If you don’t have a contract, you have no insurance that the vendor will show up and deliver the goods.  Just one vendor failing to perform the agreed function at the specified time can throw the whole event into a downward spiral.   Securing the contract with your vendors is a good idea for you, for your client and for the vendor.  While your event should go as planned, remember Murphy’s Law.  You don’t want any unpleasant surprises leading up to, or on, the day of the event.  Grill your vendors with a few questions before you sign a contract with them.

How much time will they need to set up? While you’ve established the date and time of your event, you may not have discussed what time the vendor needs to arrive to set up.  Once that time is determined, you’ll need to clear it with the venue and make certain that they’ll have access to the venue’s event coordinator during that time, in case they have any questions or problems.  It’s likely you will be busy during this set-up time, so it’s important that someone at the venue is available to them.

Who specifically will be at your event? When you first picked this vendor or entertainer, you were probably impressed by the individual or specific group of performers that you saw in a profile video, or pleased with the vendor representative that you spoke with via email.  However, it’s important that you verify which of the vendors from a group or company will actually be present at your event.  If that magician who made your card appear in his hat may not be available for your particular event day, it’s better to find out now than later.

Will the vendors consume alcohol at your event? This is a big one with bands, and it’s a question for you.  You need to determine your comfort level with this issue.  Remember, they are working for you…are you okay with them drinking on the job? 

What will they wear at your event? You should find out what their standard attire is for your type of event and make sure that it fits in with what you envision.  If your event is black tie, they should know this in advance. On the other hand, if you’re having a more casual event, you probably don’t want your vendors in tuxedos.

What is the vendor’s cancellation policy? This is a two-way question:  they could cancel or you could cancel.  It’s important to understand what happens in both scenarios.  In the case of a vendor cancellation, you should select a certain number of days prior to your event that you can live with.  For example, you might decide that they can cancel the contract up until 14 days before the event.  While this is not something you even want to think about, it’s obviously important you allow ample time to find a suitable replacement.  Naturally, you’ll want to be sure that if they cancel, that they’ll return your deposit to you.  There are a couple different scenarios if YOU cancel:  1. If they’re requiring that you pay a non-refundable deposit, then the vendor will need to select a date by which you can cancel and not be further obligated to pay the balance, 2. If you’re paying a refundable deposit, then the vendor will select a date by which you can cancel and receive a refund for your deposit.

What form of payment will they accept for the balance? You don’t want to be surprised on the night of your event when the vendor asks for a certified check.  So, be absolutely sure that you ask this question.  Cash, money order, certified check, personal check, and credit card are all possible options. 

Do they have personal injury and property damage liability insurance? Before you ask this question of the performer or vendor, you should discuss with the venue what they require or recommend.  Ask the vendor to provide their proof of insurance BEFORE signing the contract.

What are their space and electrical requirements? Understanding how much space the vendor needs, as well as their power requirements, is crucial.  It affects what the vendor brings to set up, determines where they set up, and plays into the overall layout of the space. Ideally, you’ll have a meeting with the vendor and the event coordinator at the venue prior to your event – you can certainly discuss these details during this meeting.

Will they provide the sound and lighting systems? The answer to this question varies from vendor to vendor – and could be affected by the venue’s existing sound and lighting systems.  So find out what, if any, sound and lighting systems are available at the venue, and make sure that the performer or vendor’s systems are compatible.  This is another important item to discuss at the meeting with the venue.

Are they available for overtime? Months before your event, the idea of paying your vendor for overtime might sound totally crazy when you carefully pore over every budget item.  But on the night of your event when the party is in full effect, you might say, “forget the budget,” and ask them to play for another hour or two.  With that said, we advise that you find out beforehand how much overtime they’d be willing to provide, and at what rate.  Once you’ve discussed all of these questions with the vendor, you’ll be better prepared to sign the contract that they send.  You should make certain that the answers they provided during your conversation are consistent with what you see in the contract.  If it isn’t already apparent to you, I strongly recommend that you have a contract with your performer or vendor.  But if for some reason your vendor doesn’t have a contract, or doesn’t have one that includes all of these details, you can find or easily create one for him here at Printable Contracts.

Once all the details have been decided, expect to receive a performance agreement/contract from your vendor.  This is a normal operating procedure for any professional and I would hesitate to work with anyone who doesn’t provide one.  In addition to providing legal recourse for you in the event that the agreed upon tasks are not performed as indicated, all parties involved will take their duties much more seriously if they have a written agreement.  The performance agreement/contract basically spells out all the details that have been agreed upon when discussing your event.  You should take the time to review all the details and familiarize yourself with your vendor’s cancellation policy.  Within one week of the event, usually a couple of days before, your vendor should call or email you to confirm that he or she will be there.  It is just a courtesy to contact you to be sure that the directions and details are correct. Vendors can get phone numbers or email addresses wrong, so feel free to contact them first if you do not hear from them.

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