June 4, 2010 Brides, please…read your contracts
Every so often, a moment happens to me as a wedding vendor (I’m a floral designer) that crosses the semi-professional line where I can’t neccessarily blog a gripe or tweet or facebook because it’s not going to come across as nice. Heck. this might not come across as nice or ethical or professional. But, I’m really making this a PSA: as a wedding vendor who is also a bride, and as a fellow bride, I’m going to give you a little heads up: Please: Read Your Contracts.
My contract is probably read about 1/16th of the time. I have little places for people to sign throughout it, and I tell people in the contract to please, make the effort, read, and initial. If you sign the bottom, your failure to initial the above clauses does not make the contract null and void– you still agree to all the terms by simply signing– but I included those little lines as a way to MAKE YOU READ. I want you to know the fine print. There’s a few things I, as a designer, run into with wedding day flowers: one, is the substitution clause– as a floral designer, I have to have one. This past year alone is reason enough. An ash cloud that prevented flights and thus flowers from Holland (and there’s a lot of STUFF that comes from Holland– peonies, tulips, orchids, rannunculas…the list goes on and on), and civil unrest in Thailand (a major producer & exporter of orchids) are two main examples of why I have to make substitutions sometimes, and while I discuss it at meetings and our initial getting to know one another chat, I throw it in on the contract, too, so that you’re super informed. The other thing– and perhaps most common- is the clause where I tell people that they are just RENTING things from me, and if those things go missing, break, or magically come to life and go off into the night to party along with your guests, then you are liable. It’s a big huge paragraph with consequences inside the contract. For good measure, I throw it in on the proposal. But every so often (ok, every 6 weddings or so) something magically disappears and I hear the same thing every time, “I didn’t KNOW we were renting the vases…how was I supposed to know that?”
This puts me (or any other vendor) in an awkard position. Chances are, every single clause in a vendors contract is there for a very specific reason (or incidence, or bride, or strange alignment of the planets) that happened to them one time too many and made them say “I am going to put (fill in the blank) in my contract so this does not happen again”. Chances are, it will happen again, and that’s just the luck of the draw. But the important thing is that you, dear bride, read what you are signing. You may be agreeing to something that you are not comfortable with agreeing to. You may be signing that you think it’s cool to pay a million dollars for every minute after midnight that a vendor has to return to your venue, or if you break a vase it’s going to cost you a $250 damage waiver (no, I am not that floral designer, but there’s been times I’m so irritated I have thought about it). Crazy clauses– like insane fees, spelling out what you are and are not going to do for a wedding or event– are generally there because someone, somewhere, at some time, took advantage of a vendor’s good will, good faith, and kindness and made that person say “from here on out, any one else who does this will suffer mightily!!”
Moral of the story: read. Take the time to read before you sign– and that goes for ANYONE who is signing on your behalf or acting as your representative, because you will probably be the person that vendor contacts. I’m always nice enough to offer the opportunity for my property to return to me before I send a bill, but others may not be so kind– they may auto-charge your credit card, and no one wants some crazy fee on their cc while they are in their honeymoon. So do yourself a favor– educate yourself on what you are agreeing to when you sign the dotted line– and if you have questions: ASK. It’s important that you are as informed as possible with every decision you sign agreement to between you and your vendors.
And that, my friends, is the end of my soapbox rant for the evening.