Wedding vendor contracts are binding agreements that protect both you and your vendors from future stress and conflict. It is incredibly important to read through each contract right when you receive it and ask questions about anything that doesn't make sense. Knowing the rules of the road for each of your vendors is the key to a relaxing wedding day.
Hours of Use
This is perhaps the most important element of all wedding vendor contracts. Double-check that the vendor has inserted the correct hours for your event and the corresponding hourly rates, if applicable. Make sure an overtime rate is listed so that you're adequately covered should your Uncle Harry decide to shanghai the festivities late into the night. Confirm that all dates and times include set-up and strike fees.
Certificate of Liability
You may have rented a venue for a certain number of hours, but that venue doesn't want to be responsible should one of your guests get drunk and jump into the nearby lake. Read your contract carefully to determine if you'll need supplemental insurance for your event. Take note of special limits (i.e., one to two million dollar minimums) that are written into your contract.
Most wedding vendor contracts are based on per-person minimums. Whether it is a caterer or a stationer, you are responsible for bringing them an agreed-upon level of business. This means that once you sign your contract, you're basically guaranteeing that a minimum number of guests will need food, invitations, alcohol, and favors. Even flowers and tables are arranged with a per-person head count in mind, as party rental companies and florists need to know how many tables and centerpieces are needed.
Make sure all of your wedding vendor contracts clearly spell out when your deposits are due. For each deposit, cancellation terms should be outlined. Methods of payment should also be included, such as addresses, bank routing numbers, and direct withdrawal forms.
How your cake arrives at your location is just as important as how it is baked. Make sure all of your vendors clearly spell out the terms of delivery for any items that do not originate at your ceremony or reception location. If your food is being brought in to a remote location, make sure that your contract stipulates when the food will be cooked prior to the reception.
Murphy's Law is no exception here: when something can go wrong, it probably will. Make sure each of your wedding vendor contracts clearly spell out what will happen in the event that Plan B needs to take center stage. Make sure to negotiate your final payment ahead of time should Plan B occur due to vendor error (i.e.: forgetting your cake, not planning for enough food, camera failure, etc.)
Taxes, Service Charges, and Gratuities
It's the end of your wedding, and you've paid all of the bills. Or so you thought. Taxes, service charges, and gratuities are the number one cause of sticker shock for couples who did not read the fine print on their wedding vendor contracts. Make sure everyone from your photographer to your caterer clearly spells out any taxes, service charges, or gratuities in their contracts before you sign on the dotted line.