7 Things to Do Before Signing a Wedding Vendor Contract

A table setting at a wedding reception with peach roses and white candles.

Signing a contract with a wedding vendor can be an exciting step in the planning process; after all, it means that you’re locked in to use this vendor on your wedding day and are really making it all happen. However, it’s important to make sure you really understand what you’re signing before you put pen to paper and make it official. So, what should you do before you turn that paperwork back over to the vendor? Here are a few steps to go through.

1. Compare Services Desired with Services Included

One of the important things people don’t always consider is that your initial budget may have assumed more was included in a vendor contract than what’s actually promised. Consider, for instance, if you budgeted $5,000 for a venue, but you have to also rent chairs, tables, and drapery to actually make the venue meet your vision. Your $5,000 quote really is much higher if you include all the additional services needed to make the space what you want. Ensure that even if the number you’re signing off on is technically within the “catering” or “venue” budget, that you aren’t accidentally exceeding your budget through fees, lack of included rentals, or other small missing items.

2. Consider How Easy the Wedding Vendor Has Been to Work With

Signing a contract with someone who has been rude, consistently late, or wishy-washy on rates can be a bad call. Before you turn your contract in, do a serious soul search: do you trust this wedding vendor? While some people such as wedding planners and officiants directly rely upon their personality to make your wedding happen, the personality of other vendors including venue owners and cake bakers, also has an impact on your wedding. Make sure that you are really ready to trust your cash and your big day to this person.

3. Note any Surprises in the Contract

A young woman on the phone talking with a wedding vendor.

This isn’t a contract to skim; read it through carefully and flag anything that doesn’t make sense to you (if it’s legalese,realize that a lot of it may not make sense!). If there is a fee you didn’t expect, a responsibility you have that you didn’t imagine (such as vacating the venue by a certain time), or any waivers of rights that you would prefer to discuss, get the vendor on the phone or in person and work it out. If they say things are standard for the industry, verify this information by reviewing it on wedding websites online.

4. Question any Ultra-High and Ultra-Low Prices

If you received quotes from various vendors and your favorite is either promising the moon for a few dollars or quoting you at an exorbitant rate, break it down. What value is being added or dropped to get to these prices? With photographers, for instance, prices vary wildly if you are willing to work with someone who is new and looking to build a portfolio. With caterers, make sure you understand why one menu may cost so much more than another.

5. Get a Clear Understanding of all Additional Fees

A wedding ceremony space of white chairs decorated with greenery and florals.

Make sure you know which fees are likely to be imposed as standard (such as cake-cutting fees) and which you can reasonably avoid. Similarly, know how much your deposit will be and how payment needs to be made over time. The more you understand the difference between the base rate and the fee structure, the less surprises there will be showing up on your final bill! Ask about taxes too, even if they haven’t been calculated yet: you deserve to be able to budget fully!

6. Negotiate if Things Are Getting Expensive

While you will have a harder time negotiating with a wedding vendor if the price has remained totally consistent throughout the planning and communication process, discovering fees and extra charges does open the opportunity to negotiate with your vendors. This can take various forms: you can ask for a reduction in the base rate, or you can ask for items typically included to be cut from the plan, like simplifying the decorations or providing your own plastic flatware. Most vendors need to make a certain margin on an event to make it profitable, but if you cut something they have to do, they may be willing to work with you in order to make the sale.

7. Notice any Preferred Vendor Relationships and Research Them

Especially when it comes to venues, you may be locking yourself into more than just one vendor contract. If they typically work with only a handful of vendors that they trust, make sure those services are also in your budget! If the venue, for instance, contracts with one caterer for all the food, ensure that you’ve got a satisfactory quote from both the venue and the caterer before either contract is signed. This may seem obvious, but sometimes the preferred vendors aren’t immediately disclosed, leading you to limited choices.

If you make sure to consider all these items, you’re ready to sign this contract and move on to the next stage of wedding planning!

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