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Should Wedding Planners Sign on Behalf of Their Clients?
The wedding and event industry continues to grow year after year as more clients than ever create their dream wedding or event. To help fulfill this want, many event planners have started offering all-inclusive packaging for clients who want to have input for their events but do not want to be involved in the execution in any way. As such, many event planners offer to communicate with and book all vendors and contract with vendors themselves on behalf of their clients.
Although this is a popular trend, we here at The Legal Paige want to discuss why planners should consider NOT signing on behalf of their clients in most instances.
What To Do as an All-Inclusive Event Planner When Signing Contracts On Behalf of Clients:
All-inclusive planning packages can be a great way to relieve stress from your clients and make for an easier planning process. There is value in offering your clients this kind of package, but signing any contracts on behalf of your clients should not be included in your services in our legal opinion.
Signing a contract on behalf of another person is much more complicated than one might think. You cannot sign on your client’s behalf because they simply told you that you can. Instead, you need a signed Power of Attorney giving you the authorization to sign on behalf of your clients that is notarized. If you do not have a notarized Power of Attorney, any contract you sign on their behalf can be deemed either (1) a contract with YOU instead of them, (2) void altogether in the eyes of the law, or (3) even be deemed as fraudulent practices. YIKES!
Even if your clients are willing to sign a POA and you can legally sign on their behalf, should you sign on their behalf and take on that risk? The best legal practice is NO! We strongly advise against ever signing on your client's behalf. The lines of who the client is and who is liable to the vendors if the worst happens (think cancellation or a natural disaster) become blurry. You do not want to be stuck in a situation where you are fighting with your clients AND event vendors on who is liable if/when the worst happens. In legal terms, this is called ‘joint and several liability’ and we are trying to help you avoid being on the hook for those sticky situations.
Here is what I suggest you SHOULD offer instead: You can still offer your clients an all-inclusive package but request them to meet you (in-person or virtually) for a contract signing day. You’ll be in charge of going through the contracts and reviewing them, offer the clients guidance on necessary contract negotiations, and then get the final contracts back from the vendors. Then, they can sign their contracts all at once with you assisting them. Think of it similar to a real estate agent helping their clients navigate and draft up the contracts, but the homeowners are always the ones signing. This way, the client's signatures are on the contracts and they alone are liable for the terms within the contract. BUT you are still providing a quality all-inclusive service by organizing and gathering the documents and ensuring that no glaring issues are present! Not only will you be better protected legally by doing this, but the vendors will feel better knowing that you merely assisted and have a clear indication of who their actual client is from the get-go.
The only, and we mean ONLY, exception to this is with high-profile celebrities or government officials who have lawyers in place that draft up extremely clear POAs for you to sign and execute documents anonymously on behalf of your clients. If there is a lawyer involved with the clients, you should also have a lawyer involved to review these types of documents before you sign on with the client. Don’t ever agree to sign on behalf of the client without your lawyer and their lawyer agreeing on the clear terms of what that is going to entail.
What To Do as a Vendor When an All-Inclusive Event Planner Signs Contracts On Behalf of the Client:
We have heard from countless service providers that they have been approached by wedding planners who are wanting to sign the service contract on behalf of the clients. It is our legal opinion that the ONLY people that should be signing your contract are the clients….not their parents, not their aunts or uncles, and definitely not their wedding planners. It is your client’s responsibility to pay you and to uphold the requirements on event days including keeping the event safe for you and free from harassment, so your clients need to be the ones who sign the contract.
The key to getting the clients to sign is to be polite and professional but firm. Explain that you are happy to work with the wedding planner on all future planning, but the legal contractual obligations need to remain with your clients. In the event that you receive a request like this, you could respond like this:
“Thank you so much for reaching out and inquiring about my services. I am excited about the possibility of working with your clients for their event. If you would like to book me for [fill your services] on [enter date] I will need your client's contact information along with their signatures on the attached contract. It is my business policy that the clients must be the ones who sign the contract. I am happy to continue to include you in all communications and plans as long as I receive written confirmation from your clients to do so. Thank you so much and I look forward to the potential of working with you.”
Responding in a professional manner and holding your ground shows potential clients and planners that you are a serious business and are someone who values legal business practices. Hopefully, this will earn you respect in the event industry, and will establish for planners and clients that you can be trusted for their event and for future events as well.
If the wedding planner still takes issue with the client's signing, then the next step would be to ask for the clients’ lawyer's contact so that you can ask the lawyer directly. Then you’d ask the lawyer if the clients have given the planner the legal authority to sign the contract. Lawyers know how to navigate this issue while maintaining important confidentiality if their clients are requesting it.
Be Sure To Use Legit Contracts
No matter if you’re a wedding planner OR a service provider for the clients, you need to have the proper contracts in place to protect yourself and your business from all what-if situations. TLP’s Wedding Planning Contract will instantly help you set boundaries with your clients and protect yourself from worst-case scenarios. And, service providers, don’t miss out on our contract templates HERE specific to your unique business that will help you have a professional + legally legit business.
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.