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Things to do before signing your wedding contract

The majority of wedding planning is pretty fun. It's full of cake tastings, playing dress up, and design, but there's a serious side, too. For every detail you secure, there's likely a vendor behind it, and with the vendor comes a contract. While not the glitziest part of planning, it is the most important. Protect yourself and your dream wedding by doing these things before you sign on the dotted line.

Your friend used this vendor, it's your sister's colleague, you don't have time—these are all great excuses to not read a contract, but they don't matter. Read your contract. Once you've read it, ask your fiancé, a parent, or your wedding planner to look it over, too. It's that simple. So for my contracts to make sure that my clients have read it, I have them initial every line item to ensure they have read and understand every single detail on it, Because once you have signed it, you're liable for everything in it.

Read it, twice.

You should always read your contract twice, if you don't understand something ask questions to get clarification about specific items. The more you understand about your vendor contracts the better off you will be in the long run.

What's included.

Contracts typically list what's included, not what isn't, If you're expecting a specific service (think: rental chair delivery, highlight video, or event setup), it should be listed. If it's not, ask to add it so you aren't surprised later when you're charged an extra fee.

Review the breach of contract statement.

Don't freak out. Your wedding will likely go great. But it's always, always, always (did I say always yet?) important to take a worst-case-scenario approach to contracts. If a vendor doesn't perform as agreed or services aren't fulfilled, what are you entitled to? This is the most important question to answer, as it's often not included in the contract. "Certain state laws may apply and will likely determine the manner in which these types of issues are resolved," they say. So check out your state's laws on these issues.

Check the total fee.

The number you see on your contract might not be quite as accurate as you think. "The total fee reflected in the contract doesn't always include the labor or gratuity fees, if they are required to be paid, which could be an additional 18-20% or more. Make sure you ask about additional fees that may apply that are not specified in your contract. For me I always state there may be additional fees such as travel expenses, additional hours etc.

Payment terms.

Every vendor will have different guidelines for payment. Some require payment up front, while others may prefer a tiered payment option with the final payment due a week or so before the wedding. This is very important because your vendor will expect payment on specific dates so make sure the payment terms are accurately presented in your contract I offer payment options for my clients with final payment due 21 days prior if paying with credit card, Paypal etc and 30 days prior if with check and all of this is stated in my contract with lines for dates payments will be made and the amount client will be paying.

Confirm the cancellation policy.

Life is full of surprises, but don't let cancellation fees be one of them. Check to see what happens if the wedding is called off or rescheduled. Are you allowed to cancel at any time? What are the notification requirements? Are there specific dates prior to the wedding that you can cancel by and still get your deposit, or some of it, back?

Confirm the hours permitted.

When you book a venue, a DJ, or a band, the fee in the contract is typically limited to a set number of hours. Look at the number of hours included and additional hours available at a fee. This way you're not surprised when your reception goes over an hour and you now owe your DJ another $1,000.

Due date.

When you receive the contract to review, your vendor will likely also provide a sign-by date. If you don't return it by the noted date, you could lose your spot. If you're getting married during wedding season (spring/summer), this could mean another couple could swoop in. So try your best to meet that date, if not see if the vendor will offer you an extension.

Remember always get everything in writing if your wedding vendor cant offer you a contract with detailed information on everything you want on your wedding day. Seek another vendor because any professional will have a contract for you, to protect you as a client and them as a professional.

Don't let them take your money and run!

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