract is not executed how you imagined.
Keep in mind the balancing act between protecting yourself and scaring your vendors. Coming in guns blazing, anticipating your day on Judge Judy, will leave the vendor feeling your litigiousness, making it less than likely they will deliver their best work. On the other hand, you want to make sure that there is clarity on what you expect. Having open conversations and memorializing it in writing will lessen the ambiguity and provide some you some assurance that you will get what you paid for!
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