I Do! (Not Know Where to Begin) Month 2: Contracts

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Okay guys, one thing I didn’t fully prepare myself for coming into this wedding planning thing? Contracts. There’s a contract for everything. Which makes sense, it protects both parties and makes sure that everyone is getting what they are promised and providing what’s promised. But when I first started, it was a lot. I didn’t really know what I should be looking out for. What red flags would look like, if I could negotiate… I knew nothing! So today I wanted to help anyone else going through, or preparing to go through this process and share the list of things that Melissa showed me to look for in a contract, using our venue contract as an example. Obviously, each contract will be different in some way, but there are a lot of general things to look for regardless of what it’s for.

The Specifics

First thing’s first. Make sure to double check the spelling of all names and that contact information is correct! This may sounds like a no-brainer, but I totally missed that Jaren’s name was spelled incorrectly when I initially read our venue contract and that my phone number was missing. It wasn’t until my second pass that I noticed. Details people! If you aren’t detail oriented, it would be a really good idea to have another set of eyes on your contracts, at least while you’re getting the lay of the land. I have Melissa read through all our contracts before we sign off on anything.

Also in this category is the location information. Make sure the address, date and time frame are all correct. If you’re using multiple spaces within one venue, make sure that is all listed our properly as well.

Deposits and Minimums

Image Source: Real Simple

Image Source: Real Simple

If there are any minimums with your venue, you should already be aware of them. However, make sure that they’re listed correctly on your contract. For instance, our venue has a per plate minimum for catering, so we double checked that the figure quoted aligned with what what reflected in the contract. There should also be a clear statement of what your initial deposit is. Make sure that this is something you can pay TODAY! You can’t sign a contract if you’re unable to fulfill the financial obligation, especially because a credit card declined or a bounced check usually results in an additional fee. Always fully understand what your deposit goes towards (it should be going towards your balance of the event). They’re usually non-refundable to definitely be committed before signing anything!

Most contracts will lay out your payment schedule for the remaining balance after your initial down payment. Really review this, understand it, and make sure that you can meet the outlined plan. If you have any questions, ask! There was an error on our original contract, charging us $1,000 more than we were quoted. That was fixed in the next revision but our payment schedule was not, so it looked like we were going to pay more than our wedding was supposed to cost. (See what I mean when I say it’s all in the details?)

We had to give our credit card information for them to keep on file. Know what they are and are not allowed to use this information for. On our authorization form we had options for what could be charged to the card, so we know that the remainder of our payments will automatically be charged on the agreed upon dates.

Food & Beverage

Our venue has catering included, so this part may differ if that’s not the case for other locations. Regardless, know what is and isn’t allowed. Health laws will most likely prohibit any outside food from coming onto the property. This includes alcohol. Some venues will make exceptions for things like wrapped candy if you’re planning on having a candy bar. Know what the penalties are if you want to change your guest count, date, or time of the event as this will also affect your food and beverage charges.

Allowance and Limitations

Once again, it’s important to know what is and is not allowed with your rental. Can you bring in outside decor? Can you hang lights from the ceiling or walls? Know your limits! Also know what you’re liable for in terms of damages, replacements, clean up fees, etc.

Another point to note is what is done in-house and what is done by third-party vendors. For example, our venue contract outlines that they do not have in-house audio-visual equipment, but can provide it from a third-party vendor with proper notice, charging us for the usage.

Image Source: Wedding Sparrow

Image Source: Wedding Sparrow

Any quiet hours should also be listed on the contract. If nothing is listed, I would inquire -- maybe they don’t have any, but it’s pretty unlikely. Know what these are and make sure it’s something that you’re comfortable with. If you’re night owls and quiet hours start at 9 pm, this might not be the best fit for you.

Planning Deadlines

There should be a clear deadline listed for when you need to have your guaranteed guest count reported. Add this to your planning timeline (along with your payment schedule) so that you don’t forget! It would be a shame to pay for 70 plates if you only have 60 RSVPs yes. Wasted food and wasted money. No one wants that!

“Force Majeure”

This will appear in probably every contract. Standard legal language removing liability should anything crazy or Earth-shattering occur. If this is something that freaks you out, you should definitely look into wedding insurance (more on that another day).

Final Notes

Keep a copy of everything! Every email, every draft and revision, and your signed copies. Know the dates that they were all exchanged and when deposits were made. Heaven forbid anything come to pass, you’ll need to have all of this information at the ready. Being the crazy organizational freak that I am, I have a two part system. I have a hard-copy of everything stored in our wedding binder (complete with color-coded tabs) and I also store a copy of everything in our shared “Wedding Planning” Google Drive folder. This is my favorite because I have it with me everywhere I go and can easily check on details even if I don’t have my binder with me. It’s honestly a control freak’s dream come true.

Not the most exciting installment this week, but I hope it can help some other couples making their way through the process! I promise that next week will be way better… we’re diving into one of the topics I’m most excited about: photographers and videographers!