Pre-COVID contracts were like a field full of flowers and daises. Post-COVID contract mean business. I say this jokingly, but in all seriousness, the pandemic that took us by storm last year opened up an entirely new obstacle in the event industry. While we did our best to navigate the bumpy terrain as we were hiking it, it definitely meant making some judgement calls that weren’t necessarily legally outlined in our contracts.
Let’s revisit why we have contracts in the first place. Contracts are meant to protect you, as the business owner, and your client.
COVID-19 was a challenge for us all, photographers (and other event industry professionals) and brides and grooms slated to get married in 2020. Our previous blanket “Force Majeure” or “Act of God” clauses were not definitive enough. They did not describe whether they covered pandemics, and even if they did, they did not define whether or not the safety of shooting a wedding was defined by guidelines put forth by the county, state, or federal governments or whether it was based on personal comfort level of the photographer or couple.
Basically…it was a shit show. Each person had different policies, none of which were truly enforceable by a legitimate contract. So couples were faced with navigating the same conversations with each of their vendors only to come to different conclusions with each. On the other hand, vendors were faced with navigating the same conversations with each of their couples, only to displease one while pleasing another.
Caroline Fox, the owner of the Engaged Legal Collective, wrote this extremely informative blog post and created a beautifully flow chart that helped to explain where exactly to head with clients who are looking to reschedule or cancel. You can find that blog post here!
She was a huge asset when navigating the COVID-19 pandemic in the event industry. The main changes to my contract were focused in postponements.
It is always my goal to come to an agreeable end for everyone involved. Unfortunately, however, sometimes it is difficult to do that, especially when you are having to make decisions and judgment calls on a case-to-case basis. Instead, I have included a clause that specifically identifies what a client owes (or does not) owe in the event of a postponement.
It was my choice not to charge for the first postponement if the couple was operating under a stay-at-home or complete shutdown order. However, any postponement that takes place based off of the couple’s own decision (and no governmental order is in place) will be charged a postponement fee.
Yes, it’s a rather tough call to make, but at the end of the day, I am running a business. This is just another protocol that I am instituting to make sure everything is fair across the board and defending my right and ability to make money!
Tell me–what were some changes you made to your service-based business contracts due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Tell me in the comments!