Like most wedding professionals, I am sure you have some burning questions to ask a business lawyer but don’t want to be dinged with the legal fees that come with this advice. That is why we sat down with Jaime Bell of Contracts Market to discuss contract templates for wedding planners and what should a wedding contract include. Whether you are a wedding planner, coordinator, florist or photographer, you will love this interview!
After working as a business lawyer for almost a decade, Jaime realized business owners needed more accessible and on-demand legal tools for their business. She created Contracts Market as a way to support entrepreneurs in implementing great contracts and legal protection in their business, without steep fees, legalese and finding themselves down a Google rabbit hole. Contracts Market provides niche-specific legal contract templates for freelancers and entrepreneurs that are easy to use, customizable and effortless to implement in their business.
Business Lawyer Interview
1. What is the most valuable clause to have in your contract as a wedding professional?
Weddings are emotionally charged and often, wants and expectations don’t realistically meet the budget. It’s really important to have clear communication and make sure expectations are clearly set out from the start.
I recommend being very clear on the Scope of Services clause in your contract. If you are too vague about what your scope and services are, it’s easy to fall victim to the dreaded scope creep. In your Services clause, list out exactly what is included within your package and if you choose, you can include common requests as add-ons and the additional fee for those. Any changes should always be documented in writing.
Another important clause to include in your wedding contract is a very clear cancellation and rescheduling clause. This part of your contract should outline:
- What happens to the retainer (deposit) collected if your client cancels or reschedules.
- What happens to future payments that are due and if the client is still required to pay them.
- What happens if YOU need to cancel on your services if something goes awry and prevents you from delivering on your services. This is why it’s always good to have a back-up plan listed out in your contract for your client.
Your wedding contract is there to get everyone on the same page from the start so there is no added stress or surprises that come up.
2. What have been the most requested changes to contracts and clauses over the past few years due to the pandemic?
With so many postponed and cancelled weddings during the pandemic, the most requested changes to contracts and clauses are definitely those that pertain to cancellations and rescheduling.
Your contract is there to help everyone involved understand in clear terms what happens in the event of the wedding being cancelled or rescheduled. The pandemic really showed that most cancellation and rescheduling clauses were not very clear.
Your contract and the clauses around rescheduling and cancellations should address questions like:
- What happens to the retainer if the event is rescheduled?
- If you’re already booked for the date that the event is rescheduled to, what happens next?
Your contract needs to be really clear as to what happens to the retainer if the wedding is canceled, and depending on how close to the date it is canceled, what happens to any other payments you’ve collected. If it’s being rescheduled, your contract should be clear as to whether any retainer can be applied to the new event date, or if an additional admin fee is payable for the time you need to reshuffle your schedule and if there is a time-period they need to reschedule by so you aren’t left hanging.
3. What is the most overlooked area when it comes to legality & permissions in a business?
The use of images on websites is one of the most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to legality and permissions in a wedding business. While there isn’t an expectation of privacy in public spaces, you should be sure that you have written permission from the wedding photographers to use any images shared by your client to promote your services.
4. What is the best legal investment for seasoned wedding professionals?
I think this depends on your business and experience, but I definitely recommend spending time building out a solid foundation in your business to ensure you have the right business structure and insurance in place as well as solid contracts for your contractors, employees, and clients. Whether these are contract templates or customized agreements, you want to make sure they are customized to your unique business and policies.
5. When there are multiple clients involved in the planning process, do they all have to be signing authorities? i.e.) Bride, groom & parents.
Yes and no. While it is a good idea to have everyone that is closely involved in the planning process sign the contract, it’s important to know exactly who the client is and who you are taking instructions from. Whoever is paying your bill and/or you are to be taking instructions from, is considered the client and should definitely be signing your contract. If parents are paying the bill, but all instructions are coming from the people getting married it would be good to have these nuances set out in your contract, and have everyone sign the contract so you have recourse against all of them, if needed,
6. How can a good contract help you avoid bad clients?
Having a solid contract in place allows you to set up and manage the expectations of the working relationship from the start. It shows them how you work and sets boundaries around things like availability, communication preferences, scope creep, etc. It also sets out very clearly what your payment policies are. You may have a policy that states that you will not continue to do work for which you haven’t been paid for. You have the power to outline those expectations and stick to them by having them clearly stated in your contract. Ultimately, you are the expert and I believe it is your job to educate your client through your contract as to your role, responsibilities, and expectations for being hired to carry out your services.
7. How can a good contract help you avoid scope creep as a wedding planner?
The Scope of Services section of your agreement needs to be very specific and clear so there is no ambiguity as to what is included and what isn’t included. You and your client should be able to easily determine from the contract what is included as part of your fee and that the client should agree to pay for any additional services over and above what’s included in the scope of services. I always like to include an hourly rate that a client agrees to beforehand in the contract so that if something comes up on the day of, your client has already agreed to pay for it at a certain rate. Clear communication and standing firm in your boundaries is important here as well.
8. What advice do you have for wedding professionals when the parameters of the contract changes?
My best piece of advice is to get it in writing! No matter how many times your agreement changes, you should always keep your contract up-to-date and file the amending agreements necessary to do so. Your contract is there to protect you and back you up, and it cannot do that if it is not current. You can find my Event Planner contract bundle HERE to help you ensure you are using solid contracts and agreements in your business.
9. What should wedding professionals know when sharing testimonials?
When collecting testimonials to use publicly, you should have clients send their testimonial directly to you AND leave one on a public forum. Copying and pasting testimonials from Google reviews is actually considered copyright infringement.
The best practice for collecting and sharing testimonials is to send a feedback form to your client after your engagement. This also asks your client for permission to share their testimonial on your website and other platforms. I have a free client testimonial release form that can be integrated into your offboarding workflow HERE.
10. What is the importance of defining your team roles? i.e.) Contractors vs employees
Legally, this is very important to understand and define correctly, as miscategorizing someone as a contractor when legally,they are an employee, can have very expensive consequences. I recommend speaking to a lawyer if you are unclear on the classifications and differences.
There are several factors that come into play when making this determination, but the biggest is the degree of control you have over the worker. Typically, the more control you have over the worker, the more likely they are classified as an employee. The less control you have, the more likely they are a contractor. Other factors include whether the person has their own book of business and has set their own rates who is supplying the tools for the job and how closely tied is that person’s role to your business (the more necessary the role, the more likely it is for them to be classified as an employee). I wrote a blog post on my website about these differences as a starting point, but it is always recommended to speak to a lawyer or attorney to make sure you’ve classified the worker correctly, based on the laws in your local jurisdiction.
How Can Jaime Help You?
No matter if you are a Canadian business or US based business you will love these contract templates! We hope you found this interview with a business lawyer incredibly helpful and that leaving this you are more secure in your business. If you have more questions for Jaime Bell, leave them in the comments below and we’ll get them answered for you!
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