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Vendors: A Complete Guide to Contracts

Photo: Leo Patrone Photography

Let's get something straight: Every time you hire a photographer, caterer, florist, or hairdresser; book a chapel, park, or hotel ballroom; or order something from a dress shop, dressmaker, or formalwear store, you must get your agreement in writing. Until you put down a deposit, there is no contract, and you have no guarantees. Read everything in your contracts and receipts, and be sure to document every single wedding arrangement you make.

1. Flexibility

You might not want to think about an April snowstorm's effect on your lovely garden ceremony, but if you want to ensure that the catering hall's ballroom will be available, write that into the contract. Don't be afraid to alter the stock contract that the vendor or manager offers. If your request is reasonable -- for example, you want the supplier to be liable for potential negligence or willful misconduct -- and the vendor won't agree, look elsewhere.

2. Refunds

Every contract should include a refund policy that discusses what refund you will receive if you cancel and what penalty the vendor will pay if they cancel. For bands and DJs, you might want to include a "Macarena Clause": If they play something on your written "Do Not Play" list, they must deduct a small amount from the bill.

3. Details Forthcoming

What should you do if you've made some decisions but haven't finalized details? (For example, you know you want lots of roses, but you don't know the exact cost of the centerpieces). You can make a contract when you book the service and include a general amount or maximum cost for services, but add a sentence that says details will be confirmed in writing by a certain date.

4. What Goes Into It

On every contract, write
  • Day of the week
  • Date of the wedding
  • Time the vendor should arrive
  • Day and date an item should be delivered

Note: When dealing with vendors that are providing a service on the wedding day itself, make sure the contract includes the name and number of the person the vendor should call if anything goes wrong or gets delayed.

5. Receipts

When you order something, such as a dress, a tuxedo, invitations, or favors, the contract can be as brief as a store receipt. That said, it should still include:
  • Wedding date
  • Style (a number, a detailed description, or the full invitation text, for example)
  • Date item will be picked up
  • Price and payment schedule
  • Outline of what the price includes (such as alterations, accessories, delivery, and envelopes)

Check out our comprehensive contract points tailored to location, musicians, caterer, florist, cake designer, photographer, and videographer.

-- Heidi Tandy

See More: Wedding Planning Basics