In light of the recent surprise closings of ReBar in New York City and The Atrium at Treetops in DC, I feel impressed to repeat this post from 2009. If you have no time to read it, there's only one thing to remember: read your contract carefully.
Today, a friend called in a panic. The venue she booked for her mother's 60th birthday party is shutting its doors. "What does your contract say?" I asked. "Oh," she replied. "That".
Apparently, my friend, like many couples I meet, never looked beyond the dollar figures and payment terms on her contract when she signed it. The budget was her main concern, and all the terms in her contract was stuff to glaze over before she signed on the dotted line. However, a bad contract can be as damaging to your budget as overspending on flowers.
One of the benefits I offer to clients, is that I review their vendor contracts before they sign them. Review, because I'm not a lawyer. I love to take out my red pen and cross out all the one-sided, over-burdensome, vague and/or inappropriate clauses that some venues and vendors put into their contracts, and then I suggest terms that will not only clarify the intent of both parties, but also protect my clients. I always tell my clients: "be willing to walk away from your favorite venue or vendor if they won't agree to delete or modify these clauses." Never sign a contract with just a prayer.
Fortunately, most weddings go off without a hitch (except the couple) or a lawsuit, but when bad things happen, a good contract is reassuring, and nothing, not even catering, is as costly as a bad contract.