Contracts 101: Keeping your Bridal Customers Faithful
How to create a wedding contract
that will protect your shop as well as your clients.
by Chris Gigley
Carla Emert realized she needed a bridal contract for her flower shop
when brides began asking for one. Frankly, she recalls, they expected
“Every other vendor involved with weddings has a contract for brides to
sign—the food-service people, facilities managers, event planners,” says
Mrs. Emert, who owns Troy Flower Shop in Troy, Mo., with her husband,
Steve. “Florists are among the few groups who don’t always have a
contract to fill out.”
Mrs. Emert says she created a wedding contract about eight years ago,
and the perception of her shop changed when she did. “The brides are
thankful to know they’re getting a contract,” she explains. “They see it
as something of value. The wedding contract also has helped our shop
project a more professional image.”
how to go about it
Troy Flower Shop has never had a problem with weddings nor does it do
high-risk, expensive weddings. Even so, Mrs. Emert says developing a
wedding contract was one of the best moves she has made, and it wasn’t
difficult to do.
“We took a template given to us by my son-in-law, who works in the
insurance business, and customized it to fit our business,” she says.
“Then we ran it by our attorney to make sure everything was correct.”
A bridal contract is also a relatively low-maintenance document. Mrs.
Emert says her contract hasn’t changed much. She added new language when
the shop started renting out related wedding equipment, but that’s it.
Of course, florists can always hire an attorney to draft a wedding
contract for their businesses, which is the option with which larger
florists and those who do large events might be most comfortable. Other
options include consulting with other florists who have contracts;
collectively hiring an attorney as a group, such as a florist
association; and downloading basic contracts off the Internet.
what a contract should address
Your wedding contract should include these basic elements:
• Client information. This information should be as comprehensive
as possible, including the client’s full name, address and contact
information plus an alternate contact such as the fiancé (groom) or
wedding planner. Also include the locations, dates and times of the
ceremony and reception as well as any other related events, such as a
rehearsal dinner, that you are handling. You might consider preparing
separate contracts for each event, particularly if they are on different
• Vendor information. Remember, such contracts benefit both
parties, so be as comprehensive here as you are with the client
information. Include your business name and address as well as contact
information for the client’s main wedding coordinator at your shop—the
person (or people) in charge of handling each ceremony and
reception—including cell-phone numbers for the day of the event.
• Products and services. Outline the type and description of the
products and services you offer, including as many details as possible.
Read between the lines, and don’t assume anything. Include the date and
time the client can expect delivery of your products and services. And
be sure to add a stipulation that if the client needs to make changes or
acquire additional services after the original contract is signed, an
addendum must be signed by all parties.
• Payment information. List a schedule of payments, including
deposit and final payment dates and amounts as well as acceptable forms
of payment. Also, spell out any overtime charges, cancellation charges
and your refund policy. This is particularly important to protect your
business in the event of unforeseen circumstances, and you can always
forgo these stated policies if you choose, depending on the situation,
which can make you a hero in the client’s mind and generate lots of
positive word of mouth for your business.
You might recall the situation that happened to Christopher Davidson of
Christopher’s Tuxedo & Bridal in Gainesville, Ga., who was the florist
for 2005’s infamous “runaway bride,” Jennifer Wilbanks. As we reported
in our September 2005 article, “What About the Flowers?” (Page 85), Mr.
Davidson requires deposits that cover the estimated cost of the flowers
and supplies he orders for weddings and events; however, in this case,
Mr. Davidson’s wholesaler, Craig Belden of Reeves Floral Products, also
in Gainesville, was able to sell all of the flowers that were ordered
for that wedding during the following week, so the expense to Mr.
Davidson was minimized.
• Rental items. If you rent out candelabra, archways, centerpiece
props or other related equipment, specify the quantities and
descriptions of such equipment, the exact time and date the client will
receive the items, how and when the client needs to return them (or when
you will pick them up), and whether the client will receive a deposit
refund if the items are returned in proper condition. If you do require
a deposit and offer a refund, indicate how and when it will be issued.
• Setup. Write into the contract the dates and times both the
client and you will have access to the ceremony and reception venues,
when you can deliver any rental items, when you will arrive to set up
for the event and when setup for each event will be complete. Be sure to
do site inspections of the venues ahead of time so you will be familiar
with them, including unloading areas.
a lesson learned
“A contract basically clarifies everything for both the client and the
shop,” assures Mrs. Emert. “It lays out everything for the bride so
there are no surprises when the big day comes.”
In a perfect world, that would always be true. But surprises do occur,
especially with emotionally charged events like weddings, and a solid
bridal contract should neutralize any potential problems that could
arise. Ian Prosser, aifd, aaf, learned that even the smallest detail in
a contract can make a difference.
Mr. Prosser owns Tampa, Fla.-based Botanica International, which handles
about 150 weddings a year, most of which range between $8,000 and
$10,000. But occasionally he’ll have a much bigger wedding job, and it
was one of those in 2005 that caused him to revamp his bridal contract.
“It was a wedding with flowers that totaled $102,000,” recalls Mr.
Prosser. “In our contract, we requested a $10,000 nonrefundable deposit,
which we received. A month before the wedding, we required another
$20,000, but the contract didn’t specify that it was nonrefundable.
Three days after the client made that payment, the wedding was called
Legal wrangling ensued for several months, before the client’s
credit-card company finally gave her back the $20,000. “They had no
regard for the fact that I’d spent 87 hours working on the wedding and
the other expenses I incurred,” Mr. Prosser says. “Just the hours I’d
put in totaled about $8,700. I also had incurred expenses for airline
flights and hotels to go to a gift market as well as all the deposits
I’d paid for materials. I probably lost another $8,000 there.”
Following that experience, Mr. Prosser immediately had an attorney
revise his wedding contract. “You need to lay out a payment plan, and
make the client start making payments further in advance if the wedding
is in excess of $40,000,” he advises. Mr. Prosser requires three
payments from clients who don’t pay the entire bill up front. “We now
require the second installment three months in advance, instead of one,
because couples don’t normally get cold feet that far out.”
Mr. Prosser says he hasn’t had any problems since. Like Mrs. Emert, he
says brides have been conditioned by other vendors and expect to have to
sign a contract. As long as all the legal language is solid, enforcing a
wedding contract is easy, and having one can save your business from a
possible financial disaster.
Chris Gigley is an author, speaker and freelance writer. He resides in
Greensboro, N.C. You may contact him at
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