When it comes to engaging the services of many businesses for your wedding day, you will most certainly be asked to sign a contract and pay a retainer.

You can expect this from the venue, caterer, celebrant, wedding planner, photographer, videographer, florist, dressmakers, hairdresser, makeup artist, entertainer to name just a few.

In fact having a contract is a sign that your wedding supplier is legit and you should view it as a way of helping to protect yourself in case it somehow all goes wrong. Never be afraid to ask for a contract, and if the vendor won’t provide one, this should be a red flag.

It’s a two-way street as well: many of the vendors who supply goods and services to weddings are small businesses. When you book with them, they are foregoing the potential of earning other income on the day of your wedding.

There are many reasons you could cancel on your vendor: your wedding might not go ahead, you might change your mind or  you might be tempted by the offer of a family member/friend who has offered to do something for free after you’ve already engaged the services of a professional.

If you have signed a contract and paid a non-refundable retainer, as a rule of thumb there’s every chance you will not get this back if you cancel (there are always exceptions to this).  So take signing any contracts very seriously: it is a legally binding document.

Don’t ever feel pressured or rushed into signing a contract. Most vendors would prefer that you actually take the time to read the contract properly and ask questions and clarifications.

Your contract should clearly spell out everything that you have agreed to pay for and everything that the vendor expects from you in return. It should contain all the important information such as names, addresses, dates and times, and the payment schedule should be clearly spelled out, as well as what should happen in the event of cancellation and other potential scenarios.

Depending on the type of vendor, there will be other clauses specific to the job they do that are important to acquaint yourself with. For example, some vendors may have clauses that say they will leave your wedding if they are made to feel unsafe by unruly guests. Your photographer/videographer may want to keep copyright of the images they produce.  Venues may charge you extra if you go over the set time limit. Surcharges may apply if you get married on a public holiday. And so on.

Until you have signed the contract and paid your retainer, there’s no guarantee a vendor will hold the date of the wedding for you. If you inquire about a date and come back to the vendor later on, the day may not be available anymore, even though you indicated an interest.

Of course having a contract can’t guarantee that everything will run smoothly on the day: real life happens. The venue could burn down a few weeks before your wedding day. Your celebrant could get hit by a bus. Your videographer could go AWOL.  There might be a cyclone on the day. Stuff happens.  But a good contract will include contingencies in case the unexpected happens.

If anything changes, make sure you get it in writing and amend your original contract.  Keep copies and records of everything!

Image: Flickr/The Wedding Traveler