Contracts: Why you need them, and why you should love them!
Contracts: Why you need them and why you should love them.
A handful of events have occurred in the last couple of months, that individually may not have caused much of a stir, but put together, have convinced me that both couples to be wed and event partners alike need some education in the importance of contracts.
Contracts are not scary, they do not need to be complex, and they are in everyone’s best interest. A contract is not put in place to hurt one party or the other, or to give one party control over the other. A contract is put in place so that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the expectations and responsibilities on both sides, and so that should something go awry, nobody is left playing the blame game.
As a part of our month-of coordination package, we complete the final confirmation and management our clients’ event partners. In order to do this, we require a copy of each contract so that we know what is expected of the event partner and can refer back to it should any issues arise. It astounds me the number of event partners and vendors in Prince Edward Island who have not taken the time to protect themselves by drafting a simple contract. When there is no contract in place, it means that we have to ask for all communication between the two parties and confirm that communication with both parties, which ends up as a much longer process than just confirming the details of a contract.
When I started writing this, I asked myself, “Why is it that so many professionals are operating outside of the comfort of a contract?” Is it because Islanders are too trusting? Have they just not been burned yet? Maybe they are not sure how to write one? The answer may be a combination of these things, but I also feel it is because many vendors may not take into account one very important detail: for many couples planning their wedding, this event is the first and only large event they will ever plan. They do not know what questions to ask, they do not know industry standards or protocols, and many couples may just be left assuming things which leaves a lot of room for error come the big day. It is our job as a vendor to fully inform our clients and leave no room for assumption or interpretation.
Take the following example:
A bride has four bridesmaids and a maid of honour in addition to herself needing their hair done. On the morning of the wedding, the stylist arrives and says she only does a maximum of four clients in a day. The bride just assumed that the stylist could handle as many clients as possible, and the stylist assumed the bride was aware of her four-client maximum. There is no contract nor any communication in writing, so neither party can prove if they had previously informed the other party.
If you are the bride, you are probably panicking because you are left deciding who has to do her own hair. If you are the stylist, you are probably left panicking because you feel you may be rushed through the four you expected in order to squeeze in the two you didn’t expect.
If there had been a contract in place, both parties could very clearly check and see how many updos had been needed and there would be no case of he said/she said or in laying blame.
A contract does not need to be complicated. While a thorough contract drafted by a lawyer is going to hold up more strongly in a court, if you aren’t in a position to hire someone to do that, please do yourself a favour and take a look at the template I have drafted below. Please note, I am not a lawyer and can not be held liable for any legal issues that may arise from the use of this contract. This contract was not drafted by a lawyer, it is simply a template for you to use that clearly outlines the important details required.
“This agreement, signed on (DATE) between (VENDOR) and (CLIENT) is to confirm that (CLIENT) has retained (VENDOR) for (SERVICES) for (EVENT) on (EVENT DATE).
In order to render these services, (VENDOR) will supply (lighting, bobby pins, limousine, etc.), and (CLIENT) will supply (clean hair, chairs, sound system, food, etc.)
Services will commence at (TIME) and cease at (TIME), at a rate of ($)(per head, hourly, per day, flat fee, etc.). Any overages to the agreed upon time frame above will be charged at a rate of ($)(per head, hourly, per day, flat fee, etc.).
A deposit of ($) and signature of both parties on this contract signifies agreement of both parties to all details discussed herein.”
Any stipulations specific to your industry should be added, for example:
“(STYLIST) has agreed to style hair for (NUMBER) clients. If this number should decrease with less than (TIME FRAME) notice, services will be charged at the contracted number of clients. If this number should increase, (CLIENT) must provide (TIME FRAME) notice to (STYLIST) to ensure adequate time is available for all clients.”
If you want to hire a vendor who does not provide a contract, suggest using something like the template above. At the very least, ensure the items above are clearly discussed and outlined in writing. If you talk on the phone, follow up with an e-mail outlining the discussion and confirming what was discussed. Do not be afraid to ask questions and inform yourself. A vendor who does not want to answer your questions is not one you want to work with. An additional consideration that many couples may not think to ask their event partners: what happens if something prevents the vendor from being able to be present at your event? Who’s responsibility is it to find a replacement? Additionally, is the deposit refundable or transferrable to another date?
The bottom line is, a contract is never a bad idea, even among friends. Some may even argue a contract is even more important between friends! Make sure you are informed, and cover your butt. We never want or expect for the worst to happen, but it can happen so we need to be prepared.
Until next time,