A venue contract sets out the rules, regulations, protocols and agreements between a client and venue when hiring a venue for your event. If you’re a professional event planner you’ll be all too familiar with the ins and outs of what they consist of and the tedious fine print that you need to read before you end up in a disastrous mare. However, if you’re an assistant or someone who’s merely been set the task of organising an event you may not be too familiar with the nitty gritty details that you need to look out for. Now, I am someone who can honestly and shamefully admit that my eyes almost never reach the entirety of a contract before signing it. However, when you’re responsible for the success of an event, skim reading is just not an option! But, where do you start? What’s important to note? Don’t fret, we’ve come up with a checklist of things for you to consider and act on.
The Number 1 Golden Rule: Read and re-read everything
It sounds obvious, but as I mentioned earlier we all have a tendency to not read every word on a page, and it’s not our fault. Our brain skips certain words to save us brain power, and we’re usually intelligent enough to grasp a concept without having to read everything. However, consider yourself stupid in this scenario. You need to ensure you’ve read all print, big print, small print, all print! The worst thing you can do (believe me I’ve seen it before) is get into complications because you missed a word or two.
Do ask for contract clarification
You’re not silly for not understanding complicated venue or contract jargon, but you would be silly for not asking for clarification on anything you don’t understand. If you’re not sure what something means, ask!
Access hours/Set up times
Be sure to check over the access hours that have been set on the venue contract. Does the time give your team enough time to set up? You also need to know that if you end up staying longer than contracted times what happens next. It’s also important to not make any assumptions, just because you have the venue for the day, doesn’t mean you’ll get access to the venue whenever you require it. Clear this all up beforehand.
Look out for a cancellation clause
You could book a venue a year in advance, and the day after you booked you may decide that you need to cancel the booking, that’s 364 years in advance, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get charged. Most venues have their own cancellation policy unique to their venue, so you need to make sure you read over how long you have to cancel, and any charges that may incur.
No construction & renovation clauses
If you’re event is occurring in a hotel you’ll want to make sure that any rooms you’ve booked are already renovated, you don’t want it to be an unpleasant experience for your guests. You also want to make sure that this is clear beforehand.
You also need to make sure that if there is any construction due to take place around the date of your event that this won’t affect you. Dust, debris, loud noise, or space restrictions are big no gos, so ensure that you’ll be noted of any construction and that you’ll have a chance to find an alternative venue .
Is VAT or taxes included?
Of course VAT is included in the rates, right? Wrong! This is an incredibly common mistake in the events industry. Ensure the venue contract fully breaks down the venue hire rate, any additional non-taxable and taxable facilities you require, and anything which will cost you. Remember a venue may seem affordable, but an additional 20% can make a huge difference.
Deposits, payments dates and schedules
You may be asked to pay a deposit before you sign the contract as a holding fee, but all venues have their own policies. Make sure the contract not only states what fees you have already paid, but what’s left to pay and when. Are you paying the venue in installments, if so, when do these have to be paid by, do you get charged extra if you pay at a later date? Or, do you pay the venue outright? Make sure you’re confident about the answers to these questions
A venue contract will often have a contracted minimum numbers especially if you’re requiring catering or delegate rates. 9 times out of 10 these minimum will be based on your expected number of attendees. This is a trap! You really want this number to be lowered, otherwise you’ll always be paying for people that probably won’t show up
Who is responsible for paying any damages, losses, or anything else which goes wrong? What does the venue cover, and what is stated as your responsibility? This is exactly what the insurance clause is for. Ensure you take time to read over this so you know what to expect.
Keep a signed, finalised print out of the contract
There’ll be a lot of changes and amendments to the contract which is to be expected, always ensure that you have a finalised, signed copy. This will avoid any of ‘your word against theirs’ conflict. If it’s signed and finalised by both parties, there’s nothing to dispute.