Re-Run: Sign on the Dotted Line

November 27th, 2017

I’m re-running some old posts since I think they have some useful information.  Here’s one from a few years ago that never goes out of style:

This bakery had a good contract--and good chocolate!  Photo by Carasco Photography.

This bakery had a good contract–and good chocolate! Photo by Carasco Photography.

I want to share with you some information I give to many of my clients.  It’s on a subject that is hardly glamorous, but is very, very important:  Contracts.  I’m not a contract lawyer, but this is what I have learned by experience.

When you are planning a big celebration, you will have to deal with a number of vendors, and each one of them should give you a contract.  And each one will require a certain amount of your attention.  You should read carefully each contract you are given.  Make sure you agree with every point in it before you sign it.  Because once you sign it, it becomes a legally binding document that might be very hard to get out of.  It’s much better to negotiate it before you sign it.

And all contracts are negotiable, no matter what your vendor says.  The point of a contract is to come to an agreement between parties, so don’t be afraid to negotiate your part of the agreement.  I’m not saying that you can get everything you want into (or out of) every contract, but you don’t have to take whatever they give you without a murmur if you don’t like it.

Every contract should contain a certain minimum of information.  It should have the vendor’s name, address, and phone number on it.  If the vendor wants you to contact them some other way than by phone, that information should also be on the contract so it is easily available.  The contract should also state clearly exactly what the vendor is going to do for you and when they are going to do it.  Likewise, it should say how much you are expected to pay and when.

It is a good idea to include details in the contract:  When and where will deliveries be made?  Will the vendor only bring their goods to the venue or will they also set things up?  If you change your mind and want something extra, what happens?  And what will it cost?  What happens if one party or the other fails to live up to the agreement?  Finally, the contract should be signed and dated by both parties.

Florists and bakeries (in my experience) are notorious for offering incomplete contracts.  Often, small shops don’t have the resources to put together complete contracts.  In this case, you should not hesitate to hand write the missing information onto the contract before it is signed, and make sure the vendor initials the changes.  This will protect both of you.

I learned some of this from my dealings with a certain florist.  What passed for a contract from this florist was just a list of floral options and prices, with one of them circled.  There was no information on delivery or set-up.  I understood from my client that the florist was going to bring all the floral arrangements into the venue and I would set them up.  I even discussed delivery with the shop in the week before the wedding.  Oddly, no one mentioned that the centerpieces weighed between 50 and 100 pounds, somewhat more than I can carry on my own.  The owner of the shop showed up with the centerpieces, carried them down a flight of steps, and placed them where they belonged.  I thought all was well.  Five days after the wedding, I got an e-mail from the floral shop asking for additional payment because the owner had had to do extra work on the delivery.  Fortunately, I had a copy of their contract and was able to explain that they should not expect to recoup their losses from me.  It also might have been better if a complaint had been made on the spot so I could have solved the problem before it happened.

That experience is also one of the reasons I always insist on having copies of every contract that a client has with their vendors.  I can head off a lot of trouble if I know exactly what is expected of each vendor.  So, read your contracts, make sure you agree with their contents, and send a copy on to your planner.  You’ll be happy you did.

Please, Negotiate With Me

March 14th, 2016
Because we work closely together on your wedding, I want you to get what you need.   Photo by Peter Coombs.

Because we work closely together on your wedding, I want you to get what you need. Photo by Peter Coombs.

I find that sometimes potential clients are hesitant to negotiate the draft contract I send them.  If you are one of those people, I’d like to give you a couple of good reasons to jump in and negotiate.

Reason Number One:  If you do ask for changes in the contract, then there is a good chance that you will get something you want, instead of feeling stuck with something you don’t want.  I don’t always accept every change exactly as it is proposed, but I will go out of my way to make sure you are happy with what you are getting.  I don’t want to start our relationship on the wrong foot.  I want you to be happy you hired me.  I don’t want you to feel as if I have bullied you into accepting my terms.

Reason Number Two:  When you and I have discussed changes and come to an agreement we can both live with, especially if you have special circumstances that you want included, it increases the trust level between us.  We understand each other, so we can trust each other.  And it is very important to me that that trust is there, as we will be working closely together and I will have the responsibility to do some very important things for you.

So, will you always get what you want when you negotiate my contract?  No, but if you don’t, it’s because there is a very good reason for it (and I will explain the reasoning to you).  Should you always ask?  Yes.  Because if you don’t ask, you will definitely not get what you are looking for, and I might not, either.