Nothing can be more intimidating than planning your own wedding. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve never been married. I’m basically one hair follicle and quiet Saturday night away from being a Benedictine Monk. But, that being said, as a wedding lawyer, I have a little bit o’ experience with the wedding business. So, by extension, I know a thing or two about what you should be consider when deciding which drunk Uncle should stay home, negotiating non-refundable deposits, and understanding who owns the copyrights to the wedding photos. A ‘legal’ wedding planning checklist, if you will. And I will.
Wedding Planning Checklist (of Legal Stuff)
1. WRITTEN CONTRACTS WITH WEDDING VENDORS.
Dude, this is like wedding planning checklist 101 stuff here. Still, I get calls on a weekly basis from disgruntled Brides & Grooms claiming that some vendor did or did not do this or that. When prompted whether there is a written contract that would verify whether “this or that” was an obligation, they answer, “we didn’t think it was important.” Whomp, whomp. One of the many, many, many, uses of the written contract is to let the world (in particular, the Judge) what the promises and obligations of each party actually are. That’s important when trying to convince the world that the vendor failed to meet those promises or obligations. Memories fade and become obscured. Remember that scene from 12 Angry Men (starts at 109:00)? Juror #4 (my favorite) was turned because he could not remember the correct title from the second feature at the theater he attended the previous Monday evening. And that was only like 3 days before! Without a written contract, by the time the event comes along, let alone a trial, it’s doubtful that anyone can really remember who was supposed to do what. GET IT IN WRITING, or hope you get the ghost of Henry Fonda in the jury.
2. DEPOSITS CLEARLY REFUNDABLE OR NON-REFUNDABLE.
Life happens. Military personnel get deployed. Great-Great-Grandma Peggy (aka ‘mee-ma’) bites it. That job opens up in Ohio. This will more than likely NOT pull on the heart-strings of the wedding vendor should you have to cancel the wedding and beg for the deposit back. It’s better to make sure that you understand the deposit polices of the vendor (AND IT’S IN WRITING-see above). Sometimes you never get it back, sometimes you get back half, sometimes you earn a credit. Sometimes date changes or postponements are allowed. Sometimes date changes and postponements are considered cancellations. It should all be explicitly laid out in the contract.
3. WEDDING INSURANCE.
Wedding insurance comes in two varieties and protects the Bride & Groom in two separate ways. First, there is ‘cancellation’ insurance in the event that life happens (see above) and the wedding cannot go forward. This type of insurance will cover lost deposits and travel expenses. Be advised that this coverage does not protect for ‘change of heart.’ In other words, if he’s cheatin’ and the wedding is off, you’re better off going after him for the losses. The second type of wedding insurance is ‘liability’ insurance. This type of insurance covers bodily injury and property damage resulting from an off the chain wedding. Many wedding venues require this, and if they do not, it may be worth looking into.
This wedding planning checklist is not sexy. However, what do they say? An ounce of non-sexy prevention equals like a pound of sexy-cure. Keep that in mind when putting together your ceremony. Happy planning!