7 Must-Have Clauses for your Event Planning Contract
When it comes to planning an event, it's often all the little details that add up to make an incredible day! No matter what kind of event you've been hired for, you know the importance of ensuring you and your client are on the same page when it comes to the overall vision for the event, and what it's going to take to pull it off.
When it comes to the legal aspect of it, things can quickly become overwhelming, which is why it's so important to make sure you have a contract in place that outlines all the essential details.
Your event planning contract is where you solidify your discussions with your client about how your services fit into their vision for the day. While this blog was written primarily for event planners, it's also a great read for anyone hiring an event planner too.
Here are a few things I believe are essential to have in your event planning services contract.
(If you'd rather skip this blog, and just grab the contract that includes all of this, you can check it out here!)
Do I Really Need an Event Planning Agreement
Short answer - yes!
I am a firm believer that one of the most important parts of running a business, especially an event planning business, is to have solid contracts in place that can set the tone, expectations, and boundaries for the working relationship between you and your client. Your event planning agreement ensures that everyone is on the same page.
In the event planning space, emotions are high, deadlines are hard and budgets don't always match expectations. It's crucial to ensure that you've clearly set out expectations from the start with your client and that you have your contract to refer to when your client changes their mind.
An event planning contract gives you a clear roadmap and scope of your services so your client knows exactly what they can (and can’t) expect from you before, during, and after the event. This can help you prevent “emergency situations” and costly legal fees by having everything outlined clearly in your contract.
I also believe a great contract answers questions your client might not have even considered up front. You're the expert, and I believe it's your job to let them know what working with you is going to look like.
7 Must-Have Clauses for Your Event Planning Agreement
Whether you hire a lawyer to draft your event planning agreement or you use an event planning contract template you want to ensure you cover these important terms.
#1: Scope of Services Clause
This is so important to spend time on for each client to ensure that you're scope of services accurately describes the services you are going to be providing, in lots of detail. Your services clause should be a VERY specific and detailed breakdown of the services that you will provide, such as event design, venue selection, vendor management, day-of-coordination, management of third-parties, etc. Be very clear and specific on the scope of services and the specific tasks that will be performed, as well as the timeline they will be performed in.
Being too vague in your description and scope of services clause can lead to scope creep, which is tough to avoid. If you offer different event planning packages, review them to ensure they list EVERYTHING that is included. If you choose to do so, you can offer other common services that are requested as additional add-on services that the client can pay you for.
A few specifics to consider including in your event planning contract (and which might need their own clause) are:
- Will you be in charge of reaching out and coordinating vendors, or are you just providing a list to your client for them to reach out to?
- Will you help negotiate with third-party companies on behalf of your client or are you just providing a list of third-party companies?
- Are you or one of your event planning personnel attending the event on the event date? This might not be included in your services, but is definitely an important detail to include!
How many meetings will you provide during the planning phase? Will these be in-person or over a video call?
#2: Meals and Breaks
If you or your personnel are attending the event on the day of, it’s important to include a clause in your event planning contract that addresses meals and breaks. With the hustle and bustle of the event day, it’s important that you have time to take a break and refuel.
You and your client should be on the same page about whether or not you and your team are expecting to be fed at the event.
Industry standards might differ in your area, but it is definitely something to consider! You don’t want to be stuck at an event, absolutely starving by 3 pm, and have no idea what the expectation is. Determine your agreement, communicate it, plan around it, and make sure it’s in your event planning contract! If you don't let your client know, it might not look so great when they find you scarfing a sandwich behind the curtain while your keynote is presenting!
#3: Location Rules and Permits
This clause is often overlooked! Just like you want your services to be respected, you want to respect the expectations, permits, and location rules of the venue you are hosting the event at. Not only will this make the event go smoother, but it keeps your reputation in check!
First, determine who is in charge of what in your event planning contract. Check on the location rules and ensure your contract reflects them.
A few important things to consider are:
- Do you need a permit to take photos or video footage in any area of the venue or surrounding location?
- Is there a limit to how many people can be in one area at once?
- Are there off-limits spaces in the venue?
I always recommend including language in your event planning contract that states that you will, at all times, respect the rules of the event location. This protects you and your team and gives you a reference point to confidently say no to requests from clients that go against those rules, especially on such an exciting, fast-paced day where it’s easy to get caught up in everything going on.
#4: Payment Terms
Your payment terms are an essential clause in your event planning agreement. This should include the total cost of the services, the payment schedule, and any late payment fees or other charges that may apply. It’s also a common practice in the event planning space to collect a non-refundable retainer (deposit) to “save the date” in your calendar.
Your event planning agreement should answer these questions regarding payment terms:
- Do you collect a non-refundable “save the date” retainer?
- How is this retainer applied to the overall invoice? Is it clear that this retainer is non-refundable, or partially non-refundable if the client cancels?
- When is the balance of the payment due?
- Do you collect non-refundable payments at regular intervals leading up to the event?
- Does your fee change if the location or guest count changes (on the understanding that your workload likely changes as a result)?
- What happens if a payment is missed?
Do you have a late fee clause?
#5: Cancellation and Rescheduling Policies
If we learned anything from the past few years during the pandemic, it’s that anything can happen and you need to be very clear on your cancellation and rescheduling policies. This is especially true if you do collect a non-refundable retainer fee or allow your clients to reschedule within a certain timeline for a fee.
Your contract should outline what happens if either party needs to cancel, reschedule, or terminate the agreement. This should address things like non-payment, failure to perform, etc.
Your event planning contract should address questions such as:
- What happens to the retainer if your client cancels or reschedules?
- What happens to any other payments that are due after a cancellation? Is your client still liable for those payments?
- What happens if YOU need to cancel? (Things happen, and you may want to give your client a plan B in your contract in case something happens and you are not able to fulfill your duties and obligations).
#6: Event Working Conditions
Since event planning services are delivered in-person and on-location, it’s important to ensure that you and your team are safe while working the event. Your event planning agreement should set out your expectations for safety and event working conditions.
This clause should consider:
- What happens if there is dangerous or inclement weather? Is it clear you won't put your team at risk?
Your protocol if guests get unruly
#7: Liability and Insurance
Planning and putting on an event requires a lot of time, effort, supplies, and people to make it happen. There is a lot of risk when it comes to items being damaged or lost, people getting injured when setting up or tearing down the event, or attendees getting hurt by doing something as simple as tripping over a power cord and breaking their wrist, etc. Of course you never want anything like this to happen, but you must be prepared for how you’ll handle it in the event that something DOES happen. You don’t want to be scrambling to find an answer or know what steps to take in the heat of the moment if an accident or emergency does occur.
Therefore, your event planning agreement should include a clause to specifically address liability and insurance. This should outline who will be responsible for any damages, losses, or injuries that occur during the event process (including setting up and tearing down) and what type of insurance coverage is required. While event locations should have their own insurance, it's important to communicate with your client any additional coverage they should consider. As an event planner, it's important to consider getting your coverage for your business and employees.
Event planning is a pretty high risk industry, so I highly recommend reaching out to a local insurance agency to help you determine what insurance coverage you need for you, your business, and your team.
As you can see, there is a lot of details that go into an event planning agreement that will not only legally protect you, but ensure you and your client are on the same page from the start. Spending time upfront discussing and laying out these details will likely save you time, money and energy in the future.
If you are looking to implement an event planning agreement for the first time or update what you currently have, you should check out our Event Planning Contract Template, which includes these clauses and more.