A Complete Breakdown of a Wedding Venue Contract - Part I
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A Complete Breakdown of a Wedding Venue Contract – Part I

Business Tips, Tricks, and Resources

Lindsay Lucas works on her wedding venue contract.

Hey friends! Today, I am doing a step-by-step walkthrough of a wedding venue rental contract! This is one of the biggest questions I get, both on Instagram and at The Venue Academy. I’m going to dive into this and give you a complete breakdown.

A wedding venue contract is a living document – you don’t just create it once and then use the same one forever. You will be constantly editing it, because every wedding will teach you something new. 

As a side note, you should be doing a wedding venue contract audit at least twice a year. Keep an editable copy in your google drive, CRM, hard drive, Dropbox, etc. so that you always have access to it.

My wedding venue contract lives in Dubsado, which is the CRM (customer relationship management software) I use. Dubsado is what I use to send all of my contracts to be signed digitally and to send all of my invoices to be paid digitally and any other agreements to my clients. 

The wedding venue contract is what clients sign to reserve their date with you. It’s what expresses the whole inner workings of what it’s like to become a couple at your venue and it details the rules, processes, and procedures your couple should be following as a client at your venue. It’s a major aspect of what elevates a client experience. 

Before we dive in, here are a few tips on your wedding venue contract:

  1. You have to understand your own contract. So, take yourself and your lawyer through this contract to make sure you comprehend every single word. You need to understand the legal ease so that you can pull out those parts for your client if you need to explain something to them. 
  2. If you can, put as much of your wedding venue contract in plain English. It will help your clients feel comfortable and confident in signing it because they’ll understand what they’re signing. It doesn’t have to be a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo – it just needs to say what it needs to say and protect both parties. 

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a wedding venue contract or need a new contract, Paige Hulse has an online shop that has all of these templates, and if you use the code LINDSAYLUCAS10 you can get 10% off. 

Alright, let’s get started.

As I’ve already said, my wedding venue contract lives in Dubsado and everything is sent and signed virtually, for the most part. What a system like Dubsado, Aisle Planner, Honeybook, or Hello Sign will do is that they capture the IP address of the person signing and that’s what makes it legal.

Here are the different sections of my wedding venue contract. Yours will look different based on the different services you offer, but this will give you a good example and a general idea of what a wedding venue contract looks like. 

Part 1: Wedding Contract General Information 

This is all on the first page of the wedding venue contract so that you can reference it easily without having to dig somewhere into the contract. 

Today’s date

Couple’s name (first and last)

Wedding date 

I write out the full wedding date all throughout the entire wedding venue contract so that there is no confusion as to what the wedding date is. It happens! 

Venue rental fee 

This is important because our rental fee is different than the damage deposit because that’s in a separate section. It will list out what amount is due on which date, and a program like Dubsado will do that for you.

Your venue rental includes

This is a list of the hard items that the venue rental includes (chairs, the getting ready at the site, bathrooms, prep kitchen, parking lot, access to the building, etc). 

Client’s contact information

I make the client type this in again so that I have the most accurate and updated contact information. 

Initial

This is where the client initials if all of the above information is correct. I have multiple sections in my wedding venue contract where they have to initial that they agree and understand what they read. 

An image of an elegant newlywed table at a wedding venue.

If you’re pretty early on in the process of creating your contract and you’re just getting your wedding venue going, get my free guide on how to prelaunch your venue!

Part 2: Wedding Contract Legal Speak

This section of the wedding venue contract says that the agreement is being entered into between the lessor and the lessee. I provide my business name, address, and my client’s address. 

Section One:

  1. The venue is the lessor and I grant the permission to rent it on the client’s wedding date.
  2. The date and times of permitted use – day of the wedding and the job start and job end time, which is the times they can access the venue on the SAME day. Specify when they have to be off your property. 
  3. Times of permitted use. I often get people who want to access the venue early or come in the day before so it’s important to have the date of permitted use and the time. If you want to be flexible closer to the date, you can, but you don’t have to because it’s in your wedding venue contract.
  4. Ceremony start time rules – the guidelines of when a wedding ceremony can start at your venue. 
  5. Climate control rules – this is something particular to a specific venue so it’s included in the wedding venue contract so that the clients aren’t surprised. Nothing in your contract should surprise them. The wedding venue contract is in writing what they should already know. 

The purpose of the wedding venue contract is to provide you with maximum protection. Some people tell me that they’re intimidated to present their contract to their bride. If you’re worried, create a version of your wedding venue contract that’s a little more bride-friendly. One way I’ve found to do that is to create a Client Welcome Magazine to present the information in a beautiful format! Remember, the wedding venue contract is also there to protect your client because they don’t know what they don’t know. Weddings can also be a little unpredictable and they’re not in control of every human being that steps onto the property, so the contract protects them from the things that are out of their control.

Section Two: A list of the big points

  1. Last call for drinks and the final song and what happens after that final song (i.e., lights on and cleanup)
  2. How much time their vendors are allotted for decorating
  3. When decor has to be completed
  4. Only approved vendors onsite until 1-hour prior to the ceremony 
  5. Ceremony rehearsal prior to the wedding (exact time is subject to availability because sometimes there are multiple weddings per weekend)
  6. Final guest count

Section Three: Day-Of Coordination 

Not everyone will have this if you have an outside wedding planner. But if your wedding venue includes day-of coordination, you’ll want to include a section like this in your wedding venue contract.

