Contracts. It is the un-fun part of wedding planning.But, in this day and age, contracts are all-too real and something you need to be aware of and pay attention to when planning your wedding. So, the initial stages of planning and research for your Washington DC area wedding is complete, but what else is there for you to know before you signing anything? Let’s be honest, contracts are inherently confusing and all that technical jargon can be pretty overwhelming; however, that contract not only protects your wedding vendor’s rights, but also yours! Today, our friends at Law for Creatives are here to explain the five things you need to know before you put your sign on that dotted line.

DC Engagement Session

Photo Credit: Rebekah Hoyt Photography

Non-Refundable Initial Deposits & Retainers Are Standard

Before making any booking decisions for your wedding, you should be sure that you have a very clear understanding of each vendor and venue’s policies regarding deposits and retainers. They are generally non-refundable beginning at the moment you sign the contract, even if you decided only a month later to go with another vendor, or to reschedule the date of your wedding, or even to cancel the wedding. This may seem unfair, but your initial payment of a deposit or retainer is given in exchange for that vendor’s promise to hold open their availability for your wedding on that specific date since they have a limited amount of availability and may turn away other events as a result, so they are generally allowed to place a value on holding open that date for you.

Make Sure That Everything Is In Writing

It is very important to get all of the pertinent information pertaining to your wedding in writing in an official contract. Too often, crucial information is contained in multiple documents (proposals, service description sheets, invoices, email chains, etc.), but if that language is not in the official contract, it is not part of the binding agreement between the parties. It can be a red flag if a vendor is not willing to work with you on making simple adjustments to their contract so that the specifics outlined in all of these other documents are contained within the body of the written contract.

Assume Nothing

This goes hand-in-hand with tip #2: if your contract is silent on a specific issue, do not assume anything. If you ever ended up in a contract dispute with a vendor or venue, it is often the “industry standard” that is applied to resolve the dispute, which may not be what you personally had in mind. It is always better to ask a vendor to add in additional language if a topic is not covered in a contract rather than assuming that your interpretation or understanding will apply.

Be Sure That Your Contract Covers the Vendor or Venue’s Cancellation and Postponement Policies 

It is very important to understand the cancellation and postponement policies of any vendors or venues you are working with. Since most initial deposits and retainer fees are non-refundable since they serve as payment to hold open your event date as mentioned in tip #1, you need to be very sure that you have a firm understanding of the cancellation and postponement policies before signing any contracts. Depending on the contract language, you may also be responsible for additional payment amounts for services already performed by the vendor prior to the time of cancellation or postponement, whether the services were partially or fully performed, as well as expenses incurred by the vendor in connection with your event.

Understand Your Copyright Usage Rights in Relation to the Wedding Vendor

With certain types of vendors, the products and goods being created for your wedding come with a limitation on the way you can use those products and goods. This is particularly true with respect to photographers, videographers and stationery/paper goods designers. This is because as the creator of the particular products and goods, the vendor is entitled to copyright ownership (a legal concept that gives the creator of creative works certain rights of ownership) unless your contract specifically transfers copyright ownership to you (which is uncommon). Rather, most wedding vendors are granting you a license to use the copyright-protected items in a certain manner. For instance, a photographer may specify that you can use the images for personal use only, or for publication in the wedding announcements section of a newspaper, but that you cannot sell or publish the images without the permission of the photographer. Or an invitation designer may create a custom logo or design motif for your invitations, but unless you have permission from the invitation designer, you cannot scan that logo or design and use it on other paper goods for your wedding that you create yourself, like ceremony programs or place cards. These types of restrictions are common and you will want to be sure that you understand exactly what is permitted by your vendors in order to avoid committing copyright infringement.


This is such great advice! Thank you so much Law for Creatives! From fashion and beauty to planning and budget, we’ve got it all covered, so take a look around the blog and read more tips and advice from local wedding pros in the DC area!

Photo Credits: Rebekah Hoyt Photography

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