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by Robbin Montero

            How often have you been told, “Get it in writing”? Probably the biggest mistake a couple could make in hiring wedding vendors is to assume verbal agreements are good enough. Couples need to get everything in writing and review all contracts carefully before signing to make sure everything discussed with the vendor is covered. If a question arises or memory fails at a later date, only a written contract will hold water.

            Information basic to all wedding contracts includes: wedding date, vendor arrival time, length of performance, actual cost, potential overtime cost, refund policy, and a list of everything included with each vendor’s contract. For example, with site and catering contracts, the different areas or rooms you will use should be listed.

            If the site provides a caterer, have the contract list whether it is to be a buffet or sit-down dinner. List the menu items, types of hors d’oeuvres, beverages and brand names and anything else included, such as tables, chairs, china, linens and staffing. Request to have the service charge and tax listed. If you have agreed ahead of time to bring in your own alcoholic beverages, have it written into the contract along with corkage fees.

            Floral contracts should specify the types of flowers to be used, colors, styles of bouquets and centerpieces, in detail. Specify delivery times in the contract. You may need some items delivered at home for pre-wedding photos, one set of flowers delivered to the church and another delivery time for the reception site.

            The baker’s contract should describe your chosen cake in detail, including varied flavors by level and decoration details. If the flowers are to be real, indicate who will supply and place them on the cake. Sometimes a hand-drawn diagram, signed by both parties and attached to the sales receipt or contract, can be helpful.

            Contract elements for hiring photographers and videographers are similar in complexity to the site contract. How long is performance time and when does it start and end? Photographers usually need to start two to three hours before the ceremony. A videographer will usually begin an hour before the ceremony. Ask how many photographs are included in the package and whether parents’ albums are included. A large agency may have multiple professionals on staff, so be sure to get the names of the photographers, videographers and assistants assigned to your wedding.

            Verify that the site can accommodate their designated set-up and performance times before signing contracts for musicians and DJs,. It may be necessary to pay the site and the musicians extra for an early set-up. Inquire about “load-ins”, the extra fees charged if musical equipment needs to be hauled up stairs, for example. Agree who is to supply lighting and generators, if needed. Designate how musicians will dress and your need for appropriate taped music during breaks. In the event you need them to play longer than expected, put in writing that they will be available and what those over-time charges will be. The DJ or band should be informed in the contract of noise ordinances that apply to your site contract.

            Musicians and photographers generally require a meal in their contract. It doesn’t have to be the same meal your guests receive, but specify details and that it will be served in a different room after the guests have been served. Also, require that no drinking of alcohol be allowed.

            Contracts don’t have to be written in complicated legal language. A business letter is usually sufficient and,  in the case of flowers and the cake, a detailed sales receipt often works. Even if a good friend or family member is supplying your cake or flowers, it never hurts to put in writing what you want to avoid a misunderstanding and disappointment. “Get it in writing”—wise words for brides, indeed.

 “Stress Free, Leave the Details to Me,” is the tried and true philosophy of Robbin Montero, California Wine Country wedding planning expert and owner of A Dream Wedding.  Robbin is the premier wedding planner in the Northern California Wine Country, transforming any vision into the perfectly designed wedding creation. Robbin and her weddings have been featured in The Knot, Brides, Elite Magazine, Your Wedding Day and Vine Napa/Sonoma magazines, and ImportantOccasions.com. Travel & Leisure magazine calls Robbin, “The expert wedding planner in the California Wine Country.” www.a-dreamwedding.com 

©2009 Robbin Montero



This article cannot be reprinted without Robbin Montero’s expressed written permission.