Most wedding and event planners know that an air-tight contract is absolutely crucial to their success. Without one, a difficult client can turn your event planning dream into a nightmare. To make sure you protect your business, here are four terms all wedding and event planners should consider including in their client services contracts.
Your Services Clause, and Be Specific
A description of your services seems like an obvious item to include in a planner’s contract, but the way in which you describe your services is crucial. First, describe the services you provide in great detail. Whether it’s assisting with venue selection, establishing a food and drink menu, or giving guidance on the latest event design trends, you need to be very specific in the services you provide. This will limit your services to the specific items on this list.
Second, list the services you don’t provide—but this time, use broad, sweeping language. For example, you may include the serving of food and alcohol, the handling of audio-visual equipment, or the transportation and removal of any event-related items. By being as broad as possible in the section outlining the services you don’t provide, you will ensure that when a client asks you to perform a task that you aren’t comfortable with, you have ample wiggle room to politely decline the request.
Non-Disparagement Clause, Maybe…
We’re in a “Yelp era,” and wedding and event planners know that they live and die by online reviews. A recent Harvard study found that a reduction by only one star in a company’s overall online rating can lead to a 10% drop in revenues. Your online persona is important and you can protect it with a non-disparagement clause. But be weary: these clauses have not been tested in most courts yet, and some states have outlawed them.
The typical non-disparagement clause prohibits a client from posting an online review that in any way negatively affects your planning business, and the clauses often include payment of the planner’s attorney fees and costs if the client refuses to remove a negative online posting. While it may not make financial sense for you to pursue a client in court for their online review, the non-disparagement clause will at least give you ample leverage in convincing your client to remove the negative review.
But make sure to check your local state laws before including this type of clause. For example, on January 1, 2015, a California law went into effect that banned the use of non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts.
Cooperation Clause, to Protect Against Harassment
Wedding and event planners know that sometimes, events can get ugly—verbal harassment can come from a rowdy guest or a mother-in-law on a power trip. In one egregious case, a drunken family member at a wedding began sexually harassing a wedding planner client of mine, and she felt she had no recourse. But a strongly worded cooperation clause can protect all planners from this sort of behavior.
Including a clause in your contract that requires the client, their family, and their guests to cooperate in good faith with you and your staff is a first step towards preventing harassment. In the cooperation clause, you should also consider a clause that allows you to walk away from the event and keep the deposit in the event of inappropriate behavior of any kind—and a specific mention of verbal and physical abuse should be included.
Media and Likeness Clause, and Make it Broad
Many planners don’t know that most states have causes of action based on invasion of privacy and misappropriation of likeness, and without a proper media and likeness clause, you are opening yourself up to liability when you post pictures of your clients, their guests, and the event on your website and in promotional materials. While most clients won’t care that you’re using their picture, some might—a media and likeness clause is crucial to protecting your business.
It’s important that this clause is as broad as possible, giving you the right to use the client and their guests’ likeness, image, and voice in all media in existence now, and any media devised in the future. Who knows, 10 years down the road hologram advertisements may be all the rage, and you want to make sure you can compete, right?
Whether you are preparing a new lease, facing a conflict with a current tenant, or you have already suffered a breach, hiring aggressive and confident counsel is the best way to protect your rights.