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5 Critical Things You Need in an Event Planner Contract

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Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents would promise you something, whether it be a day at the park or a present, but they left you in the dark on the details?

When I was a child my father promised me a certain Transformers toy that I had wanted for a while. I would ask him about it every few days and he always promised to take me to get it. I can’t remember exactly how long it was before he took me to get it, but it was long enough to get frustrated since he never gave me a clear answer as to when it would happen.

It is frustrating dealing with that uncertainty.

As an adult I now understand the need for that flexibility when making a child a promise; however, that flexibility doesn’t bode well in the professional world. We all have expectations in our professional lines of work that we expect to be met, and event planning is no exception.

As an event planner, you are expected to ensure the success of said event through the guidance you offer and the services you provide. Before those expectations are met, they must be clearly defined in an event planner contract, not only to establish certainty between you and your client, but to protect you from the ramifications of any obstacles that may come up.

Here are the five things every event planner must include in their event planner contract.

1. Scope of services

Who wouldn’t want kitten DJs as an event service?

Any agreement to provide services ought to have clear expectations set as to what those services are. If those services are laid out in general terms and not specifically defined, you open up the potential for lawsuits over “unmet” expectations.

Will you:

  • Provide the venue, or research and book the venue for the event
  • Provide catering
  • Run all event marketing (social, traditional, etc.)
  • Provide the on-site event staff
  • Provide all audio/visual equipment
  • [Insert any other specific event service you will provide]

If your event planning firm decides to go with outside vendors to provide any of these services, the contract ought to detail who those vendors are and what services they will be contracted for.

I recommend listing these services in bulleted lists (as done above) in order to make it easy to scan the contract, and not have any of the services lost in a block of text.

2. Cancellation terms

Events don’t always go as planned and sometimes the event host must cancel their plans. A cancellation clause will ensure that your company gets paid for the work you’ve already done, no matter what happens.

First off, these clauses should specify that any deposits or fees paid up until the point of cancellation are non-refundable. Clauses like these not only protect your income for any work that has already been done, but also will decrease the likelihood of cancellation. The more someone has to lose over a cancellation, the less likely they will defer to it as an option.

Second, these clauses must include terms for what constitutes a valid cancellation of the event (potential low attendance, lack of funding, a damaged venue, or medical reasons), how long they have before the event to cancel before they are charged the full amount, and how much each cancellation point in the timeline will cost them.

3. Payment schedule

Unless you are running your event planning services as a charity, it is important to set up all the payment details in your event planner contract.

In fact, for the sake of thoroughness, I would recommend including the estimated budget for the event in the contract. The budget should provide a rough idea of what you expect to spend planning and facilitating this event.

While the budget doesn’t have to be exact (since not everything goes according to plan), it is important to log your best assessments of what an event will cost your firm in order to avoid conflict with your client. You can always renegotiate budget changes and variations once the planning is underway.

After establishing your budget, you need to set up a payment schedule for your client to follow. Whether your client wishes to pay in full and up front, or pay for the planning services over time, you must agree upon a payment schedule in the contract, which includes:

  • Fees for the client (such as cancellation fees, hiring third-party vendors, etc.)
  • Deposits
  • Total amount due

You don’t want to be left on the hook for payments with no form of legal recourse (should it come to that).

4. Indemnification clause

An indemnification clause is meant to protect you and your event planning firm from legal action due to negligence on part of your client. With this clause, your client cannot hold you responsible for any injuries, damages, or losses that occur due to actions taken by them and vice versa.

These clauses are straightforward:

“Indemnity. Except with respect to claims arising from a Party’s separate negligence or willful acts, which shall remain that Party’s personal obligation, each Party agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the other Party and its directors, officers, and employees with respect to a claim arising from the Party’s actual or alleged act, failure to act, error, or omission in the performance of their obligations under this Agreement or any governing law or regulation.”

5. Termination clause

Also known as a force majeure clause, a termination clause provides your event planning firm with legal cover if services must be cancelled due to circumstances beyond your control. These circumstances range anywhere from extreme weather (think hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods) to asteroid collisions (you never know).

This clause gives you the power to cancel services and obligations under certain circumstances and and to determine whether that cancellation is a temporary suspension or permanent cancellation.

The following points must be covered in your termination clause:

  • Definition of covered circumstances
  • Who has the authority to cancel services
  • What will happen if such event occurs (Is the event rescheduled? What about payments?)

According to Contract Standards, forgetting such standards has painful consequences:

“In the absence of a force majeure clause, parties to a contract are left to the mercy of the narrow common law contract doctrines of “impracticability” and “frustration of purpose,” which rarely result in excuse of performance.”

Sample event planner contracts

Follow the layout of these contract samples in order to build your own event planner contract:

Other event planning resources

Now that you have the building blocks for your event planner contract, you will need software to manage all of your contracts, clients, and event planning activities. In order to make the right choice on any event management and contract management software, be sure to check out some of our 200,000 reviews in our software directories!

For any other resources or guides, there are plenty more on the Capterra event management blog:

Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a Content Writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. He has a background in politics, economics, and journalism, which he dedicates his off-time to contributing his thoughts to other political sites. In his free-time he enjoys reading, drawing, photography, playing guitar, writing, and cooking.

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