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6 Things You Need in Every Event Planning Contract

An event planning contract is a crucial way that event planners can legally protect themselves, not to mention an important source of legal protection for the clients, as well. Rather than loosely and verbally agreeing to some plans, it’s essential to put all of your agreements with a client regarding the event into writing. Not sure how to create a rock-solid event planning contract? Check out the six must-have elements to include in your written agreement.

Savvy event planners are well-informed about the need for a contract — in fact, it’s no small part of what makes these individuals successful. An official event planning contract can ensure that both you and the client know what you’re getting into, as well as the responsibilities each party is liable for. If it’s well-written, it just about prevents any unintentional miscommunications.

1. Terms for client cancellation

Cancellation most likely won’t be an issue if all goes well! However, you still want to be sure that you have a plan in place if things fall through. For instance, maybe something happens so that the host is no longer able to hold the event, but you’ve already put in weeks of work toward event planning. In that case, make sure you’re still going to get paid for the time you’ve spent so far. Your event planning contract should have a cancellation clause that describes how all deposits, fees, etc. that the client has paid to you so far cannot be refunded.

Not only will this protect you from having completely wasted time and effort if the client does indeed cancel, it reduces the chance that they will cancel, because they will still have to pay money for the cancelled event. Additionally, you should describe instances when the client is allowed to cancel, how much they will be refunded if they cancel early enough — all the details that will be pertinent depending on when the cancellation occurs.

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2. Terms for if you cancel

Since we’ve already discussed what to do if the client cancels, what about if you cancel as the event planner? It’s certainly possible that something can come up at the last minute that you could never have predicted, whether it’s a medical issue or a family emergency of some kind. In this case, you’ll want to be protected from extremely negative consequences. So, in your event planning contract, describe what you’ll do if you end up having to stop working on this event.

Perhaps you’ll refund the client to make up for inconveniencing them. Or maybe you’ll be responsible for locating another event planner to replace you so that the client is not left high and dry at the last minute. You and the client must come to an agreement about what would be satisfactory in this situation, and that agreement will vary with different event planning contracts.

3. Payment details and schedule

How much will the client pay you, and when will they do so? This includes deposits, various fees relating to vendors and other costs, and the entire amount that the client will end up paying you, among other fees depending on the event you’re planning. Don’t just say how much they’ll give you, and for what. Be sure to include a payment schedule as well — are they paying you for everything at the beginning or throughout the course of the planning process?

Additionally, as part of these details, you should include a budget for the event. You can’t predict how much everything will cost, but you can have a reasonable sense of an estimate so that no enormous costs come up at the last minute. The client should be able to predict roughly how much they’ll pay for everything, including costs you incur for vendors and other third-party services, as well as for your hours of event planning prowess. 

4. Which event planning services you’ll provide

Don’t just say that you’ll act as an event planner. What event planners do varies enormously, depending on the kind of event and the planner’s particular expertise. You don’t want to be on the hook for doing tons of extra work that you never expected to do. That’s why you and the client should establish clear parameters for what they expect you to be responsible for.

For instance, will you be in charge of marketing, or will the client have to hire another professional to oversee this element? Do you know enough about audio/video technology to figure this aspect out yourself, or will you expect that aspect of the event to be dealt with by someone else? Not only should you list what planning services you’ll provide — you should also mention any significant tasks that you won’t be doing. This way, the client has a clear sense from the beginning — and in writing — of what to expect.

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5. Termination clause

We’ve already discussed what happens if the client cancels (refer to item No. 1), or if you’re forced to back out as an event planner (item No. 2). But your event planning contract should also include a termination clause, also known as a “force majeure” clause, which is a different but related issue. If something happens that’s outside the control of both the client and yourself, such as a natural disaster (unlikely but definitely possible), you’ll both want to be legally protected.

This clause should include what kind of unexpected circumstances would fall under the clause, whether the event will be moved to a different date or location if these circumstances occur, how payment to the event planner will proceed in this situation, and so forth.

6. Indemnity-related clause

You might call this a “classic clause” for just about any contract. They’re so ubiquitous because they’re essential to include. Indemnification clauses make sure that the event planner isn’t held responsible for injuries, damages, and subsequent lawsuits that are the fault of the client, the event’s guests, vendors and suppliers hired by the client, and other parties other than the event planner.

Ensure that if something bad happens, the correct party is held legally responsible. This is what the indemnification clause covers, and you should be very careful in crafting it because it can have important consequences if something goes wrong. Define the terms in clear language in your event planning contract.

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