Create an event planning business contract

8 Clauses Every Event Planning Contract Needs

Even the best certified event planners can fall victim to a lawsuit. While you can (and should) always try your best to ensure your clients are satisfied, sometimes things won’t go according to plan. Your business won’t survive financially through a lawsuit, and your reputation will be shattered by a scathing online review!

It won’t always be a matter of non-payment, wrong-doing, or client dissatisfaction that could affect your paycheck, though. Sometimes an event is cancelled due to a force majeure! You can’t predict what exactly will go wrong, but you can protect yourself right at the get-go from anything that comes your way.

We’re not fond of cliches, but this one needs to be said: Always expect the unexpected! To ensure your budding career isn’t stifled before it comes into its own, you’ll need to design strong contracts with your clients, vendors, and suppliers!

So before you walk into your next consultation, include these 8 clauses in your contract. And please have a lawyer look them over!

1. Payment Agreements

Payment disputes can, and probably will, happen at some point in your career. The only way to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding is to outline everything in the contract.We don’t like to think about it, but there are people out there who will try to take advantage of your services when given the chance.

Terms for paying event planners for services

Include the agreed upon pricing structure, taking care to explicitly state any surcharges that may be incurred. If, for example, there are changes to the dessert menu for a wedding, ensure you draft an amendment for your client to sign. It should outline the change in pricing, the reason for the change, and the date. Any new purchases, with receipts, should also be carefully organized and documented in your financial documents. Be proactive with how you handle budgeting and finances and get signed consent for any decisions you broker between your client and vendor.

Work with your clients to decide on dates and amounts for each payment. With your vendors or event venues, negotiate payment plans with them, too. Remember that you should never pay on behalf of your client with the expectation that they’ll pay you back. If your client refuses to pay you back or simply runs out of money, your business will be left with the debt!

While you’re at it, outline the terms of your deposit policy. This will ensure you have enough funds to start planning the event!

2. Cancellation Terms

If things don’t go according to plan and you or your client needs to cancel the event, you’ll be lost without this clause! Sometimes, circumstances warrant a cancellation and there’s nothing you can do about it. Rather than dealing with an inane client who doesn’t get that the show can’t go on, invoke this clause and leave it at that until further notice. You can only control so much!

3. Termination Policy

Disasters at weddings aren't uncommon encounters for certified event planners

Similarly, you’ll also want to include a termination policy in your contract. It’s a bit different from a cancellation policy in terms of why you would invoke it. Say your client turns out to be a daredevil or is frivolous with money – you don’t want to be caught up in their mess.

You may believe that invoking a termination clause could lead to a bad reputation for your business. After all, nobody likes someone who quits when the going gets tough! But slight disagreements aren’t enough reason to invoke this clause. This policy should only allow you to pull out of an event when there’s evidence of negligent or reckless behavior. Terminating an event with an unpredictable client can save your business in the long run!

4. Indemnification Clause

Plain and simple – you need to be protected from actions that are out of your control. Your job is to plan a successful event and arrange all the details on a timeline. However, things could spiral out of control under your watch. Unfortunately, there’s a chance you may be held responsible for any destructive, inebriated guests or your client who ignores safety regulations. Yikes! While they could come after you, you can take certain measures to share the accountability.

If a guest trips on wires from the DJ booth, you, the venue, and the audiovisual technician are technically liable for any injuries. The accident occurred at your planned event, on the venue’s property, and as a result of poorly protected wires set up by the AV technician. Don’t lose hope though! When you add mutual indemnification clauses to contracts with all your vendors, you have a mutual understanding that neither party will hold the other responsible for certain damages or losses due to negligence. By sharing the risks with one another, everyone can claim losses resulting from the incidents with their respective insurance companies.

While you cannot 100% absolve yourself from any liability in situations like these, it does make it easier for all parties to operate despite pervasive risk!

5. Force Majeure

Ah, so you’ve arrived at the venue and find the whole banquet hall has flooded due to city construction. You’re not always covered by your cancellation policy – as like the weather, these are rare occurrences that no one can 100% prepare for.
Building a contract from scratch can be overwhelming for the newbie planner

And that’s what this clause will help you with. It releases you from having to cancel an event when something out-of-the-blue happens. If there’s construction or wiring problems, or even a health hazard, you do not need to host the event – never put yourself or guests in a dangerous position.

