One of my most frequently asked questions I get is "Who should sign my contract?"
And while that seems like a simple question, it might not be as easy as you think.
While there are few black-and-white, hard-and-fast rules in law, one thing we can generally count on is this: the only people bound by a contract (the only people who can be forced to do- or not-do something) are the people who sign it. This means that your client might not technically be the couple if they didn't sign the contract!
What does this mean for you as a wedding & event pro? It means that the person who signs your contract is the responsible party-- and it is who you ultimately answer to. Anyone outside of that signed contract won't be able to be "forced" into anything, including providing information or payment.
This can be critical if your agreement states that the couple will- or will-not do things like provide a wedding day timeline, nailing things to venue walls, getting back to you within a certain period of time, not use certain types of sparklers (HELLO BURN WOUNDS!) etc! If you just had the mom/ dad/ rich Aunt Alice/ whomever is paying sign, the couple wouldn't be bound to do (or not do) anything in your contract!
Here's some examples to illustrate this, along with what I would recommend:
- You're a wedding planner. The couple comes to you to obtain your services. Get both to sign the contract. Why? If they break up, you want to be able to get that money from either one of them (it's called "joint and several liability" in law world, if you're wondering). This could be helpful if one of them leaves the area post- breakup!
- You're a wedding planner. The mother of the bride is paying for the wedding, including your fee. You want to make sure you get paid by the mother, but you also want to take instruction from-- and follow the directives of-- the bride/ groom/ couple. Keeping them happy is your priority, after all. Get both the couple and the Mother to sign the contract.
- You're a photographer. The father of the groom is paying for your photography services, but the couple is in charge of purchasing the prints. Have both the Father and the couple sign the contract.
- You're an event planner. There is an event being thrown by a business, and a venue has connected you with them. You are going to be working for the client, not the venue. Get the corporate client to sign the contract. If the corporate client cancels, you want to be able to have them pay your cancellation fee-- not the venue! Don't want to burn that bridge.
BUT CONSIDER: One caveat- be aware that the person who signed the contract is always able to sue on the contract as well (and a potential "backfire" is a "never happy" parent/ grandparent/ Great Aunt Alice who thinks your photographs are "too light and overexposed" or that your planning services were subpar. If you're sending extreme crotchety-ness, consider leaving the payor off of the contract. This is very rare, but a consideration.
In a nutshell? Always get your couple to sign the contract, and consider getting the person paying as well.