THE LEGAL END


LEGALITIES and PERMISSIONS
to protect and serve your interests

Weddings, legally speaking are a binding agreement and are no different from any business relationship with another party.  It might be only for a day or possibly a weekend, but not a long-term agreement but an agreement nevertheless.  

If money or goods transpires within the agreement it has important legal ramifications and you should consider all the points, giving it some careful thought, doing the what-if's, and only then only be entered.

The trap of entering agreements without due consideration, or mistrust even if it's a family member can be the last thing you need. A contract is as much for your protection as the Brides.  

About families, just remember you can choose your friends, not your relatives and this is a super emotional time, things get said and sometimes don't go away.  I will never do a family event again if I live long enough.

You will want to keep the agreement pertinent to address all the possible situations, glitches, surprises, brain farts, which may show or rear their ugly heads because given a chance they will show up.  

These are called "What-Ifs”.  First mentioned by Father Murphy-Lawes in his first encyclical “Wha Da Fuk” and today is doing well in this arena.  You also want to keep things very clear and in simple language on the subjects at hand, this is not a time for "he said, she said". And it is not a time for needing three other lawyers to argue the valid points.


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 

  1. Make it as clear as a bell, you are their Photographer and the BRIDE is the sole boss at the Wedding, regardless of who is writing the check. That’s her responsibility.  Her wishes are the ones that count. 
  2. The latest legal contracts and agreements for weddings stresses and reinforces that during the time and at the venues of the wedding, I am the sole professional Photographer there. 
  3. Thus, this reduces legalities to only two people if it comes to that. You and the Bride, other parties are listened to, but don’t count. Learn this point well and spell it out in WRITING. That’s the only thing that counts and wins in COURT.
  4. It’s a two-way street and if I have NO interference, I have NO objections to the other folks shooting pictures. This is a happy compromise, for all parties. To tell them no one else can take pictures are foolish and in some cases, can cost you the job. 
  5. The giving part is you will make sure the guests get pictures if they work with you. Explain it from a standpoint of cooperation, not one of starting a conflagration or bushfire you must put out later.
  6. You are the insurance agent, not the town bully. Photographers are starting to charge by time rather than exposures because all weddings drag as adjustments are made and “going over” is part of the game. At no time lose control of what must be done.
  7. You were hired to do the job and not to have to run interference with Uncle Harry. Especially after Harry has had a few. Uncles sometimes do this.  That’s because Uncles are fathers too.  And it’s the Mothers that planned this shindig. 
  8. The key is you are the one who is responsible and that should be clear to the Bride that you are the only and official photographer for the occasion. It is not meant as a power play, it is meant to protect the Bride’s interest.
  9. Things happen quickly at Weddings especially today with all the booze, coke, meth, some grass and most good photographers can handle this changing situation. 
  10. You prefer that everyone with cameras please respond to you as to when they can take their pictures as in the case with most weddings there is a schedule to adhere to. This will make things easier especially when a wedding is running behind schedule as almost everyone for me has in past forty years.  Brides are expected to be late and it is well within their rights. Trust me.
  11. Get it in writing. "He said, she said” is great on realty court TV, that’s usually why they are there.  Oral agreements are like the game you played in school called "whisper".  By the time the rumor got around the room, it had nothing to do what was said.  That’s why it doesn’t stand up in court.
  12. K.I.S.S.  Use language both of you can understand. "Keep it simple, stupid".   The contracts, especially for an emotional driven event such as a wedding, are written in plain English. If both parties know exactly what they’re signing. 
  13. Keep the formatting simple and in brief paragraphs and you might consider as you go over each point an initial signifying they have understood what they are signing.  Sometimes, I add a box and make them initial that box.
  14. Be specific in what the client will be receiving for your services.  Any changes after the fact should be in writing and both parties sign and receive copies.
  15. Make sure all the payment details are up-front and clear. Specify how, when and the amount of the payments are to be made. 
  16. I hate being harsh and strict but court is harsh and strict and the only time in 450 plus weddings and couple hundred events I got screwed with was with my Mothers friend over a Bar  Mitzvah. I  got lucky and finally got paid and the story is in here.


DEPOSIT TERMS and PAYMENT
There are many variations used in the Wedding business, the two most popular being:

The Three Part Common Wedding Payment Clause

  1.      One-third upon agreement:   
  2.      One-third before the event 
  3.      One-third when the prints, books, CD’s or other is delivered. 

And the second most common is the Half and Half.

  1.      Half deposit at the time of booking
  2.      And the second half the balance when you show up at the wedding.
  • These are the two most popular formats.  You can also do a layaway if you are booked way in advance so if they decide to call it off or shoot each other, you have something to show for your time. Layaways after the wedding are not a smart move. Annulments and divorces are too popular and this is not a good idea.
  • Some go as far as to include a provision, that states you will only perform work after the checks clear the bank. Cancelled checks can ruin your entire day, as does non-sufficient funds.
  • Contract disputes about money, are hard to fight as you will have to spend to recover in small claims court. Be specific but don't be a jerk and make too big an issue.
  • Be sure to include a short period of time and a clear paragraph on cancellation or termination. Like marriage everything doesn't always work out. Some things end as soon as the weddings over. If payments are missed, or the agreed format is not followed or changes to the venue occur, you need to be prepared.