How to write an ironclad wedding planner contract

Vow to be careful

Even though many brides and grooms have turned to apps and DIY for planning their weddings — in 2015, 89 percent of couples used smartphones for wedding planning, up from 42 percent in 2014 — many couples still use wedding planners. According to Wedding Wire’s 10th anniversary survey of 15,000 U.S.-based couples, 31 percent of engaged couples sought the help of a wedding planner for their big day, compared to just 11 percent 10 years ago. Couples are trusting you with all the details of their most important day, so you have to take the relationship very seriously. That’s why a wedding planner contract is absolutely essential.

Amy Nichols, owner of Amy Nichols Special Events and cofounder of the Poppy Group, told Glamour, “Resist the temptation to glance things over when it comes to wedding contracts.” Here are some tips for drawing up the perfect iron-clad wedding planner contract.

Wedding Planner Contract Rings

Work with the couple to figure out what they want

First of all, you need to know what your clients want their wedding to include and what they expect the wedding planner to be responsible for. Everything they expect of you needs to be clearly explained in the contract. If the contract says “all logistics,” those logistics need to be crystal clear. If they want six white swans swimming in a small pool as guests walk in, then that needs to be in the contract.

Draw up the wedding planner contract

Identify the parties

Do this first and foremost. This includes names, addresses, and all contact information for all parties, including the couple and the wedding planner.

Determine the scope of services

The wedding planner contract needs to define what is expected of the planner, and what the couple getting married will handle. Does this include planning the theme and style of the wedding? It might for some couples.

It should include things such as:

  • Booking the venue
  • Selecting a caterer
  • Lining up other outside vendors and identifying what they will be contracted to provide
  • Any equipment you are expected to provide, such as audio visual equipment

The contract also needs to spell out the exact timeline you are supposed to follow for performing any tasks. For example, how many hours a week the planner will be consulting with the couple. It should also clarify if the planner will be present on the actual wedding day or if one of their employees will attend instead. Some couples require the planner to be present for all events.

Define compensation for the wedding planner

The contract should specify how and when payment will be carried out, as well as who will be making the payment. Determine if compensation will be per task or for the whole wedding planning package. Use this section to decide when the initial non-refundable deposit will be made and then create the rest of the payment schedule.

Include a cancellation policy

Sometimes things fall through, and the best thing you can do is be as prepared as possible. A cancellation policy or force majeure clause helps ensure that you as the wedding planner are protected if a vendor cancels at the last minute or a venue falls through. This also will help if there is some sort of emergency or catastrophe — illness, hospitalization, weather issues (aka “Act of God”) forcing cancellation. This is why it is important to include clauses that specify that any deposits or fees paid up until the point of cancellation are non-refundable.

In this section, you can also include a termination clause that defines what circumstances could cause cancellation, the party with the authority to cancel the services, and what happens in the case of these events, such as rescheduling.

The final step is to have a lawyer review your contract, then sign and date. Now all you need to do is plan the wedding!

Wedding Planner Contract Couple

The benefits you bring as a wedding planner

Though a wedding planner contract can look a little overwhelming, it will provide a very detailed plan for you to follow to ensure your clients’ special day is as perfect as possible.

A planner, along with an iron-clad contract, can help couples stick to a budget and experience the wedding of their dreams.

And if something goes wrong at the last minute, like a reception hall being flooded or a vendor trying to pull out, a good wedding planner is there to solve these problems. They usually already have relationships with these vendors, so they can rectify the situation without the bride and groom having to get involved.

Planners Claire Weller and Susan Cordogan of Big City Bride told Brides.com, “If we call our lighting guy and on the wedding day we don’t like what he’s brought, you can be sure we’re going to have him add extra lighting and [you’re not going to] get charged for it,” she says.

“We are repeat business. Couples are not. [The vendors] aim to please us so we bring them more business,” Cordogan says.

Wedding planners can also get more repeat business if they have a solid website advertising their services and if they use their social media accounts to talk about how well they have done with past weddings. Here are some great tips on starting a website.

Meredith Lepore
Meredith is a freelance writer/editor who writes for The Observer, Brides, Levo, Bustle, Refinery 29 and Instyle.com, as well as magazines including Marie Claire, SELF, Women's Health and Cosmopolitan. Before going freelance she was Editor in Chief of the women's career site The Grindstone. She earned her Masters in Magazine, Newspaper and Online Journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Meredith resides in New York full time and enjoys SoulCycle, jogging and playing with her Yorkshire Terrier Otis, who also loves SoulCycle. Connect with Meredith on LinkedIn.