Wedding Planning and the Contracts You'll Sign
Often these days people who are getting married face the daunting task of making deals and signing contracts with a wide variety of vendors. These contracts are usually written by attorneys advocating for the vendor with no concern for your rights. This guide will help you balance the scales.
Everything is NegotiableA contract with a wedding vendor is not like the iTunes licensing agreement. You don't have to click "I Agree" without reading a word; and you shouldn't. Wedding vendors want your business and most of them are willing to negotiate to get it. A friend of mine was recently planning her wedding and she asked me about a clause in one of her contracts that "seemed odd." It was odd, and inappropriate. I told her that unless they struck that clause she shouldn't sign it; and they did. If something in a contract makes you feel uncomfortable, don't sign it until that clause is removed, or the vendor makes you comfortable.
Beware of Liability ClausesThat clause my friend asked me about? It was a liability clause. Many vendor contracts are designed to make it nearly impossible for you to hold the vendor responsible for problems they cause and make it as easy as possible for the vendor to hold you liable for any problems caused by anyone. Why shouldn't you be able to hold the caterer liable if someone gets food poisoning? Why shouldn't the photographer be accountable if none of your photos come out well? Why should you be personally responsible if uncle Larry trashes his hotel room? We all like to imagine that things will go off without a hitch, but bad things happen at weddings all the time. It's best to be prepared just in case.
Beware of LicensingThis one occurs when the contracts of different vendors conflict with each other. What if your photography contract has a clause granting the photographer exclusive rights to use the photos for marketing (not uncommon). Say your music contract gives the band the right to use photos of them for marketing purposes (also not uncommon). Now imagine what happens if the photographer sees one of his photos on the band's website. Odds are good you signed liability clauses with both vendors so now the photographer is suing you for something the band did. Read each contract carefully and this problem is easily avoided.
Contracts should be Short, Clear, and ComprehensiveI have included a link to an article I wrote on contract drafting (The 3 Rules of Contract Drafting). It's mostly for those writing contracts, but it can give you an idea what you want to see in a contract. The contract should contain short statements of what each party is supposed to do. It should be written in plain english (no legal jargon). And it should be comprehensive enough to answer the question; what happens if a party doesn't do what the contact tells it to.