Wedding Bells & Legal Dwells
Updated: May 19
Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna Get … Legal Protection!
It can take quite a team to pull off a wedding. Venues, flowers, music, invitations, hair and makeup, photography, dresses, tuxedos, catering and cake, planners. The list goes on. If you’re one of the members of that team, you know that anything can happen and it’s important to make sure your small business is protected from even the craziest of mothers-in-law, most out-of-nowhere summer storms, and stubborn brides.
A few legal considerations (emphasis on few) for your wedding vendor business include: having a separate business entity and operating separate from yourself (read our whole separate blog about this), having a written contract, protecting your intellectual property, and more.
A Written Contract
First and foremost, having a written contract between you and your client is important because this will keep everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively. When they aren’t sure or have a question surrounding it, you have something to refer back to in order to clear things up. A written contract will protect your property, business, staff, the lovely couple themselves, and their guests.
Jodie Colella is a wedding-business entrepreneur, founder of the Pittsburgh Wedding Community, and owner of the venue Station House 7 in Delmont, Pennsylvania. She says that it’s important to have something in place that the clients can understand and refer back to throughout the planning process.
“The verbiage needs to be clear, concise and consistent so that you both know what to expect of the other. Otherwise, it can confuse the client on what you offer and do for them – as well as what you expect of them.” she notes, adding “Stick to your contract! Don’t allow fear of negative reviews or pushback to deter you away from enforcing it.”
Specific key provisions to include: a scope of services provision to make sure the client doesn’t push you to do more work than they’ve paid for, a scheduling section, payment terms, a force majeure clause that protects you in the event that something happens beyond anyone’s control (like COVID-19), a cancellation clause, and more.
Check out our blogpost with other important terms to include or talk to an attorney for help with your specific business. Trellis also has various contract templates for wedding vendors for sale in our template library including ones for photography, catering, event planning, for cancellation/rescheduling changes, and more. And we’re always adding to the list. Don’t worry florists – we’re coming for you next!
The Proper Credentials
Depending on your industry, you might need specific permits or licensing to provide your services. If your work in the wedding world involves the service of food or beverages, there are likely specific requirements and permits you have to have in place, such as a food safety license (from county or state), a liquor license, and hiring bartenders and servers with proper credentials. These permits and licenses may be provided/required through the state, the county, or a municipality. You’ll need to check which one applies to your business based on where you are.
If you provide a wedding venue, you need to obtain a certificate of occupancy, and make sure your property is zoned properly for commercial use, and check if there are specific noise ordinances that apply to you (what’s a venue without a killer dancefloor?).
Ownership of your Creative Work
The art you make and the ideas you have carry specific ownership rights with them called intellectual property (or, IP). This can include something clearly artistic like your logo or the photos you take, but it can also include more obscure ideas related to your business, like the process behind the wedding planning services you provide. You want to make sure that your intellectual property is protected in your contract through provisions that specifically outline who owns the creation and what clients may use it for. For example, as a photographer, you might want to make clear terms that those photos are yours, but perhaps have a provision that clients may share them on social media if they give you credit.
Speaking of social media, you will also want to understand copyright rules surrounding ownership of your work and the work of others. You don’t want to accidentally share something you didn’t actually have the rights to. For example, perhaps you are a makeup artist who wants to share a picture taken by a wedding photographer of a bride’s wedding day glow. Make sure you have that photographer’s permission to share that picture. Most cases, they will allow it, but will probably want credit for the photo. Learn more about copyright and social media in this blog post.
There are so many other legal thoughts to iron out as a wedding vendor. Here are a few others:
Making sure that you have formed an entity separate from yourself like an LLC so that your personal assets are protected from liability.
Having the right insurance that protects your property or other business assets from potential liability if you get sued or if there is an accident and most venues require vendors to carry insurance.
If you deliver goods through a market online, such as decor, baked goods, or custom stationary, pin down your purchase order terms and conditions. The Trellis Template Library™ has language for purchase.
Having employee policies that help ensure communication, satisfaction, and better customer service. Read our blog about small business employee policies for examples.
Talking to an attorney who works with small businesses for other considerations specific to what you do.
Ultimately, having proper legal protection through contracts, insurance, proper permitting/licenses, and other clear communications will keep your business running smoothly and safely, and ensure your customers can get hitched without a hitch ;).
DISCLAIMER: This blog is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should discuss their specific situation with an attorney.