The Contract Signing – YES, it is a legal document, so READ and REVIEW before you RESERVE!
For most couples, this is the first of many legal documents you will sign together, so be sure the excitement of wedding planning doesn’t diminish your good judgement. You need to READ the entire document, REVIEW your questions with your planner (and in turn with the venue), and RESERVE your date with open eyes – thus ensuring you will live happily ever after instead of forever in debt!
Here are some simple rules to successful contract signing:
- I will say it again – read the terms and conditions of the contract. There is no substitute to understanding what you will be responsible for and what your venue is responsible to you for.
- Q&A – There are no silly questions when it comes to the review of your wedding contract. Ask them all and get them answered to your satisfaction. Most venues will not amend their contract, but they will offer options to work with their policies should something cause you discomfort. For example: 99.9% of event venues have a “No Shots” policy in place to protect the client and the venue from those guests who don’t know when to stop drinking. If you have a special family tradition of one shot of something – ask the venue manager for permission. You will need to be very specific with the number of guests participating, the time of execution (which will most likely be in a private area of the venue out of other guests’ eyes), the type of liquor required, and the reason for the toast (good luck, in memory, family tradition, college buddies, etc.). Additionally, you will need to understand there is a cost above your package for this special request and that the venue has every right to say NO. Ask the questions . . . get the answers . . . and only when you are comfortable with the terms, sign the contract.
- Estimate of Charges – Insist that the venue provides an estimate of their charges, including, but not limited to, any booking, cake-cutting, corkage, Maître d’ and venue fees you will incur. Be sure the estimate shows you the tax and gratuity attributed to each item. And, understand that this is an estimate, which will change when you submit your final guaranteed guests counts – traditionally 14-days prior to the wedding date. The figures will go down if you have less guests than anticipated at signing, or up if you have more. Be prepared for both scenarios.
- Standard Terms and Conditions – The following is a list of terms included in most hospitality venue contracts:
- Deposit Schedule – Non-refundable and non-transferable payment policy and payment types accepted will be listed. Customarily, NO dollars are returned if you cancel your wedding date, so consider event insurance if you have any reason for possible cancellation. I recommend looking at wedsafe.com to learn more about insuring your wedding. The Knot also offers options for insurance – sometimes for free when signing up for one of their services.
- Damage and Theft Clause – Almost all contracts will require that you are responsible for your guests, so learn what the venue considers damage/theft. If a glass is broken, do they count how many and charge you? Or, are you only charged if the glass is broken when a guest throws it through a picture window?
- Tax and Service Charge (also called gratuity) – Know how much you are being charged and which items are subject to each. Service Charge (gratuity) ranges from 18% to 22% of the package cost. Sales Tax is 6% in PA, but the liquor package will not be subject to the tax as operators purchase alcohol products through the state liquor stores. Remember, services like ceremony fees are subject to sales tax.
- Construction Clause – Every venue has times when their premises are under construction, or unexpected repairs are being made. Be sure to review how any possible construction will affect your wedding day. Note to yourself: a big yellow excavator should not be visible to arriving guests – unless you work for John Deere.
- Cost of Living – As you will most likely be reserving a date a year or two in advance, the venue will need to protect itself from rising costs – i.e. labor, utilities, insurances, food and beverage products, etc. Be sure your contract allows for a reasonable substitution in the package allowing you to stay at your contracted rate.Know there will be several other terms specific to each particular venue – be sure to review them all before signing.
- Enjoy the Moment when you sign your wedding contract!
Congratulations Zach and Tara – you are the proud owners of a wedding.
Q&A with the WW – Please feel free to send me any contract questions. I am happy to be your advocate (not your lawyer) for all things wedding.