A contract, defined, is a binding agreement between two parties. Every legitimate wedding business uses them (sorry – if you don’t, your business isn’t a business, period), but many do not honor them.
In order for your contract to be worthy of your client’s honor or your own, it has to be a fair and reasonable representation of the agreement you are making. It needs to address your specific responsibilities to your client, and equally importantly, your client’s responsibilities to you. It needs to be free of any clauses that you consider to be flexible — in other words, if you’re willing to cross something out at a client’s whim, it doesn’t belong in your contract. It also needs to be clear about what will happen if either party does not hold up their end of the bargain.
So, that being said, what does it mean to honor your contract?
Well, for one thing, it means having confidence in the fact that your contract is, in fact, fair and reasonable. Contracts are not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, actually — they provide clarity and peace-of-mind in what is almost invariably a chaotic, emotional time for your client.
Honoring your contract means being organized enough to effectively manage your clients. This means making it easy for your clients to communicate with you, being accessible for their questions and concerns, and staying aware of when payments are due and decisions need to be made. Assuming your purpose is to deliver your goods or services and create happy clients, as opposed to just cancelling events right and left due to breaches of your contract, then you’ll be well-served by staying on top of your clients and their deadlines.
Finally, honoring your contract means being willing to enforce your contract when necessary. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, then actually bringing consequences to a client should be a very rare occurrence, if it comes up at all. Still, you wrote your policies — whether they are guest count cutoffs or payment deadlines — into your contract for a reason, and like any ultimatum, you need to be willing to follow through if need be.
Your clients will never respect your contract more than you respect it. Be sure that the contract you’re using is something you feel you can, in good conscience, uphold, and that you are willing to do so for the good of your business.