Wedding Vendor Contract Red Flags and Must-Haves

Couple paying bills in living room
Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

One thing that is not so fun about wedding planning is the legal and financial side. Putting on a large event and hosting a group of people makes you responsible for the well being of your guests and potentially liable in case of any accidents.

There's also risk in hiring and working with vendors – what if they don't deliver on what they promised or even worse, what if they don't show up? This is why contracts are incredibly important when it comes to your venue and wedding vendors. Unless you are a lawyer, you may night understand all the legal jargon contained in a vendor contract.

Red Flags to Watch for in a Wedding Vendor Contract

In terms of contracts, couples should really look out for vague and ambiguous contracts. The contract should be quite specific as to what the couple wants. For instance, it is advised against booking a venue without knowing specifically where your wedding will be at the venue and having a clause to reflect that. Along those same lines, it's advised against booking a florist without knowing exactly what your flowers will look like. Couples should know upfront what the material terms of the deal are, make sure they are included in the contract, and then sign it.

Couples should watch out for contracts that do not specify the dates that the vendor will perform the service. For example, make sure the photography contract spells out exactly when the finished product will be delivered. Nobody wants to wait a year (or longer) for wedding photos.

Couples should follow their gut when it comes to hiring vendors. If the vendor is not on their best behavior before being booked, just imagine what they will be like when the sale is made. Check Yelp, BBB, and other consumer review sites. Referrals are always a good thing, but if that's not possible, couples should ask their potential vendor for references. And, couples should always meet the vendor before booking.

Cancellation clauses are standard, and a necessary part of the deal. But couples should be sure to understand those clauses before signing.

Requesting Clauses or Contract Additions

Is there anything that brides should request to be added to contracts that will potentially protect them, or any clauses that couples should always be sure to include?

  • This will really depend on the wedding and the couple’s vision. The contract should be clear on what really matters to them, and have those issues included in the contract. For instance, if the couple hires a wedding coordinator and they want 13 (not 11, and not 12) doves released as they walk down the aisle, that should be in the contract. 
  • Or, if a wedding planner agrees to arrange "all logistics" of the event, the couple should ask the planner precisely what that means and have those obligations enumerated in the contract. For instance, will the coordinator be responsible for overseeing the setup and break down? Are they responsible for the design at all? The phrase "all logistics" is a vague one and not particularly useful without some specific elaboration. The couple may have a different idea of what "all logistics" means than the coordinator, so it's important to spell out those details to ensure expectations are met.