Things in the wedding industry have changed A LOT in the last year. Does anyone even remember where we were in May 2020?! Scrambling to find new normals in our industry, adapting to the constant rescheduling and cancellations, and trying to keep our chins up while the world seemed to crumble around us.
WHEW. Well, even a year later we are still dealing with the effects of COVID on the event industry and I want to make sure you have everything in your contract to keep yourself and your clients safe! Here are a few of the ESSENTIAL contract clauses you want to make sure you have:
Force Majeure Clause
A Force Majeure clause is a clause that essentially relieves the parties of a contract from performing their obligations when certain circumstances arise beyond their control. The key here is that these circumstances have to make a party’s performance under the contract impracticable, impossible, or illegal. Back in 2020, when COVID-19 first became a factor in the wedding industry, performance under event contracts DID fall under Force Majeure circumstances allowing clients and vendors to excuse performance of their contracts. However, now, this is no longer the case. This is why you want a Force Majeure clause that is specific and anticipates the types of circumstances that WILL fall under Force Majeure. This clause will still protect you from events such as severe weather (tornados, hurricanes, etc.) or other “acts of god” beyond the parties’ control and is essential in ensuring that should such a situation arise you are covered by your contract.
Since COVID-19 is a known factor now and not a reason for excusing performance under a contract, you can definitely EXCLUDE COVID-19 specifically from your Force Majeure language. Also, you are going to want to ensure you have an additional clause that specifically discusses what will happen when a situation involving COVID arises, such as an Acknowledgement of COVID-19 & No Rescheduling Clause.
Acknowledgment of COVID-19 & No Rescheduling Clause
Another clause you are going to want to ensure you have is a clause that acknowledges COVID-19 and discusses what will happen if a situation involving COVID should arise, such as rescheduling/canceling due to COVID, positive COVID test, etc. In this clause, make sure you spell out if you allow rescheduling if you have a fee for rescheduling, how many times you allow rescheduling, and what rescheduling will require. By laying out all of this information in a specific and CONSPICUOUS COVID-19 Clause (make sure you point this puppy out to your clients… and maybe even have them initial it!), it separates those performance excuses from your normal cancellation and rescheduling policies.
This clause can also contain your policies for safety for your clients. Will you be masked and fully vaccinated as a wedding vendor?! This is the place to spell out everything related to your services while COVID is a factor in our industry.
Cancellation of Services by Company Clause
A Cancellation of Services by Company Clause will explain to your clients what will happen under certain circumstances when you as a company have to cancel your services. These factors are generally emergency medical situations, family emergencies, pregnancy, military service orders, etc. This clause is essential because it lays out a solid policy ahead of time so your clients can understand the process you will go through to ensure they are covered (with, say, an alternate vendor or a full refund) should you have to cancel.
A Rescheduling Clause is essential in your contract because you want your clients to know your policy should they have to reschedule. You should consider laying out under what condition you allow for rescheduling, what time frame you allow rescheduling (say, within 90 or 120 days of the event date), how to notify you of rescheduling, if you have a fee for rescheduling, and if there a time limit on when the rescheduled event should take place after the original event date for the contract and retainer to carry over without penalty.
A Cancellation Clause will lay out the procedure for what happens if your services are cancelled by the client. This includes: how your client should notify you about cancellation and by what time period prior to the original event date, what fees are refundable or non-refundable for your services, and what the duties are of both parties should a cancellation occur.
Fee & Retainer Clause
A Fee and Retainer Clause is essential to honestly any contract because you should be laying out WHAT the client is paying for in exchange for your services and how they are going to be paying for those services (a payment plan or lump sums, etc). This clause should almost always be the FIRST clause in your contract because it will be the first thing your client looks at and cares about. This is essential for explaining your retainer payment, what the payment is for (usually for booking out a date on your calendar), and if that payment is refundable or not (hint: I always suggest you put “non-refundable” in front of the word “retainer” in your contract!).
Although we aren’t in the 2020 trenches of COVID anymore, it’s still a reality that has real implications for the event industry! With these essential clauses in your contract, you’ll ensure that your business is protected for any sticky situations that might come up as we learn how to live in a post-COVID world.
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.