As if we don’t deal with enough bullshit running a business, we have the potential to be sued for any perceived slight from our brides and grooms! This makes it even more important to have an iron clad contract BEFORE you start working with couple. Did you catch that? I said BEFORE! If you start work before you have a signed contract you only have yourself to blame when something goes wrong – and it will eventually. Yet so many of the vendors that I speak with are doing just that – working without a signed commitment from the couple.
But why do you do it? Most of the time it’s because you don’t feel confident with your ability to close the sale with a contract signed, so you opt for the handshake and a smile deal. Or it’s the promise of something fabulous in the future if you just work this one event (wink wink)…which makes me wonder if that’s what happened to Tiffany Cook of Tiffany Cook Events, the planner for the Nene Leaks wedding. Tiffany is now suing reality star Nene Leaks for millions for not paying up after she planned most of her wedding! I’d love to share more details with you about the actual situation but the details/truth in this case have been hard to find online. I’ve reached out to Tiffany Cook Events so if I receive any answers you’ll be the first to know.
We’ve also reached out to our friend Robert Schenk at Wedding Industry Law and asked him “What is the most insane, terrible, over the top, nightmarish, etc legal situation that you’ve seen a wedding business get themselves into??”
And here was his answer –
Unfortunately, it’s the attorneys-as-Brides/Grooms that are the worst. It’s a tie between the Groom suing the NY wedding photographer to recreate a wedding, even though he had been divorced for years http://www.nytimes.com/2011/
or, the WA wedding photographer threatened with a $300K lawsuit. http://www.examiner.com/
(Um, given that about half of my wedding clients are attorneys this little tidbit scares the absolute hell out of me!) Here’s praying that I don’t need Rob’s services anytime soon!
And what are Rob’s thoughts on not getting yourself into a similar situation? We asked him, “What is the single biggest piece of advice that you would give to a wedding business owner when creating contracts for their business?”
His answer – First, the contract should be drafted by an attorney. It’s OK to purchase a template contract from the internet so long as it was (a) drafted by an attorney and (b) is specific to your state.
(Side note from Cheryl – if you’re in Rob’s area you should totally hire him for this. If not, check out www.lawforcreatives.com)
Second, wedding business professionals should have a contract not only with the client (duh!), but also with any sub-contractors (assistants, interns, secondary personnel, etc) with which he/she may be working.
Great advice on all accounts Rob. It’s like you’re some kind of smarty pants lawyer or something!
So, keep your ass out of court by being clear on your (attorney drafted) contract and actually having them signed before you start the work!
Has this happened to you? Have you ever been sued by a client? Or have you sued a client? What was the result? Please share it here so we all can learn from your experience.
Contracts are not only good for keeping you out of the courtroom but it establishes the boundaries of your services and prevents scope creep. Make your contract very clear so that client knows and understand they get a, b and c—-that way when they want the other 23 letters you can introduce them to an addendum and get more money for your services.
Cheryl Bailey says
What a great comment Deb! Yes, boundaries sweet boundaries!
Susan Wolfer says
Best advice I received from the attorney who reviewed my contract was to add a paragraph about declaration of Venue. I often shoot weddings in neighboring counties or for clients who live in other cities. Without declaring that the venue for any suite would be the county where I live the client could bring a civil suit in an area that is far away. You hope you never have to go to court but I can’t imagine having to drive to Houston or Dallas to defend myself in a case. Paying an attorney to review your paperwork is worth every penny.
jennifer Weems says
Contracts are a must, they protect everyone involved. Great advice and motivation to re read my own contract.
Kara Trombetta says
Solid read! I’m usually scared into revising my contract at least twice a year…..thanks for the reminder!!
Cheryl Bailey says
Me too! You live and you learn I guess. And every time a new issue arises or I hear of another vendor’s issue, I always run right back to my contract to make little revisions!