This section of the wedding venue contract states that the venue rental fee of ____ includes wedding management/day-of coordination service, which includes “XYZ”, which is a bullet-pointed list of exactly what they’re going to get in plain English, and also what it doesn’t include. 

This section also says that we do not hire, negotiate rates, sign contracts, or make payments with all other vendors. My personal opinion is that you should not ever sign a contract for your couple. I don’t want the responsibility.

Section Four: Communications Clause

Everyone should have one of these in their wedding venue contract and this is what it says: “The majority of our communication will be done via email from the email address “XYZ.” It tells them what my business hours are and the specific time zone. It states how fast I’ll reply to emails and it says that once the wedding is 60 days out or less, I’ll reply even faster. This is an easy way to underpromise and overdeliver. I tell them why I communicate via email, which is because it’s easier for me to document and file their information. 

This section of the wedding venue contract also states what will happen if they email me outside of the stated business hours – that they will receive an automated reply and I’ll respond when I’m back in the office. I don’t personally communicate about wedding stuff over social media and I let them know how they can call me, the hours for when I check voicemail, how fast I’ll return the call, and that I don’t respond via text message. Beginning 10 days prior to the wedding, I’ll respond to voicemails and emails within 30 mins. I want them to know that I’m there for them. 

The communication clause in the wedding venue contract solves a lot of what-if scenarios on both sides. It’s black and white. There are no questions. If you do accept text messages from your clients, I would suggest that you turn off the read receipts so they can’t see when you’ve read it because it triggers the assumption that you’re going to reply immediately. This prevents potential disappointment. And if the idea of all of this communication is a little bit daunting, I’ve put together over 75 different email templates you can use to correspond with your clients – these will help you streamline your process.

Section Five: Venue Rental Fee and Payment Schedule

This part of the wedding venue contract outlines the payment that the client is going to pay you. I don’t call my venue rental fee, or any of the payments, a “deposit” because that insinuates a feeling of refundability, and my damage deposit is the only thing that’s 100% refundable. Talk to a lawyer about this, but I don’t even call the first payment a deposit. 

My lawyer, Paige Hulse, says that you should take no less than three payments. Why? Because God forbid, you have to go to small claims court, it won’t lend itself in your favor if you do a 50% deposit. It’s considered unearned income on the venue’s behalf – 50% is not seen as a reasonable amount of income to be earned since the wedding didn’t happen – so the judge, more than likely, will not rule in your favor. 

An image of photos and notes for preparing a wedding venue contract.

You want to take at least 3-4 payments. This can also feel a little more attainable for some brides. It helps them budget and spread out all of their fees in a helpful payment schedule. I recommend that they make the final payment no less than 60 days out. Most vendors require their final balance to be due 30 days out, so if the final venue payment is also due 30 days out, that couple is getting hit with a lot of payments all at once. 

My biggest advice on this point is, make it easy for people to give you money! If you don’t take credit card payments, figure out how to do it so that it’s easy for your clients to pay you. 

This section of the wedding venue contract also includes the full payment schedule and outlines the 15-day grace period if they don’t want to continue with you. This will include all of their money back except for the $275 retainer fee, which covers all of the admin costs and my physical time that takes place upfront. After the grace period, all payments are non-refundable. 

You can have a different refundability process, but this section of the wedding venue contract lets your client know they don’t have to remember these dates because they will all be in the contract. My contract states that if a payment is missed, “the wedding date reservation shall be canceled”. That sounds harsh, but remember, this contract is the protector of all things. The contract says, “Here’s what you need to do,” and then you can make empathetic decisions from there if you want. 

Finally, send your finished wedding venue contract to a lawyer or an attorney to make sure that you’ve covered everything and not left anything out. I would recommend going to a lawyer who knows the wedding industry intimately because they’ll be more apt to catch things that you’ve missed. 

Section Six: Damage and Infraction Deposit

This section of the wedding venue contract talks about the damage deposit that is paid upfront. Listen, I don’t want to keep people’s money – I want them to get it back! If I can do something while I’m on-site to prevent something from happening, I’ll do it. This section talks about how much the deposit is, when it’s due, and how it’s fully refundable if there’s no damage to the property and all of the rules in the contract agreement have been followed. 

I added the infraction part in my wedding venue contract because I needed an additional way to prop up my policies and procedures. It draws the client’s eye to the rules because it’s in the contract. Also, it helps to put the rules, policies, and procedures in a different document so that they’re clear for your client. Following the wedding date, the deposit will be refunded 14 days from the wedding date and an automatic email gets sent.

Okay, friends, I know this was a lot of information, but I really want to walk you through an entire wedding venue contract so you can see what all is entailed. If you’re ready for more, you can click on the following link to access Part II of this subject: Part II – A Complete Breakdown of a Wedding Venue Contract. In part two, I’m going to walk you through the rest of my wedding venue contract. And in the meantime, download my free guide to how to prep your wedding venue to get ready for booking season!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Just getting started with your wedding venue business? The Venue Academy is the perfect place for you to learn from experts!

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