Starting a business in the wedding industry is no joke. From creating a brand and defining your services to pricing everything for profit and coming up with a marketing plan, there is a list of to-dos that feels like it’s a mile long. The other thing it probably feels like? A lot of opportunity to make mistakes.
And mistakes happen—because you’re human and it’s likely your first time.
There are some mistakes that are easy for you to recover from and there are others that can become a real thorn in your side, even years later. And we want to help make sure you’re not doing the latter. Today, then, we wanted to chat through the common legal mistakes we see wedding pros make and get you set on a course that avoids colliding with them.
Mistake #1: Not incorporating and not getting a business license
Many businesses in the wedding industry are run as sole proprietorships, meaning they don’t incorporate—but they also do not get a business license in their state, city, or county. This may seem like an easy way to save time and money but it’s actually putting yourself at risk.
If you’re operating a business without incorporating, (real talk) someone can go after your personal assets if there is litigation against your business, so you want to incorporate (as an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp) to protect both your personal assets and the future of your business. Also important? Getting a business license with your local county office or state division so that you can legally conduct services within those parameters. This will help make sure you know what rules apply to running a business in your area and keep you on the right side of the law.
Pro-tip: Read this piece next if you want to learn more about getting a business license.
Mistake #3: Not having all employees and contractors sign employment agreements
When running a business, you’ll likely have employees and independent contractors working for you at some point. And when you do, it is absolutely essential that everyone signs an employment agreement (or contract) outlining the terms of their employment. This document should include things like: job duties, compensation, job termination clauses, etc. because, without it, you open yourself up to potential legal disputes down the line.
Pro-tip: You can pick up an employment agreement from Legally set here. And if you have specific questions about how you hire and work with employees and/or contractors, we suggest contacting your lawyer.
Mistake #4: Using photos or video you don’t have the rights to
The professional photos and videos from your weddings are important to your marketing efforts, but just because you were a part of the wedding doesn’t mean you have the legal rights to use them. That’s because the photographer and/or videographer own the copyright to that content. So, moving forward, be sure to get legal permission from the photographers and videographers you work weddings with.
Mistake #5: Not asking your couples to sign a model release
Related to mistake #4, you should be asking all of your couples to sign a model release! Why? Because without one, you don’t legally have the right to be using their wedding photos or likeness in your marketing (read: on your website, social media posts, etc.) If you don’t already have this clause in your contract, you can purchase one from NAME here or contact your lawyer and ask them to draft one for you.
Mistake #6: Using your proposal as a contract
There is a big difference between a proposal and a contract—that’s why Rock Paper Coin has features for sending both online proposals and online contracts! The reason you need to have a contract is simple: a contract outlines the services you are going to provide, when you are going to provide them, how much your services cost, and when payments from your client are due (all things you might include in your proposal)…but they go further to include details about what happens if you are unable to provide your service, what your client’s responsibility is, what happens if there is a dispute, etc. So, if you are booking wedding clients just by asking them to accept your proposal, this is your sign to purchase a contract template and upload it to your Rock Paper Coin account (or sign up if you haven’t yet)!
Mistake #7: Having the person who is paying for your service sign the contract and not the couple
If you’ve made this mistake, we get it—it makes total sense to have the person who is paying for your services sign your contact. But when it comes down to it, your couple needs to sign your contract, and anyone helping them pay for your services should be signing what’s called a Third-Party Payor Addendum.
A Third-Party Payor Addendum is an additional document to the contract that you should have the payor (often parents) sign. And while it can reference the contract you had your couple sign, it makes it clear the payor is simply paying for your services and is not your client.
Pro-tip: If you work with couples who are often having other people help pay for their wedding, be sure to purchase a Third-Party Payor Addendum from The Legal Paige.
Hopefully, you feel great about how you’ve avoided some of these legal mistakes, but if you are making them, feel like you have the resources to fix them! And if you want to continue on a sort of legal audit, this piece will help you understand whether your contract is legally binding.