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Wedding Contracts and Tips by Katy Carrier

Wedding Contracts and Tips by Katy Carrier

You’ve poured over hours, days and weeks drooling on invitation design after invitation design, ooh and ahh-ed over hundreds of wedding photos from your favorite photographers. Then it’s time to make decisions and start booking your dream team! Many pros – if not all – will send you a contract to get the ball rolling on reserving a date for your wedding. These contracts are designed to protect both you and them, making sure everyone is on the same page with the what ifs so you can kick back and rest assured you’re in great hands. So we invited Katy Carrier of Carrier & Associates law firm, a fab attorney in this industry, to join us today to highlight and explain the main clauses in a contract. I will let her take it from here:

Photo by Andria Lindquist from this gorgeous Idaho wedding

Here are some tips and insight to help you successfully navigate the contractual component of booking your wedding vendors:

Get everything in writing. This may seem obvious, but it’s an important mantra to focus on throughout the wedding planning process. Wedding vendors may discuss the various aspects of their services and goods with you in person, on the phone or via email, but the actual verbiage of your written contract is what will control the contractual rights and obligations between you and the wedding vendor. For example, a florist may state during your initial consultation that your bridal bouquet will contain white peonies and other white blooms, but then draft a contract that says you will receive a bouquet of assorted white blooms. When peonies turn out to be unavailable for your July wedding, the florist’s verbal promise to provide peonies would be trumped by the vague written terms of the contract. If the florist tells you that peonies may be available, but if not, they will be substituted with garden roses, your contract language should state such, especially if the florist promises you some sort of refund if the less expensive garden roses are used in place of the peonies. Should you decide to add or substitute services or goods after you’ve signed the initial contract with a vendor, you should always get those changes in writing and ideally have them signed by both you and the vendor. This includes changes like substituting meal selections, or adding on additional hours of photography or videography for your wedding day.

yellow black white wedding bridesmaid flowers
Photo by Sweet Little Photographs. Flowers by Daniel Vaughn from this Pennsylvania wedding

Non-refundable deposits and retainers. A sense of urgency can overtake you almost immediately after you get engaged, pushing you should book your wedding vendors as quickly as possible. However, before making any booking decisions you should be sure that you have a very clear understanding of each vendor’s policy regarding deposits and retainers. They are generally non- refundable beginning at the moment you sign the contract, even if you decided only a month later to go with another vendor, or to get married in Las Vegas instead of your hometown, or to reschedule the date of your wedding. This may seem unfair, but your initial payment of a deposit or retainer is in exchange for that vendor’s promise to hold open their availability for your wedding on that specific date since they have a limited amount of availability and may turn away other work as a result.

fun wedding props binoculars
Photo by Geneoh Photography from this sweet Colorado wedding

Copyright ownership. Contracts with wedding vendors from certain categories, such as photography, videography and stationery, will likely address the issue of copyright ownership. Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creator of creative works certain rights of ownership. Your payment to that vendor does not generally transfer copyright ownership to you. Rather, your payment grants you a license to use the copyrighted materials in a certain way. For instance, a photographer may specify that you can use the images for personal use only, or for publication in the wedding announcements section of a newspaper, but that you cannot sell or publish the images without the permission of the photographer. Or an invitation designer may create a custom logo or design motif for your invitations, but unless you have permission from the invitation designer, you cannot scan that logo or design and use it on other paper goods for your wedding that you create yourself, like ceremony programs or place cards. These types of restrictions are common and you will want to be sure that you understand exactly what is permitted by your vendors in order to avoid committing copyright infringement.

Mackinac island Michigan wedding
Photo by Bryan & Mae from this Michigan wedding

While it may feel like you’re reading a foreign language at first blush, don’t let your wedding vendor contracts overwhelm or intimidate you. They are intended to protect both you and the vendor, and there is nothing wrong with asking a vendor to explain the terms and conditions of their contract to you. The ideal wedding vendors will take the time to make sure you understand the contracts you’re signing and help you feel comfortable and confident in your wedding vendor selections.

A huge thank you to Katy from Carrier & Associates for stopping by!

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