6. Service Boundaries

Along with payments, this clause is one of your top concerns in your event contracts. Both yourself and your client or vendor should know the extent of your offered services and responsibilities. Sometimes, you may find yourself taking on extra tasks, but all parties should be clear that any extra services are to your discretion. They are no required of you, and they should not expect any different!

Outline your services and agree on what they will be paying for. You can never be too detailed when it comes to this section, so have at it! Most importantly, once everything is written out, ensure that you do everything you said you would. An event planner is only as good as her word!

7. Uninterrupted Use

Properties and buildings sell all the time, and they’ll sell fast if there’s potential for profit! Outdoor wedding venues might plan landscape work that ends up behind schedule or the church might be renovating its basement. With both these hired locations behind on schedule, what can you do? Especially when renovations are occurring, it would not be a pleasing, or safe, experience to attempt to use the space anyways.

How do you avoid these disasters? Through an uninterrupted use of facilities clause! This cause ensure that you get the venue that you first set foot in – no ifs, ands, or buts!

8. Photo Release

wedding photography for a wedding planner's portfolio

Photo releases allow you to release (go figure) yourself from liability of using photos in your portfolio to promote your business. You won’t always need this – most photographers are happy to help out event planners – but keep it in the back of your mind. If you feel like you’re planning a fantastic event and want to take your own photos, it might be worth including photo releases with either the venue or your clients. You’ll have peace of mind throughout the event and use that to plan the most beautiful event your client has ever seen!

Time to draw it up!

We know this is a lot to think about. Contracts are scary documents to draft! If you’ve taken any event and wedding planning courses, you’ll probably already have a contract template to work with. Don’t start from scratch if you don’t need to! Go in and make any necessary changes, and tailor it to your specific business’ needs. Especially if you offer more than just planning services, you’ll want to expand the contract (or devise multiple contracts) to protect your business.

Once your event contract is airtight, go through it by yourself and then with your client to make sure everything is agreed upon. Be ready to spend some time editing and adding clauses – your reputation as an event planner depends on it!

Want to take your event planning business to the next level? Find out what you’ll learn in QC’s Accelerate Your Business Workshop!

4 responses to “8 Clauses Every Event Planning Contract Needs”

    Nicole says:

    This was a great and important article to read! It can be so daunting as an event planner to draw up a contract! I am going to use these tips and go through my own contracts to make sure they have all of these important clauses! Thanks QC for the info, especially now with COVID 19 cancelling so many weddings and events, having a solid contract is soooo important to keep our businesses safe.

    Sarah-Lynn Seguin says:

    Hi Nicole,

    We absolutely agree. Unfortunately, there have likely been more than a few planners who were caught off guard by COVID-19 (weren’t we all?) and wound up in sticky situations due to not having the right crisis clauses in their contracts. It’s always important to think about worst case scenarios and outline plans of action for them clearly. That way, you AND your client will always be safe and accounted for in the event of a crisis situation! 🙂

    Thanks so much for commenting, you’re the best!

    All the best,
    The QC Team

    Shawniece says:

    Once COVID came along it made me realize the importance of having a solid contract. A lot of vendors, including myself did not include contract clauses such as Force Majeure in our contracts. Now that I know how important having this in my contract, I have been adding it moving forward. Another great point is having a service boundaries clause. I currently send a welcome packet that includes our services boundaries, however, I will add it to my contracts as well as another added layer of protection.

    Sarah-Lynn Seguin says:

    COVID-19 definitely brought to light a lot of loopholes or unintentional cracks in many of our systems. While unfortunate, it HAS been a great learning lesson! At the very least, this year’s pandemic has helped event and wedding planners become even stronger, because now everyone has a more realistic understanding of the different types of emergencies that can occur, how to properly handle them, and how to preemptively protect everyone from them through a solid contract. That’s awesome that you’re thinking of adding a service boundaries clause to your own contract, Shawniece! You can never be too prepared! 🙂

    All the best,
    The QC Team

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